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Thursday, May 6, 2021

Break a sweat, learn a skill

Sweat is sexy. And it can also save your life.

This is what you hear when owner and master instructor Shayne Simpson talks about his programs at Shayne Simpson’s Martial Arts and Fitness.

“You got to love to sweat. Your trophy is your sweat smelling clothes at the end of the day. You got to love those,” Simpson said.

At Simpson’s school he teaches the idea you can sweat with a purpose. Simpson said all of his classes, from Jiu Jitsu to fitness kickboxing, has a self defense aspect.

“You’re learning these self defense skills that may save your life or somebody else’s life,” Simpson said. “And you’re getting in shape at the same time.”

The school started in May 2003, and began with just karate, but Simpson said it was always growing.

With the help of other teachers coming in, the school fluctuated between including the various programs it does today. Simpson said it wasn’t until another school closed down that the school began to steadily include Mixed Martial Arts and Muay Thai, which according to the school’s website, is a self defense martial art that uses speed and power.

It was important to create a different way to get fit for Simpson.

“I was looking for a niche in fitness that would empower and change lives, and not have to compete with other fitness since Bellingham is slammed with fitness,” Simpson said.

Simpson says fitness is a byproduct of the school’s purposeful learning environment.

“I was looking for a niche in fitness that would empower and change lives, and not have to compete with other fitness…”

Shayne Simpson

“Basketball isn’t a fitness program, but you’re sweating at the end,” Simpson said. “It’s the same thing with martial arts.”

Josh Chinchen, a head coach at the school for two and a half years, said there has been a lot of Western students and alumni in his classes.

Chinchen said the Mixed Martial Arts and Muay Tai courses are “probably more than 60 percent” Western students or alumni.

Simpson said other courses, like Adult Self Defense, would be more around 20 percent Western students.

Simpson said his school, located on 1600 Kentucky St., is the biggest in the area in terms of the amount of classes and students. He credits this to the school’s sense of family. He even saw students from his school playing Dungeons and Dragons together in a Facebook photo.

Penny Simpson, another owner of the school and Shayne’s wife, really encourages women to come in and take classes. Right now she owns her own studio in Fairhaven.

“Women are the ones that need it more, in my belief, because we’re more of a target than men,” Penny Simpson said.

Penny Simpson said women are often more intimidated than men, and instructors have to start with things women can feel like they can do with confidence.

“The instructor can make a huge difference for a woman and her experience,” Penny Simpson said.

Forty to 50 percent of self defense is addressing posture, Penny Simpson said.

“When you’re in a ground situation, what we call manipulation stage, it’s strength against strength, just because of the nature of it, and women are weaker strength than men, that’s just the way it is, we’re built different. Our ribs are softer than men’s, so more pressure makes it harder to breathe,” Penny Simpson said.

Penny Simpson said women are really an underdog in martial arts.

“For many years I was the only woman in our Jiu Jitsu program,” Penny Simpson said. “You can go to a gym, you can lift weights, but it’s a lot more empowering [with martial arts], you can get more.”

People will come to the school intimidated but are welcomed with open arms and then become encouraged, Shayne Simpson said.

“When you start hitting a bag and doing things you never thought you could do, the self esteem rises in you,” Shayne Simpson said.  “[You get] a sense of satisfaction that, ‘Yes, I can do this, I can take care of myself.’”

Shayne Simpson said there are around 18 staff members, 13 of which are instructors, the rest doing various bookkeeping jobs.

“Almost every one of my instructors goes through instructor training courses on how to teach the art, not just how do the art,” Shayne Simpson said.

Shayne Simpson said most schools have teachers who are more interested in doing martial arts than teaching it.

The school has a trial program that is three to six lessons depending on the course.

“I actually undersell them. It costs me money to bring people in,” Shayne Simpson said. For Mixed Martial Arts and Muay Thai, the trial is $20.

“There’s no commitment,” Shayne Simpson said. “It’s all about them making sure that what we are doing and what we teach is what they want, and that we’re the right school and right personalities for them.”


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