Story by: Shelley DeWees, Photos by: Shelley DeWees
Body & Seoul shapes up in a new location
Anna Desmarais is a hard-bodied fighter, but she never thought she would be.
“Not at any time could I have imagined going to fighting competitions — not ever,” she says. “I was totally out of shape!”
This is hard to believe when you see her now, a teeny little spritz of a girl with her hands jammed into boxing gloves; she could probably kill someone with her pinky, though she’d do it oh-so-politely.
Standing on the squishy red floor at Body & Seoul, a popular fitness center above Craftworks in Noksapyeong, Desmarais makes a great case for martial arts and isn’t afraid to laud its benefits. “The inner confidence, strength and sense of discipline you gain is incomparable to any other hobby I know,” she says. “And all the while you’re getting in great shape, having fun, making friends and learning new things. I mean, what more can you ask for?”
Inspired, motivated and longing for a place to practice her hobby, Desmarais threw some money together and opened up Body & Seoul in 2010. It’s been going strong ever since, attracting folks from all over the city: English teachers, diplomats, businesspeople and stay-at-home moms all train together under the easily forged bond of a mutual goal.
“It’s become a center for expat life,” she says, “a non-pretentious place where everyone receives world-class training in a relaxed environment. There aren’t many gyms in the world where you hear so much laughter.”
That’s not to say there isn’t a serious amount of work going on here. Muay Thai, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, no-gi grappling and Krav Maga classes meet multiple times each week in between sessions of yoga, Pilates and yogalates (a combination of the two). But the most popular class is FightFit, which, despite the name, doesn’t involve fighting.
“Lots of people take this class on its own to get in shape quickly, regardless of whether they intend to join our martial arts classes,” Desmarais explains, “but often they’ll try some other things in conjunction with FightFit and end up loving it.”
FightFit accommodates all levels of fitness and is a favorite among newcomers at Body & Seoul, but it’s a wicked workout for everyone involved (the sweat mop comes out after every class). But words of encouragement fly freely from the instructors, lessening the intimidation factor and availing members to a pure, powerful, ass-kicking experience that’ll melt the pudge away.
Unsurprisingly, Body & Seoul’s devoted following has long outgrown the modest space, and Desmarais has answered the call for expansion.
“Our new place is double the size, full of new equipment and conveniently located just up the street from where we are now,” she says. “New classes will be offered, too, along with extra sessions of the old favorites like FightFit and yoga, and we’ll even be able to start teaching a few in Korean for those less comfortable with English.”
Despite all the changes, Body & Seoul members will still enjoy the same prices and payment plans as before, and new members will be welcomed with more than a few perks. “We’ve got some specials coming up for newbies only,” Desmarais says. “Come try us out!”
Body & Seoul’s new location is above Tous Les Jours in Gyeongnidan and opened last month. Monthly membership fees are based on class attendance per week, starting at 65,000 won (you’ll get a discount if you pay for multiple months at a time) and going up to 160,000 won for an unlimited membership. A 20,000 won start-up fee is also required, but it’s waived if you sign up for two months or more. If you just want to drop in for a look, that’s okay, too — 15,000 won is all you need for a one-class pass.
Find them at www.seoulmartialarts.com or on Facebook
at Body & Seoul Martial Arts and Fitness Center.