“Power!” the small circle of women shouts following Erick Graves’ lead. They throw their overlapping hands into the air, signaling the end of another exercise class at Body By Struggle.
It’s been four years since Graves, who goes by “Struggle,” a name his brother gave him because he was always the underdog, used this ritual to close his first class at his gym on Springfield Avenue. Today, he has 55 clients, whom he calls team members, and a schedule of 25 weekly classes. He said his focus on a mind-body connection combined with deep knowledge of boxing, kickboxing and martial arts are what make his boot-camp style classes different.
Exercise Classes Bring a Creative Mix of Martial Arts
As his business has grown, so have his offerings. Pulling from 20 years of following the WuShu Kung Fu/Northern Shaolin tradition, a combative martial art form, Struggle creates one-of-a kind classes.
“I look for that new thing to work not just the body, but the mind,” Struggle said describing his process. Some are intense sessions for law enforcement that lean on the skills that also land him work as a fight choreographer in films. Others are self-defense workshops for young women about to leave home for the first time and start college. All are designed to build strength, speed, agility and mental confidence.
Gearing Up for a Fourth Year at the Spartan Race
Once the weather warms up, outdoor trainings for the Spartan Race will begin again. It’s a rugged obstacle-course race spread over several miles of a former ski area in upstate NY. Struggle said he makes sure everyone is ready and everyone finishes. Heroic photos of team members at the finish line – muddy, exhausted, grinning ear-to-ear —cover the gym’s walls along with inspirational sayings.
Team spirit and dedication inspire loyalty to the gym. Lara Pennington, an adjunct professor at Seton Hall University who lives in Maplewood, attends classes a couple of times a week.
“I’ve been here since the beginning,” Pennington said, “and would never exercise anywhere else.”
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