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.
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."
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.
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.
Open 24 hours, this 33,000-square-foot facility has something for everyone, boasting a multiarea layout that includes a hardwood-floored studio for its more than 25 group fitness classes, a separate area just for spinning, and a punching-bag-lined zone devoted to mixed martial arts and free weights. While tots play in the Kidz Club area, members can work out on the state-of-the-art machines, swim laps in the 60-foot pool, challenge friends to racquetball, or hone Richard Nixon impersonations in the sauna.
In 1976, educator, musician, and kinesiologist Robin Wes longed for a children's gym that prioritized personal growth over competition. Unveiled at a time when physical-education classes pushed students to focus almost exclusively on winning, Robin's program was swiftly adopted and is now used in more than 300 Little Gyms worldwide. Robin still pens original music to accompany lessons, which engage whippersnappers aged 4 months to 12 years with gymnastics, dance, karate, and parent and child activities.
Each of The Little Gym's classes introduces simple movements that sharpen motor skills and set brains whirring, allowing kids to progress at their own pace until they can finally build a computer out of macaroni and glitter. Staff members strive to build a base for lifelong social skills and self-assurance with each exercise, including activities rooted purely in fun, such as summer camps or birthday parties, which helped The Little Gym to earn title of #1 Birthday Chain in Parents Magazine.
At Silicon Valley Budokan, students of traditional Japanese and Chinese disciplines find themselves making a difficult decision: what to do first? That's because their instructors offer a vast variety of ancient martial arts classes including Koshiden Ryu Jujutsu, which explores how to use the strength and power of an attacker against them, and Shinkendo––feudal Japanese swordsmanship. They also teach students how to confidently defend themselves during tactical street-defense classes and Aikido. In addition to the martial arts lessons, they provide Taiko drumming sessions and Eastern healing arts such as massage therapy.