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.
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.
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.
Larry Lam devoted his life to martial arts, a pursuit that yielded multiple black belts, 20 gold medals from the North America Sport Karate Association, and roles in movies such as The Last Samurai and 300. He founded Studio Kicks to share his high-energy interpretation of martial arts. He and his staff pass on the 5,000-year-old sport to students ages 5 and older, instilling them with weapon techniques from around the world, along with self-defense and safety awareness skills, flexibility, and fitness benefits.
When he’s not busy hanging out with the cast of Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon, Master Andrew Fanelli leads a slew of martial-arts programs at All-Pro Tae Kwon Do. He and his team of instructors lead classes in disciplines such as tae kwon do, muay thai, boxing, boot camp, kickboxing, and self-defense. Designed for students aged 3 and older, classes focus on fitness and wellness as well as self-defense, discipline, respect, and courage.