Self-defense, anti-bul­lying pro­grams, and fitness classes merge at local Mixed Martial Arts center

Mixed Martial Arts sounds intim­i­dating to some people.  So much so that Hillsdale Fitness and MMA owner Steve Gossett bought new decals this week to change the MMA center’s name from “Hillsdale MMA” to “Hillsdale Fitness and MMA.” Despite its stigma of vio­lence, Gossett believes MMA isn’t about hurting others but defending yourself.

“MMA is no worse than football,” Gossett said. “I got 14 con­cus­sions in a year playing football and only one in six years of fighting.”

He added that MMA is a more dis­ci­plined sport, and MMA fighters train to not get hurt, whereas in football you are told to hurt other players and get hurt yourself.

To raise money for new equipment and classes, Hillsdale Fitness and MMA is hosting a spaghetti dinner on Sept. 27 at the McCall’s Center Reception Hall at 6 p.m. There will be a silent auction and a sug­gested $10 donation for food.

Gossett said he has everyone from children to twenty-some­things to adults 45 – 65 years old training at Hillsdale Fitness and MMA, including his two-year-old daughter.

Jeramy Monroe brings his nine-year-old son, Aiden Monroe, to learn MMA at the gym.

“Aiden didn’t want to play football, so he is doing this for exercise,” Jeramy Monroe said. “He is picking it up really fast.”

Jeramy Monroe said his son doesn’t get into fights at school, and this helps Aiden get in the mindset that he can do anything.

“This is very ben­e­ficial to kids,” Jeramy Monroe said. “It’s a huge confidence-builder.”

“I like the punching combos,” Aiden Monroe said, adding that his least favorite part of the workout is the running.

Aiden Monroe trains with pro­fes­sional fighter D.J. Castle, another member of the gym. He’s been fighting for three years, and said he and Aiden have become good friends. Castle is also now training with a four-year-old two days a week.

“It teaches them dis­ci­pline,” Castle said.

Although he could always expand the gym, Gossett said he doesn’t want to lose the family rela­tionship his gym offers.

“We have dinner together and birthdays together,” Gossett said, “Some of the girls are young enough to be your own daughter, and some old enough to be your sisters, and we want to protect them at all costs.”

Gossett said one of his goals is to teach people to defend them­selves. He cur­rently offers self-defense classes geared toward young women ages 12 to 15.

“We want to prepare them just in case,” Gossett said. “You can get into a sit­u­ation where you wish you knew how to defend yourself.”

Gossett said he also offers private self-defense classes to women who have been raped or abused to protect their privacy. He added his gym is a place women can work out without fending off guys trying to hit on them.

Gossett said college stu­dents, more than anyone else, need self-defense training.

“People get drunk…” Gossett said, “and take advantage of you.”

But besides defending them­selves, some clients learn MMA to get their anger out in the right way, and others do it for exercise. Many of his members lose 10 – 15 pounds in a month of MMA training.

“Everybody has their own mission,” Gossett said.

Gossett said he is also working on an anti-bul­lying program, which he imple­mented when he was in Addison, Michigan, and said it was very suc­cessful. Stu­dents who get sus­pended or expelled for vio­lence often end up at home playing video games, Gossett said. Instead, they can come to the gym where they spend four hours a day doing school work and two hours watching videos that show the con­se­quences of their bullying.

Gossett said he also brings troubled kids to see a jail cell. The schools he worked with in Addison stopped sus­pending stu­dents because of the success of the program, Gossett said.

Gossett moved to Hillsdale two years ago, and started running classes out of his house before moving into his downtown location. He and other pro­fes­sional fighters didn’t have many places to train in the area before he opened, but now he has eight to 20 men who train there, as well as other members who enjoy the gym’s offerings.

The gym is open Monday through Friday, from 3 – 9 p.m. and offers a variety of mem­bership options: $50 per month for a month-to-month, no-con­tract mem­bership, $45 per month for a three-month con­tract, $35 per month for a six-month con­tract, $30 per month for kids classes and a $10 drop-in fee.

The first class is always free, so attendees can check out the gym before jumping into a con­tract. Classes and instruction range from MMA to kick­boxing to kids’ classes. Members can attend an hour-long cardio class from 6 – 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.