‘Spider Gym’ offers students alternatives, training

by Rosalie Chan, Web Editor

Donned in white martial arts robes, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu students watch as the instructor demonstrates the guard position with Isaac Reyes, ‘10 graduate and sophomore at Harper.  Lying on the ground, the instructor cross his legs behind Reyes’s back, preventing him from moving.

Reyes goes back to the outside circle as the instructor demonstrates the move again with another student.  Then, the students pair up to practice on the mats.  Jose del Real, senior, and his partner decide to step into the cage to practice.

IMG_0005Reyes and del Real go to Spider Gym on Wheeling Road to practice mixed martial arts (MMA).  Spider Gym offers MMA classes, such as Brazilian jiu-jitsu, kickboxing and muay thai.

MMA is a mix of different martial arts, such as boxing, jiu-jitsu, muay thai, karate and kung-fu, and fighters can use different styles during matches.

“I really like the discipline you get out of it.  You become a much more humble person,” del Real said.  “I also like the mental strategy; it’s like a game of human chess.  I like the aspect of how to makes you think,” del Real said.

Del Real started going to Spider Gym due to the proximity to his house.

“It (MMA) got me in good shape and showed me a lot of self-defense.  Once you start learning moves, you just want to keep learning and getting better,” del Real said.

Del Real originally started with boxing and then became interested in MMA.

“My parents wanted to put me in some kind of activity or after school program.  I told them I wanted to do boxing. Then, when I would do MMA classes, I would get beat up because I didn’t know muay thai or jiu-jitsu, so I wanted to learn more so I could be a well-rounded fighter,” del Real said.

According to Junko Suzuki, manager, MMA has various benefits.

“It benefits you if you want to be a good fighter.  For common people, it’s good self- defense,” Suzuki said.

Maribel Aguilar, senior, has also become involved at Spider Gym, working at the front desk.  She participated in boxing, but currently cannot due to an injury.

“My injury kind of led me to the place.  One of the people who I was training with said I should come, and I watched.  The owner said you should work here.  He lets me hit bags.  Once I fully recover, I plan on taking classes, hopefully competing,” Aguilar said.

Aguilar hopes that Spider Gym can help out the community in other ways.

“I was talking to the owner.  We’re interested in opening up the gym for kids who are troubled to be disciplined instead of going on the streets,” Aguilar said.

Like Aguilar, Reyes participated in boxing club while he attended WHS.  This helped motivate him to join Spider Gym.  He currently works out there and practices MMA.  Reyes started with Brazilian jiu-jitsu two years ago.

“I knew my hands were okay.  I knew how to take a punch.  I knew how to parry and bob and duck and weave.  That gave me confidence, knowing that I had a bit of a boxing background,” Reyes said.

Many people who work out in the gym compete in MMA competitions.

On March 9, Reyes won his first amateur MMA fight, which took place in Sandwich, Ill.

“It was my first amateur MMA, and I won.  I couldn’t believe it.  It was a dream come true.  I’ve always struggled with sports.  I guess I worked hard on it,” Reyes said.

Reyes started training for fights three months ago.

“My favorite part is that you can get a knockout or submission.  A little guy can beat a big guy with jiu-jitsu.  A big guy can be strong, but a little guy can win if he has good technique,” Reyes said.

Del Real has competed in a tournament and won first place.  He plans to start competing cross country in the summer.

“Sometimes you expect to get better overnight.  It feels like you don’t know anything, but one day at a time, you have to be persistent,” del Real said.