In a muay thai match, you never want your opponent to know what’s coming next. Jerome Wilson is taking a similar approach with his gym, DCBFIT, which opened last week near the Navy Yard.
“I’m trying to give a real fighter’s workout with real results,” says Wilson, who’s been training since 1999, when he was studying for his master’s of divinity and theology in Richmond, Va. (You didn’t see that coming, right?)
He started competing in muay thai — aka Thai boxing, which allows opponents to strike with their knees and elbows — and he found a passion for punching: “I love getting hit because I can hit back. And I’m going to give you more than you gave me.”
Luckily for anyone with a fist phobia, several options on the schedule at DCBFIT are non-contact.
MT Fit, a moderate-intensity class, relies on three-minute rounds of punches, kicks, knees and elbows. MMA Fit dials it up with five-minute rounds and ground drills, such as this one: Lie on your back, wrap your legs around a punching bag and do sit-ups while repeatedly smacking the bag. Blitz is the gym’s extreme take on sports conditioning, a nonstop barrage of sprints, kettlebells, burpees and various surprises.
One way Wilson plans to keep students guessing is by not listing instructors’ names on the schedule. The reasoning? He and his team of instructors — all seasoned fighters — plan to tag-team.
Wilson has already built up a local following from his classes at several LA Boxing gyms, but he’s telling veteran students to be prepared for a different experience from what’s found at the international franchise. Not that there’s anything wrong with the LA Boxing formula, which Wilson calls “a cardio fitness workout,” but at DCBFIT, he’s aiming for a routine that will actually prepare people for the ring.
That’s because every night, after the fitness sessions wrap up, DCBFIT’s muay thai classes begin. In addition to serious conditioning and pad work, everyone gets the chance to spar with Wilson directly. Even though Wilson describes himself as “old as dirt,” the hulking 37-year-old won’t let anyone off too easy.
He plans to occasionally put trash cans around the room and insist that class isn’t over until someone throws up.
“It has to happen,” Wilson says. “We’ve got to christen the place.”
That’s no joke, though Wilson makes plenty of them as he teaches, which is why students are willing to return — even after taking a beating.
At a trial workout last week, 36-year-old Tameka Harris explained her devotion to her favorite LA Boxing teacher like this: “If he tells you to do something, you’ll see results and feel like you’ve accomplished something. But you’ll laugh the whole time.”
It’s a dark humor, admits Wilson, whose shtick is basically, “I really enjoy watching people suffer.” (And between the jumps squats, V-ups and spiderman pushups, he gets his chance.)
“If you want a Richard Simmons hug or a Kumbaya moment, you’re in the wrong place,” Wilson says.
And if you’re like 26-year-old Deborah Estes, you won’t care. After last week’s class, she said she was hooked on the detailed instruction, personal attention and welcoming atmosphere.
“It was awesome,” she said. “There’s just something about getting your ass kicked.”
That’s especially true when you can kick back.
First-time students can register for a trial class by contacting DCBFIT (1000 New Jersey Ave. SE; 202-621-8304, Dcbfit.com). Day fitness passes are $30, 10-class packs are $250, fitness memberships are $85, and Thai boxing memberships are $125.
All levels are welcome, but DCBFIT owner Jerome Wilson is cooking up a lower-intensity Modified Movers class to provide a specific entry point for more students, particularly overweight ones.
“If you look at specialty gyms, you don’t see overweight people,” he says. Another group he hopes to attract to DCBFIT are middle and high school students. Wilson, who’s worked with kids in gang-prevention programs, wants to use the gym to set up apprenticeships and get students involved in fitness.
And what would Washington be if not a place for Democrats and Republicans to fight? That’s why Wilson is trying to organize an exhibition sparring session with a political theme.