Capoeira is an Afro-Brazilian art form that combines elements of song, dance, and ritualized fighting that is centered on a physical game called jogo de capoeira. Like Spock and Kirk forced to fight by a threatening tribunal of bearded men, two players dance around each other in the center of a circle, exchanging movements of attack and defense in a constant, heart-pumping flow. Both players attempt to control the space by confusing their opponent, although no intentional contact is made or harm done—unlike sticks and stones with hurtful words carved into them. The observers in the circle play a variety of traditional Brazilian instruments and sing, setting the pace and beat of the dance-fight. Explore the schedule to find times during the week that work for you; additional classes are held at 7 a.m. by appointment only. Each session will immerse you in the flips, feints, kicks, and songs of capoeira.
Maybe it's a good thing the founders of Brazilian jiujitsu were not huge men. At just 135 pounds, co-founder Helio Gracie was forced to rely on leverage rather than rote strength or merciless tickling to help him overcome larger opponents. So in an effort to reduce the natural advantage of size, he worked these techniques into Brazilian jiujitsu's system of joint locks, chokes, and take-downs. In that way, Brazilian jiujitsu became a practical form of self-defense; you didn't have to be able to kick down a tree to become dangerous.
At Ralph Gracie Jiu Jitsu, black belt martial artist Dave Clahan and his team have armed students of every size with these same leverage-based self-defense techniques. Inside their 4,000 square foot studio, students of all ages and levels soak up grappling and submission skills they can refine for the ring or reserve for life-saving moments on the street. In addition to building physical ability, the instructors also emphasize building intangible qualities, such as confidence and self-respect.
Sahbumnim Jeremy Keller, a fourth-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, believes learning is a life-long process available to anyone who will reach out for it. Working with students as young as three, and as old as an imagination, Intensity Martial Arts owner Jeremy and his team teach three styles of martial arts: the Korean combat art Tae Kwon Do, kickboxing, and mixed martial arts. During each session, they teach respect and build listening skills and focus. The team’s professional oversight keeps students safe during sparing sessions and practice. The dojo’s padded floors protect against falls, and specialized gloves soften any blows.
Founded by master trainer Sergio Silva, Team Silva Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu arms students with the grapples and fitness techniques needed to get in shape or tackle competitors. Adult programs delve into the takedowns and strikes of mixed martial arts, jujitsu, and muay thai kickboxing, and women's classes range from yoga to fighting-themed fitness. Tykes can begin learning self-defense and discipline with muay thai lessons, gaining the swift, precise movements to fend off playground bullies or rebuff roving packs of feral kindergartners. A safe and encouraging environment, the Alameda studio lines its walls with cushions and trained coaches who oversee classes and open-mat sessions where students practice their martial-arts techniques or pickup lines.
The Polk Street Gym is a boxing gym. It telegraphs its pugilistic philosophy to fitness by center-staging a large, full-size boxing ring just inside the sidewalk storefront windows that stretch from matted floor to lofted ceiling. Both aspiring sparers and everyday Joes, who only have thrown punches at dollar stealing vending machines, train like boxers. Members jump rope, run hills, hit bags, and shadowbox. These drills and exercises firm not just boxing skills, but also general cardio and strength capacity. With 29 classes to choose from, men and women, kids and adults find a fighter's heart in circuit training or boxing classes.
Dublin-bred, former Golden Gloves champion Simon Redmond leads a roster of trainers who are all current or past Golden Gloves champs, whose knuckles turn food, jaws, parking meters, and all they touch to gold. After immigrating to San Francisco in the mid-90s, Simon trained and fought for several years before opening a gym with a partner. At the start of 2010, Simon broke off on his own to open Polk Street Gym. He strives to whip people into shape through boxing, affirming his mission and his passion by writing that despite broken ribs, a broken nose, burst eardrums, and spilt blood, he has loved every minute of his boxing lifestyle.
At AB Mixed Martial Arts Academy, Pilates and boot-camp-style CrossFit sessions complement a rigorous sequence of muay thai, Capoeira, and Brazilian jujitsu classes taught by martial-arts champions. During introductory classes, instructors focus on fundamental techniques to accommodate patrons of all ages and experience levels. Advanced instruction augments the basics with self-defense strategies such as sweeps, counters, and submissions. Students can bolster their workouts with independent exercise at the newly remodeled workout area, which features a variety of equipment and weights. The kid's jujitsu program instills practical self-defense skills in a safe, age-appropriate environment, while also building confidence, discipline, and the focus needed to fill in SAT test bubbles telepathically.