Punch! Kick! Tackle! Two sweaty, gloved fighters collide into each other and slam into the ground. They sprawl and twist around each other trying to get the upper hand.
One gets on top of the other and starts swinging punches at the other’s head. Finally the instructor shouts “stop!” and the two fighters get back up, panting and sweaty. This is a typical experience between two students sparring on the mat in a dojo in Poultney, Vt. The fighters in question were black belts, Will Bergen of Poultney, and this author.
Over the past decade, several training centers have cropped up in the surrounding area, catering to anyone who wants to add some punching, kicking, and maybe even some fighting into their exercise routine. Depending on who you talk to, these places may be called ‘Dojos’ or just school, and they come in many different flavors.
For starters, at Castleton State College, students can join the Mixed Martial Arts Club. The MMA club doesn’t work on one form or style per se, they focus on fighting and techniques that can be used in the sport the club is named after, and these can come from any style of martial arts. Even some aspects of boxing and wrestling are thrown in.
They gather together several times a week and work on various techniques. An added benefit of working with the club is that if you want to compete in tournaments, Castleton State College can pay the fees. Some of the members of the MMA club have participated in competitions before.
“I wanted to see how well I could do,” said Jenn Macari, president of the MMA club.
She mentioned that winning her first fight in a tournament was a combination of Christmas and one’s birthday, rolled into one. In her most recent bout, The 2011 NY Open in Nyack, N.Y. she placed in fourth.
If you want to compete in tournaments, but have no experience, training, or don’t want to be a part of a ‘club,’ there’s Vigilante Industries at the Castleton Four Corners. Matt Barber, owner of Vigilante Industries, creates an atmosphere of the classic basement training center like one would see in a Rocky-esque movie. But it’s not so intimidating that the new guy off the street wouldn’t want to come by and give it a shot.
“No one’s cocky, they’re nice. If you’re out of shape they won’t berate you for it or anything like that,” Macari said, adding that the CSC MMA Club meets regularly to train with the folks at Vigilante Industries.
Just like the CSC MMA Club, Vigilante Industries doesn’t focus on one style, they take techniques from all fighting styles.
“It’s a fight soup. We take a little from everything that comes in,” Barber said.
Barber said if someone comes off the street without experience, they’ll work with them one-on-one to develop their technique. He also said new people can try out Vigilante for a month for free. The training may be tough, but the rewards can be lifelong.
“Your hardest day, is your first day,” Barber said. “It will change who you are, if you can stick with it.”
If you’re looking for a more all-encompassing atmosphere, there’s a dojo in Poultney called Whe Chun Martial Arts. Besides the vigorous exercise and opportunity to spar, the school, and its lead instructor, (referred to as ‘Sensei’) Castleton State College psychology professor Terry Bergen, exercises your mind as well.
“The system is designed to help develop one’s emotional intelligence,” Bergen said, referring to a term in psychology that relates to one’s ability to identify and control one’s emotions.
When students participate in the class, they exercise and train just like any other group, but they also talk about their days, what they do, their experiences and how martial arts affects the various aspects of their lives. Bergen said he uses his knowledge in psychology and martial arts to help the students understand and handle the emotions that burst up in day-to-day life.
The system looks upon its students, both kids and adult alike, as a family, in what Bergen calls a ‘family system.’
“We are organized as a family, as in we care for the development of our ‘children’ or anyone that comes to learn,” Bergen Said.
One of the many lessons taught at the Whe Chun Dojo is the concept of not saying ‘I’m all set’ or to put it simply, not stopping at the finish line. By not letting up and always driving forward you can push yourself to new extremes and heights never seen before, mentally and physically. This concept can be easily applied to all aspects of life, not just martial arts, added Bergen.
Whe Chun used to participate in tournaments, notably the Mark and Becky Stockton Martial Arts Tournament of years past in Rutland. Since competition is not the focus of Whe Chun, they have backed away from the competitive martial arts scene and have focused on developing their art and students.