While many Americans may think they know Chuck Norris because of the way his on-screen persona has roundhouse kicked its way into our hearts, few have actually met the man. Fewer, in fact, have been bestowed a sixth-degree black belt from Master Norris in his chun-kuk-do martial-arts system. But the founder of Ultima Self-Defense and Fitness LLC, Charles Allen, has.
Mr. Allen takes seriously his role in building confidence and shaping role models throughout the community, which is why he handpicks each of his center’s instructors. These instructors cater to diverse fitness and self-defense expectations, including adults looking to cut a competitive edge into their lives with mixed martial arts, a form of training that schools students in the sparring, grappling, and takedown techniques popularized by the caged sport. For energetic, high-energy exercise, KravFit uses kettlebells to achieve total-body toning and conditioning. Kids' programs include krav-maga self-defense classes as well as birthday parties that challenge celebrants to cut their cake with only their forearm.
As they enter the massive brick building, visitors pass the Watercarrier, a curved bronze statue that lends a first glimpse at a staggering collection of ancient and modern Native American works. Established in 1893, the Arizona State Museum celebrates and records Southwest Indian cultural history with more than 3 million objects, including a collection electrified with more than 25,000 pieces of woven basketry, more than 300,000 catalogued artifacts, 500,000 photographic negatives and original prints, 90,000 volumes of rare titles, 6,000 maps, 1,500 feet of archival documents, and more than 1,000 sound recordings. The collection forays out onto the museum floor in exhibitions such as Ancient Architecture of the Southwest, where striking photographs frame some of the crumbling archaeological ruins of 1,000-year-old cliff dwellings set against a rugged desert landscape while tastefully photoshopping out the ancient satellite dishes. The Pottery Project spans 2,000 years of Native ceramics with more than 20,000 whole pieces and a lab for hands-on pottery testing. Using artifacts, life-size dioramas, and film, Paths of Life explores the history and contemporary lifeways of ten Native cultures, including those of the Yaqui, O’odham, Apache, Navajo, and Hopi.
Museum staff further engage visitors in events that range from talks with museum curators and Native artisans to learning expeditions, which invite guests to tag along with museum and university archaeologists to survey nearby sites, immersing them in the scientific dig experience nearly as effectively as watching Indiana Jones with your nose to the screen. Educational outreach for public-school and university students immerses them in camps and workshops. At the Native Goods museum store, visitors browse a stock of books alongside basketry, jewelry, carvings, and textiles crafted by artists from Yaqui, Hopi, and other nations.
In 1997, Amy Caldwell discovered yoga. As she backpacked through Asia, Australia, and parts of Europe, she stopped to train with yogis she met along the way, exploring the styles of Vinyasa flow, Sivananda, Iyengar, and Ashtanga. As she learned, she blended these styles into her own dynamic flow. Since this nomadic journey, Amy's rapidly developing skills have earned her a spot on two Yoga Journal covers. Today, as owners of Yoga One studio, she and her husband Michael incorporate their own unique yoga and meditation styles into their teachings.
The flexible duo leads a team of experienced instructors, who foster a positive, non-competitive environment and also specialized in different styles of yoga, such as sunrise flow, Vinyasa flow, and gentle flow. Inside the main studio, where natural light from skylights casts a glow onto hardwood floors and saffron curtains, instructors lead groups through classes that cover optimal alignment, breath, and present-moment awareness. They also guide students outside the studio to stretch and align on a sunny rooftop in Little Italy. Inside softly lit massage rooms, therapists help visitors release tension from aching muscles.
Nearly a half century ago, horticulturist Harrison G. Yocum opened his backyard to the public, displaying a bounteous collection of cacti and palms. After a few relocations, expansions, and the establishment of a nonprofit charter, Tucson Botanical Gardens now spreads 17 distinct plots across more than 5 acres. A delicate rumble hearkens the arrival of the Garden Railway miniature train, which winds through gardens uniquely dedicated to birds, butterflies, wildflowers, and traditional Native American crops. Admission—which is free for garden members and children younger than 3—grants passage to five different tours, and groups of 10 or more can arrange self-guided or docent-led tours at a discounted rate. If visitors awaken their appetites by savoring aromas from the onsite herb garden or by staring at clouds shaped like canned goods, they can dig in at the Gardens' Café, where sun spills through a slatted gazebo onto iron tables loaded with roast-beef baguettes and mexican tortilla soup.
Before getting married, Tony and Marcy Brown both held impressive fitness records. Tony moved from a personal-training career to teaching yoga, and Marcy—a seasoned law-enforcement officer and former owner of a personal-training studio—kept her finger firmly on the pulse of gym trends. The pair decided to captain CrossFit Purgatory after becoming convinced of CrossFit's superiority over other popular health regimens. Now, they welcome guests of all ages and abilities to participate in their WODs (Workouts of the Day), emphasizing the values of community and commitment for those trying to rewrite their physical limits.
CrossFit Purgatory rejects superfluous furnishings in favor of a tough, minimalist vibe, decked out in functional training equipment such as kettlebells, Olympic rings, medicine balls, and mammoth bones. The gym's industrial feel is offset by the warmth of its occupants, who welcome new members to tackle the day's routine with open, sweaty arms. Because CrossFit maneuvers are universally scalable, anyone can adjust them to suit their strength level—the coaches have guided patrons from sports competitors to complete newbies to 2010 Biggest Loser contestant Jessica Delfs.
Elemental Artistry's performers play with fire for a living. Blending the fluidity of dance with a theatrical sense of spectacle, the troupe—which includes an NBTA gold-medalist baton twirler—whirls flaming props into fiery vortexes, dazzling spectators at events ranging from the Tucson Celtic Festival to the sweet sixteens of local volcano gods.
In addition to more than 150 performances since 2007—some of which have earned print and television attention in the Arizona Daily Star and on KOLD News—troupe members teach their craft in workshops and classes that lead students of all ages through movements, such as poi spinning, staff and baton twirling, and hula hooping, using unlit props, at least to start. The art form's constant movement and careful coordination can help to tone muscles, awaken ambidexterity, heighten kinesthetic awareness, and occasionally open interdimensional doorways. Elemental Artistry's dance architects can also develop flame-free spectacles using props ablaze with LED lights.