Getting healthy on the mats

William Tedrow, in the blue uniform, works out during a martial arts fitness class at Gracie Barra gym at 2800 Printers Way.

William Tedrow, center, works out during a martial arts fitness class at Gracie Barra gym at 2800 Printers Way.

To serious martial arts experts, Sun Tzu’s “Art of War” may be among the most influential works, quickly followed by “Bruce Lee’s Fighting Method,” or perhaps “Modern Army Combatives,” by Matt Larsen, according to

But for ninja novices, such pop icons as “Kung Fu Panda,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and “The Karate Kid” are far more influential, said Bill Brasette, founder of Seibo-Kan Karate, 1420 North Ave., the city’s oldest martial arts school and gym.

The 60-year-old Brasette, who’s taught thousands of area youngsters about the discipline of karate since he founded his school 38 years ago, worries the slow demise of the battling turtle franchise means fewer children will be inspired to step onto the mat.

“The single greatest obstacle to karate is taking that first step onto the mat,” he said. “Karate is a mental and physical art founded on scientific principles of body movement for health, self-defense and character development.”

He described it as part-
exercise, part-self-defense, part-sport, and part-ritual.

Brasette’s hopeful, though, that a 3D film to be released this summer about the battling turtles — Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo and Donatello — could revive the franchise and inspire a new generation of students.

Meanwhile, his Seibo-Kan Karate remains plenty busy.

“Karate is the oldest and most devastating form of unarmed self-defense ever developed,” Brasette said.

Bill Tedrow at Gracie Barra Grand Junction, 2800 Printers Way, might disagree. He teaches a more modern form of mixed martial arts that has a pedigree stretching back to its roots in Brazil.

“Jiu-jitsu is for everyone, not just for the 20-year-old competitive fighter,” Tedrow said. “It’s not just for women’s self- defense. It’s well-rounded. It’s a whole lifestyle.”

Tedrow and Brasette do agree on how perfecting martial techniques naturally leads to physical fitness.

“You can’t have one without the other,” Tedrow said.

Regular practice of martial arts builds strong bodies and minds, even years after competition and self-defense no longer are motivators, they said.

“People come in and say, ‘I’m too old to do it.’ And I say, ‘Yeah? Where will you be in five years if you don’t start something now?” Brasette said.

Tedrow said his oldest student was in his 60s.

Another former student of Tedrow, Mike Stephens, is the owner and founder of Grand Valley Kenpo, 1150 N. 25th St. Stephens opened the doors of his school and gym about four years ago.

He trains his students to be prepared for the reality of street combat, which he said is often something very different than what students experience in the typical martial arts school.

“Kenpo, in general, is a modern take on karate,” Stephens said. “What happens on the mat and what happens on the street are two different things.”

Stephens’ students do not train using ancient weaponry, except for “knives, guns, billy clubs, bottles, that kind of thing,” he said. “It’s really a modern take on Chinese boxing, which is what karate is.”

Mark Posey, owner and founder of Colorado Tai Chi, 1938 N. First St., opened a different kind of martial arts school in 1996.

The difference between tai chi and other martial arts is, tai chi is “an internal martial art,” Posey said. “You don’t use your large external muscles. You use the deep internal ones. So you work on relaxing the outer muscles. It doesn’t look powerful, but it’s very powerful. It’s absolutely good for the core.”

More adults attracted to tai chi because it is very accessible to elders and people with physical limitations.

“No, it is not exciting enough for children,” Posey said.

“It works on erect alignments, which very few people have,” he said. “And that causes a lot of people problems.”

Posey also praised the mental and emotional benefits of tai chi.

“It’s a huge stress relief because you get to it directly,” he said. “It has lots of methods to teach you to relax. It’s a high level martial art, but it takes a long time to get good at.”

Jamie Miller, a student of Gracie Barra, said she is willing to put in the time to improve.

“The whole family’s doing it, absolutely,” said Miller, who is the mother of two small children.

“It’s great for discipline. It’s good for self-defense if you’re in a bad situation. But fitness is number one.”


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