Tweak the technique: Students practice their Songahm Taekwondo forms at West Houston ATA Martial Arts.
Whether you’re looking to lose weight, stay in shape or simply try something new, practicing some form of martial arts can provide the push (or kick) you need to get into a more active lifestyle. Fortunately, Westchase District has more than a handful of businesses well-prepared to increase your strength and agility as well as help refocus your mind.
11392 Westheimer, 832-243-5758, nationsaikikai.com
Sensei Nelson Andujar, founder and chief instructor of Nations Aikikai, began training in martial arts in 1965. Accomplished in both Jujitsu and Aikido. He practices the art of Ki and inner movement instead of the power of muscle and force. The Yoga-like stretching exercises of Aikido exercise and tone all major muscle groups and stimulate the circulatory system while relaxing the body. “I believe a good sense of timing and distance is as important as learning the fundamental basics,” he said. Andujar adds that all are welcome to observe classes or try a class for free during evening classes four days a week.
West Houston ATA Martial Arts
11030 Westheimer, 713-532-2821, westhoustonata.com
Chief instructor and sixth-degree black belt master Chuck Sears has taught martial arts for 20 years in Westchase District and said it’s never too late to learn new skills. “I’ve taught students as young as six and as old as 94,” he said. “No matter the power, strength or speed of a person’s body, we’re able to improve them as well as develop character qualities that carry over into all parts of one’s life.” As a member of the American Taekwando Association, Sears said the forms and core methods of teaching are exactly the same at all ATA affiliates. “So if life takes you somewhere else, you can pick right up at another facility.”
Eite Mixed Martial Arts
10640 Westheimer, 713-339-4662, elite-mma.com
Mixed Martial Arts, or MMA, is a full-contact sport that has exploded in mainstream popularity in the past 20 years with televised fights and enthusiastic promotion. A mix of boxing, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, wrestling and other martial arts disciplines, the average Joe or Jane might feel a bit intimidated by MMA’s intensity. But Dave Campbell said Elite caters to everyone, customizing workouts so that customers can pick and choose what they like. “It’s simply an alternative to the gym that also teaches self-defense techniques while conditioning your body,” he said. “Whether you want group classes or private lessons, we have 76 square feet of mat space in our remodeled facility and more than 50 classes each week.” Oh, and Elite also has Trevin Giles, an instructor and 8-0 MMA competitor who has been featured on Axis TV, in case you want to grapple with a pro.
Rilion Gracie Academy
9791 Westheimer, 713-471-0644, riliongraciehouston.com
This facility is led by Rilion Gracie, the youngest male son of Grand Master Carlos Gracie, Sr., who is the founder of Gracie Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and the creator of MMA. Rilion often holds seminars for law enforcement and private security. It might sound like an imposing pedigree, but manager Andrea Lavina said you don’t have to be tough to practice the “gentle art” of jiu-jitsu. “There’s no pushing or kicking, it’s about leverage so that a smaller, weaker person can successfully defend against a bigger and stronger opponent,” she said. “You don’t need special abilities.” Free, week-long trials are available and participants can be as young as four years old.
TITLE Boxing Club Kickboxing Workout
9630 Westheimer, 713-637-4246, houston-westchase.titleboxingclub.com
While historically developed from Karate, kickboxing is also often practiced for general fitness. General manager Brittiny Maxwell said women make up about 70 percent of her non-contact, hour-long workout classes in which participants can burn up to 1,000 calories in a single session. “We also have a lot of participants with Parkinson’s disease,” she said. “Each exercise has been shown to work on a symptom of the disease and help patients with strength, endurance, flexibility and hand-eye coordination.”
With so many martial arts types to choose from, how does one know which style is the best one to study? “Really all of them are great for self-defense, physical fitness, competitive sports and personal development,” Sears said. “No one style is ‘better’ than another. The right martial arts style for you to choose is the one you enjoy the most and will be happy continuing to practice.”