When the idea of Kaizen Academy was first mooted, I wasn’t sure if it was actually going to happen, or if it was just going to be one of those fantastic ideas that was spoken about but never really got off the ground. The talent was there, in terms of the guys martial arts experience, it was just whether the stars were going to align for it all to happen. People had back-up plans for if it didn’t, and it seemed for a while that those might happen, rather than moving forward with opening a gym in Lancaster. Luckily for all of us, the gym did happen, and Kaizen was created. All of sudden a venue had been found, business partners brought in and Kaizen had gone from being an idea to an actual physical space in the town. At first it was difficult to imagine the final product; it was messy, dusty, and a broken down shell, but it was large, light and if you used your imagination, you could see where it was going.
It immediately became a community project, with members of the sports centre martial arts classes (and others) coming down to the new building to help paint, build, clean, brush, garden and try and get the place sorted for opening (Michael mentioned that it was probably going to need touch ups this summer… of course I’ll be there to help, as long as I don’t get stuck painting that bloody fence again!) The building had previously been in use by the Salvation Army, and we had to repurpose it for a martial arts gym – so there was a lot to do! The guys had an aesthetic in mind for the gym; very clean, white, modern, friendly and open. There seems to be an image in mind often associated with MMA gyms of them being dark and grungy, and therefore unwelcoming. Whether this stereotype is true or not, they knew they wanted to do the exact opposite.
With that in mind, light and colour was one of the key factors in the gym. White mats were ordered from Dollamur, the building was painted white, the furniture was white, the lighting was big and bright, the artwork was clean and fresh, with martial arts heroes and icons placed on the wall. It definitely has a very clean and modern aesthetic. The kickboxing and MMA kit was ordered from RDX Sports, so everything matched and worked well together. It’s not just the visuals that the guys wanted to be like this with the gym; the approach to teaching martial arts was also similar; a clean and modern approach that everyone could get involved with and understand. The online syllabus has been a work in progress, but it’s the hope soon that the interactive system will be totally up and running, for everyone to use and learn from. I’m excited to be able to track my progress through the BJJ syllabus, and see what I’ve been attending more and less, and therefore what I need to work on.
The official opening date for the gym was October 14th 2015. A few days out it was a bit touch-and-go as to whether it would make it on time, but it did, and the gym opened to a great turnout on the first night.
I think I was member number four to sign up overall and the first girl (bragging rights!). Okay, now for the soppy bit, the way Kaizen came to be I think really represents the atmosphere of the place. It was a large group of people coming together to create something and make it work, to create something that they would use, but also that other people could enjoy and explore. I think it’s a great gym, I’ve had some amazing times there and because of it, and I hope there will be many, many, many more…