Martial-arts master Francis Farley conquered his childhood timidity by studiously practicing martial arts. He went on to win the North American middleweight title in 1989, and by 1993, he had won the International Sport Karate Association middleweight championship, holding on to that title for five years. He decided to open Farley's Kickboxing Academy, a dojo with a full weight room and boxing ring, in order to teach others various kicks and jabs gleaned from his successful 27-win, 2-loss career, which featured 17 knockouts and one intimidating finger wag. Francis's passion for martial arts—and fitness in general—led him to pair up with instructors such as Joey Thomas, a professional surfer and black belt in Brazilian jujitsu; Willow Brown, the facility's yoga expert, who has more than 10 years of teaching experience; and MMA coach Mike Roberts. These gurus help fitness seekers of all levels blast calories, learn self defense, or gain spiritual tranquility, and they adhere to the motto, "You don't have to be a fighter to train like one," as opposed to, "Once a couch potato, always a couch potato."
Karate classes help foster discipline and self-confidence in both children and adults. Kids learn better listening sills, self-defense techniques, and how to karate chop their way through every door in the house. Advanced-degree black-belt instructors lead adults through kicks, straight-arms punches, and other karate moves that blast through calories and sculpt muscles.
The accommodating staff at Bike Dojo, a cycling gym founded by Rob Mylls, keeps the community active with two-wheeled activities ranging from indoor spin classes and kid-based ride programs. Schwinn indoor recreational bikes perch inside the studio space, beckoning exercisers of all levels to pedal their way through energetic classes that boost cardiovascular health and finally put Tour de France commemorative bike shorts to use. Bike Dojo memberships grants full access to the facility and every new member joining Bike Dojo contributes to a child in the community through Dojo's program, Project B.I.K.E., which donates a bike to a child for every new membership.
At Minorsan Self-Defense & Fitness, the team of instructors share their wealth of knowledge to equip students with real-world self-defense skills, but their classes also focus on fitness. They also branch out into dance-based Zumba, kickboxing, and BodyPump––a class that mingles weightlifting with upbeat music. Kids are welcome, too, with martial arts programs that instill them with leadership skills.
If he put on all of his medals at once, Brazilian-jujitsu instructor Garth Taylor wouldn't be quite so nimble. With wins at every belt level of the Brazil World Championships, five golds from the U.S. Open in his weight class and open-weight divisions, and victories against former UFC heavyweight champions, his resumé literally shines. Alongside kickboxing and CrossFit trainer Sam Radetsky, Garth guides students through lessons that detail "the gentle art".
To help students gain a firm foundation, the center's training focuses less on rote memorization and more on the ingrained knowledge of jujitsu's methodology. Taylor and Radetsky encourage trainees to improvise as they hone their grappling maneuvers, hoping that adults and children (ages 4 and up) will incorporate the same discipline into their everyday lives and afternoon checkers games. The club's additional classes on boxing, kickboxing, wrestling, and judo help to cement a devoted community of mixed-martial-arts enthusiasts.
Since his first run-in with Brazilian jujitsu at age 7, Claudio França has been busy. Now a fifth-degree black belt, he's spent more than 30 years mentoring MMA competitors, winning multiple championships, and hosting the annual U.S. Open Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Tournament in Santa Cruz. He also teaches classes at three eponymous dojos with the help of fellow black belts. Training sessions teach groups how to execute BJJ's signature ground-fighting techniques and instill in individuals the keys to becoming a part of the martial-arts community.
Claudio's classes mix advanced students with total beginners, enabling the new arrivals to learn from more than one person, while regulars hone their coaching chops. The environment is family friendly, as well: there are programs for kids as young as 4, youth classes, and both women-only and co-ed adult lessons.