New mixed martial arts academy opens in Corner Brook for enthusiasts to get their kicks

Ben Cox is a co-owner of and an instructor at Anchor Combat Academy in Corner Brook. (James Grudić/CBC - image credit)
Ben Cox is a co-owner of and an instructor at Anchor Combat Academy in Corner Brook. (James Grudić/CBC - image credit)
James Grudić/CBC
James Grudić/CBC

Martial arts enthusiasts on Newfoundland's west coast have a new studio where they can learn, practise and spar.

Anchor Combat Academy is now offering classes in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, boxing and kickboxing. Classes are available for students ages seven and up and are open to all levels of ability and athleticism.

The academy opened its doors in Corner Brook's Millbrook Mall on Jan. 2, and the classes have been more popular than the owners anticipated.

"We've had a large number of people sign up. We started with 15 and now we're over 70," co-owner Ben Cox told CBC News.

"I thought we'd have maybe 40 people sign up all year, but we had 40 people on the first day," said grappling instructor  and co-owner Colin MacMichael.

For the past seven years the group taught and practised as Corner Brook Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, something more akin to a floating group than a formal academy. They would meet at the Vine Place Community Centre in Dunfield Park, using the gymnasium space rent-free.

James Grudić/CBC
James Grudić/CBC

But the informal nature of the group, combined with a lack of dedicated space, made it difficult to advertise, to accommodate new members and to host classes for children and teens.

The idea to start a new academy included hope for more members as well as a more comfortable space to practise in. It also brought along the risks of starting up a new business.

"We were so nervous. We weren't sure who was going to sign up," said Cox. "Now it's starting to feel like home."

Head grappling instructor MacMichael, who has 12 years' experience and a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, says Anchor Combat Academy is filling a need in the area.

"I think Corner Brook was really hurting for something for this," said MacMichael.

"Other people have tried these sorts of things, but I think we can be the place for martial arts in Corner Brook."

James Grudić/CBC
James Grudić/CBC

Academy member Junior McCarthy started training in martial arts at age 17 but fell out of practice for the past three years.

"I was fooling around with it at home, but it's nothing like coming to class," said McCarthy. "Class is commitment."

Now at age 50, he's donned the gloves once again as a pupil in adult striking classes.

"It's my second day back and I am so sore," he said. "It feels great."

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