At Jungle we firmly believe Martial Arts are great for everyone. This is the subject of today's post.
Empowerment of martial arts good for all ages
Monday, December 6, 2010
It was intended simply as a one-time supportive gesture. Frank Giglio's son was starting a new martial arts school, so his father went to a class on the first day.
Phil Nizza, 59, takes to the mat with Damien Amores, 31, at Tiger Schulmann's Mixed Martial Arts in Paramus. "I put on a uniform and came to give him a $100 bill to stick on the wall and to say 'Good luck,' " says Giglio of his initial trip to his son Frank's Hawthorne Institute of Martial Arts (HIMA).
Six years later, Frank the father was a black belt. Fifteen years in, now 65 years old, he is still going, taking classes with kids nearly 50 years younger than he is.
And he's not the only area man who could tuck an AARP card into his black belt.
About seven years ago, Phil Nizza's teenage son wanted to start karate, so the Ridgewood resident started looking into it. At a Tiger Schulmann's Mixed Martial Arts school in Paramus they suggested he try a class himself.
"I really got hooked," says Nizza, now 59 and a black belt.
All over the area, men and women in their 40s, 50s and 60s are taking — and teaching — martial arts classes.
"People feel that the number limits them," says Richard Faustini of Faustini's Institute of Martial Arts and Fitness in Oradell. "There's only one thing we can't control — our chronological number. A lot of things we can control, like how we feel. I'm 60 years old and I'm still moving."
Let's be clear. We're not talking about the cage here or getting into a ring. That is an aspect of mixed martial arts to be sure, but that's almost exclusively for young men.
But this isn't poses and meditation. This is a contact sport. It involves sparring and grappling and even when punches are pulled, the intensity gets pretty high, especially at the black belt levels, no matter the age of the participant.
The generation gap disappears on the mat. Respect is a large part of any martial arts program, but there is no going easy on the elders when skills are equal. And the older guys sometimes seek out the kids to spar.
"I generally like the 16 to 21-year-olds because they're strong enough to make it worthwhile," says Nizza.
While all schools say they have their own specific approach, there is one unifying theme. Mixed martial arts is empowering. Confidence comes with getting in shape and learning self-defense. This can fundamentally change people.
"If someone offered me a million dollars for my black belt, I wouldn't sell it," says 42-year-old Frank Giglio — fifth-degree black belt, HIMA owner, Hawthorne police officer and instructor at the Passaic County Police Academy. "If it meant giving back the confidence, discipline, focus, respect and self-defense, I would never give that back. It made me what I am today."
For kids, classes in mixed martial arts can draw out the overly passive and reign in the aggressive. For adults, there is the added benefit of stress release to the great physical workout that doesn't require a 20-year-old's body. Classes and movements can be modified for chronic injuries without losing the benefits.
Forty-year-olds taking classes at HIMA say they have lost their age-related aches and pains, sleep better, have improved stamina and endurance on top of knowing if the need to defend themselves or their family arises, they can.
Nizza says mixed martial arts is one of the only workouts he can do, as he tries to avoid the repetitive motions of running, biking or certain exercise classes that bore him or aggravate his knees.
And at 15, 50 or 65, mixed martial arts students are in pretty darn good shape, too.
"It's such a great all-around workout," says Nizza. "I can't think of anything better, having done everything there is out there."