HEALTH AND BEAUTY ARCHIVE:
538: Pool party
Keep your cool this summer with a visit to one of Tokyos many pools.
Metropolis shows you where to take the plunge.
536: Don't sweat it
With the hot and humid months upon us, Cristy Burne share some tips on staying
534: Swept away
Put away your broomsticksall you really need to soar through the clouds
is an armful of nylon and a good gust. Cristy Burne checks out the air up there.
532: Tee time
Cant keep it on the fairway? The yips invaded your game?
Rob Smaal finds a few experienced golf pros who can work out your kinks on the
530: Balancing act
An ancient science is helping modern men and women find peace, health and
the always elusive balance. Tama M. Lung takes a closer look at
528: Kicking on
Former K-1 Japan champion Nicholas Pettas shares his love of martial arts
at the new Spirit Gym in Nogizaka. Chris Betros goes along to watch.
526: On call
A revolutionary daily disease self-management system is making life easier
for diabetics. Chris Betros finds out about Lifewatcher.
524: Team spirit
From rugby to roller hockey, Tokyo is teeming with sports clubs for the
expat athlete. Rob Smaal shows you how to get in the game.
522: Type casting
Second-generation blood-type expert Toshitaka Nomi looks at the links between
blood classifications and health. Mick Corliss reports.
520: Like a rock
Climbing instructor Luke Kearns gets a grip on Tokyo's best indoor climbing
516: The personal touch
Madonna and Matsui aren't the only ones who need help staying fit. Hanna
Kite pumps it up with the top personal trainers in Tokyo.
514: From here to maternity
Kavitha Rao turns to a handful of Tokyo experts to track down baby basics
for nervous expat mothers-to-be.
502: Tour de Morton, part deux
Don Morton gets back on two wheels for a leisurely ride out toward Haneda
Former K-1 Japan champion Nicholas Pettas
shares his love of martial arts at the new Spirit Gym in Nogizaka.
Chris Betros goes along to watch.
For most people, martial arts conjure up images of Bruce
Lee, Jet Li and The Karate Kid. For Danish karate and kickboxing
instructor Nicholas Pettas, those pop-culture icons are inspirational,
but not what martial arts are about. Through the way
you practice, you get to learn new things about yourself,
he says. You realize there is no point in hurting other
people and hopefully become a better person.
Since December, Pettas, 31, has been running his own dojo
in Nogizaka, the Spirit Gym. All levels are welcomehis
students range from 5-year-olds to pro kickboxers who come
four mornings a week. In fact, children are among the gyms
most enthusiastic pupils, especially since parents arent
allowed in the dojo.
Fluent in Japanese, Pettas puts his young charges through
their paces, eliciting shouts of Osu! as he explains
each exercise. Japanese and other foreign senseiall
black beltsmingle with the kids helping out. We
want to create an atmosphere where people can have fun and
use martial arts in a friendly environment, says Pettas.
We do a little sparring, but nobody gets hurt. What
you learn here is balance, flexibility and to be aware of
your body in a different way.
These days, Pettas is easing himself back into the rigors
of training after breaking his leg in a K-1 event in Toyama
18 months ago. He looks quite formidable, standing 180cm tall
and weighing 107kg of mostly muscle. After undergoing surgery,
he finally had the last two bolts removed from his leg last
month. During the recovery process, he has been teaching one
or two classes a day and doing TV work on Fujis satellite
network. Im on a regular kids English show, dressed
as a samurai, he says. I love it. Its called
Go! Go! Eigo.
Pettas puts his young charges through the karate paces
Being a K-1 fighter and TV personality are two things Pettas
could never have imagined himself doing as a child growing
up in Denmark. When he was 15, his life changed after he got
beaten up by an older kid. I was really scared because
I had never been in a fight. I knew I had to do karate, even
though I had never even seen a dojo. I started doing the Kyokushin
style of karate. Then someone suggested I go to Japan and
be a live-in student with the founder, Masutatsu Oyama. I
quit school, saved up for six months and came here when I
Under the eye of his sensei, Sosai Oyama, Pettas embarked
on a rigorous training regimen for a thousand days. There
were 15 guys jammed into a room. We were up early in the morning
to go running and do push-ups on concrete, he recalls.
The first time I saw the breakfast, I thought I gotta
get out of here. Making matters worse, I broke a toe after
a week, spent four weeks in a cast, then broke another toe
after coming back. I was really getting frustrated.
A month after he graduated, Sosai passed away.
Pettas went on to become European heavyweight karate champion
in 1995 and placed third in the World Championships in 1997.
In 1998, he decided to venture into the world of kickboxing.
I was at a time in my life where I thought, Either
leave Japan now and maybe leave karate, or try something new.
So I went to America to check out K-1 to see if I could do
it or not.
I lived in a kickboxing camp for six months.
He proved adept at K-1, becoming the Japan champion in 2001.
Teaching, however, remains Pettass primary interest.
The way I used to teach ten years ago is totally different
from today, he says. At that time, all I wanted
to do was fight and be the strongest. Thats good motivation,
but it isnt the way to teach people. My philosophy has
had a lot of turns, but my basic love for martial arts has
never really changed. With this place, I want to teach people
who might not normally try martial arts, maybe because it
has a bad-boy image.
and aspiring kickboxers perfect their form with classes
and individual practice
Not all sensei would agree with his philosophy, but thats
OK, says Pettas. You have to move with the times. Sometimes
it is good to have the courage to change things. There are
heaps of places that still have a spartan routine, where you
dont just go for karate. It becomes part of your life.
For me, the beauty of martial arts is breaking out with your
own ideas to practice a variety of styles. Thats evolution.
K-1 is certainly evolving, especially thanks to characters
like Bob Sapp, although Pettas is dubious about their long-term
effect. Bob Sapp is not a fighter. He knows it and doesnt
try to be. Hes a showman. However, he is an incredible
athlete and because [of that] he is able to pull it off,
he says. I think K-1 has got a good core fan base, but
its going to be hard for them to keep going because
they have got a bit away from the real martial artists to
the freak show department
PRIDE is another case. I think
there are a lot of great athletes in PRIDE. When it first
came out, it was really rough. Nobody knew what the hell was
going on. Fans have become more knowledgeable, which is good.
Movies also play a big role in inspiring students to sign
up for karate classes. When I was young, I thought The
Karate Kid was unreal. Then after I did karate for six months
and I watched it again, I couldnt stop laughing because
you can tell the old guy doesnt know karate. Its
a great movie, though, because it shows the real spirit of
karate. Every time they show it on TV, people want to join.
Of course, Bruce Lee is still an inspiration. Jet Li is cool;
hes got that quiet aura about him. And I really respect
Wesley Snipes for his martial arts in the movies.
In between teaching, Pettas likes to indulge his other interests
of basic survival camping and exercising in the great outdoors.
If you go camping with him, be prepared to go dashing up hills
or bike riding. Hes also a practical joker and UFO enthusiast.
Get me started on UFOs and Ill talk all day.
In the spirit
Spirit Gym has about 150 students, 20 percent of whom are
foreigners. Classes are in Japanese, except Saturdays, when
there are two classes in karate and kickboxing, in which instruction
is given in English. The karate consists of the basics and
lots of kiai (yells), while the kickboxing focuses on cardio
and straight-up bag work. Students pay a monthly fee of ¥10,000
to attend as many classes as they want.
Pettas is giving away three months
of free membership to the first ten Metropolis readers who
apply either by email at email@example.com
or by phoning the Spirit Gym at 03-5771-129. For more information,
Photos by Chris Betros
this article with metropolis readers at http://forum.japantoday.com