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The Tenth Degree with Ricky Stafford
What's your typical morning routine? How do you get your day started off right?
I love having a routine in the morning. Wake up, pint of water, black coffee and out the door! Either do a run or a bag/S&C session. Soon as I'm back in and the dogs been fed I'll make a BIG breakfast and a cup of tea.

What did you want to be when you grew up? How did you get your work life started?
I always wanted to be a 'kickboxer'. Growing up with my parents running a kickboxing school, I always knew that was what I wanted. For a little while I thought I'd give the Royal Navy a try but that didn't last very long or work out very well... Back to the original thought of working in the Martial Arts industry.

Why the martial arts? Did you train when you were younger?
I started training when I was around 5 or 6 - when my mam started dating her kickboxing instructor 😅

How did your school come about? Where is it located and what do you teach?
We are based in the North East of England, in a town called North Shields. We teach Kenpo Karate for our children & kickboxing for our teens/adults. Prior to this I was running a boxing club alongside promoting shows (also still working an office job in telecoms sales) - all to create funds to open a full time Martial Arts academy. For a while, me and my wife were doing both simultaneously until I gave the boxing club to my brother as our academy was growing at a fast rate.

How do you define success? Was there a moment when you felt like you really made it?
I've never really thought about that one too much. To me I think 'being' successful is just being happy and enjoying your day to day life. To be fair that really happened when me and my wife Ashley both left our office jobs and stopped running boxing shows to be full time school owners (roughly 1 year after opening). From that point on, life has just been perfect... never once dreaded the following day. Every night we go to bed excited for the next day - I'd say we are very successful.

It’s a difficult time to be a business owner this year. What have you been doing to keep your school going?
Like the majority of professional schools, we moved our classes online for the time we were closed. We took it as an opportunity to renovate our building & rethink how we wish to grow as an academy moving forward. We’ve now been open again for 2 months and had a surge of new students, we’re actually in a stronger position now than what we were at the beginning of the year (30% increase to be exact). Really looking at these challenging times as a new chapter and a chance to be that leader and positive force in our community... Being that lighthouse as Mr. Silva says.

Thanks for being one of our awesome Black Belt Excellence schools! What is it about the program that you like? Are you using it in any interesting ways?
We use the program both in class and also as a large part of our marketing strategy. The key life skills the program teaches are exactly why parents want to send their child to a martial arts class. The program helps us instill this via the weekly mat chats & monthly newsletter which we send out to parents via our private Facebook group. Sharing vids or pics of us talking about life skills and using them on our social media pages creates more leads for us than anything else!

What advice would you give to your fellow school owners? What has been working well for you these days?
(I'm no finished product, just from my perspective.)
Find balance in work & life "Can't pour from an empty cup.  I'm 100% and super passionate about anything I take on, however recharging is extremely important when you’re so intense. Make time for yourself, friends & family outside of the Martial Arts, IMO.

What is currently inspiring you and in what way? (book, movie, song, charity, anything really…)
Pre-lockdown, all my drive was towards myself in regards to some form of competition (races or fighting). Recently though I've been very focused on broadening my vision for growth as a business owner. Started receiving coaching from Mr. Silva which has really took us to the next level. He's given me so much information & encouragement - recommended some great books that I feel have just woken me up to the possibilities of what we can achieve. Not to mention Cobra Kai, Sensei Johnny's super cool and I already have a headband on the way 😅

How do you end a typical day? What do you do to unwind?
On the drive home from the academy I'll usually fight the urge to order a Chinese or Kebab and try to talk my wife Ashley out of buying another bottle of wine... Once home, start cooking (listening to a bit JRE whilst doing so). After enjoying some food I’ll watch some Netflix or read. Not very rock n' roll, I'm all about attacking the next morning.