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Our Story & How it Started

Our Stories

The aim of sharing our stories is to inspire other survivors of bullying, assault and abuse to apply themselves in shaping the positive & successful lives that they want to live.

There are many positive outcomes to training in martial arts that we have personally experienced and, alongside other support methods, they can aid in the recovery, healing and transformation process.

Trigger Warning: You may find these stories upsetting.

Marks Story

It all began at a nightclub when Mark was in his early 20’s.

Mark was not always the heavily built guy he is now, however, he did always have the cheekiness we all know & love him for! (Lets call it assertiveness!) But unfortunately, he was in the wrong place at the wrong time and was beaten up outside Pawlett Manor Nightclub by a thug on a night out.

The aftermath of this incident was pivotal for Mark as it had come after many years of being mentally and physically bullied at school; he had always been one of the smallest during his school years so had been an easy target. This incident was the final straw and it was the thing that forced him to make the crucial decision to learn self-defence. Consequently, in 1991, Mark attended his first Tae-Kwon-Do (TKD) class to see if martial arts could help him.

He quickly took to the art and was soon training avidly. He threw himself into the sport, frequented competition events and started ranking up through the belts to become a TAGB (TKD Association for Great Britain) Assistant Instructor. During this time his confidence rocketed and he started to see the real benefits of martial arts, far beyond the fitness. It was like the missing piece of the jigsaw; his mental health strengthened and he felt better than ever before.

Becoming an Assistant Instructor gave Mark the opportunity to start passing his knowledge on to others and help them achieve the benefits he had received himself; gaining mental resolve, building confidence, and maintaining a strong sense of self-worth and self-esteem. It was this that helped Mark build himself up after years of being bullied. He knew all too well how bullying could affect a person’s mental health so this inspiration, along with a drive to help others, drove him onwards to achieve his 1st degree black belt in 1996.

Some years later, Mark decided he wanted a change from TKD so he attended a local kick-boxing class to see how it differed. He discovered it had all the aspects that he loved from TKD but none of the bits that bored him, such as patterns. Soon he was hooked, and after training in kick-boxing and working as an Assistant Instructor for several years, he decided that it was time to spread his wings and set up his own club to offer the quality teaching and affordable, community-driven classes he believed in.

So, in 2002, Mark Pengelly’s Schools of Kick-Boxing Ltd was founded and Mark set out on the road to running his own club with his first ever class. Since then he has taught 1000’s of children & adults, many of whom have gone on to achieve black belt, and he is still driven by the same desire to help others gain confidence and inner strength on their personal journeys.

Every student who walks through the door has a life potentially full of challenges and difficulties that led them to try martial arts and if Mark can help them overcome their battles and strive to aim higher, both physically and mentally, then it is worth the countless hours of work he puts in. This is why he strives to be more than just a coach, to offer his time, support, mentorship and guidance. He wants to make a difference to the lives of his students, and more importantly, see them succeed both in martial arts and in life outside the classroom.

Bryony's Story

Bryony’s story is a very different one but one that has also developed a passion to helping others. After experiencing all forms of abuse and assault as a child Bryony suffered complex post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and, understandably, slid down a slippery slope as a teenager. She suffered from the crippling silence of not voicing her battles and not accessing the much-needed support & therapy that all people need in that situation.

However, she overcame her difficulties and, at the age of 20 started work at the Taunton YMCA as a Duty Manager and Youth Work Leader with a desire to work with the community and help others.

Meeting Mark at the YMCA in 2004 was like a breathe of fresh air to Bryony and she soon found the strength to quit her addiction to smoking in favour of a healthier lifestyle and happier life. Originally, Bryony’s drive for kick-boxing was due to her hyper-vigilant desire to learn self-defence, to protect herself due to her history of trauma however, she soon started to see the added results that she hadn’t expected, such as confidence, physical & mental strength and an addiction to exercise. This new healthy addiction to training was a welcome exchange to the destructive, emotion-numbing addictions she had experienced before. She had always hated PE at school so this was a fully transformative experience! It returned her to an excellent mental wellness and helped her revive her thirst for life.

With this new inner strength that martial arts had given her, Bryony reported her childhood attacker to the police. The case was taken to court and she made a stand in front of a jury, her abuser was convicted and his name placed on a register. This experience intensified her desire to help others find empowerment and challenge the silence that haunts so many. Bryony decided to share her story to open the communication on a very sensitive subject and make it easier for other survivors to stand up and voice themselves. Bryony trained as a Self-Defence Instructor in 2017 and designed her women’s-only self-defence courses in dedication to helping women learn personal safety and self-protection through physical empowerment.

‘Life can be dark at times. The joy and the light are still there but sometimes we need to fight to find them. Fight to ensure the darkness doesn’t destroy us. Fight to find our true selves. Martial arts have truly been the best thing we have ever done, it has taught us inner strength and self-belief, taught us to release fear and self-doubt and find strength in ourselves both physically and mentally. We do what we do now because we want to help everyone feel this emotionally resilient and mentally determined. It is the key to transforming your life.’

Neither Mark or Bryony are counsellors or therapists however they are martial arts instructors whose joint experience enables them to understand & empathise, offer support through physical training and to signpost to appropriate support agencies where necessary.

To find out more about how martial arts can transform your life and to book your free trial please call 07769 803357 or book your free trial here.

Transform your Life with the Black Belt Mindset