Martial Arts for Fitness and for Life

Southampton martial arts instructor and personal trainer Jeffrey Thayer.
Southampton martial arts instructor and personal trainer Jeffrey Thayer.

For many, the term “martial arts” may conjure thoughts of self-defense training—or Jean-Claude Van Damme movies—but those who participate find that the benefits are numerous and go far beyond being able to fend off an attacker.

The ability to focus that martial arts ingrains in students is applicable to all aspects of life and work, and the improved endurance makes all other athletic activity easier and more enjoyable. In terms of physical conditioning, an adult karate class is a fun and effective way to get fit that brings about a greater awareness of every move one makes.

“You get a sense about your body that you just didn’t have before,” says Jeffrey Thayer, a personal trainer and martial arts instructor based in Southampton.

Thayer practices San Lung Tao, an American-created martial art form that incorporates aspects of karate, jujitsu, kung-fu, boxing and weapons training. He’s studied for 18 years and has attained the rank of fourth-degree black belt.

Thayer says martial arts is a fantastic way to get in shape because of its variety and its intensity.

It begins with learning balance, then building strength and, finally, using power, he explains.

Thayer warns that beginning martial artists who try to attain power before they have balance and strength won’t get very far.

Balance not only keeps a player on his feet when confronted by brawn—it also helps turn an opponent’s strength against him.

Power is developed from the core—where the force behind every kick, punch and throw is derived. The “core” has become a buzzword in the fitness community in the past few years, but emphasizing the core is nothing new.

“All these things that today are looked at as cutting edge, proper martial arts training has been doing for a thousand years,” Thayer says. “Things that work never go out of style, because they work.”

He finds that his personal training clients who want to improve their golf or tennis swing benefit when martial arts is worked into their training regimens. They learn to put more of their core strength behind their swings, for longer drives and
more aces.

Martial arts also tunes players mentally, according to Thayer. Emotions are kept in check and the mind is sharp during high adrenaline situations, so whether being attacked by a pipe or being struck by a car, an experienced martial artist is attuned to prevent injury.

Advancing in rank—from a white belt through a rainbow of colors until black belt—is not necessary or expected in every karate or judo club. Plenty of people join a dojo just for the fun of it and have no plans of becoming an expert or entering a competition.

To attend a martial arts class with Thayer or to set up a one-on-one lesson, contact JT Personal Fitness, 50 Station Road, Water Mill, at 631-287-5156 or [email protected].

Other East End martial arts options:

San Lung Tao Martial Arts, 280 Shinnecock Hills Road, Southampton,  is led by experienced instructors Sijo Thomas Gettling and Kyoshi Jacquie Gettling. Adult and child classes are offered. Call 631-276-9387.

Arigatai Dojo, which meets Wednesdays at 7 p.m. at Eastport South Manor High School in the wrestling room, is a United State Judo Association chartered club. Classes are free. Call 631-909-2273.

Epic Martial Arts, at 75 Main Street, Sag Harbor, has beginner adult karate classes plus Tai Chi, mixed martial arts and Jujitsu. Call 631-725-5425 or visit

Hamptons Martial Arts, which principally teachers Korean Tang Soo Do, offers lessons three days a week at Sportime, 2571 Quogue-Riverhead Road, East Quogue. Call 631-878-2469 or visit

Mazzarella Martial Arts, at 9 Terrace Drive, Hampton Bays, offers all-ages karate and Taekwondo classes as well as private lessons. Call 631-987-4823 or visit

Southampton Youth Services, at 1370A Majors Path, Southampton, offers all-ages Shotokan karate classes. Call 631-287-1511 or visit

Mark Tuthill’s Martial Arts Center, at 37 Three Mile Harbor Road, East Hampton, is led by a two-time United States Martial Arts Hall of Fame Instructor of the Year. Tuthill has a Small Circle Jujitsu class for ages 16 up, as well as kids programs and cardio kickboxing.

Kempo Karate and Fitness, at 585 Montauk Highway in Eastport, offers adult classes twice a week, plus classes for kids and teens. Call 631-395-6876 or visit

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