Millionaire who 'left school at 16 with £100' explains how he could buy a Ferrari at 22


With a multimillion pound business now under his belt, Mr Fiddes has also opened dance and pilates programmes and is a personal trainer for celebrities across the world all without even finishing high school. It has all come full-circle, as the school bully that sparked Mr Fiddes’ journey into martial arts now works for him, but the journey hasn’t always been easy.

Mr Fiddes shared in an exclusive interview how he went from sharing a £30 per week bedsit with his girlfriend to running the leading martial arts school in the UK.

Mr Fiddes accredits his grandfather with jumpstarting his interest in martial arts: “He had 14 children and not one of them took up his athletic side, but one of his grandchildren did so he took me under his wing.”

He explained that being bullied combined with the frustration of not learning useful skills in school made it difficult for him to thrive in that environment.

“School for me was like a chore. I saved my money from my paper route to buy self-development books on finance and property, stuff like that and at school I just went through the motions. You can’t have a program built for everyone, everyone’s different. The only one I did really well in was obviously PE. There’s nothing from my school days that have benefited me in being a multimillionaire and going on to do what I did.

“When I was in secondary school, around 12 years old sitting in maths, the teacher was going through one of those GCSE questions, ‘How many different ways can you put 50ps into a phone box?’ and I just thought, ‘This is utterly ridiculous. I’m never going to use this in my life at all.’

“I turned to the back page of the exercise book and wrote a list of goals. Most of them were stupid things like do the splits like Jean-Claude Van Damme and build muscles like Arnold Schwarzenegger but at the top was being a millionaire by the time I was 20 years old and being the best martial arts instructor in the world.”

But it wasn’t all smooth sailing, and setting up a business so young left Mr Fiddes constantly trying to appear older, and with no Plan B he had to ensure this business plan worked.

“I couldn’t do anything else I had no qualifications, I can’t even write, although I can read perfectly. They always assumed I was right-handed when in fact I was left-handed and they only found out when I was 14 and it was too late by that point. So it’s not that I can’t write at all, I can it’s just you wouldn’t be able to understand it.

“At 16 I had a bedsit where my girlfriend and I had to turn the sofa into a bed at night that cost £30 a week and we struggled to pay that. Our first Christmas together we were so broke our families sent us food hampers.”

They persevered to help make Mr Fiddes’ dream of opening a martial arts school a reality, but on the first day of classes a tragedy occurred that would derail his plans.

“The first day that I opened, I didn’t realise it, but it was the day that Princess Diana died so no one turned up to class. I was devastated.

“There was nobody in England really in my line of business so I got a job as a lifeguard for £2.75 per hour to supplement my martial arts training and went back and forth to the greats in America.”

Mr Fiddes explained that his business model is what entrepreneurs should be looking at to achieve success rather than going for goals far out of their reach: “Businesspeople, especially new starters, try to figure it out by themselves all the time, they try to reinvent the wheel. All the successful businesspeople in the world study people outside of their industries who are good at what they do, the correct phrase is modelling.

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“So they have to go out there and study. ‘Who out there is where I want to be and how can I make it better?’ Michael Jackson told me that.

“It’s all out there, they don’t need to reinvent the system. You’re only two or three handshakes away from anyone in the world. As long as you manifest it, set your goals and follow it, there’s something we can’t quite understand is the power of the mind, why things happen.”

Mr Fiddes implemented this by looking at these ‘American greats’ and said that he “just went crazy” opening up schools and growing the business at an astronomical rate.

“I never really had a job so the burnout and the overwhelm was something I didn’t think about at the time but when I look back, I definitely suffered from it. I was teaching 35 hours of classes per week, cleaning the floors, answering the phone, signing members up, doing the works because I had no staff, I had no qualified people who could take classes for me because they were all beginners.

“We went from zero to being the biggest martial arts school in England within six months. I had no social life, the first time I went out for a drink I was 28. I hadn’t been to a nightclub until I was 28, I had a very different life to most people.”

He elaborated: “Most people at 18 are hanging around with their mates at the pub, I was hanging around with Michael Jackson so there was a very different mindset.” He added: “I didn’t see myself as successful.”

He continued: “Yore network is your net worth. I was very fortunate that by the time I got to 18 I was mixing with millionaires and billionaires just by chance and when you’re mixing with them you’re not talking about gossip, you’re talking about ideas, learning the tricks of the trade and the mindset. They’re not focused on the money, they’re focused on what service can they offer in return for the money.”

Being around such influential people had an impact on Mr Fiddes’ own mindset, and while his success at such a young age is almost unheard of, the reality of it was incredibly isolating for him.

“I remember going to blockbuster to get something for me and my wife to watch, I used to pass by the nightclubs and think, ‘I wonder what life’s like in there?’ which is funny because driving past in my Ferrari people inside probably think, ‘I’d love to be him.’

“They could not relate to me and I could not relate to them. And when you’re me, people think. ‘Ah you’d be alright going into a pub, cause people won’t go near you.’ But no, every guy wants to try and beat me because they want to impress the girls by beating up Michael Jackson’s bodyguard.

“I wouldn’t get invited to family weddings because of who my mates were, the attention would be drawn onto me, which I totally understood because they want it be about the bride and the couple, not me.

“I missed out on a huge amount of normal things, but at the same time I had an incredible experience I wouldn’t change it.”

He added that his age sometimes got in the way when he wanted people to take him seriously: “I got my first Ferrari at 22 and they didn’t take me seriously at all about (buying) it, the guy just thought I wanted a picture with it but then I signed a cheque and he couldn’t believe it.”

But what was it that Mr Fiddes did differently to make him so successful? In his opinion, it’s the fact that he teaches what schools don’t.

“We teach goal setting, perseverance, self-discipline, how to handle negative thoughts. One of the things they don’t teach at school is financial education. Instead, they teach this old-fashioned rule which is; ‘work hard, get a job, work nine to five five days a week, buy a house, pay your house off and retire at 67 then if you’re lucky you have 10 or 15 years of arthritis to enjoy your life and travel the world.’ It’s the wrong way round.”

He elaborated: “Obviously if you want to be a doctor or lawyer or dentist then school is important. But all the life skills are not taught at all. It’s just not covered at all. All my wealthy friends have never qualified or anything at school they’re all self-educated by the books they read and they people they surrounded by.”

In his business model, Mr Fiddes looks to instil skills like goal setting and self-discipline alongside themes like anti-bullying to combine the physical and mental aspects of being a respectable martial artist.

“We’re in the education business not the sport business. It’s not just about kicking and punching. I make sure all my instructors are walking the talk and setting a good example, I’d rather the students look up to their instructors as role models than some pop star who’s caught falling out of a pub at two in the morning.”

One of his most noteworthy procedures is that around bullying, a topic quite close to the entrepreneur’s heart as it’s what compelled him to take martial arts seriously.

“If a kid’s being bullied we have a whole system for that. Normally a child will go to their school teacher and say they’re being bullied and they’ll call the bully in and tell him off then the bully gets angry and makes it worse. It’s a cycle, we have a system for that so they come to us and we arrange to go into the school, make a fuss of the child and the bully sees that the child can defend themselves and they’re good people and leave them alone.

“That’s what motivated me. I was bullied so badly at school and a friend was doing martial arts so I turned to it. The bully that started all of this actually works for me now. And so life can be turned around,” he concluded.



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