A team of students, businessmen and martial artists in Lancaster aim to change the perceptions of a popular sport with a new venture in the city.
Portuguese born Ze Macedo, 22, a third-year student at Lancaster University, developed the idea of creating a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) training academy in Lancaster, and just a few months later Kaizen Academy was up and running with 80 registered members.
No stranger to business himself – he most recently started a cleaning company called Kitchpack which has now been sold on – Ze, together with fellow student Kieran O’Brien, got in touch with Lancaster-based businessman Shane Ogley, who runs mobile phone firms and is a partner at Prestige Hair Salon.
Martial artists themselves, Ze and Kieran were talking about the ideas of taking an academic approach to MMA, a combat sport that uses a variety of different techniques and is hugely popular at present.
Ze said: “Kieran and I saw that there was an opportunity here, and that people weren’t teaching the sport like this.
“I knew that Shane would be a very good partner.
“We approached him for a meeting, and he refused at first because he was too busy, but I wrote to him explaining the uniqueness of our proposal and he agreed.
“We had a meeting on June 16 and Shane understood the vision, and within a month we had the premises.”
Kaizen Academy is based at the former Salvation Army building in Ridge Lane and is open seven days a week.
Ze, Kieran and Shane, together with instructors Adam Gregory, 30, a former business student at Lancaster University, and Michael Wood, a former sixth-form teacher from Quernmore, wanted to make sure the academy had a unique offering.
Ze said: “We have a more academic approach, with structured blocks, and we’ve designed a five-year syllabus based on decades of research and notes.
“We also have an online learning approach, with the learning carrying a progress bar and e-Learning if someone misses a lesson.
“The physical environment is also unique, we have a viewing gallery, and the training room is all white with air conditioning.
“We certainly haven’t skimped on the gym and we want to make it accessible and comfortable for everyone.”
Adam said: “Everything has come together here.
“There is nowhere else that takes the sport this seriously.
“It’s a sport that should be open to everybody and we’re here to show that everyone can achieve this high level.”
Kaizen Academy opened on October 19 thanks to help from friends and family.
Ze added: “We’d like to thank everyone who helped with getting it off the ground.
“We’re going to San Francisco in March to meet with investors and our next goal is to get this extended into a franchise around the world.”
Sessions for 11-15 year olds are due to commence in the new year.
You can follow the Academy on Facebook.
lDana White, the current president of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, which promotes mixed martial arts, said in an interview that Bruce Lee could be considered the founding father of Mixed Martial Arts. Lee believed that “the best fighter is not a boxer, Karate or Judo man. The best fighter is someone who can adapt to any style, to be formless, to adopt an individual’s own style and not following the system of styles”.