Local Family is Martial Arts Dynasty

L to R: Kelly Bailey, Brett “BJ” Bailey, James Bailey and Tyler Bailey L to R: Kelly Bailey, Brett “BJ” Bailey, James Bailey and Tyler Bailey

James Bailey started studying martial arts seriously in 1978. Back then, it was mostly adults learning the fighting arts.

“When it started, 100% of the students were adults and the program was modeled after the Korean military,” Bailey said. “It was much more aggressive and there were no pads early on.”

Bailey had always been athletic and had enjoyed sports in high school. A buddy invited him to try martial arts and he found it "intriguing." He started training in Birmingham at gym owned by Craig Kollars. It was a fortuitous pairing – Kollars went on to own seven Tiger Rock franchises in the Birmingham area. 

Bailey had an affinity for the sport, and when Mr. Kollars wanted to open a gym in Tuscaloosa, he asked him to run it.  “I jumped at the opportunity,” he said. Bailey opened his first location in Tuscaloosa in 1981.

Now, James Bailey owns four Tiger Rock franchises – two in Tuscaloosa and two in Kansas City. 

BJ Bailey (left) with his brother, Tyler Bailey (right), a 5th degree black belt.

 His children are involved in the business. Son Tyler (25) is the Defending Tiger Rock World Champion 5th Degree and his son BJ (27), a District and National Champion, also works in the business. Both started studying martial arts at four years old.

Mr. Bailey says the business has changed a lot since 1977.

“Starting in the mid-80s, the media has affected the style (the Karate Kid movies and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to name two influences),” Bailey said. “Now, we have more of a self-defense/competitive-athletic focus. The program is now for men, women and children of all ages.”

There have been ups and downs throughout the years. Five years ago, they lost one of their buildings in the tornado that hit Tuscaloosa, just as they were set to celebrate 30 years in business.

The James Bailey family and their staff at Tiger Rock have big plans for the future. 

“Our Tiger Rock goal is to reach 120 Tiger Rock franchises over the next five years,” said Bailey. This is their 35th year in business. Meeting challenges, good staff and a growing family has all been a part of the history of Tiger Rock in Tuscaloosa, and will be important in the next 10 years.

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Hanson Watkins

Ms. Watkins graduated from Mountain Brook High School and lives in Birmingham with her two boys, Jack, and Charlie. She has bachelor's degrees in psychology and creative writing from Emory University, and an MBA and master's in health administration from Georgia State University. 
Hanson spent 10 years working in the healthcare industry in Atlanta before moving back to Birmingham several years ago to work for her father, Jim Watkins. 
She credits her father, who has owned several businesses over the years, for giving her the entrepreneurial spirit. Her brother, Josh Watkins, is a Birmingham lawyer who helped start the Birmingham Angel Network, a venture capital organization. 

Druid City Living (DCL) is Tuscaloosa, Alabama's premier community newspaper, covering the great people, places and activities of the area.