I love to exercise. I don’t feel right if I don’t get out for my daily run, preferably in the woods or on the track. I also do daily pushups and a whole regimen of dynamic stretches. Lifting weights? Sure. I’ll even exercise on a stationary cycle if you put a TV in front of me. When I’m feeling cheeky, I’ll join my son for a short bike ride to Legendary Doughnuts (the calories burned are always dwarfed by the calories consumed).
But as far as some people are concerned, my love of exercise just makes me weird. I get it. You’d rather spend your free time chilling out. You only run if someone is chasing you. And the only thing you lift on a regular basis is a pint of ale.
Still, though, you want to be fit – for the sake of your health, your vanity or both. What do you do?
What if I told you that not all exercise
is boring or repetitive and that you can run, jump and even hit or kick things as part of a workout? Better still, what if that workout gave you all the benefits of more traditional exercise – plus a heaping helping of self-confidence and a side dish of badassery.
That’s what the good folks at T-Town MMA are serving up in Central Tacoma. Jimmy Thompson, head instructor at T-Town MMA, says between 70 and 75 percent of his students attend weekly classes simply to get in shape and learn self-defense, not to become the next kickboxing champion. You don’t have to be in even so-so shape or know the first thing about self-defense to attend kickboxing, Brazilian jiu-jitsu or mixed martial arts classes.
“A person with little experience can expect to get acquainted with the vibe of the gym” during their first class, says Thompson, a two-time World Pro-AM Champion with black belts in American freestyle karate and Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
“That’s huge. Liking the training and who you are training with is one of the most important things. It’s hard to accomplish much otherwise. Beyond that, a first day in kickboxing would consist of learning how to walk. Sounds funny, but footwork is such a key fundamental. From there, new students learn how to punch and then how to step and punch.”
Brazilian jiu-jitsu students, meanwhile, learn what Thompson calls “footwork for the whole body,” plus positions, techniques and drills.
Of course, it’s not all fun and roughhousing during classes. Students do their share of pushups, sit-ups and lunges at a brisk tempo. By practicing various punches and kicks for kickboxing and by learning various grappling maneuvers for Brazilian jiu-jitsu, students are participating in power and speed training that taxes the whole body.
“Another thing that it really helps with is bone density,” Thompson says. “We hear about how weight training is mportant to prevent osteoporosis. Well, Brazilian jiu-jitsu and kickboxing are essentially weight-bearing activities.”
Even those training for another event or discipline will benefit from learning martial arts.
“When your body is strong and fit,” Thompson notes, “you can simply push harder. You will start to win the small battles – that 200-meter hill at Mile 3. When you are coming out of Point Defiance during the Sound to Narrows and you need to really dig deep up that final 1-kilometer hill, that upper body strength helps more than a lot of people would think.”
If you’re a cyclist, Thompson says, you’ll notice an improvement in your bike handling and overall flexibility. But perhaps the most important benefit – and one available to any student of the martial arts – is psychological. Everyday problems don’t look so daunting once you’ve mastered an arm bar or a headlock escape.