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Featured Member: NY State Grappling Champion Andy Potwora

NY State Grappling Champion Andy Potwora
on growing up and grappling at KC’s Fitness

NY State Grappling champion and KC’s Fitness member Andy Potwora: I’ve been coming to KC’s Fitness for five and a half years now.  I started at the age of 17 and I am currently 22 years old.  In the beginning I came to KC’s because I heard about the MMA classes being offered and I thought it would be an exciting challenge to learn.  At first, I started going to Corey Norman’s classes for one reason – I thought it was bad ass!  On the first day, everyone in Corey’s class was inviting and friendly right away.  He’s a great instructor because he really makes sure that every single person understands the techniques before we move onto something else, and explains things in a clear and understandable way.

NY State Grappling Champion Andy PotworaI don’t train here just for the love of the sport, or because it’s a great place to learn, but because of the home I’ve made at KC’s.

Under Corey’s guidance, I eventually got enough experience to feel comfortable competing in the NYS Grappling Championships and I won First Place in my division twice, and Second Place once.  It was during these times of challenges and the urge to improve that I found myself turning a hobby into a passion.  Finding a passion in life is a blessing that not everyone can say they have experienced along with finding friendships and support surrounding you in the process – I don’t think it gets much better than that.

For a few months I left KC’s and went to a few other gyms to learn different styles of Martial Arts.  Nothing was the same.  Not only were the styles different but the people weren’t close to the same.  I realized that I missed the everyone that I grew up with at KC’s.  I’ve known Corey a long time and we’ve become good friends over the years.  I returned to KC’s and I came back to seeing my friends welcoming me back with open arms.

The techniques that I’ve learned here have saved my life outside of the gym from a few close experiences and it makes me all the more grateful that I began training and learning at KC’s.  I don’t train here just for the love of the sport, or because it’s a great place to learn, but because of the home I’ve made here.
It’s almost 6 years later and I have never regretted a second of the time I’ve spent at KC’s.  This is my home.

Practice Patience And Don’t Judge Yourself

 “Come, come, whoever you are, wanderer, worshiper, lover of learning.

It doesn’t matter. Ours is not a caravan of despair.

Come, even if you have broken your vow a thousand times.

Come, yet again, come, come.”

-Rumi

How many things do you set out to do and then become diverted? Have you made resolutions to get healthy and fit? Have you endeavored to learn a language or musical instrument? Have you promised yourself to ardently commit to change in some capacity, but fallen short, or worse, not even tried?  I enjoy Rumi’s poem because it gently reminds me to practice patience and refrain from self-judgment.

Thoughtful appraisals of our actions and behaviors are helpful, but berating oneself is rarely useful. I have been teaching martial arts, boxing and weight training for over twenty-five years, and not a week goes by that I don’t hear people reference themselves as stupid, or swear when they perform a movement that does not meet their expectations.

“…how we practice and train is often how we do life.”

 I hear these admonishments enough that I felt compelled to offer my thoughts on these moments; I don’t find them particularly useful. Recently, one of my student athletes at Hilbert College rebuked himself in a class setting. I asked if he did that often, and he assured me that he berated himself all the time. I asked why, and he assured me because he deserves it anytime he screws up in his sport. In the moment you do this, however, I believe there is tension. The latter can impede your movements for just one or two seconds. In that small space of time, your opponent can be twenty feet past you. Tension inhibits the ability to move fluidly, and velocity is impaired. Then, without velocity, you’ll have no power. Well, this might seem only useful for athletes, but I believe that how we practice and train is often how we do life. Upbraiding oneself while training usually follows you into your personal life. Yes, the chastisement is only for a moment, but it lingers, and I doubt the efficacy of it. Many years ago I decided that heaping huge amounts of self-criticism on oneself was a form of punishment. Once the punishment is doled out, however, it becomes ok to make the mistake again. It’s like doing time for the crime. Of course we are always ready to castigate ourselves, and continue the vicious cycle forever.

Habits are formed over time, and some serve us more than others. Practice patience, and be kind to yourself. When you fall down; get up faster than you fell. When you make a mistake; fix it. When you get lazy; change it. When your efforts weaken; simply figure out how to improve it without adding the drama of self-loathing. Analyze your mistakes so that you can learn from them, but don’t pour the “hot oil of judgment” over yourself because of them. There is nothing strong about this behavior, and the process of letting go of these self berating responses will make your more productive, less tense, and a more powerful individual.

Be Great.

Featured Member: Sarah Maurer

Transformation With A Mean Right Hook

In January, I was talking with a friend about an unconventional class she was taking in her masters program. Her assignment was to pursue something that she had always dreamed of doing and present her journey at the end of the course. She challenged me to follow suit and go after something I had dreamed of learning to do, and boxing was at the top of my list. I was never athletic so the idea was pretty intimidating, but you can only bullshit yourself with those excuses for so long. Soon I found myself sitting next to Pietro in the office at KC’s Fitness and there was no turning back.

I carry myself more confidently and feel like I have a stronger presence everywhere I go. And challenging situations have become less intimidating.

I didn’t expect that I would experience such a significant personal transformation in just six months. I didn’t lose an insane amount of weight or discover that I was a boxing prodigy. But I do feel myself getting stronger and more motivated to push myself harder. I notice my feet and hands moving quicker and more confidently. The first week at KC’s, the goal was 10 push-ups. Now my sights are set on pull-ups and strapping on a weight vest before I do my push-ups. At first, I thought making it in for a few classes a week was solid. Now I find myself rising early for morning class and coming back in the evening for round two. No small feat for a woman who will never, ever be a morning person.

More importantly, I notice a difference outside the gym. I shake off the expectation that as a woman, I probably can’t lift heavy things or hold my own. I reject the widely held perception that beautiful women are thin women. I don’t want to look like a model – I want to be a badass like Wonder Woman. I carry myself more confidently and feel like I have a stronger presence everywhere I go. And challenging situations have become less intimidating. It’s amazing how discovering your physical potential translates to the other aspects of your life.

I think it speaks to the positive learning environment that the instructors at KCs have created and their dedication to strengthening the entire person, not just their muscles. They pay attention to your progress and find a way to help you magnify your strengths. And their efforts are amplified by the other members who are genuinely great, encouraging people to be around and patient role models for new people.

It sounds nice reading about it, but spend an hour in a class at KC’s and you’ll understand it. Take David Hooper’s women’s boxing class, for example. Everyone arrives at different fitness levels, but he conditions all of us to rise above the assumption that we can’t hold our own with the guys. The workouts are tough as hell, but he never underestimates our ability to conquer whatever he throws our way – and he won’t allow us to underestimate ourselves either. It’s those unique experiences that have made this gym one of my favorite places. Because of those experiences, I walk out after every class and I feel like Wonder Woman.