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Local kickboxing gym offers exercise, sport for the whole family

Eva, left, and Sophie Willis are shown in their kickboxing gear at Brake's Gym.
Eva, left, and Sophie Willis are shown in their kickboxing gear at Brake's Gym.

Growing up in Newfoundland, hockey, soccer, swimming, and baseball likely are the first answers you’ll get if you were to walk into a roomful of kids at elementary school and ask them what sports they play.

It’s not that these sports are more affordable to other sports out there — they’re just seemingly more culturally prevalent amongst kids and their parents in the community.

The majority of kids in elementary school probably have a favourite hockey team, for example, or know where to go at what time on a Saturday night to watch that team play — but few likely have a favourite boxer or kickboxer.

There might also be a growing suspicion amongst parents that combat sports are inherently dangerous — perhaps more dangerous — than traditional sports for their kids.

However, kick-boxing and boxing have been prevalent in this province as an alternative form of sport and exercise for a long time — and some of the kids partaking, like young Eva and Sophie Willis, age 8 and 7, respectively, seem to get much more benefit than risk out of the activities.

They study in Corner Brook, from the man carrying martial arts education on his shoulders in the city, Jeff Brake. Brake is the owner/operator of Brake’s Gym, and a professional kick-boxer/boxer himself.

Eva says she started going to kickboxing classes after her friend, who was already attending, invited her to go. After Eva started going, Sophie started, and now both girls say that they really like it.  

Their mother, Amanda Willis, says it is the only sport they decided to stick with.

She says this has a lot to do with how available and interactive their instructor, Brake, is, and how fun he makes the classes for them.  

She says that when she decided to put the girls in kickboxing, the biggest thing for her was finding a reliable form of exercise for them. It also turned out to be a huge confidence-booster.

When asked what their favourite part of a kickboxing class is, Sophie responds, saying her favourite is when they perform kicking drills, and when they play games in class. Eva has a similar response.

Brake, who’s still competing on the international stage, having recently won the Intercontinental title in South Africa, says his kickboxing programs for kids are fundamentally recreational.

“We don’t hold them back from competing, if they want to, and when they’re ready, but our kids programs are primarily recreational” he said.

Brake said the youngest student he had that went onto competition was a boxing student at age 13. So, even if the girls do want to eventually compete, which Brake says they have shown interest towards, they still have a few years to go.

Amanda Willis says the idea of her girls getting hurt was not a major concern for her when she decided to enroll them at Brake’s Gym.

“Jeff is really good with the students, he knows what he’s doing,” she said.

Brake says a concussion, the kind of injury that tends to blackball combat sports amongst parents, has never happened to one of his students while in the gym.

“I’ve had kids have to disengage themselves from a program here because they suffered an injury in soccer, or baseball, or another sport, but historically we’ve never had a case of it happening here.”

Willis says being able to go to the gym and know her kids are content while she gets her own workout in is important as well.

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