Martial Arts Three Ways

Age-old practices steeped in the traditions of self-defense offer myriad health benefits. Here’s a look at three disciplines and how they can help you achieve your wellness goals

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Brazilian jujitsu instructor Joe Scarola of Gracie Barra. Photo courtesy of Joe Scarola
Brazilian jujitsu instructor Joe Scarola of Gracie Barra. Photo courtesy of Joe Scarola

More than 200 styles of martial arts—ranging from slow and graceful tai chi to high-intensity kung fu—are practiced by those looking to challenge their mind, body, and soul. Finding their origins mostly in ancient East Asian codes of combat and competition, martial arts have evolved over time to reflect the culture of regions across the globe. In our area, there are many local outlets offering practices that can help you achieve your wellness goals, both physical and mental. Learn a bit about three such disciplines taught locally by experienced instructors.

Brazilian Jujitsu

Scarola in action during class. Photo courtesy of Joe Scarola
Scarola in action during class. Photo courtesy of Joe Scarola

Originally from Japan and refined in Brazil, jujitsu (also referred to as jiu-jitsu) teaches self-defense techniques such as escaping a headlock, choke hold, or arm bar; avoiding getting hit or knocked out if someone throws a punch; and how to restrain an attacker. “It’s a full-body workout,” says Joe Scarola, owner of Gracie Barra in Jupiter. “It’s good for cardio and muscular endurance.” Brazilian jujitsu also provides stress relief and requires you to live in the moment and rely on muscle memory. Scarola—known as “Professor” to his students—incorporates life lessons into his curriculum, such as anti-bullying, problem solving, and remaining calm under pressure. Another benefit of jujitsu training: “You burn so many calories in the class,” Scarola says. “I see so many people lose a lot of weight.”

Nicole Maslak and her daughter, Julia, at Maslak’s Black Belt Academy. Photo courtesy of Nicole Maslak
Nicole Maslak and her daughter, Julia, at Maslak’s Black Belt Academy. Photo courtesy of Nicole Maslak

Tae Kwon Do

Tae kwon do is broken down into three Korean words—tae (foot), kwon (hand), and do (art). Originating in Korea more than 2,000 years ago, the martial art has evolved in modern times into different styles of sparring, sequences of moves, and philosophies. Going beyond self-defense, the Oh Ryung Hon style of tae kwon do was created in 2004 by Grandmaster Amy Reed, founder of Maslak’s Black Belt Academy in Stuart, and accredited by the United States Martial Artist Association in 2006. “Training can improve mental and physical fitness, weight loss, muscle strength, flexibility, and cardiovascular health,” says Reed’s daughter, Master Nicole Maslak, who owns the Stuart facility. “Our forms (sequences of blocks, kicks, and strikes) help with memory retention, spatial awareness, balance, hand-eye coordination, flexibility, focus, control, breathing, and the ability to form different combinations of movements that can be used in defensive sparring.” The Black Belt Academy is continuing its family legacy of fierce females with a third generation on deck—Maslak’s daughter, Sensei Julia Maslak, is also an instructor and is on their demo team.

Krav maga instructor Lauren Rios of Harmony Martial Arts. Photo by Erica J Photography
Krav maga instructor Lauren Rios of Harmony Martial Arts. Photo by Erica J Photography

Krav Maga

Krav maga was developed in the 1930s as a hand-to-hand combat system for the Israeli Defense Force. The high-intensity cardio workout teaches techniques adapted from various forms of martial arts including punching, kicking, striking, grappling, and knife and gun defense. Instructor Lauren Rios of Harmony Martial Arts Center in Jupiter says her krav maga students learn to “fight for their lives against a larger, heavier, and stronger opponent who abides by no rules.” As a petite woman, Rios used to feel like an easy target for potential attackers before she discovered krav maga. “Training in martial arts has changed my perspective on the reality of violence,” she says. “Size and strength matter, but so does an individual’s level of training.” Krav maga training offers physical health benefits such as metabolic conditioning and calorie burning, as well as psychological aspects like self-discipline, situational awareness, stress relief, and mindfulness.“When I’m training, it’s hard to focus on anything other than the present moment,” says Rios. 

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