Put Up Your Dukes!
Boxing and Mixed Martial Arts Toughen You Inside and Out
I’d like to say that my exercise regimen consists of a slice of cheesecake and a nap. Unfortunately, that approach has not worked out so well. Finding time for exercise can be challenging. Everyone has busy lives with every excuse in the book not to go to the gym.
One activity that has been acquiring fans is mixed martial arts, or MMA. It is a combination workout that includes elements of karate, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, judo, Muay Thai, and taekwondo with standard moves from boxing.
FitClub in the Sportsplex and The Center Martial Arts on Post Road offer a combination of MMA classes. But even kickboxing, which had its heyday in the 90s, is still coming on strong.
That’s where Dojo Fairfield on Black Rock Turnpike excels (pictured left.) They have a mix of karate, kickboxing, and Cage Fitness (a total body workout in five, five-minute rounds) for adults and kids. Kids typically take karate starting as young as four years old while adults participate in the other two. In fact, women make up 80 percent of their clients for kickboxing and Cage Fitness.
Owners Kailen Pirro and Karina Gramesty focus on having fun, making it a challenge, and learning something new in the process. They took over the Stryker Martial Arts Studio last year. With professional backgrounds in market research and interior decorating, martial arts are a major switch. But, they have become as devoted to it as their clients are.
“We love watching the delight on a student’s face when they finally execute a challenging technique,” Pirro said. “We can’t help but be enthusiastic about our job, because it’s something that we’re truly passionate about.” Technique, focus, and team work is everything at Dojo Fairfield.
The American obsession with the martial arts started mainly in the 70s. It has maintained a steady flow of students since then. Thanks to Hollywood action stars like Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, Jackie Chan, and Jet Li, it has definitely had its moment in the limelight. Ronda Rousey, who also stars in some action films, has put professional MMA on the map with some pretty rough moves of her own as a UFC bantamweight champion.
For Casey Mazerewski, a senior instructor at East Coast Tae Kwon Do on Berwick Court that is not what martial arts is all about. It’s not just about kicking and punching; it’s a way of thinking and living.
“People want to take a six-week class and then tell themselves they’re a bad ass,” he said. “This is not about instant gratification. It clears your mind. It relieves stress. It gives you the time to recharge.”
Mazerewski, whose father Edward opened East Coast and has had a decades-long career in taekwondo, knows all about stress. When he’s not teaching, he is a Westport police officer. Married with three kids, he feels the weight of the day—a hectic schedule, bills, and work pressures—melt away when he’s in class.
Recently, East Coast has started a mom’s club. When the kids were being dropped off for lessons, their moms wondered if they couldn’t have a class of their own. They didn’t want to break pieces of wood with their feet. They just wanted to work up a sweat and get fit. They started this winter and have about a dozen women who participate.
Moms who want to be fit can also turn to karate. Nazuka Dojo on Commerce Drive provides classes for both adults and children. But Sensei Nazuka, the owner and main instructor with 30 years of dedicated study, makes it clear that his classes are not made for fighting.
“We’re not looking for a world champion,” he said. “The ultimate goal is to become a better person.”
Ellen Demotses, who has been working with Nazuka for ten years to offset Type 2 diabetes, says that while it is a full contact sport it is not about fighting.
“As women, we’re trained not to fight and we feel uncomfortable with it,” she explained. “But Nazuka Dojo helps you to improve yourself. It makes you feel good to be strong.”
Madi Kostuk, an eighth grader at Roger Ludlowe Middle School, agrees with Demotses. After two years at Kempo Academy of Martial Arts in the Brick Walk, karate makes her feel strong as well. But it has also given her a self-assurance she didn’t have before. “It’s a lot of fun and it has given me confidence,” she said. “It has made me more organized and driven in other areas of my life.”
Finding the right martial arts program for you depends on what you hope to achieve from it. If you’re looking for a lifetime commitment to a mental, spiritual, and physical well-being, martial arts may just be the perfect fit
The national sport and cultural martial art of Thailand
The Magic of 8
What is Muay Thai? Apparently the direct descendant of muay boran, an ancient form of boxing that was used by unarmed Siamese soldiers when they lost their weapons in battle. It allowed soldiers to use their entire body as “nine weapons” namely the hands, legs, elbows, knees, and head. Muay boran eventually evolved into Muay Thai, or the “Art of Eight Limbs” or “Science of Eight Limbs” because it utilizes hands, feet, elbows and knee strikes which create eight points of contact.