Our Story

How £20 and an idea changed the industry.

How far does £20 go?

To one young lad, all the way to building one of the UK’s most influential independent martial arts supporting bodies, engaging more than 100,000 people across the United Kingdom every year as an award-winning trade body.
What if we told you the guy behind it grew up in poverty and left school without the GCSEs needed to go to college but is now a multi-award winning social entrepreneur, employer and childhood poverty advocate?

No start up funding, no loans, no support, no ‘little black books’.

That’s our fight in a nutshell.

How did it all begin?

Born into a hard-working but very much impoverished family in the South West of the UK, our now award-winning Founder and CEO, Giovanni Soffietto came from no privilege. Working as many as 20 hours a week from the age of 13 and growing up in a household that regularly chose between electric or food, martial arts provided the only consistent outlet for creativity, commitment and achievement. Perhaps not surprisingly, having to prioritise on immediate financial stability meant educational attainment had to come second. Whilst doing his best to achieve academically the prospect of finding the funding to attend University and higher education over a working wage simply wasn’t practical. Fortunately, the superb and life-affirming skills martial arts offer – discipline, grit and resilience – would pave the way for a true success story.

Fast forward twenty years and that same young lad is now at the helm of what is considered one of the UK’s premier martial arts organisations. What’s more, the Fighting Chance Foundation goes beyond the association’s award winning service to offer martial arts programmes aimed at tackling childhood poverty, knife crime, violence against women and girls, male mental health, bullying and more. Our Founder passionately believes that every child has the potential to inspire change and create a lasting legacy and that martial arts can play a decisive roll in unlocking that opportunity.

This same belief and ambition saw the British Martial Arts & Boxing Association (BMABA) founded on September 17th 2012 with just £20 of start up capital. After spending £4.99 on a domain name Giovanni was left with the prospect of managing finances, marketing, sales, safeguarding, professional development, networking and web designing alongside a physical day job working 7 days on, 1 day off.

Whilst we started as a small community run organisation and have proudly maintained our politics free, community based approach to governance we are immensely proud to now have a dedicated staff and committee which help the association thrive from our three offices, covering more than 2,000 sqft of dedicated premises.

Our Founder and CEO in 2021 completing a photoshoot for Men’s Healths ‘Britain’s Best Coaches’ Award

We have never received any funding or financial help. Sport England actively declined to support our association and Foundation even in the face of Coronavirus – the only time we have ever reached out to try and obtain support. Loans were off limits (as our founder had no equity to offer up as security at the time) and the idea of a young man, without a degree or experience, being able to find a gap in such a well-protected market just didn’t seem viable to investors.

Time after time we were told the association was doomed to fail. We wouldn’t be able to create a brand that was recognised. We wouldn’t be able to build the right online infrastructure. We wouldn’t be able to attract enough members, or gain any recognition for our work. We wouldn’t be able to compete with the established ‘old-boy’ associations already operating.

It’s funny how at the start so many voices can seem against you. Quite often, as indeed we have found, when you reach a defining moment those same voices fall very quiet.

Now having passed our decade-old mark the Association is excelling in every respect. Our membership has exploded from the modest closing figure of 12 in year one to more than 100,000 members by year eleven – and growing rapidly. The association turns over a six figure sum, employs staff, has a dedicated office and has been the recipient of dozens of awards and nominations.

What’s more, the Fighting Chance Foundation serves as a dedicated vessel for Giovanni and his organisations to give back to martial arts, helping to combat poverty, violence and disadvantage on a national basis.

Giovanni in 2019 receiving the Sports Business Awards’ coveted Best Governing Body Initiative Award

The story of the BMABA encapsulates everything martial arts instils. It’s about being the underdog, putting in the hours and not surrendering even in the face of an almost endless stream of challenges, setbacks and disadvantages. Together with each and every member we have today, our community of like minded martial arts instructors, clubs and participants have created a success story like no other in our industry.

We are creating a legacy that will impact on communities up and down the UK for generations. From promoting martial arts generally to specialist programs tackling knife crime, standing up to bullying, providing scholarships for children in poverty through to engaging more women and girls in martial arts, we’re collectively – as a community – breaking down barriers to participation and redefining our industry.

Whether your club is big or small, you’ll find an association that values your custom and support. We’re built on the necessity to do well and provide a great service. Without any funding or grants, we wouldn’t be here today if we didn’t consistently deliver a great experience to our new and existing members.

The governance and ethos behind our organisation is one of believing in the underdog, and believing in everybody have the opportunity to do something inspirational. Where the BMABA goes over the next decade remains to be shaped by our community of members and clubs. We welcome everyone’s voice and input. No club is too small.

What we do know is Giovanni’s founding principles of not accepting defeat, and the belief that the UK martial arts industry is ready for something different shall remain a driving factor. As an entrepreneur who passionately believes in the good that technology can do for grassroots causes, BMABA will continue to remain at the forefront of martial arts for decades to come.

We’re here to help with questions and queries.

Access expert guidance and speak with our dedicated team for queries on membership, insurance, eligibility, us or just about anything else you might need.

We’re not based from a kitchen worktop, nor do we employ call centres overseas to answer generic FAQs for us. We have three locations throughout the UK including our Headquarters in West Sussex. BMABA boasts over 1,250sqft of newly refurbished top-spec office space for our dedicated staff and everyone you speak with here – be it via email, live chat, Facebook or phone – is part of the team and not an outsourced agent.


01798 306546

We’re always happy to speak with new and current members by phone.

Lines are generally staffed between the hours of 9.15am and 4pm Monday to Thursday, and 9.30am to 1pm Friday. Occasionally you may not be able to reach us if we’re all tied up elsewhere (you’re calling a real office, not a call-centre!) but we provide an answer phone service 24/7. Please leave a message and we’ll be happy to call you back as soon as we’re free.

Or, if you prefer, you’re welcome to;

Join More Than 6,500 Like-Minded Instructors & Clubs

We’re one of the largest martial arts associations in the UK with more than 30,000 registered members across thousands of clubs and instructors.

We have our own offices, not the kitchen table.

There’s nothing wrong with smaller martial arts associations. In fact, we think it’s good for competition and variety. Unfortunately too many are one-man bands run from kitchen tables, and not professional set ups with staff.

We have three locations – Manchester, London and West Sussex. Our HQ has over 1,400sqft of dedicated, bespoke office space for our team of staff and volunteers.

Founded in 2012 by the now Multi-Award Winning Social Entrepreneur & Life-Long Martial Artist

Frustrated by a lack of affordable, professional alternatives to the associations Giovanni Soffietto had dealt with when participating and then teaching Thai Boxing and Karate, BMABA was founded.

Focused on professional standards and ethics rather than belts and titles, BMABA boasts the pedigree of a life-long martial arts expert come award winning social entrepreneur as it’s Chief Executive Officer. It’s fair to say we’re well qualified and backed by an industry giant.

Our Membership Isn’t Just A Piece Of Paper

We have always been focused on providing clubs with everything they need under a single membership, and our range of resources, tools and features delivers exactly that.

From template grading certificates and documents through to a free club website and national club listings. Whether it be advice on club structure and marketing or membership marks and qualifications. DBS checks, first aid qualifications, coaching certificates, instructor licenses, insurance, business plans, equipment, graphics – you named it, we cover it under just one simple, affordable membership.

Beautiful, Professional Certification As Standard

So much of what you do will be judged on the grades, credentials and certification you hold. We get that.

We know parents, students and venues don’t always understand exactly what qualifies you. We help by providing superb, professional certification that ensures you look the part. Be it a Dan Grade, Instructor License or Insurance Document, all of our digital and printed certificates will meet the mark and be accepted across the UK.

Our Profits Fund The Fighting Chance Foundation

All of our eligible profits are donated to the Fighting Chance Foundation to help change lives through martial arts.

From programmes designed to help children in poverty and women & girls at risk of violence through to anti-knife campaigns and disability inclusion work, the Fighting Chance Foundation changes lives through martial arts.

Access The Latest Martial Arts Qualifications

We provide all of our members with a free Level 1 and level 2 Martial Arts Instructor Qualification. We also provide access to more than twenty professional courses and qualifications to help expand our member’s portfolios.

From first aid, safeguarding and coaching through to concussion awareness, club colours and marketing – BMABA are a household name in martial arts for providing high-quality, affordable access to training and qualifications for martial arts.

We Back Our Members, Even During The Darkest Of Times

Our response and support throughout the Coronavirus Pandemic confirmed to the industry the way BMABA treats it’s members.

We provided daily updates, dedicated online training hubs, access to a free COVID instructor qualification, subsidised insurances, a self-funded Covid Recovery Scheme, mediation services with local authorities and interpretations of DCMS policy. We increased our operational hours to ensure a 7 day a week response and invested more than ever in our systems, processes and memberships. This is what an association should be doing for its members we believe. As our slogan goes; “To High Places By Narrow Roads“.

You won't find another UK martial arts association that can offer so much to their members.


Not entirely sure?

Try us for free for 6 months, with no obligation.

There’s absolutely no obligation to commit beyond 6 months. You’ll be able to explore what we offer, our member’s area, all of our licensing options and get a better feel for the BMABA’s service without any obligation to become a full member. We genuinely believe the best way to find out if we’re any good is to try us for yourself.

Switching To Us

We know there’s a lot to think about, and we can help.

We have absolutely no interest in enticing you to switch to BMABA if we’re not the right fit. We know that won’t last and isn’t good for you or us. Instead, we can offer a confidential switching process to help you price up whether or not it’s worth while, whilst also getting answers to any questions you might have.