We’re used to most gyms scattered around South Korea specializing in particular fields of fitness. There’s your Crossfit gyms over here, your yoga and pilates centers above the Starbucks over there, your Jiu-Jitsu ssen gym to the left of you, and your run of the mill mom-n-pop weightlifting gym to the right. A fair variety of fitness centers scattered about the various pockets of neighborhoods in most major South Korean cities.
Let’s face it, getting around to these gyms or finding exactly what you’re looking for isn’t always easy. Sometimes it’s not just finding your specialty that’s difficult … there’s that nasty language barrier which haunts many as well.
So, we were pleased to come upon Body & Seoul Martial Arts and Fitness Center located in Itaewon, Seoul. Situated right off the main street in Gyeongridan, the fitness center boasts a host of classes and offerings. One of the managers, Michael Ahn, explains the purpose behind Body & Seoul: “The goal for Body & Seoul has always been to provide the community a place to get fit in a fun and safe atmosphere. While many gyms can make that claim, it’s hard to feel connected to a community when you don’t speak the same language. Body & Seoul filled that gap.”
And it’s the variety of course offerings which makes Body & Seoul stand out the most. They offer classes in Muay Thai (Kickboxing), Grappling & Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, MMA (Mixed Martial Arts), Yoga, Pilates, and Yogilates (yes, that’s a thing now).
However, it’s their FitFight class which caught our eye. Along with yoga and MMA, FitFight is one of Body & Seoul’s most popular courses. “FightFit is a high intensity interval training method that gives you the most bang for your exercise buck,” Ahn explains. The group classes are based on metabolic training principles, the same principles that keep professional MMA fighters in top shape. “Our classes are 45 minutes long (with the exception of our 1 hour 15 minute class on Sundays). Each class consists of a warmup and a short but intense exercise, followed by a cool down. You can expect a challenging workout that mixes the best of strength and cardio training with experienced instructors,” Ahn says.
FitFight classes are geared to burn more calories and build more muscle in less time than your average workout.
Body & Seoul also offers personal self-defense classes for both men and women. Krav Maga is a self-defense and fighting system originally developed by the Israeli military for its troops. The popularity has spread globally and Body & Seoul has worked Krav Maga classes into its schedule. “These are open to both men and women,” Ahn tells us. “We felt that there was a need for a space for people to learn how to defend themselves in a non-sport aspect, and thus our Krav Maga program was born. We are lucky to have multiple certified instructors that are also great teachers.”
We asked Ahn about what sets Body & Seoul apart from other MMA and fitness centers around the country. He says it’s all in the details. The language details. “Learning something new in a language you are familiar with isn’t necessary, but it’s one of those things you never knew you missed. For extremely technical sports like Muay Thai and Jiu-jitsu, the difference between winning and losing is in the details.”
Doesn’t this ring a bit true for all of us? Regardless of how bilingual any of us may be, we’ve all had those slight head-shaking moments, affirming a speaker’s point and having really no idea what’s being said. “If you miss those details you’re missing the entire lesson. Learning something like that with no language barrier is definitely a huge plus, ” Ahn says. He also says that Body & Seoul harbors a strong community and that all members feel integrated like family members. Chalk up another plus!
We switched tracks just a bit to ask Body & Seoul manager, Michael Ahn, a bit about what makes one fit and how one can define fitness. For him, it’s merely a trait representing the quality of your life. “Something my father says more often as he gets older is ‘Money isn’t worth anything if you’re not healthy enough to spend it‘, and I agree,” he quips. “No matter what happens in life, if you have your health, you have the potential to remake yourself, to pick yourself up and try again.”
No doubt words of wisdom. Not to be outdone, of course, by the sage advice of one of his coaches, who once said: “If you can’t tie your shoes because your belly is in the way, it’s time to rethink your life.”
We then asked Ahn about the shifting roles and current trends of fitness in Korea as he sees it. For him, he’s noticed a particular influx of female interest and activity in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. “It can be intimidating for anyone, but the idea of being overpowered and on the ground can be especially harrowing for women,” he explains. Positive word is spreading and folks are taking notice. Body & Seoul has noticed a distinct uptick in female participation in the classes. “They know they can learn in a safe environment and get over their fear by making themselves stronger.”
Ahn is eager to welcome all rookies and curious individuals to stop by and take a look at the gym. Its prime location is easy to find. Located on the second floor of the building with a large sign you can’t miss, Body & Seoul posts their classes offered and schedule on their website for interested individuals. Newbies don’t need to bring any expensive equipment either. Body & Seoul offers boxing gloves and yoga mats for those who want to just test the waters first. Newbies need also not feel intimidation. “We’re a friendly gym with no egos,” Ahn says. “If you’re even a little bit curious about any of our programs, please write us or stop by. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain!”
Make sure to check out Body & Seoul the next time you’re in the HBC area of Itaewon and say hello to the team. Stay fit, everyone!
~Get Fit Korea