By Camille Gillies
Only one year ago, Jason Carrio was teaching Krav Maga self defense in the garage of his Wesley Chapel home. Now, the enterprising instructor of the popular Israeli system of self-defense owns a martial arts and Krav Maga studio located next to Café Fresco on S.R. 56. Premier Martial Arts & Hammerfist Krav Maga opened in September, to the delight of martial arts, Krav Maga and fitness buffs in Pasco, Hillsborough and even Hernando counties.
“We attract a lot of New Tampa and Wesley Chapel residents but we also have people that come to our classes from Temple Terrace, Brandon and even Spring Hill,” Jason says. “This is such a central location. We are so convenient to I-75.” The school is less than a mile east of the interstate.
Jason, who owns Premier Martial Arts & Hammerfist Krav Maga with his wife, Ashley, is the certified instructor for Krav Maga. Third-degree black belt Steven Faison leads the martial arts and fitness programs at the studio, where students of all ages can take classes.
“This is a family-structured school,” Jason explains, adding that mom or dad may be enrolled in the adult fitness or Krav Maga classes, while their children take the youth (ages 4-14) martial arts classes. He says he often sees one person in a family begin taking a class and then another family member sign up when they see how much fun it is.
Jason is proud of the studio’s congenial atmosphere. “I have never seen such a welcoming group of people,” he says of the families at Premier/Hammer Fist. “If a new parent comes in to watch their child’s class, the other parents immediately start up a conversation with them.”
Krav Maga A ‘Phenomenon’
Although Premier’s atmosphere is friendly, the subject matter is serious. Krav Maga, which in Hebrew means “contact combat,” teaches the self-defense skills, defensive tactics and fighting techniques necessary to protect yourself from virtually any physical attack. Emerging in Israel in the 1940s, Krav Maga was developed by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). It appeared in the U.S. in the early 1980s, attracting a following from the FBI and other law enforcement agencies; civilian interest has escalated in recent years, making it a “veritable international phenomenon,” according to a 2010 issue of Time magazine.
Jason, who has been a Krav Maga instructor for three years and a student for nine, is certified by the International Krav Maga Federation (IKMF), which is a critical standard for legitimizing an instructor’s qualifications. IKMF is a global organization that requires re-certification every year.
Krav Maga has numerous levels for advancement, with each level taking approximately six months to achieve; Hammerfist offers beginner and advanced classes in the discipline. Jason says that age, gender and fitness level don’t matter when it comes to these one-hour sessions because Krav Maga is geared towards teaching the average citizen how to defend his or herself. Five classes are offered weekly and he recommends attending at least two classes per week.
“We deal with a serious subject but we have fun doing it,” Jason explains. “Our class for younger children deals with learning to defend against things like abduction, abuse by adults and bullying at school. We deal with real-world scenarios, but we do it in a way that is fun for the kids.”
Adults learn valuable self-defense tools such as choke releases and maneuvers that enable them to disengage from an attack. They also learn how to fight back properly, with more assertive and aggressive techniques such as strikes, kicks and even eye gouges.
Jason says the motto of Krav Maga is, ‘So that one may walk in peace.’
“Our goal is to teach people how to go home (feeling) safe,” Jason states, stressing that he isn’t in business to teach people how to start fights. “We teach practical and useful self-defense, and that includes learning how to defend against knives, sticks, guns, rocks and any number of weapons.”
Premier Martial Arts classes include kickboxing, grappling, and kali (stick fighting), as well as Krav Maga. Classes are broken down by age: Little Champs (4-6); Youth (7- 14); and Krav Maga (ages 15 and up). “For the little kids, we focus on character development, hand-eye coordination and balance,” jason explains. “As they get older, we concentrate more on respect, discipline and self-control.”
The Next Level Of Cross Fit
In addition to the youth martial arts classes, Faison also teaches the studio’s unique “Cross Fit” adult fitness classes, which involve cardio and strength training and conditioning. Premier/Hammerfist also recently announced a 90-day fitness challenge that kicks off on Monday, January 16. Open to the public, the challenge requires a $35 registration fee that includes a body fat measurement and the opportunity to train at Premier Martial Arts once a week. The challenge entrant who loses the largest percentage of body fat by April 16 wins $200.
Jason says he likes to support the community by offering complimentary self-defense seminars to women’s groups and by teaching free Krav Maga classes at Pasco-Hernando Community College.
Unlike the sales pressure evident at many fitness centers, the owners of this studio don’t seem to be motivated by money. Jason exudes a genuine enthusiasm for what he does and he thinks it is contagious. In fact, he encourages prospective students to take a free week of classes before signing up. “It’s important for people to like the classes and the instructors,” Jason comments. “If they don’t try us out, how will they know if they like us?”
And don’t worry about signing a contract because there isn’t one. At Premier Martial Arts & Hammerfist Krav Maga, you can always pay monthly or per class.
For more information about Premier Martial Arts of Wesley Chapel and Hammerfist Krav Maga, visit PremierMartialArtsWesleyChapel.com or HFKravMaga.com. Or, call 907-9544 or stop by the school at 27213 S.R. 56.