Blog : Sustainability Common Thread amongst Entrepreneurs at Portsmouth Dojo

By Ken | Jan 7, 2015 | in

By Mark Quirk

When Bill Buckley and Tom Pray met it was nothing short of fate in every sense. The two, both owners of local businesses, found an instant connection in their backgrounds, beliefs and common core values of sustainability. The timing was perfect too. Bill wanted to train in karate (which Tom teaches), while Tom wanted to practice the Taiji and Qigong that Bill is passionate in teaching. Now they both offer their services, as well as yoga, under one roof at Gateway Taiji, Qigong & Yoga studio on 875 Islington St. It’s a sort of one stop shop for martial arts and meditative healing based exercise.

“This is unique,” said Pray, who has been teaching Shotokan Karate since 1987. “You don’t find that blend of teaching anywhere.”

Gateway Taiji, Qigong and Yoga is a center for practicing and exploring the ancient energy arts. Its large studio provides a spacious, sunlit, inviting environment for ongoing classes and special seminars in a renovated mill building. A major focus of the renovation was to improve energy efficiency. The original concrete and asphalt roof was replaced with a lightweight foam and rubber solution. The exterior walls were filled with the same foam. These improvements are expected to substantially lower the building’s heating costs. The lights in the new studio are all LED, further reducing the energy footprint of the building. The space also operates on solar power. Last but not least, students learn and practice in 100 year old historical site given new purpose and life.

Pray operates Ecotech, a sustainable pest service out of Eliot, Maine. Both Buckley and Pray's businesses are partners with the Green Alliance, a union of local, green businesses and community members, but the two met through Buckley's wife Rebecca.

About three years ago, Pray was taking a yoga class with Rebecca Gould. As the two talked, Pray mentioned he taught karate. Rebecca shared with Tom that her husband had once studied Shotokan Karate and wanted to get back into it, and he also learned Buckley taught Taiji and Qigong. The rest is history.

“It just worked out great,” Pray said. “I’ve been fortunate to have trained and learned from some of the best known martial artists who are absolutely dedicated to their practice, and that said, there is always a slight competitiveness and a bit of superiority surrounding their known styles. What I’ve learned over the years is that each has something to offer, is unique itself, and can and does support all others. They all share the same foundation so to speak. What distinguishes Bill from others for me is that he feels that way too. Everyone is respected and welcome and a transition from Yoga to Shotokan Karate or Taiji is really seamless if you have knowledgeable open minded instructors. The goal is what fits the student.”

As both Pray and Buckley got to know one another, they discovered more and more similarities; the two meshed with a natural connection present both in their approach to martial arts and to business, a harmony further linked with sustainability as common thread.

“We have philosophical similarities,” Pray said. “It really helps us understand each other in our teaching methods.”

Buckley said he remembers the day Pray came to his studio about a year ago. It was an instantaneous friendship, and the decision to go into business together was almost as quick.

“It was about a 30-second conversation,” Buckley said.

Pray will teach one class a week at Gateway, 6:30 p.m. on Monday starting in 2015, but both he and Buckley expect that number of classes to grow. As more students come in and realize both karate and Taiji and Qigong are offered, it will be beneficial to both teachers.

“It takes time (to build a following). It certainly took me time,” Buckley said. “I'm confident Tom will get there.”

Buckley has been practicing the martial arts for more than 30 years and has been teaching for more than 20. Since 1989, he has studied, trained and taught with Dr.Yang Jwing-Ming, a recognized leader in the international Taiji community and a prolific author of martial arts and qigong texts and videos. Dr. Yang has twice been named Martial Artist of the Year by Kung Fu Magazine. Buckley is certified to teach all three of the related arts - Taiji, Chin Na and Qigong, and continues to train and develop his own skills through intensive seminars with Dr. Yang.

Pray has been teaching karate since his days at the University of New Hampshire in 1987. He has tested under prestigious martial arts teachers the likes of Hirokazu Kanazawa and Teruyuki Okazaki.

And Pray has been involved with recreational programs in both Kittery and Eliot, Maine, as well as his teachings at UNH.

At Ecotech, Pray puts his knowledge of martial arts to good use in a philosophical way. He said discipline helps him run the business, which is in season “24-7.” Just like the teachings of karate he strives to be as perfect and present as possible, with every movement and decision while at work. Pray said his goal is to always eliminate the problem on the first try, similar to the karate belief of killing with one blow.

“That mindset was developed through my training,” Pray said.

He practices integrated pest management, or IPM, which requires applying insecticides at the times of the year when they will do the most good, based on the pest targeted. That's just part of Ecotech's sustainable practices. Pray also plans routes so as to maximize fuel efficiency, uses tick boxes, which are a low-impact and earth-friendly tick-fighting alternative, he educates customers on how they can tackle pests at home with low impact tips and his entire philosophy is predicated on efficiency and environmental awareness. The company is also licensed to control termites, ticks and mosquitoes, and is fully insured. Pray has worked for 25 years in the pest control business.

Both Buckley and Pray have found within each other, and in their business, ways to be sustainable in body, mind and work.

Green Alliance members get their first month of classes free at Gateway Taiji, Qigong & Yoga Studio.  Not a member?  Join here!