Alive and kicking
By Mike Gordon
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Mike Gordon
Don't be fooled by the pink boxing gloves.
Up in Wahiawa, inside a new fitness gym that blends hip-hop art with mixed martial arts, Lynn Blomfield and her friends are unleashing uppercuts and savage kicks. It leaves them drenched in sweat but happy.
Turns out, kickboxing is a sure-fire way to relieve the stress of motherhood. Blomfield, a 34-year-old Hawaiian Airlines flight attendant and mother of three, thinks the sport might be the next fitness trend for women.
The Hale'iwa woman discovered it five months ago. She started training in a private group with the gym's co-owner, Haru Shimanishi, and rejoiced when his Hawai'i Martial Arts Center opened in Wahiawa this month.
"We wanted more moms to come, but there wasn't enough space for it," she said. "Now that he opened this, we have a bunch more moms."
With interior walls painted with bright graffiti murals, the martial arts center is anything but dreary. It offers one all-women class on Saturdays, but other classes are open to both genders.
"We don't hit each other," she said. "We only hit against bags."
Blomfield and her friends are addicted to the sport, she said. Half her women's soccer team showed up one day. And she lost 10 pounds, too — by accident, she said.
"It's a different kind of workout," Blomfield said. "It was not like anything I had ever done before. I'm pretty active in general, but I like to have different workouts that I don't get bored with."
Tony Bergamo, the 35-year-old co-owner of the gym, said the women's class is drawing 10 to 15 people each week.
It was the first class to fill up, and the enthusiasm caught him by surprise.
"I think it is something they believed was unattainable and then it becomes a reality," he said. "They say, 'Wow, I am doing this, and I like it.' It is very empowering to do something they thought was only for someone else, mostly guys."
The gym specializes in kickboxing, Brazilian jiu jitsu and circuit training classes. It attracts a range of skill levels, Bergamo said, from women who want to get in shape after having a baby to fledgling competitors "who have the eye of the tiger."
"Women have a lot of steam to blow off with their normal life and they do that, plus they are learning the basics of defending themselves," he said. "I figured they were going to like it, but I never knew they would have such a love affair with the art and the class."
The all-women class offered a comfort zone that Lisa Ha rarely found when she began training two years ago in California. Now a 22-year-old psychology major at the University of Hawai'i-Manoa, she was often the only woman in any kickboxing class she attended.
"There were a lot of guys in there, and they would be looking at me," she said. "I wanted to learn this when I was younger, but I was intimidated. I think that's a major problem for a lot of women."
What the Palolo Valley resident found at the Hawai'i Martial Arts Center, and especially in Shimanishi, gave her the inspiration to take her kickboxing to the next level.
She loves the women's class and has recruited her friends to join in, but she's spending more time in the mixed classes.
"I started to realize it had become a little more than a workout," Ha said. "I started to take the sparring classes and I started to use the technique. It was more than being fit. It was a passion."
And something else, too. When the fight card is printed, Ha will compete at 120 pounds, she said.
"I think you guys will be seeing me soon."
Reach Mike Gordon at email@example.com.
Correction: The Hawai‘i Martial Arts Center is in Wahiawa. A previous version of this story incorrectly said the center is on the West Side.