When JoJo Guarin isn’t taking down expert fighters twice his size in invitation-only professional grappling tournaments, he’s designing the curriculum at East Coast United BJJ & MMA. A swimmer before he was a fighter, Guarin advocates the use of cross-training as the primary method of getting his students in shape. This leaves him and his instructors time to focus purely on technique in Braziliain jujitsu, kickboxing, and mixed-martial-arts classes. The team sets up the schedule to provide specific times for beginners to practice, welcoming men, women, children, and teenaged turtles of all skill levels into their training sessions. When the combative fire in students’ veins flickers out, exercisers can center themselves and increase their flexibility under the tutelage of certified YogaFit instructor Jessica Mondello.
Whether you like high intensity workouts or a slow and steady routine, the instructors at Belmars Martial Arts & Fitness will guide you to better health. Calories are torched and heart rates soar during muay thai kickboxing classes, where students strengthen both their muscles and their mental acuity as they learn how to deliver high kicks and block unwanted bear hugs. Meanwhile, a boxing ring help fighters hone their jabs and uppercuts, while Zumba classes invite students to sweat through easy-to-follow dance moves set to catchy international beats. Yoga and jiu-jitsu classes are also available as are classic circuit training sessions that combine all the benefits of cardio and strength training into a single workout.
Steve Sohn's Krav Maga & Kickboxing owner and CEO, Steve Sohn is dedicated to nurturing clients' health. Steve has been studying martial arts for more than 30 years, earning 20+ certifications and awards, such as obtaining his black belt in krav maga, a feat shared by only a few instructors and schools in northeast America. His passion for teaching and improving students' physical abilities has also netted him recognition from the Educational Funding Company, including Outstanding Martial Arts School in 2005 and Exemplary Mentor in 2011.
To match Steve's enthusiasm for self-defense instruction, the two-floor facility boasts a number of amenities that help students reach their fitness and defense goals. Experienced instructors lead students through krav maga, kickboxing, and mixed martial arts sessions in two separate training floors. Olympic training mats reduce the impact of exercises, and an on-site changing room allows students to change from their workout clothes into their crime-fighting spandex without worry of revealing their identity.
Years before he would teach hand-to-hand combat to Special Forces candidates or have his studio voted the best of 2011 and 2012 by CT.com, Andrew Scala was stuck in traffic. As he inched down a clogged I-95 on his way back from New York and his job as a sales representative, he made a decision that changed his life. The next day, he quit his job, sold his car, and bought a plane ticket to Japan, where a friend was studying martial arts. He arrived three days later, beginning an eight-year stay in Hokkaido, where he eventually trained daily beneath the great-grandson of a samurai. At one point, he and two of his colleagues were invited to demonstrate their skills in front of more than 300 high-ranking Japanese military officials. Andrew not only mastered styles such as aikido, karate, and iaido, but also immersed himself in Japanese culture and learned to speak fluently, opening the door for the lifelong bond he shares with his teacher. Today, Andrew runs Darien Martial Arts Academy based on a philosophy that values integrity, honor, and self-discipline alongside physical skill. He lavishes his rich depth of knowledge upon students, teaching them the basics of Japanese with each lesson. As they grow curious, he relates the modern practice of martial arts to tales about the "truly intelligent and also fierce" nature of the samurai, erasing misconceptions along the way. "All those things are useful tools for helping children get motivated, not just for martial arts, but to become good students, good musicians, good athletes, good people," Andrew said, noting that as they train their minds with martial arts, the benefits spill into other aspects of life. His students bring in their report cards to show him their successes—and they also know that "if a student is good [at the academy] but he's starting to be disrespectful at home, he comes here and he pays for it here." He trains all ages of students, who typically begin with karate and then train in other styles or master weapons—the long and short staff, sword, and chain. He periodically brings his best students on trips to train at his old dojo in Japan, watching them develop a lifelong love of Japanese culture as they see him integrate easily into his old home. But though he takes martial arts seriously, Andrew makes classes fun and encourages each of his students. He's known for telling jokes and keeping the sessions lighthearted. "You don't have to be mean to be strong," he said. "The strongest guys I know are also the funniest guys I know."
Like mounting an HDTV on a terra-cotta warrior, Excel Yoga blends the ancient and the modern, shepherding students of all experience levels through serene yoga sessions, sultry belly-dancing lessons, and high-energy kickboxing and boot-camp fitness classes. A sense of community weaves throughout the studio, from the eco-friendly bamboo flooring to courses that bring families into the fitness fold, such as Kids Yoga and Mommy & Me Yoga.
Beyond its slate of exercise classes, workshops deepen yogis’ relationship with various aspects of yoga. The Anatomy Workshop, for example, blends discussion and practice to explore how certain poses can relieve physical disorders. Excel Yoga even cultivates its own fleet of enthusiastic instructors through intensive teacher training that outfits prospective pedagogues with the knowledge, poses, and sweat-proof grade books they need to lead classes.
Westchester Fight Club accommodates those looking to lose weight, compete professionally, or unleash inner loathing for stuffed canvas bags. The gym contains both a caged MMA octagon and matted areas fit for covering the fundamental techniques of boxing, Brazilian jujitsu, and muay thai kickboxing.
Classes encourage trainees to wrestle with peers and grappling dummies or build muscle tone by throwing punches and kicks at heavy bags and target mitts. Though most MMA sessions are coed, the studio does offer ladies-only time for cardio kickboxing and conditioning sessions. Kids? MMA classes also give tots the chance to defend themselves against bullies and point-of-purchase advertising.