Tyler Pascua (right) watches as two students roll at Northwest Martial ArtsPhoto by Trask Bedortha

Fighting for Fitness

Add a little discipline to your New Year’s resolution with martial arts training

So the new you wants to get in shape this year — a lofty goal that is easier said than done. If diets and gym memberships have failed in the past, now might be the time to try a different approach.

I’ve practiced and later taught taekwondo for 20 years, and recently made a foray into jiu jitsu. I didn’t have any say in the matter when I began practicing martial arts at age 5 when my parents signed me up, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. My hobby kept me from Little League and pee-wee soccer, but none of my friends turned their childhood sports into jobs that help them pay for college.

Consider trying martial arts as your first step in your fitness goals. All of the reminders and self-encouragement in the world will let you down unless you have a plan, and the martial arts are very structured. In order to progress in taekwondo, for example, you have to follow a set schedule that includes testing, and though a sport like taekwondo is technically a fight sport, the camaraderie and encouragement of your peers will keep you motivated.

Eugene has a number of studios and instructors to take classes with. Options range from high intensity Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) training to lower-key tai chi featuring slow movements and careful breathing. Taekwondo lands somewhere in the middle, but everyone can choose their own path.

My instructor in Eugene is Master Russ Duer, a sixth-degree black belt in taekwondo. Full disclosure: I have worked at Duer’s American Taekwondo Association (ATA) studio for the last two and a half years. The entire curriculum is self-defense-based and includes something for everyone age 4 to 104. Duer’s studio practices Songahm taekwondo, which focuses on personal development of the mind and body. Taekwondo features kicking and striking with the hands and feet.

In my experience, many ATA studios are scared to include anything from outside their own martial arts bubble. Duer on the other hand brings in everyone from gun safety instructors to UFC stars such as the controversial Colby Covington, so everyone can receive well-rounded training. Duer’s wife, Katrina Jensen, a third-degree black belt, hosts women’s self defense seminars bi-monthly, empowering women and teaching them self-defense techniques.


Tyler Pascua (ground) shows a class how to keep your distance

Photo by Trask Bedortha

While my experience and training in martial arts has been from ATA studios, I recently decided I should branch out. After checking out some Google reviews and a recommendation from Duer, I went to Northwest Martial Arts for some jiu jitsu training.

Brazilian jiu jitsu focuses on taking your opponent to — and controlling them on — the ground. As someone who has trained for stand-up fighting and self defense my whole life, I thought that knowing what to do on the ground would be beneficial. If nothing else, it is an intense, whole-body workout.

Tyler Pascua, a brown belt instructor at NWMA, teaches the jiu jitsu fundamentals class Thursday evenings. He has trained for 9.5 years and touts the mental as well as physical benefits of martial arts. “I’m not a health-wise human being generally,” Pascua says, “but one thing jiu jitsu has done for me is it has given me something to come back to.” Jiu jitsu is more than a physical act, he says; it is something that clears space in your head.

Being healthy isn’t easy. Martial arts isn’t easy. But the benefits of both are worth the long road ahead.

Learn more about Duer’s ATA at duersataoregon.om or call 541-345-3018. Check out NWMA at nwmaacademy.com or call 541-912-9099.