The bank of the Hudson River holds rich history of vast gray granite buildings and monuments that adorn the beautifully landscaped central area of West Point, NY. The federal military reservation is one of the most recognized national landmarks in Orange County, NY, and home to the noblest of military personnel and their families. Soldiers that have come through the academy are supported by individuals whose time and energy continue to honor the servicemen they are devoted to. These “Army Wives” have taken no oath, but continue to live by the pledge taken by their spouses.
In the neighboring hamlet of Vails Gate, NY (town of New Windsor, NY), Tiger Schulmann’s Mixed Martial Arts (TSMMA) is a second home to those seeking escape from the demands of military living. Frequent, abrupt changes interfere with household tasks, work life, personal fitness and emotional and social stability. “Our husbands work a lot, deploy, go out of state to train and it’s hard to make time for ourselves” says Brittany Heflin. Brittany was always involved in sports, but dedicated more time to her family after having children. She commutes daily for work and had difficulty finding a fitness routine to accommodate her schedule. “By the time I got home from work and completed all of my ‘motherly’ duties, I was too tired to work out. I missed working out.” Brittany heard about TSMMA from her friend and fellow Army wife April Pixler, and decided to take a trial kickboxing class.
“I loved the opportunity to focus on my fitness and take time out for my health,” says April. ” I’m happier, more positive and I want my friends to try kickboxing. Army wives give a lot of time to our families and very little to ourselves.”
Iris Ayala, an Army wife and fitness enthusiast whose husband has been deployed six times, was also recruited by April Pixler. “I joined TSMMA because it is an intense cardio workout that builds strength, speed, technique, determination and power.” Although Iris appreciates the cardiovascular benefits of kickboxing, she is grateful for the program’s self defense curriculum as well. “Women should be able to protect themselves in any situation. I feel mentally and physically prepared in the event I ever have to face those circumstances.” Although she does not train to compete as a fighter, Iris enjoys challenging her intellect and physical capacities toward her own journey of “self perfection.”
April, a wife and mother of three, initially signed up her 7 year old daughter, Dakota for bully prevention (click HERE for Dakota’s story). Soon after, she signed up for kickboxing classes and trains consistently 2-3 times a week. “I loved the opportunity to focus on my fitness and take time out for my health,” says April. ” I’m happier, more positive and I want my friends to try kickboxing. Army wives give a lot of time to our families and very little to ourselves.” April competes with her husband’s unpredictable schedule, but does her best to maintain fitness with kickboxing as best she can. “It’s definitely worth the effort. I like being held accountable for working out.”
Instructors Sensei Jose Montes and Joshu Shane Burgos hold their students to a high standard, and teach them to take responsibility for their own health by maintaining self-discipline. “Sensei and Joshu push us to be the best that we can and to work hard every minute of class. Being accountable to them makes me accountable to myself,” says Brittany. Kickboxing classes continue to distract from the stress of career and family, yet it has provided these Army Wives with the structure of a disciplined program that is familiar to military living. April enjoys the construct of kickboxing class and looks forward to the unique approach to training. “The atmosphere is very formal and intense. Fitness programs on base don’t push you as hard.” TSMMA has allowed April to feel more confident in her ability to protect herself, and notices positive body changes due to kickboxing classes.
Iris has also lost pounds and inches, and increased her strength and endurance. The experience at Vails Gate is enhanced by the enthusiasm provided by Sensei Montes and Joshu Burgos. “The most important element of kickboxing is fun! I have never enjoyed a workout like kickboxing at TSMMA. There are many ways to get into shape, but the one you will stay with the longest and benefit from the most is the one you enjoy. Joshu Burgos always pushes me harder every time I come to kickboxing class.” Iris is also grateful for the gracious demeanor of Sensei Montes, whose gentle reminders to remain patient have inspired her to strive toward her goals.
Although the Army wives have found camaraderie in the mutual bonds of military life, they have also found support among their “civilian” peers at TSMMA to assit them in achieving their fitness goals. “I believe in praise, encouragement and positive reinforcement, as well as respect, honor, responsibility, and confidence. Those are things needed to succeed in life.” says Iris. “Do not miss this opportunity at TSMMA to get the training you need to help you achieve those qualities and pass them on to others.”
By Lauren Rose