The more than a dozen brick-and-mortar locations that make up Ultimate Champions Taekwondo Association share not only a style of combat, but a teaching philosophy as well. Tracing the lineage of their combative art back to Grandmaster Sang K. Oh, the instructors adhere to his teachings, exemplified by the quote, "The person who can defeat others with flashy techniques but is without love toward his fellow man will in the end defeat himself." Students use the physical empowerment of mastering jumps, kicks, and weapons to arm themselves with discipline, confidence, concentration, self-respect, and courtesy for others.
Outside of the classroom, the organization reaches out to the tri-state community with ample demonstrations of some of their most exciting techniques. Practitioners soar skyward in flying kicks or fill the air with the whirring blows of nunchakus, bos, and kamas. Fists slam through boards, balloons, and bricks to demonstrate the striking power of tae kwon do and the structural flaws in the Three Little Pigs' panic room.
As a 4th-degree black belt, Alexander "Soca" Freitas’s fighting resumé is a formidable one. He has won multiple competitions - including the highly prestigious ADCC Championship, where he was also named "Most Technical Fighter" - and is a five-time Brazilian National Jiu-Jitsu Championship winner. He earned his black belt under Carlos Gracie Jr., the son of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu’s founder, and he spent 25 years mastering the grappling art at the Gracie Barra main academy. Since becoming a teacher himself, Soca has awarded black belts to 24 of his students. However, he doesn't try to force any of his protégés into following his footsteps—instead of matching his impressive accolades with an intimidating attitude, Soca welcomes students of all ages, builds, and abilities to his gym.
Soca leads classes in both beginning and advanced Brazilian Jiu Jitsu techniques. The martial-arts discipline depends on leverage and holds rather than weapons to subdue opponents, and he demonstrates these maneuvers during practice drills. Students progress through the curriculum by testing to receive successive belts rather than by wrestling a written exam to the ground. Soca ultimately leaves their goals up to them, whether they hope to perfect their self-defense moves, compete in MMA tournaments, or simply engage in healthy exercise. Aside from standard Brazilian Jiu Jitsu lessons, the gym also hosts private classes, children's classes, and strength-and-conditioning sessions, led by co-owner Samantha Freitas.
Name any style of yoga, and you'll most likely find that Harmony Yoga and Dance owner Mariko Fusillo has studied it. Over the course of more than three decades and 7,000 hours of teaching, she has taught classes ranging from heart-centered Anusara and slow, meditative yin yoga to kid-centric yoga and advanced pranayama. Leading classes that serve students of all ages and ability levels, Mariko and her instructors aim to create a haven of spiritual growth and physical well-being. And her passion for helping students enrich their lives doesn't stop at yoga?she's also a reiki and shiatsu master, meditation guide, and personal trainer. Furthermore, the studio extends its menu to include various types of massage, as well as classes in Pilates, Zumba, and tai chi, a traditional Chinese practice of energy movement that's thought to boost the immune system and ease arthritic pain.
Athletes flock to Lifefit Kickboxing's more than 10 locations, which are scattered throughout New York and New Jersey, for a seemingly oxymoronic combination: expert combat training and a sense of camaraderie. As instructors help students perfect kickboxing's core moves on the studio's punching bags, they encourage them to view their fellow classmates as teammates instead of opponents or evil henchmen. The result? A welcoming atmosphere that helps keep students motivated as they conquer the calorie-torching, full-body workouts.
Founder Darlene Smith and her team of teachers are qualified to teach a wide range of classes, including Zumba, YoCore, Piloxing, ballet barre, and boot camp. The studio even holds a special Zumba class that teaches kids aged 4?12 salsa and hip-hop moves while fun and high-energy music plays.