Rob LaPointe first met the martial arts in 1973 when he began taking tae kwon do lessons in a neighbor's backyard. Like a kudzu vine, his love for fighting forms could not be contained by a manicured lawn, and he began serious study of kenpo karate and kung fu. In 1989, he opened White Birch Kung Fu, Tai Chi, and Kettlebell Gym to pass his learning on to the next generation of fighters.
Rob's dedication led him to take the gold medal in Pushing Hands and Advanced Sparring at Wong's Traditional Kung Fu Tournament in 2000—a celebration of his 40th birthday—and his competitive career continues. His kung fu classes teach these practical combat skills in a cycle, sometimes focusing on perfecting certain kicks or the blocking, trapping, and footwork skills needed to engage an opponent up close. Students move slowly and purposefully through tai chi training regimens, focusing on meditative thought and fluid self-defense techniques. Kettlebell and sandbag courses condition bodies for explosive combat motions and hefting deadweight, such as a feral Santa hibernating in your chimney for the summer.
LA Boxing’s fight-centric gyms ditch the polished look of wood-floored workout studios for gritty, competitive spaces filled with 150-pound punching bags and intense workouts. Like a baker molding gingerbread men, LA Boxing sculpts six-packs with boxing, kickboxing, and mixed-martial-arts classes. Although instructors and students agree that the gym’s atmosphere may enkindle intimidation in first-time attendees, most experience boosted self-confidence after conquering their first class. Private training sessions further stoke courage with workouts that leave patrons with the exhilaration of having survived 12 rounds in the ring or five minutes in a high-school lunchroom.
New York Sports Clubs, part of Town Sports International's network of fitness loci, opens up a number of equipment-stocked facilities across New York to exercisers. Strength-training gear, such as circuit machines, free weights, and medicine balls, molds muscles into chiseled depictions of physical might. Sessions on cardio machines, ranging from treadmills and ellipticals to upright and recumbent stationary bicycles, inspire burnt calories to pack up and move to cooler climates. Each club offers a schedule of group classes that draws from more than 100 fitness styles, including Pilates, yoga, and boxing, ensuring that no member has to jazzercise without a spotter. Each location rewards exercisers for sweating in its vicinity with special features such as babysitting, saunas, and steam rooms.
Suldbayar “Sugi” Damdin, a judo instructor at Northern Virginia Mixed Martial Arts & Fitness, represented Mongolia when he competed in judo for the 2004 Olympics. His colleague, boxing and CrossFit instructor Derek Sierra, was once a Master Fitness Trainer for the US Army and has amassed more than two decades of boxing experience. Résumés like these are common at the martial-arts and self-defense oriented fitness studio, where every instructor is either a current or former competitive athlete. Whether they're teaching muay thai kickboxing, boxing, or mixed martial arts, the veteran instructors ensure that their charges’ self-confidence rises along with their stamina, flexibility, and frequency of dreams about punching bags.
The goal at Brickhouse Cardio Club, according to its website, “is to ditch the workout and have a party in every class.” To do this, the trainers crank up energetic dance music on the full sound system so it reverberates through every plank of the joint-friendly flooring, motivating the students to power through the Zumba, PiYo Strength, INSANITY, and TRX Suspension Training classes. This unconventional approach to fitness also surfaces in the friendly trainers’ dedication to cultivating a supportive community of members, as well as creating a welcoming space free from ogling gym rats.