Kaizen Fitness Arts, martial arts studio, opens in Brandon


DAVID BELANGER SITS on the mat in his new martial-arts studio in Brandon: Kaizen Fitness Arts. Belanger has been practicing jiu jitsu for 12 years and is now offering classes to the public.

BRANDON—Growing up in New Hampshire, David Belanger was a big fan of Ip Man, a Chinese martial artist who taught the legendary Bruce Lee. 

“I was fascinated by the idea that a smaller, weaker person could overtake someone larger and stronger,” said Belanger, now 33.

But in the Lebanon, NH area where he lived, the only martial-arts studio offered only karate, though it focused more on exercise than on hand-to-hand sparring.

“I wanted to know if [the techniques] worked,” said Belanger. One day on the way to work, he noticed a new studio that offered jiu jitsu, a different Japanese martial art whose focus is on neutralizing opponents rather than harming them. At the age of 21, he discovered his path.

“The goal of jiu jitsu is to control your opponent, not to damage them,” he said. “You can force your opponent to submit without hurting them.”

In that way, jiu jitsu differs from other popular martial arts such as kung fu, karate, and taekwondo, all of which emphasize kicks, punches, and strikes.

After 12 years of steady practice, and ascent through the jiu jitsu ranks, Belanger is now ready to share his knowledge with the folks in his new home: Brandon and the surrounding communities.

Belanger has recently opened Kaizen Fitness Arts at 32 Marble Street in Brandon (just before the intersection with Wheeler Road). Kaizen offers one-hour group classes. Currently, the classes are offered on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 5 a.m. (for those who want to get in a session before work), 12 p.m., and 5 p.m. On Saturdays, there’s a 10 a.m. class as well. Kaizen charges $20 per class or $31/week for a membership that allows you to take as many classes as you wish. The first class is free for everyone, to give prospective students a chance to try it out before committing.

KAIZEN FITNESS ARTS is located at 32 Marble Street in Brandon, just before the intersection with Wheeler Road. Visit the websitewww.kaizenfitnessarts.com for more details about schedules and classes.

“I teach to the level of the group,” said Belanger. The classes consist of warmups, technique, and sparring. “You can’t overdo the fundamentals.” Belanger does not allow strikes or body blows. Again, the point of jiu jitsu is control and not harm. Kaizen does not currently offer kids’ classes but those 13 and older are welcome to join the group classes. 

Belanger moved to Brandon last fall with his wife, Mariah, who grew up here and whose family still lives in town. Aside from a martial-arts club in Rutland, Belanger noticed that there weren’t many offerings in the area. He started giving self-defense classes and realize there was interest in the surrounding communities for more. He opened Kaizen this spring and already has students from all over the area.

On a recent Friday, he and a student allowed this reporter to observe their warmup. The male student was in his 40s and said he’d begun the classes partially because he wanted to learn a martial art and partially because it was good cardio and he wanted to trim down a bit.

The warmups involved practicing movements that allow escape from an opponent’s grip, including something called “the shrimp” that required the student to assume the shape of a shrimp as he propelled himself from one end of the mat to the other by wriggling on his sides.

“These movements are designed to help you avoid being pinned down by someone on top of you,” said Belanger. He also went through a series of moves with his student to teach techniques for disarming someone coming at you with some kind of club or stick.

The traditional garb is called a “gi” (pronounced “ghee”) and consists of white pants and a white jacket held closed by a cloth belt. As in karate, the color of the belt indicates one’s progress in the art. Beginners wear white belts and move up through blue, purple, brown, black, and coral. Belanger has been studying seriously for 12 years and is currently a purple belt. A coral belt, the highest rank, can take 40 to 50 years to attain. 

It’s not necessary to wear a gi, though Belanger advises wearing close-fitting clothes to class to avoid getting caught up in loose clothing as you practice.

The studio itself is large and comfortable but Belanger said he plans to convert the free-standing garage to additional studio space in the future and to offer other arts in addition to jiu jitsu.

There are nods around the studio to the Asian origins of jiu jitsu, but Belanger does not ask that students partake in any practices other than the martial art they came to study.

Anyone interested in signing up for a class can contact Belanger via his website www.kaizenfitnessarts.com or by phone at (603) 252-0644.

Whether you’re interested in fitness, self-defense, or just the fun of it, go down to Kaizen and put another shrimp on the mat.

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