When I first heard the name Fit To Fight it brought to mind Cross Fit. I imagined several buff dudes in a clean atmosphere benignly beating up on each other. After attending a workshop they hosted last fall I realized I was a teeny bit off in my imaginary assessment. Okay, a lot off…. They were described at that time as, “Wonder Woman Island,” and that is pretty damn accurate. When I had met several of their crew at EWO I was (still am) on a journey of how I viewed we should be teaching women’s self defense. After holding conversations with instructors and students there, I realized the holes that I had seen in WSD had not only been addressed with their program, but had been thoroughly thought through and fixed. To say I was impressed was an understatement. It is not just me either, several well known people in the industry have talked about what Fit to Fight has brought to the self defense world.
Wanting to know more about how they operate my husband and I loaded up our 12 passenger van with 7 kids, a dog, a cat, and sparring gear to spend the month of March at their Charlotte facility. We filled their kids classes up, because that’s what we do, and trained 5-6 times a week. Two of the weekends were special programs/workshops. The first was their Instructors Training Course which was three days of learning what they expected when being a coach and affiliate of Fit To Fight. If you wanted to train and teach at their gyms, this was a necessary three day course. They also supplemented it in with a 3 hour Multiple Attackers Seminar which I found incredibly informative and helpful. We finished the month with Unlisted (you can read my EIR on that here- ) and rolled back home, the month had gone by too fast.
What makes them special? What would make me want to go and live for a month in Charlotte, better yet, convince my spouse that we needed to uproot our family and lives and see what this was about?
Fit To Fight, formerly known as RHEK, a fun acronym that stands for Ryan Hoover’s Extreme Karate. Yeah….marketing has improved in the last few years, I have a feeling that is likely due to Amber…. Either way names aside, it is working and it is growing. Gym owners from all over the United States and other countries come to Charlotte, NC to become affiliates. Why? Because its effective and because a need was there and they filled it. Ryan, a black belt in Krav Maga Worldwide, is co author of their books Krav Maga for Beginners, Krav Maga for Women, and Black Belt Krav Maga. He took what was essentially over 200 moves from KM and broke them down. He threw out the impractical, essentially shrinking the quantity, while upping the quality and reps. It’s productive and essential and it works. What they teach ranges from your everyday weapons, knives, guns, and yourself. My older kiddos and I attended several of their Foundations classes during our month there. Right off the bat you are learning valuable things that will have you leaving that one class just a little safer than when you went in.
Social media wise Fit to Fight is a Krav Maga gym, but they are so much more. They run fitness classes, personal training, sparring courses, jiu jitsu, and weapons training. Everything you need to know just to start a self defense journey broken down so simply that their Foundations class is probably the most apt named course I have ever been a part of. Every instructor and gym owner seems to have explanation down to an art. Hell I watched Morgan break down a kick via flicking the mud off her shoe; the dawning, comprehension, and correction immediately afterward was impressive. Don’t get me started on her Husband Adolfo’s ballerina waves for arm drags…. “Don’t look at me…”
The biggest issue I have seen with women’s self defense is the lack of women. The people who need it most are not the ones that are going to walk into a gym for a little ground and pound. They are not looking to be in the UFC, finding time is always a factor, and the whole idea of learning to fight even in a self defense aspect is intimidating. Fit To Fight realized this so they adapted and changed. I mean how else to you go from RHEK to Fit To Fight… (gosh the next class I take under Ryan I will be shadowboxing for days…..)
At EWO I was surprised by the fact that there were just women attending in the first place, and not only that they could hold their own. Another thing noticed was how approachable each of them were. It is very common to find women in this industry that are cold and to be honest I think that sometimes the gym can create that roughness in order for them to survive that environment, but that’s a topic for another day.
There are people from all walks of life training at Fit to Fight, all levels of skill in martial arts. They can ease you in well by starting with a good heavy bag class (which by the way is a blast) and within a couple of years be nudged seamlessly into sparring in Sparology and rolling in Jiu Jitsu. I met several people who started out from either a position of fear or a position of not thinking they could even do martial arts. One of them received her black belt the weekend of Unlisted and it was an absolute privilege to watch her fight and claw her way to something she had worked so hard to achieve. This wasn’t a “for the feint of heart,” test either, it was three days of grueling drills, one I barely survived. Everyone starts somewhere and one of Fit to Fights monikers is “Everyone is Fighting Something.”
I cannot begin to describe the wide range of people that attend classes there. I have never seen a more diverse group. They have all ages, I am talking from 12-70, all different points in health, even mix of sexes in students as well as instructors, all races, all orientations; I have not seen such diversity anywhere else. I attended their Sparology class that was taught by tiny petite, Anya who was well respected for her knowledge by the many much larger men in her class. It is that exact way with all of the female and male instructors there. One of the Jiu Jitsu teachers is Riley Hoover, he is 18 and a wealth of information on all things JJ. Whereas some could write him off as being too young his maturity and knowledge place him at the top. Riley has absolutely no ego and has one of the best personalities of a person I have ever met. They all do, I met zero people with arrogance, just a desire to learn more.
To expand on the lack of ego I have met, trained with, and learned under at least six affiliate gym owners across the country because they were back at Charlotte to train in various seminars. I am not kidding when I say that every gym owner I met was amazing to work with, talk to, learn from, run ideas by, and just a general good person with an innate desire to help people become safer. They weren’t trying to sell me anything as an owner, I was just a person training with them in various things; that speaks so much about one’s character. The other part was how many of them were constantly in and out of the Charlotte studio. Their mindset was not that they HAD to travel there to maintain consistent training, they WANTED to be, and their intensity and love of what they do is catching.
A couple of days ago Fox 46 Charlotte showed up at Fit to Fights Grace Self Defense training seminar. The proceeds of this seminar went to Safe Alliance, a non profit that helps women coming out of abusive situations. The news crew was not asked to be there, in fact Fit to Fight did not know they were coming. They came because Fit to Fight is known as the top dogs for their self defense. The community recognizes them for being a safe and effective place for women to come and learn no matter where you are in your walk.
Fit to Fight, formerly RHEK (sorry couldn’t resist throwing that one in there again, I seriously want to see this in a neon sign somewhere…) has a mission statement of Question. Disrupt. Innovate. Inspire. Do.
And that’s exactly what they do. They adapt and grow and mix it all with a full fledge desire to help people become safer. As a person who writes about and has a driving passion for women’s self defense, this crew and affiliates are top notch. Check them out, they are likely near you. Also they have an awesome T-shirt I bought that says, “I will come at you like a 1000 coked up Mike Tysons….” What’s not to like?
“There is a tendency for men to teach self defense from their lens and statistically that’s not helpful. My job is to make her safer and her safer, not saying its not my job to make him safer, but that is easier.” Ryan Hoover
List of Fit to Fight Affiliates that I have met, got to know, trained with and trained under.
Note there are many instructors, I am only listing the ones I have taken a class or drilled with. I am sure the rest are just as awesome. Also this list is long so that is saying something about Fit to Fights quality and quantity. Must be doing something right.
Fit To Fight Charlotte, NC:
Morgan Salas- Instructor and Manager. The first person I ever met with Fit to Fight and it was a warm welcome. She teaches several classes at the Charlotte location as well as women’s only programs. I was able to witness the beneficial after effects from several gals I met there.
Adolfo Salas- Instructor. I was able to take a private lesson from him while there and he managed to cram quite a bit of essential and memorable things that were imperative. Loves to talk about and teach knives.
Anya Wallace- Instructor Sparology. Took several classes from her; she has a amazing ability to break down a kick when you don’t think you need the break down.
Riley Hoover- Instructor Jiu Jitsu. I think everyone who has been around Riley can agree that he is one of the best training partners to have. He is not pushy and always has a great attitude and a love for what he does.
Anthony Joseph- Instructor Jiu Jitsu. Anthony has the best personality for teaching women in jiu jitsu. It can be intimidating and Anthony is professional. He is kind and truly made me have a better love for it. I knew it was needed, I just didn’t enjoy it; he was able to drag that part out of me in a month.
Joe Manz- Instructor Kids Class, “Pride.” Well he dealt with my herd for a month so that is saying enough….. Joe is great with kids, he can maintain attention while teaching them something worthwhile. As a mom even I find that hard to do.
Ernest Owens- Instructor Foundations. He may not know this but he broke down footwork so simply on something I had been trying to work on for months. That one five minute blurb was game changing for me.
Tanja Owens- Instructor. Amazing training partner and amazing human. She and Ernest will both make you feel incredibly welcome and less stupid when you walk in.
Fit to Fight Gastonia NC:
Amber Stalinski- Instructor, Manager, General all around in everything BA. Amazing teacher and coach. She also runs classes, courses, seminars, and workshops at the Charlotte facility. She is kind, down to earth and is never too busy to answer any question I have thrown at her.
Endeavor Self Defense Hilliard, OH (basically Columbus)
Aaron Janetti- Owner. Incredible teacher. I have had the pleasure of working/drilling with him at EWO, learning from him in Unlisted, and then being his student in his Knife Control Concepts course. Awesome and uplifting human who coaches with absolute clear direction.
Brooke Hughes- Instructor. Earned her black belt while I attended Unlisted. She is a kind and awesome drilling partner for someone who thought their thumb was snapped off. We legit fought over a pistol on a queen sized bed in the shoot house, that makes us friends for life.
Mike Cheney- Instructor. I spent literally only 30 minutes in a jiu jitsu workshop with him running the show. It was a very worthwhile 30 minutes. He reminded me of Anthony Joseph in his teaching style and I swear as a female I feel that is rare in jiu jitsu instructors.
Krav Oz Germantown, MD (basically DC)
Chantell Prescott- Program Director. I had the privilege to be on this lady’s team while she tested for her black belt. Phenomenal person and literally the number one person I would want if I was in a position where I needed a tourniquet or first aid. Serious BA with awesome bedside manner.
The Mat Martial Arts & Fitness Cedar Park, TX (basically Austin)
Alec Rains- Owner. There is so much you can tell by drilling with someone while a sweaty mess. This guy is kind, informative, quick to explain clearly, and just a general kind person. This wasn’t just an assessment from me, I heard this from several other people as well about how when they visited Austin he took time to make them feel welcome.
Midwest Krav Maga St Charles, MO (basically St Louis)
Paul Fritche- Owner. I have had the pleasure of drilling with Paul on two different occasions. One at EWO last November and at Unlisted where he basically used me to wipe the floor during the circle of death drill. This was a consensual drill so don’t let that scare you off of his gym, he is great and and has awesome control. Very encouraging individual.
Ben Hanks- Instructor Sparring and BJJ coach. I got to know Ben during the Instructors Training Course as well as Unlisted. He is a fun training partner and the fact that he was there twice in one month on his own dime is telling about the quality of what we were learning so that he could take it back to St. Louis. Also really nice since I kept mixing him up with someone I met at EWO, he was super gracious about it, I however am embarrassed…..
Krav Maga Cleveland Warrensville Heights, OH (so like Cleveland)
Amitt Maranganti- Owner. I met Amitt at both Instructors Training Weekend and Unlisted. He is serious and fun at the same time. Quick, to the point and there to learn as much as he could to bring back to his gym. Also has a hell of a bi@t$ slap, which should not be off putting at all because he can teach it to you effectively AND explain why its important to know.
Eli Knight- Paducah, Kentucky
Apparently if you do Jiu Jitsu, you know who Eli Knight is. I didn’t until my husband fan girled about him when he found out Eli was in my EWO class last November. I just know him as a humble and general all around nice guy. He is lead instructor at 3Rivers Martial Arts and IS Knight Jiu Jitsu. He is constantly running seminars at Fit to Fight so if you get a chance to learn from him, jump on it and at the very least check out his YouTube channel Knight Jiu-Jitsu.
Author- Christun Erwin
"Thank you for your words. They make an impact and its important that, human to human, woman to woman, mother to mother... you know that you make a difference, even to those you never knew your words" -Krystal