By VICKI BROWN
Lowcountry Grappling Arts cut the ribbon at their grand opening on Saturday, October 16th with speeches, free food, games and a jump castle.
Co-owners Stephan LaPresta, Dr. Michael Smith, and Bob Mynatt (a professional Judo professor or Sensei) were on hand to welcome the crowd to the opening of the new martial arts center, located at 1106 North Jefferies Blvd. in Walterboro.
Also welcoming the crowd was Colleton County Councilman Dr. Joe Flowers, who stressed the importance of physical activity and of having a healthier Colleton County.
“This year, we have lost one year of longevity because of a lack of physical activity,” said Dr. Flowers. “We need to keep our bodies healthy and to concentrate on improving our health in this county. I am happy to see new ways to promote a healthy lifestyle coming to this area,” he said.
Flowers also congratulated LaPresta, Mynatt and Dr. Smith on the opening of Lowcountry Grappling Arts (LGA).
Grappling is a combat sport that focuses on ground-fighting by using throws, takedowns, pins, choke holds and leverages. It is a form of wrestling that uses holding techniques like leg locks, arms locks, and chokes on the opponent to make him or her surrender by using a tapping motion of the hand or “tap-out.”
Jiu-jitsu specializes in ground-fighting, and a match usually begins with opponents standing up followed quickly by a takedown. Then pins, or chokes and leverages are applied.
Austin Barnett has been taking classes for years.
“Grappling and Jiu Jitsu is perfect for me. I am not a tall guy or big at all, but with this sport, you don’t have to be. This is the only sport where a 110-pound person can take down a 310 pound person. I know I can be effective in a combat scenario. The people here are so friendly and so welcoming. It’s a great environment to be in and to be around people who are always happy to see you. These people want you to become a better person and athlete. This sport speaks to the competitor in me,” said Barnett. “We have won medals and it feels satisfying. You can be in any weight class and still win.”
Dr. Michael Smith of Walterboro Family Practice is a co-owner of LGA and can’t say enough about the sport.
“Jiu-Jitsu has literally transformed my life. It teaches you discipline, gets you physically into shape. I started this at 50 years old, and this sport teaches you everything you need to be a healthy, whole person,” said Dr. Smith.
Co-owner Stephan LaPresta said he is excited about his new venture. “I have been grappling and wrestling in this community since I was 15 years old,” he said. “I learned martial arts and moved back to Colleton County and saw that there was a void for health and wellness in this community.
“Jiu Jitsu covers so many bases in health, and I incorporate it with yoga. You learn how to stand, how to move, how to be more mobile and work out smarter, while learning how to defend yourself,” said LaPresta.
He has expanded his hours to a four-day schedule to accommodate his 20-plus students and anyone else who is interested in yoga and martial arts. He even has classes for kids, and most of his classes are in the evenings for those who work or are in school.
“We are doing something good for the community…we are going to change lives here at LGA,” said LaPresta.
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