Amid the mythical landscapes and thrilling martial-arts battles in the film Mortal Kombat, you might see Richard Branden performing swift punches and mighty kicks as an outland warrior. Richard?s role in Mortal Kombat is just one of his many motion-picture credits, which include a stunt-double role in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and the Yin-Yang Man in WMAC Masters. The internationally renowned warrior has been practicing in martial arts since 1976, earning more than 35 international titles and six gold medals in chinese kung fu. A firm believer in the practice?s ability to enhance discipline and focus, as well as strength and agility, Branden opened Studio Kicks Palo Alto to help students of all ages reap martial arts? many benefits.
Bright red and blue mats sweep across the floor of the expansive studio, where Branden's staff conduct a variety of combat-centric classes. The trainers lead energetic circuit-training routines and kickboxing combinations in adult fitness classes, helping students improve form and technique as they work toward sliming their physiques and toning their muscles. Youngsters and adults alike can enroll in the martial-arts program, where instructors guide students through movements, techniques, and training exercises that aim to boost power, flexibility, and strength. In addition to improving physical fitness, the program?s curriculum seeks to bolster self-confidence, much like an Armani blazer with the padded shoulders and biceps already sown in.
First conceived nearly 50 years ago, the dream of the Oshman Family JCC officially came to fruition in 2009 as a sprawling, 8.5-acre campus that welcomes people of all backgrounds. The Richard & Rhoda Goldman Sports & Wellness Complex hosts more than 150 group fitness classes per week, complementing these sessions with basketball and volleyball games. A heated outdoor pool supplies six lanes for swimming laps and connects with a sun deck that's ideal for relaxing with a good book or identifying barbell-shaped cloud formations. But the center focuses on enriching people's lives through other means as well. It supports families via kid-friendly camps, activities, and early-childhood education programs. It also hosts cultural events in the Schultz Cultural Arts Hall, spotlighting the works of renowned artists, musicians, and authors.
Surrounded by craggy peaks, three men in bright-red helmets stand in the midst of wilderness, surveying the mountains around them as their group of hikers break for a snack on the rocky ground. This interface with the majesty of nature is all in a day's work for this trio of adventurers—Paul Mangasarian and Jakob and Daniel Laggner. Still, their passion for open-air exploration grows with each expedition they lead. Paul, Jakob, and Daniel cofounded Treks and Tracks with the dream of orchestrating excursions into nature that combine ancient means of travel—such as sailing, horseback riding, and hitchhiking on a centaur—with modern sports ranging from surfing to rock climbing. Though they focus on introducing novice outdoorsfolk to unspoiled wilderness around the world, Treks and Tracks' cofounders also strive to leave the awe-inspiring surroundings they visit as pristine as they found them by rigorously upholding practices of environmental stewardship on each expedition.
At Stepz, professional Bollywood dance instructors imbue students of all ages with dance moves inspired by Eastern India. They foster an environment of support and encouragement as dancers soak up fundamental foot positions and learn to express themselves through fluid movements and flowing hand gestures. Students looking to shed excess pounds can speed up routines in one-hour aerobics classes, which lead groups though rigorous dance routines specifically designed to tone muscle.
Boasting more than 40 years of tango experience, Nora Olivera and her husband Edward Neale teach tangoers of all experience levels to synch feet and bodies to buoyant South American rhythms. Born and raised in Argentina, Olivera performs professionally around the world and teaches tango the way Argentines dance it, without swords or samurai garb. During two lessons, students learn to strut the tango's nuanced walks and hold partners in the dance's signature sultry embraces. In one session, dancers will study milonga, a spicy relative of the tango, tapping toes to 2/4 time and while mastering the rhythmic steps.
Dance Visions is an extension of the nonprofit organization Dance Actions, Inc., which helps nurture artistic expression in and around Palo Alto. At the Dance Visions studio, skilled instructors lead children, teens, and adults through dance lessons that range from classical Vaganova ballet and traditional belly dancing to contemporary hip-hop. Their global dance party spices up a normal Pilates routine with moves inspired by Bollywood films and African and Latin dance techniques.