A bullying victim from Huddersfield who turned to martial arts after being picked on from the age of six has become one of the youngest gym owners in the country.
Nico Bajerski, 23, has transformed an old mill into a state of the art gym, where he offers free training for youngsters who are themselves victims of bullying.
He suffered at school in Huddersfield where his classmates would pick on him because of his Polish surname.
It led him to take up Thai boxing, and then study martial arts before setting up the gym in Halifax.
For the last few years he has worked at a sheet metal factory to be able to equip the old mill with a cage, boxing ring and specialist gym equipment.
In two weeks he will leave the Elland factory and work full time at the gym where he offers two months free training for anyone who has been bullied.
“Bullies feed off other people’s fears. I want to change that for each soul that walks through my door,” he said.
“I want them to walk out of my gym with a new confidence. A confidence the bullies will see and feel.”
After leaving school he trained as a health and fitness instructor, working evenings at the Mixed Martial Arts gym, called Citus, which already has more than 50 members, and he is now an MMA coach.
He vowed not to leave the factory job until every piece of equipment was in place at the gym.
“I will be leaving the factory in the next couple of weeks and I will be able to achieve my dream of running the gym full time,” he said.
“I got bullied a lot at school and the main reason was simply because of my surname.
“The martial arts stopped me being bullied without turning me into a bully myself, and that’s what I want the youngsters to see.
“I am committed to helping each member grow a new confidence in themselves that is not just about a physical strength but an inner strength too.”
He is thought to be the youngest owner of an MMA gym in the country, and encourages families to visit together.
“We have up to 30 people in the gym at any one time, with families of four or five all coming in together.
“We offer free jujitsu training for the youngsters. I don’t want to teach the kids how to punch people, I just want their confidence to grow. That’s what it’s all about.
“I saw how my confidence scared the bullies off, and that is what has inspired me.”