To weather his career as a master sergeant and a decorated Special Forces combat veteran, Shihan Randy McElwee needed a solid grasp on combat maneuvers. Nowadays, the retired McElwee teaches the pragmatic self-defense skills that got him through battle at his martial-arts studio, American Black Belt Academy. The school specializes in the official hand-to-hand combat system of the US military: Gracie Brazilian jujitsu. The system’s standing and ground moves harness leverage to take on larger opponents as well as help participants neutralize surprise attacks. For a broader focus, students can opt for an integrated martial-arts fitness workout, which combines jujitsu with muay thai kickboxing and Japanese shotokan karate. Regardless of their specificity, all of the studio’s classes enhance focus, self-confidence, and courage when the laundry room’s light goes out.
Francisco Antonio Rodrigues da Silva⎯better known to his students as Mestre Fran⎯began his journey with Caopeira at age 10, studying the ancient dancelike martial art under a seasoned teacher in Sao Paolo. After years of learning the hypnotic rhythmic moves of Capoeira and studying the African dance rhythms of Macuele, Mestre Fran took his art to the streets of Londrina, Brazil, giving impoverished youth a positive outlet for their creative energies with public performances and classes. After developing a successful martial arts organization in his home country, Mestre Fran set out for the United States in 2002, introducing Americans to Caoperia through cultural shows throughout the Atlanta area and instructing newcomers through beginner, children's, and adult classes.
Like punching a portrait of your smug fruit bowl, capoeria combines both art and fighting. The practice develops the mind, body, and spirit by instilling self-confidence, building agility and strength, and teaching students about the vibrant culture of Brazil. Capoeiristas twist and bob to the rhythm of drums as they execute gymnastic kicks and turns, or they show off their newfound knowledge at the studio's Friday-night Samba, Macuele, and Portuguese language classes.
Seasoned bushido artist John Okochi taught Michael Issa martial arts when Issa was 6 years old. Now, the two teach together at Kaikudo Martial Arts. Although Okochi has a leg up on his pupil—he has been teaching for more than 30 years, or three presidential terms—Issa is no slouch. His certification for practicing Wudang tai chi and qigong adds a holistic element to the studio. That comes in handy during the studio's kaikudo classes, which stress discipline and mental focus in addition to the self-defense tactics of Japanese and Chinese martial arts styles such as taido karate, judo, and aikido.
At Total Boxing, students study under experienced athletes and instructors, learning the swift leg strikes, powerful blocks, and delicate balancing skills of muay thai. Adults and children alike hone their agility, strength, and speed during invigorating lessons, safely sparring with other fighters, or practicing fist and footwork on the gym's ample collection of specially designed training bags. In addition to perfecting a blinding flurry of high-kicking feet, visitors to Total Boxing turn abs and core muscles into rippling sinew, and learn effective self-defense strategies. The part-gym, part-dojo operates with its own in-house graduated belt system to mark students' progress and development, shunning the meaningless belt-doling and cupcake-gifting of corporate academies. Other classes include the core building of Pilates, the chokes and locks that make up Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and the functional workouts in boot-camp classes.
Started 14 years ago, Knuckle Up Fitness has grown into one of the largest fitness and mixed martial arts clubs in the Southeast. And there?s a reason for this gym?s popularity?KnuckleUp welcomes everybody, from professional fighters to absolute beginners, and employs top-notch instructors who?ve competed in hundreds of bouts. They also have a mission to inspire members who may be bored by tradition fitness regimes to commit to exercising and achieve their fitness goals by offering alternative fitness options.
Each of KnuckleUp?s three locations have more than 1,000 square feet of grappling mats, a regulation-size boxing ring, and plenty of heavy, speed, and uppercut bags for pummeling. There are also free weight areas, equipped with Life Fitness and Hammer Strength Nautilus machines, where clients can strength-train at their own pace. Skilled instructors lead classes in group cycling, wrestling, boxing and kickboxing, Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Kali, and MMA, to help members get into and stay into fighting form, as well as learn to compete for titles and gain self-confidence. They also offer personal training and programs for kids, to start youth on a path toward self-discipline, physical fitness, and a role in The Karate Kid, Part III.