Photo by Shane Harms
Giarratano (right) working through an exercise with a student.

Cocktails for kicks; Ballard dojo offering kick boxing for the service industry

Pouring over 200 margaritas and cleaning up the bar at 2:30 a.m. is taxing on the body, and the people that make up the service industry can suffer from injury, soreness, sleeplessness and stress.

That’s why Ballardite and long time bartender and 20 year kick-boxer, Jordan Giarratano, is starting a martial arts course specifically tailored for cooks, bartenders and servers.

“There’s a huge population of people working in the service industry in Ballard, and it just seems like a really good way to give back to the industry that got me where I am today,” said Giarratano.

Giarratano started Fighting Chance Seattle Kickboxing and Martial Arts school (1446 N.W. 53rd St.) in 2011 after working seven years as a bartender at multiple bars in Seattle.

The course, Turn & Burn Kickboxing, is designed to strengthen the core and legs and other muscles through learning a blend of Karate and Muay Thai martial arts techniques and yoga stretches.

The course started on March 27, and students focus on high-energy kickboxing drills and meditative karate stances. Giarratano said that the stretches and conditioning exercises taught in the course are designed to reduce the pain, tension, and injuries that come from repetitive movements and being on one’s feet for long periods of time.

“The course is designed to teach mindfulness as much as physical fitness. … By learning the martial arts techniques people become more mindful of their own bodies and start to notice the repetitive movements that lead to soreness and injuries that they normally take for granted. By becoming more aware of how they move they are reminded not to bend a certain way or to use their legs more when they’re lifting something.”

Giarratano, who has had a black belt since he was 16, said he suffered from injuries and would lose sleep from the soreness in his joints after a long shift.

“ I noticed I was really getting beat up from the job. I had pain in my ankles, my feet, shins and lower back. I went to see a physical therapist, and we found that my arm was messed up, especially when it was put in the position I carried a tray.”

Looking for relief, Giarratano immersed himself in yoga and training, finding that certain yoga stretches, core exercises and mindfulness conditioned his body and mind to have the strength and awareness to endure the frenzy of an arduous 10-hour shift. Lifting kegs and climbing up and down stairs became less taxing.

The training not only has physical benefits, but psychological as well. Giarratano said that the confidence found in self-defense changes people’s general outlook on life and how they present themselves – something to consider when walking home at 3 a.m. after a bar shift.

“People respond to you differently based on how you look. If you’re walking around showing fear and caution you’re more of a target than if you know you can defend yourself.”

Sydney Simon is the head bartender at Senor Moose Cafe and has trained in nine of Giarratano’s kick boxing courses since last October.

Simon said she was warn down and looking for something different because she would not feel up to running before being on her feet for 14 hours.

“I wanted something with cardio as well as an outlet for the stress. … Jordan really works with you with a long-term goal and you’re not drilled by a sergeant or judged. …They’re supportive and encouraging and take the time to work with you to learn the correct form, “ said Simon.

“Even if you have a crappy day you can leave that behind and if you have a good day it's even better. Jordan really wants you to be in your own space and it helps with the stress. … Now my co-workers can tell if I haven’t been to class that week. It gives me more energy, and I feel more confident because I know I’m doing something for myself.”

Simon said that the biggest problem she encountered was not being able to find a class that fit with her schedule. She said the 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. window are the typical serving industry hours and that courses by different dojos weren’t offering courses earlier. That’s why Giarratano is offering Turn & Burn Kickboxing Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m.

“It’s offered with a bartender’s schedule in mind. It’s just late enough to sleep in and early enough to run errands or relax before they go back to work,” said Giarratano.

The cost is another way Giarratano is tailoring his course for the service industry. He’s offering all industry workers a 15 percent discount when they show their food handler or alcohol-serving permit.

“ The discount is another way I can give back to the industry and community. It gives people a discount on something other than drinking.”

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