Friday, September 01, 2006

D&C Feature Article

Martial Art's Emphasis On Leverage Gives Petite Reporter a Fighting Chance

Written by Pam Cowan, Photographed by Matt Wittmeyer
(July 25, 2006) Article originally featured at

For the men at Pelotôn Martial Arts Center, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is more than a martial art — it's a way of life. Besides rigorously training their bodies, they have, in some ways, transformed their minds.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a martial art that focuses on ground fighting."It's a gentle art," said Bryan Spinosa, 39, co-owner of Pelotôn. "It's not dependent on striking and cutting and hurting and kicking" but rather "leverage and manipulations of the body."

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is also based on the idea that a smaller, weaker person can use leverage to defend himself or herself against a bigger, stronger assailant. Since I was in a room full of bigger, stronger men, that point seemed important.

The class began with calisthenics. We ran, flipped, snaked, gave piggybacks and slithered across the mats. I didn't do all of these things, as I couldn't keep up. And I was hot. The gi, or heavy training jacket, I was wearing made me drip with sweat.

Still sweaty, we hit the mats and worked our abs. This haunted me for three days afterward each time I laughed, sneezed or moved a certain way."Some people come in and it's just a hobby; they want to get in shape," said Paul Ferranti, 34, co-owner of Pelotôn. "We (Paul and Bryan) are hobbyists. We don't do this as a full-time job, but we really enjoy it."

Mark Stutzman, a "martial artist at heart," has been studying at Pelotôn for nearly a year."I love the martial arts, and basically I want to learn everything so you know how to defend yourself against everything else," said the 31-year-old Fairport resident. "You can't just study one thing and expect to be a complete fighter; you have to learn all aspects — striking as well as the ground game."

I'm not a fighter, let alone an aggressive person. Nonetheless, feeling toned and agile are things I appreciate.After warm-ups we went into ground work, where I learned an upa — an important maneuver if you're ever trapped on your back. You bridge your back by lifting your hips off the ground, roll out from under your attacker and mount him or her. This puts you in a dominant position.

This was pretty hard for me, considering that everyone else knew what they were doing, but it taught me that with practice, I could get pretty good. I also think I'd learn quicker if I could first hone my skills on other women before working with men. (Paul and Bryan said if enough women were interested, they'd teach a class.)

After attempting a few more moves I sat out and watched. Jason Goldwasser, 25, of Henrietta, sidelined with a back injury, watched with me. A kind, calm man, Jason became interested in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu a few years ago to learn the ground game, something he wasn't learning in his other martial arts classes.

"Now ... I can get up from the ground," he said, "I can control someone on the ground."