Black belt owner and instructor Mickey Swafford found his calling early in life, has trained Gracie Jiu-Jitsu for more than 15 years and is a certified instructor under both Eddie Camden and Professor Pedro Sauer, a sixth-degree black belt under Helio Gracie.
“When I was younger, I sort of had a chip on my shoulder,” Swafford said. “I was big, played football and sports in college, but I always felt a need to prove myself. Once I discovered jiu-jitsu, I found I didn’t need to do that—it gave me a confidence I had never had and changed my life.”
To hear Swafford tell it, his experience is not exclusive; his wife and children are devotees, and he said his clients frequently repeat to him the same feelings he discovered after practicing the art. “That’s just a priceless feeling,” Swafford said, “but it’s not me. I just train. Somewhere the art takes over and fills that void.”
Because of this, Swafford said he views his academy—which moved into a 6,000-square-foot space last year previously occupied by Blockbuster Video—as not just a martial arts studio, but a self-defense program and a fitness studio where the added benefits of self-confidence and maturity develop alongside the training.
It’s a fun, high-energy martial art and a proven self-defense technique, emphasizing ground position. Studies show, Swafford said, that 95 percent of all violent attacks end up with one or both subjects on the ground. “If you end up on the ground and only have kicking and punching in your toolbox,” Swafford said, “you are in for a long day.”
Swafford offers classes for men, women and children—with an emphasis on women’s self-defense. “You can carry a gun or cans of mace,” he said, “but sooner or later you’re going to find yourself in a situation without them and you need to know how to defend yourself.”
And, he added, the first 10 calendar days of training are free to new students—take as many as you can or want. “There’s no sales pressure,” he said. “I’ve had students come up to me 15 or 20 days in and say, ‘Hey, I need to pay you!’”
Chattanooga Jiu-Jitsu Academy is located at 3901 Hixson Pike (in the old Blockbuster Video). For more information, call (423) 874-0222 or visit chattanoogajiujitsu.com.
My day wasn’t half over and I was already working up a sweat without even working out. Heading back downtown, however, I wanted to stop by the new Pure Barre studio on the North Shore. The local franchise, young and thriving and owned and operated here by Amanda Holmes, was expanding from its East Brainerd outpost and I wanted to check it out.
Pure Barre is, for the record, not a women-only fitness studio, but it’s barre-focused method (the only one in town) is a safe, low-impact workout that appeals to a largely female clientele—especially, Holmes told me, a growing (pardon the pun) group of pregnant women seeking just that.
Any woman—or man, for that matter—who has taken ballet classes will be familiar with the movements, but that’s where the comparison ends, said Holmes.
“You’re not hearing those commands, the terminology. It’s not jumping up and down, but it’s safe—and very effective if you commit. You’ll see the results we promise—flatter abs, a lifted seat, more toning.”
Like every worthwhile endeavor, one attempt won’t work. But, Holmes said, those who do investigate and sample the method are quickly hooked. For those who can’t commit to a four- or five-day-per-week schedule, Pure Barre offers “Barre Light,” a three days-per-week, less intense, slower-paced workout. “The pace shouldn’t be intimidating,” Holmes said, “and we do the best we can to eliminate intimidation.”