Henderson County native Leanne Hensley is expanding FighterWithin, her mixed martial arts business.
FighterWithin has quickly outgrown its original space, moving down three doors. The new location, which will open May 2, is located at 115 C Four Seasons Mall next to Go Grocery in Hendersonville. Services include Gracie Elite Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Karakido Karate, Muay Thai Kickboxing, a fitness center, sauna, drop-in tutoring, and one-to-one personal training.
Hensley founded FighterWithin in 2006.
“After the birth of my son, I realized that other mothers needed to have the skills that I have to protect those they love, primarily their children who are vulnerable,” Hensley said. “In that moment, looking at my newborn, I knew I had to help families become a stronger, more protected entity.”
Hensley began teaching in the basement of her home.
“I had a full-time job in mind with other employment plans due to years of training in another field,” she said. “In 2016 I took FighterWithin full-time and left my previous engagements to focus solely on FighterWithin. I had absolutely no idea that FighterWithin’s journey would lead me to where I am today.”
Hensley has an average of 95 members per month, who typically train five or six days a week. That number has continued to grow over the years, according to Hensley.
“Every year my numbers seem to double. What started with mostly women has now grown to include men, women and children of all ages and levels,” she said. “Most of my members have been with me since day one, which I’m very proud of. In our business, more people quit than stay. I am proud to say that I have members who have just become my family.”
In addition to the main location in Hendersonville, Hensley also has a secondary location in Haywood County.
“I hope to expand this location in addition to my home in Hendersonville,” she said.
The need to physically expand the business has been on Hensley’s radar in the past.
“My team had brought this to my attention for a very long time before I made the decision to expand. I mentally denied that we really had made it to the point where we needed a bigger space,” Hensley said. “We have successfully made it through the scary times of the pandemic when some were not so lucky. In fact, I somehow managed to double student enrollment and business during the pandemic. We were closed for five months and it was a scary time. However, when we reopened, we were definitely back.”
Hensley said it took her “a year to finally wake up one day and realize I had to give my members what they asked for.”
“The timing was perfect with the opening of the adjoining room. I made the decision to increase the current space from 1,200 square meters to 8,000 square feet,” said Hensley. “However, we are opening up a completely different group of customers that we were not able to serve before. We were limited to one mat at a time. With the expansion, we will have over 7,000 square feet of pure mat space. Unlike the 900 before it.”
Hensley said the company will be able to extend class times and schedules, including offering up to four different classes at a time. FighterWithin will add a full fitness center for members to work out.
You can also offer childcare.
“Child care is an urgent need (for) our city. Seats are full and waiting lists are long. I quickly realized that our small town needed more offerings for the families of our communities so that parents could do what they need to do,” Hensley said.
In the future, there are plans to hold many events at the new facility, including internal tournaments, shows, workshops, conventions and more.
Hensley also plans to include a 24-hour break room and relaxation area. The idea is a place for police, emergency responders, firefighters and other first responders to turn to while working the late shift. FighterWithin has an Adopt-A-Cop program that offers free Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training to all law enforcement agencies.
Hensley said all classes offer different perks. Some customers go to the fitness store while others seek emotional support.
“…For me personally, anytime on the mats is my favorite time,” she said.
Hensley says feedback on the expansion has been positive.
“I had complete strangers in the parking lot who introduced themselves and congratulated me on the move. During the renovation process, people came over and wanted to see what we were doing,” she said. “As far as my members go, I can’t tell you how much support I’ve had because it’s incredible.”
Members even helped with painting and moving.
“…Seeing you happy and excited about this change definitely confirmed every doubt that I definitely made the right decision in choosing this expansion,” said Hensley.
As a Henderson County native, Hensley is proud to be expanding her business here.
“I am proud to be able to offer knowledge and support to the small town that has supported me and my family over the years. Small businesses make us who we are,” she said. “My main goal is to be able to help and educate others to keep their families healthy and safe. Seeing positive change in our schools and professions through those who are currently training is my greatest passion. I hope the community will continue to support my business and hopefully see that what I do is so much more than just martial arts. It’s a lifestyle. It is a tool that everyone with any lifestyle should experience and learn. And to anyone who thinks they can’t, I promise they can. The hardest part is going through the door.”
For more information, visit www.facebook.com/fighterwthin or www.fighterwithin.com.