Karate champ kick-starts self-defence business

A student karate champion is combining her passion for martial arts with running her own self-defence business

Clare Challinor in a karate pose at Sir Stanley Matthews Sports Centre

Karate black belt Clare Challinor has launched a self-defence business

Being able to live that dream and that passion with a business, I can’t think of anything better.

Clare Challinor, MSc in Entrepreneurship

Now Clare Challinor is planning to offer the classes to other students at Staffordshire University, where she is taking a Masters in Entrepreneurship. She enrolled on the course to help develop her business skills and grow her venture, Self-Defence With Clare.

So far, she has worked with a wide variety of groups, including charities and corporate clients. Clare has also taught self-defence to vulnerable people, such as domestic abuse survivors and young adults with disabilities, and can deliver one-to-one sessions in homes if needed.

The 43-year-old, from Sandbach, said: “The idea came from a conversation with a friend about what she would do if someone grabbed her on the wrist. She said she would panic. A light bulb went off and I thought I could do something to help.”

The focus is on “reality-based” self-defence, rather than performing throws or karate moves. It includes techniques to escape from a knife attack, being pinned to the floor or from an attempted strangulation. The classes are open to both males and females.

It’s been a natural step from Clare’s background in martial arts. She first tried karate at the age of six and later earned her black belt. After a break from the sport, she went on to become a member of the England Karate squad.

She competed in the WUKF World Karate Championships last year and recently won gold in the Liverpool Open Championships.

Her enthusiasm for karate has proved so infectious that her nine-year-old daughter Thea has also taken up the sport. Thea is now a black belt and has a clutch of medals, including a silver from the World Championships. The mother and daughter even take part in some competitions together.

Clare has kept up her training regime since enrolling on the Peter Coates MSc in Entrepreneurship in 2023.

She has also become a sports scholar with the University’s High Performance Academy, which helps talented athletes and coaches through bespoke development plans. The scholarship support includes one-to-one personal training, sessions on sport psychology, nutrition tips and physiotherapy.

Clare, who represents the University in the BUCS league, is a karate instructor with Zenshin Ryu Club in Nantwich as well. She is currently turning her garage at home into a training base. “There are only so many kitchen cupboards you can kick,” she said.

Through her studies, she has also gained valuable insights into running a successful business and has enjoyed sharing her experiences with other student entrepreneurs.

“It has really elevated my business and connected me with the right people,” she added. “It’s helped with my confidence. They’ve taught me how to do marketing and have brought in entrepreneurs as guest speakers. I’ve heard about their struggles and how they just kept going. It’s about not giving up if it’s your dream.”

Clare launched her business part-time back in 2021, before she joined the course. But it’s now grown into a full-time pursuit and she is expanding her reach to cover Stoke-on-Trent as well as Cheshire.

The next step will be offering the self-defence classes on the Stoke-on-Trent campus. The first session is on 27 February at Sir Stanley Matthews Sports Centre at 4pm – book your place.

Clare said: “Being able to live that dream and that passion with a business, I can’t think of anything better.”

Clare Challinor demonstrates her self-defence techniques

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