Urban Defense Center founder Master Lawrence Whitaker developed his studio’s signature self-defense program to arm students with practical-minded moves that prepare them for dangerous street situations. Students learn to spar, take down an opponent, defend against weapons, and escape from the shadow of a suspicious-looking skyscraper. Students also train their gray matter, pre-empting potential legal repercussions for defending themselves by studying concepts such as reasonable grounds and probable cause. Alternatively, Tai-Fit sessions shuttle through a series of punches, knees, blocks, and kicks with the goal not of emulating a fight but of torching calories instead. Fighters can pursue either track with a personal trainer who pays closer attention to form and technique than a beauty contestant does during the Simon Says portion of the pageant.
When fighters from organizations such as Strikeforce, UFC, and Bellator hang up their gloves, it’s typical to see them getting in workouts at Fight Firm Elite MMA and Boxing Training Facility. Amateur and pro fighters regularly enter Fight Firm’s rings, including light-heavyweight champion boxer Bernard Hopkins, who trains at the gym three to four times a week. In addition to competitive athletes, Fight Firm also welcomes average joes to take advantage of its expansive list of classes, which includes fighting styles such as boxing, muay thai, Brazilian jujitsu, MMA, and wrestling. Trainers have outfitted the gym with two full-stage boxing rings and a competition MMA cage, allowing them to hold two or three classes simultaneously. Trainers also specialize in traditional martial arts including capoeira, karate, tai chi, and various styles of kung fu.
The sport of Mixed Martial Arts is called that for a reason; it takes a varied approach and a diverse skill set to master. Nobody knows this better than Jason Sargus, the head coach at Brazen Boxing & MMA. When Jason looked around at some of the other MMA gyms in town, he saw an approach that tended to focus on only one discipline. When he opened his own fitness center, he was determined to take a more holistic approach to help beginner wrestlers, boxers, and martial artists build the right kind of knowledge base.
The classes at Brazen Boxing & MMA represent the culmination of that goal. Jason leads a staff of highly trained instructors with local and international acclaim, but this team is more than just the sum of its parts. They draw on their collective abilities to craft programs that fill in the gaps in their students' training or teach first-timers the basics, such as how to stand or which color of shorts are the most intimidating. This approach gives students confidence and the ability to transition smoothly from discipline to discipline.
At Sword Martial Arts, Grand Master Jin K. Seong oversees devotees training in the ancient martial art of kendo, or kumdo, a form of sword fighting nearly 2,000 years old. A member of the International Kendo Federation with internationally recognized rankings, Sword Martial Arts ensures student safety by wrapping combatants in protective gear before they spar to hone self-discipline, develop confidence, and learn how to defeat the black knight's ghost in their attic. Though it originated as a form of combat, kendo's modern form focuses on respect for others and protection of the weak. Mook-sang meditation sessions bookend each lesson, focusing minds on the kendo philosophy and bringing pupils closer to the purity of heart most often found in baby unicorns. The academy’s schedule of classes invites neophytes and younger students to drill in foundational techniques, whereas students 15 and older grip the hilt of bamboo or metal swords under the watchful guidance of expert instructors.
Located in Chinatown, Philadelphia Wing Chun Kung Fu schools students in wing chun—a 300-year-old martial-arts system. Students learn five ways to defeat an enemy: striking, kicking, joint locking, throwing, and through the use of weapons. Unlike other martial-arts forms, wing chun emphasizes blocking and attacking all in the same movement. It's a unique style of self-defense, and one that has been mastered and shared by the staff at Philadelphia Wing Chun Kung Fu since 2007.
As the chief instructor at Aikido of Center City, seventh-degree black belt Donovan Waite helms a five-teacher team. Each instructor has years of experience, and they share their discipline with students of all ages. Donning traditional garb, students and teachers meet up in the brightly lit, all-white dojo to study this 20th-century Japanese martial art.