SEMINOLE, Fla. (WFLA) – A seasoned martial artist is using his platform to help the older community in the Tampa Bay area stay fit and hone their balance while working their minds as they hit the gym.
Jim Graden has been teaching students of all ages, from 4-years-old to 90-yeas-olds, for almost 40 years.
He owns “Jim Graden’s World Championship Martial Arts,” located at 9108 Seminole Boulevard in Seminole. He’s an accomplished martial artist, training under fellow martial artist Joe Lewis, becoming a world kickboxing champion. He created two successful martial arts fitness programs practiced around the country, “Cardio Karate” and “The Ultimate Body Challenge” before opening his school in the area.
Within the past month, he has kicked off a class called “Mind, Body Kickboxing for Seniors.”
“This whole time, I’ve been dealing with people from 4-years-old to 90… What you realize, after all these years, of working with all these people, is that the average person has a disconnect once they hit their 50s, 60s, and it’s not exclusive,” Graden said.
He was inspired by an 83-year-old student named Billie who came to his kickboxing class and asked if she could train. She started slowly and began holding on to a chair to hit a round kick on a heavy bag. Graden said “even at 83, her balance got better.”
Her willingness to commit to the craft, though she may not be able to do everything a younger student could got Graden thinking.
“My goal is to not turn people into fighters, I want to make people stronger and feel better about themselves,” he said. “I’m trying to get people in an age group to stop thinking so much about what they can’t do, but about more of what they can do.”
The class focuses on proper form and execution, slowing the process down so seniors can learn proper martial arts.
During the class, Graden said students start off with “stepping” jumping jacks and continue with a little shadow fighting (an exercise where students throw punches into the air to practice their technique, rather than sparring with a person) and how to use their entire body for proper technique.
“You put someone in front of a bag or something, they think hitting it is the exercise. Not the proper execution of the technique. That’s where I’m trying to work them in front of the mirror, and then in front of the bag, to not think so much about getting a workout in,” Graden said.
Through thinking about proper technique and stretching at the end of class, Graden is teaching his student’s mindfulness.
“You have to be in the moment… There’s nothing more in the moment than having that mindset of hitting the heavy bag and doing the techniques and getting better and not thinking of ‘wonder what I’m going to have for dinner tonight,'” he said.
Graden said he also teaches his older students how to fall properly so they do not get injured either training or throughout their everyday lives.
There are currently five to six students in the class, which Graden said has grown in a short amount of time.
“The enthusiasm level… I mean, I just started this about a month ago, and now, I have a class specifically designed for this,” he said.
He said his students are excited about what comes with signing up for the class.
“They got the gloves… you would have thought it was a 4-year-old on Christmas this day. It was unbelievable how excited they were. They couldn’t wait to show their friends. I was so excited for them. It was neat to see,” he said.
To sign up for a class, you can contact Graden by calling 727-798-5269, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by going online.