Customer Focus: Exeter Martial Arts

Exeter Martial Arts traditional Jiu Jitsu black belt, Dr Richard Catterick started teaching full time in Exeter back in 2006 after giving up his job in Oncology. Since then he has become one of the youngest national governing body, Jiu Jitsu 6th dan instructors in the country and one of only a handful to run a successful full time academy. Today he has over 500 students in his main and satellite academies across the country and has taught over 50 students to black belt level or above.

Tell me a little bit about yourself, your career and your school?

I have been training in Jiu Jitsu for approaching 30 years. I started while at University and trained throughout my 12 year University education opening up several clubs along the way and developing my own style of Jiu Jitsu – Seishin Mizu Ryu (which now has satellite clubs in Leicester, London, Southampton and Welwyn Garden City). I had never taught full time until I moved to Exeter in 2006. Initially I was asked by Exeter University and Exeter College to set up clubs in their institutions, and taught my other classes out of village halls and school premises. My classes soon expanded so much that it only made sense to open a large full time location in the heart of Exeter in 2010. Three years later we built an extension to increase the matted area from one mat to two, so that two lessons could run simultaneously.

I have a really great team here and am often complimented on the quality of instruction and how my staff are inspirational teachers, full of energy and with great knowledge and passion.

What are the 3 most valuable lessons you have learnt setting up your schools?
  • To have process in everything
  • That rolling syllabuses are the way to go
  • If you delegate, ensure you give exact directions
Tell me about your Lionhearts program?

The Lionhearts program was set up in 2006 by my wife Helen and is designed to take children from ages 4-15 years through to our adult classes. Originally we taught children over the age of 7 the adult syllabus, but quickly realised they would benefit more from their own curriculum, so developed a syllabus with the focus of having lots of fun while teaching coordination, fitness and self-confidence. As the popularity of the Lionhearts classes grew, we developed separate syllabuses for more age ranges and split the age groups for classes down to 4-6, 7-11, 12-15 years. This not only helped our students learn at a higher level, but also helped increase out retention rates too!

The success of these classes has helped develop a large outreach program in local primary and secondary schools in the area, which helps feed students to our school, as well as gaining us valuable word of mouth marketing amongst parents.

Why do you think people choose your school?

Many reasons, but it’s probably a combination of the quality coaching (by fully trained and certified instructors) and the variety of classes we offer. I personally hold black belts in Ken Jutsu and Jo Jutsu/weapons and am a purple Belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I have also medalled many times in the BJJAGB national championship competitions and coached my MMA team to win the UK MMA league championships, so am well placed to offer experienced competitive and non-competitive coaching to my students across a variety of Martial Arts styles.

We also run events and have a good social structure that helps to create a very friendly and welcoming atmosphere. We have entire families who train with us so it’s important that we are welcoming to everyone and try to be a hub within the community.

What kind of marketing activities do you undertake to attract students to your school?

I’m still learning things on the marketing front, however we put up posters for seminars/classes in and around Exeter which helps to gain students and mainly use website and social media channels. We’re lucky enough to gain a lot of word of mouth marketing too which is also really valuable.

Overall we have a really healthy organic intake, so don’t need to do too much extra marketing activity, however I’m hoping that when our website is updated it will help drive some extra leads.

In the time you have been practising Martial Arts, how have you seen them develop to keep with the times?
  • There are more full time academies opening up – following the US
  • The growth in popularity of Martial Arts like MMA and BJJ, as well as others mean that generally there are more prospects and people looking to take up Martial Arts
  • The increased knowledge and resources now available can help instructors set up their own schools and fulfil their dreams
What is next for you and your business?

Well, September is always our busiest time as not only the schools go back, but also because the Universities and Colleges go back too so we start to get really busy again. Also, currently we are further increasing our Little Lions BJJ classes on the back of 2 of our students winning gold at the inaugural children BJJ national championships earlier in the year and are further developing our website and student registration system with the help of NEST.

What aspirations do you have in the future for your school?

Honestly, I think I have already achieved my aspirations for the school. I have great students and a great instructor team, whom I can trust. The classes are really well attended and we have a regular and healthy student uptake… although the Dojo does need a new roof (Rich Laughs)!!

What is it that keeps you going and where do you find your inspiration?

I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by inspiration, from my teachers Sensei Henri Vilaire of Kaze Arashi Ryu & Brazilian Jiu Jitsu professor Sidney Silva, to each of my students. Also my amazingly supportive wife and business partner Helen keeps me going, along with our three beautiful daughters. Each of these people in their own unique way inspire, motivate and challenge me… this is what keeps me going.

Why did you decide to join NEST?

I always wanted to have my own fulltime dojo but never thought I could make a living out of it, especially teaching Jiu Jitsu which unlike Taekwondo is not known for big classes and doesn’t really have mainstream popularity. Sensei Martin Dixon, the chairman of the BJJAGB (governing body) introduced me to Gerard in 2004 where he opened the door to my dream of earning a living from my passion!

What do you like most about using their services?

We find NEST are tremendously helpful, even taking the time to visit our academy in Exeter! You can phone the office anytime and they are always happy to help immediately. Additionally, Gerard is a font of knowledge about business and the UK Martial Arts industry, which can be really helpful. We also use the marketing tool kit for promotional material and the swipe card system to track attendance – all of which help me to increase the time I get to spend teaching.

Do you have any advice for other Martial Arts Instructors out there?

NEVER STOP TRAINING! I have had several friends who stopped training but kept teaching classes and eventually they lost ‘the love’. This came through in their teaching on the mat and in the end their clubs failed.

3’s of me:
What are the 3 words that best describe you?
  • Practical
  • Positive
  • Honest (Brutally according to my wife!)
Name 3 of the best books you have read?
  • Magician
  • Dear Zoo (I love to read this to my daughters)
  • SAS survival handbook
What your three favourite foods/meals?
  • Steak and Chips
  • Bacon Sandwiches
  • Strawberry Pavlova

(Interview from October 2015 )

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