In Motion

Put Up a Fight -- Without a Fight

Stuntman and fight choreographer Chuck Jeffreys, third from left, developed Combattitude in 1996. He teaches the form at his Columbia studio.
Stuntman and fight choreographer Chuck Jeffreys, third from left, developed Combattitude in 1996. He teaches the form at his Columbia studio. (By Sean Kelly)
By Sean Kelly
Special to The Washington Post
Friday, June 8, 2007

An innovative style of exercise fighting has made its way from movie screens to Columbia. "Combattitude," a combination of fighting arts and movement, was designed by Washington native Chuck Jeffreys, a professional stuntman, actor, Hollywood fight choreographer and martial artist with 40 years' experience in several styles of fighting.

Imagine one-on-one fighting without contact but with impact, striking a target provided by your training partner, who in turn counters with punches or kicks.

Combattitude provides a cardio workout with the feel of sparring without causing injury. By practicing reflexive strikes and presenting targets with Fisticue boxing gloves, which present a bright red bull's-eye when opened, one can develop and improve self-defense skills.

Jeffreys, 48, who travels to the West Coast for film work several times a year from his home in Ellicott City, developed the Combattitude concept in 1996 while teaching martial arts and choreographing fight scenes with such movie stars as Wesley Snipes, Jessica Biel, Tobey Maguire, Willem Dafoe and Ryan Reynolds. Jeffreys recognized the appeal of one-on-one combat that doesn't risk a black eye or bloody lip.

"We fill a niche between traditional contact martial arts and non-impact cardio fighting exercise," says Jeffreys, whose regimen is offered at Combattitude Fighting Fitness Academy (CFFA) in Columbia, which he opened for classes this spring.

"Even though we use martial arts as a base to build on what we are doing, I don't really consider CFFA a martial arts school in the traditional sense," Jeffreys says. "We start out slow to warm up, but fighting one-on-one is our main focus, and our emphasis is on the technique and fun."

There are three skill levels of classes: bronze, silver and gold. Combattitude incorporates trapping techniques, which involve deflecting an opponent's blows and counterattacking, as well as such weapon techniques as Filipino knife fighting and the Eastern arts of stick and long- and short-staff fighting.

"We get all types of Combattitude students with varying degrees of experience," Jeffreys said. "Some are beginners, throwing a punch for the first time, and some are more skilled martial artists with advance certifications who want one-on-one training to stay healthy and sharp."

Law student Michael Jackson, 25, of Washington, a student and associate instructor at the academy who has a third-degree black belt in taekwondo, practices Combattitude regularly with academy instructor Chuck Farrall.

"I like the individual freedom of expression," Jackson says. "Combattitude allows you to adapt your movement and techniques in ways that are best suited for you."

The academy offers classes for adults and youths, and participants are expected to train with each other regardless of experience and age. Jeffreys and his staff also structure workouts according to each person's ability, implementing a combination of drills and fighting techniques and using single or multiple body opponent bags.

Students can improve their reflexes and peripheral vision inside the Makoto, a triangular arena with three six-foot steel beams wired for sound and light. Students respond to an audio prompt with their hands, feet, sticks or staff to strike a lighted area within a certain amount of time. The speed of the prompts is set according to the student's skill level.

Jeffreys's academy also has video equipment with which to film and study fighting techniques. Jeffreys says he hopes to eventually use the academy to train actors for onscreen fighting.

TeAntae Turner, 37, of Columbia threw the first punch of her life at the academy recently. She then learned a jab, a cross and a hook and how to provide her opponent with the Fisticue target. Footwork followed.

"I was intimidated when I first walked in," Turner says. "But I was surprised at how much fun it is. You can kind of play, and everyone you work with is encouraging."

COMBATTITUDE FIGHTING FITNESS ACADEMY 7100 Columbia Gateway Dr., No. 180, Columbia. 410-312-0533. Age 12 and older. Drop-in class $20; multi-class cards available.

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