Welcome to another edition of TMA Role Models this time with our very popular Instructor Sensei Laura Hobson. Sensei Laura has worked exceptionally hard to prove herself as an instructor and is now loved by many of our students. In this edition of TMA Role Models we learn more about her motivations and why she chose to train at Tring Martial Arts Academy 1. How old were you when you started training and why did you choose martial arts? I started my Martial arts training five years ago when I was 29. It was my partner Laura who first discovered TMA. At the time I had fallen into the trap of paying a full Gym membership and not attending as there was no motivation and goals. Laura wanted to try something different and had tried a few kickboxing classes over at the Scout Hut. Needless to say she came home and couldn’t stop raving about it. She convinced me to give it a try, which took a couple of weeks as my confidence had gone; I was out of shape and overweight and miserable. I knew that I had to change my routine and sort myself out and give something new a try. 2. Why did you choose Tring Martial Arts Academy? I was a bit intimidated by the idea of going to a Kickboxing class at first! I thought I would be in a room of sweaty blokes who just wanted to fight and people who were super fit and I’d be left waddling at the back. I realised after the first class this was not the case. I chose TMA because I was made to feel part of the club straight away, Chris and Paula and the other students were really friendly and welcoming and helped to alleviate my initial concerns and settle my nerves. I liked that there were different ages, shapes and a good mix of men and women. What I really liked and still like the most and I’ll never forget Chris saying this when I think it was in my second or third class; Martial Arts is a personal Journey, it’s about being the best that you can be and not trying to fall into the trap of comparing yourself with others. It’s about every time you walk through the Dojo door onto the Matt you do/ give that little bit more than you did before. I was really unfit and couldn’t reach my toes and do more than ten sit ups without stopping for breathe but with Chris saying next time we’ll aim for 11 sit ups and then 12 the next time. This has resonated with me ever since. Just as importantly for me, I also chose TMA because you learn really cool techniques. I remember being taught how to punch the focus pads properly for the first time and doing a Front Kick to a kick shield and the satisfaction and thrill was immense and then with teaching and guidance from the instructor’s being able to hit harder and higher with better technique and to see and feel the improvement and prove to myself that I could do it has kept me coming back for more. 3. How does the training help you with your day time job? (Better Focus, Concentration, More Organised, more Energy etc?) Training in Martial arts has really helped me at work. It’s helped me focus my mind when dealing with tight deadlines and having that confidence when dealing with clients Architects. I have always been a really shy, private person who has felt awkward in social situations but slowly through the years at TMA and the Instructors knowing and understanding when the right time to keep pushing you out of your comfort I have become more confident and comfortable in my own skin, to the point where I’m now in the position where I’m teaching classes. This confidence has transcended into my working like too, having the confidence to deal with difficult clients or attend site meetings with Architects and contractors. There’s nothing more satisfying too than after a hectic stressful day at work walking through the Dojo door and at the moment of bowing and walking onto the mat that those problems are left at the door and my head space is clear for that hour or two to focus on me and to get the blood bumping, adrenaline flowing and to hit the heavy bags really hard… The best stress reliever EVER! Training in martial arts has made me healthier and happier so working out on site, running up and down ladders and scaffolding or lifting heavy stained glass windows and led boxes as become easier. 4. How do you maintain your work / life balance, has there ever been a time when work was threatening to get in the way of training and what was your thought process behind your decision to keep training? What was the outcome? Work life balance is always a tricky one!; working fulltime days, finishing and getting home for half five, catching up with my partner, walking and feeding the pets before getting changed and going training or teaching can be difficult to manage at times. I teach three evenings a week which I absolutely love and am very honoured to be able to do so but foremost I am a martial artist and this is fundamentally important to me; so there are times when I get tired and would like a night off but I know that if I don’t find the time to train regularly I get grumpy, tired and lethargic; those little pains and niggles in the knees and ankle start to get much worse. I know I function and am much happier when I get to train regularly so I make and find the time to do so. I never regret going training no matter how tired I am. 5. Did you ever feel like quitting training? Yes there has been a couple of times when I have felt like quitting I won’t lie. The first time was when I got injured. I twisted my ankle quite badly and it unfortunately stopped me from training for a few weeks. I got out of my routine and habit of training, it was surprisingly quickly how I fell back into bad habits and neglected the good ones. I let that little devil on my shoulder creep in and say “oh look at how nice and cosy it is to stay at home and watch telly whilst it’s raining outside, have a couple of choccy biscuits with your tea, oh that 2nd glass of red won’t hurt go on”. So I put on a few pounds in that 4-6 weeks. I also let self-doubt creep in again and thought “oh you won’t be able to kick hard with your ankle and you won’t be able to keep up with the fitness” but I looked back at how far I had come in the few years I had been training, I was blue belt at the time, not only with the physical elements of losing 4 ½ stone and dropping from a size 18/20 to a size 12 but also the social side of training at TMA. I missed my training partners and instructor’s and having fun. It helped that Chris sent me a photograph of me when I first started and had done a Cage fitness class, looking all sweaty and smiling but when I was at my heaviest weight. The title of the email simple said changes! And the message said look how far you’ve come and we miss you. It was enough to get me refocused and back training and I thought there’s not many places that have personal motivational instructors to push and help you along and keep you on track with your own goals and reasons for training. I don’t think fitness first would be sending emails like that. The other time was when I looked around a fair few months ago and realised that there wasn’t that many people still training that started training at the same time as me. My partner Laura had to have ankle reconstruction surgery and couldn’t come back training, which was really difficult for her as she really missed it and we couldn’t share that journey anymore and I felt a guilty that I was enjoying something that started off being her thing and then something that we could do and train together in and which had been taken away from us both. This was difficult to reconcile with and that it also meant spending a fair few evenings apart from each other as she is a police officer and works difficult shift patterns. She had to listen to me coming home and telling her how great it was learning a reverse turning kick and other awesome techniques. There were also many other close friends that had quit and moved on around the same time and there was a lot of change. I realised and after talking with Paula, Chris and others who were training that this is part of the process on reaching black belt and beyond. Not everyone for one reason or another will make it through to black belt or continue with their Martial arts journey. One of the many things I love about TMA is that there’s always new friends and training partners to make and that change isn’t something to fear but something to try to embrace as another challenge. I thought about how everyone here has invested time, energy and passion into their training and I was committed to achieving my goals and training with Amanda McDermott and Victoria Frost to get to that Black Belt Grading no matter what! I also thought a lot about the fact that in starting to teach and just starting my instructor journey I had become accountable to that role and my club. Even more so now; I have to set goals and stick to them and Its important to me that I try to set an example for my students to follow and look up to and repay some of the trust that they put in me. 6. Can you tell me the 5 areas of your life that Martial Arts has had the greatest impact on? Martial Arts has had the biggest impact on my health and fitness. Through my five years of training I have dramatically improved my weight. Before I started I was really over weight. I would come home from work and spend the evenings sat in front of the telly not doing anything. I have lost 4 ½” stone, dropped from a size 18-20 to a size 12. I couldn’t do many sit ups, press ups or star jumps without getting out of breath really quickly, but through consistent training I have achieved black belt, where there were a lot of sit ups press ups and Star jumps to name but a few and also completed with Amanda, a 10 mile obstacle race around Ashridge to raise funds for St Francis Hospice Berkamstead in the Mud and actually really enjoyed it!! My confidence has greatly improved, I feel more comfortable in my skin, more accepting of who I am and what I have achieved. I don’t feel like I want to hide in the corner of a room away from people any more, I’m happy to be the first person to walk up to a new student and introduce myself and welcome them into the club and stand up at the front of class and be lucky and privileged enough to teach classes. 7. Who are your role models, and why? I look around TMA and I see so many role models that it makes me proud to be part of the TMA family. For me the role models I have looked up to during my training have been Chris who always has a habit of pushing my limits and expectations in the best ways and Sensei Paula who is just a legend for her dedication to her students and her training through injury. Sensei Glen who again is always helping and pushing and challenging me to become a better martial artist and he leads by example. He has such style and grace in his application of his skill and like a true martial artist makes it look effortless. I’ve always looked up to and respected Victoria Frost, Amanda McDermott, Jackie Binning, Lydia Coyne; all awesome black belts who continue to inspire me and are such positive female role models within the club. I’m also inspired by our aspiring young role models Daniel Symmons, Jess Millard and Reece Elise, Jasmin Mayo and Herbie to name a few who are all becoming people that our younger students look up to. Their enthusiasm for their learning, determination and their willingness to assist and help others is inspiring to see. 8. Why should a teenager or adult choose to train at Tring Martial Arts? Tring Martial Arts is the best gift you can give yourself. Martial arts has transformed my life and made me healthier and happier and given me confidence within myself. I think the biggest fight we face in life is Ill Health and poor lifestyle choices as opposed to being attacked on the street. That being said I think Tring martial arts has it all covered in my opinion, not only will it get you fitter, healthier, happier, it will introduce you to lifelong friends, a place where you’ll feel welcome. TMA will teach and push you to do things you never thought you could as well as give you the tools and confidence to defend yourself against an attack if it were ever to happen.