An enterprising martial arts instructor is celebrating a gold-winning first year in business as instructors from Sensei in Darlington take home the top honours at the Brazilian Jiu jitsu British Masters Championships.


Physiotherapist Rick Boyle (38) set up Sensei in 2018 following help from TEDCO Business Support and Virgin StartUp to create a new martial arts and physiotherapy business on Chesnut street in Darlington.


Using a low-cost business loan of £25,000 from Virgin StartUp, Rick has expanded the business over the last 12 months to offer a mix of treatments from highly qualified health professionals in the physiotherapy field and develop the martial arts studio teaching mixed martial arts and Brazilian Jiujitsu to both children and adults.


Rick Boyle said: “The business has really gone from strength to strength this year and I think it’s fair to say that we now have the foundations to develop a new generation of martial arts specialists in Darlington. 


“Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) is a fast-growing form of martial arts in the UK and it is certainly one of our more specialist areas of teaching. With three members of staff competing at a high level, including myself and my wife, we have been taking podium places at grappling tournaments throughout the UK all year. 


“This culminated recently in three members of the gym gaining British Masters gold medals at the British Championships in September.  Both myself and my wife took Gold in our respective open weight categories and silver in our weight class. Our BJJ coach at Sensei, David Moore also took gold at open weight and Silver in his weight category so we can now lay claim to having British champions offering instruction at Sensei.”


Rick has been involved in mixed martial arts for over 15 years.  He formerly worked as a physiotherapist for the NHS before looking into opportunities to combine his personal passion and professional career under one roof at Sensei.


Rick continues: “The physiotherapy treatment rooms offer a complementary service to our growing numbers of members looking to undertake fitness and training of any type within our main space.  I treat the general public but also now have high level athletes on my books such as professional boxers, MMA fighters and Jiu Jitsu practitioners alongside ultra-runners and team GB athletes.


“We are a unique type of business in that we promote specialist training in the mixed martials arts field but also offer a rounded timetable of fitness activities that suit just about anyone looking to stay active.


“It’s been a busy but incredibly rewarding first 12 months in business and I’m happy to say that the future looks very positive for our staff and growing group of active members looking to put Darlington on the map for mixed martial arts.”


Rick worked with Judith Wheatley, business advisor at TEDCO Business Support to launch Sensei.  Judith provided initial one-to-one guidance and help in setting up the business as well as applying for finance in the form of a Virgin StartUp loan.


Rick said: “With Judith’s help I successfully applied for a Virgin StartUp loan of £25,000 to help finance the initial start-up costs of Sensei.  It meant that from day one we were able to have a full complement of staff working across physiotherapy, administrative and martial arts teaching roles.  We have opened up a new room in our dedicated premises to offer new classes such as Boxcamp and yoga but we are now looking to scale up further to increase the number and type of classes we have available.”


Virgin StartUp is a not-for-profit organisation offering government backed business loans  to  start-up businesses across the UK. Since launching in 2013, Virgin StartUp has provided over £5 million in funding to 371 new businesses in the North East supported by delivery partner TEDCO.


Judith Wheatley, TEDCO Business Advisor comments: “I am absolutely delighted for Rick and the fantastic team at Sensei.  This was a business borne of passion and experience and it gives me great pleasure to see such a hardworking and dedicated team achieve such professional success.  I’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate them and look forward to continuing my support of Sensei going forwards.”

What we offer

TEDCO offers one-on-one support provided by a dedicated team of business advisors and a range of pre start seminars available to clients who are taking the first steps into self-employment. This could be looking at an initial idea and developing it further, looking at how to start a business plan, business competitors, business marketing.

Are you eligible?

If you are looking to start and grow a business we’d love to hear from you. Our friendly team of experienced Business Advisors are on hand to take your call to discuss the support available.

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