With our busy schedules, it’s hard not to fall into the monotony of gym life in order to feel slightly better about waking up next to an empty pizza box two nights in a row. Even so, it just takes one step in the right direction to uncover a whole world of workouts you may never have considered, offering a harder challenge and a greater reward than your average treadmill. As well as offering a space in which to become physically fit and strong, these Cape Town sports clubs empower you with skills to make you grow in confidence every step of the way, whether it be self-defence or self-love. Jess Worsley investigates.
Location: Shop 5, Parklands Centre, 1 Link Rd, Parklands, Cape Town
Classes: Gracie Combatives (beginners), Gracie Master Cycle (advanced), Kids (Little Champs, Junior Grapplers and Black belt club) and sparring
Times: Classes run every day between 10.00 am and 7.45 pm, with sparring on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Since 1925 the Gracie Family has been dedicated to developing Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, recognised worldwide as the single most effective form of self-defence. Today, the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy is a global organization which stands alone in its ability to empower anyone – regardless of age, gender, or athletic ability – using the time-tested techniques and teaching methods perfected over the last century. Utilised by police, military and MMA fighters all over the world, Gracie Jiu-Jitsu is an easy to learn, effective form of self-defence that teaches average people the skills they need to defend themselves against bigger, stronger and more aggressive attackers.
While other Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Clubs are more sportive and competition orientated, Gracie Jiu-Jitsu focuses on self-defence. It is the only Certified Gracie Jiu Jitsu Academy in Africa.
Upcoming events: Gracie Jiu-Jitsu is currently promoting its Women Empowered program starting in August as well as running a Women Empowered Seminar on 9 August (Women’s Day). The studio also runs a Bullyproof program for children from the age of four to teach them confidence and discipline.
What to wear: Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothes.
Location: First Floor, 117 Roeland St, Cape Town
Classes: Pole classes include – Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced levels and Exotic Pole. Non-pole classes include Flex & Bend (stretch classes), and Aerial Silks and Hoop classes (private sessions only).
Times: Classes run every day besides Friday and Sunday. Exotic classes are on Wednesday evenings and Flex and Bend every Tuesday and Saturday.
The Pole Project is a pole dance studio where strength and agility meet sensuality and grace. Based in Gardens, The Pole Project is a space for anyone, of any background, to master the art of pole with no prior dance experience required. As well as being a major confidence booster, pole is a full body core workout and one of the best ways to develop flexibility, balance, endurance, strength and tone.
Learn under a group of skilled instructors who have you covered for your all your pole needs: beginner to advanced classes, exotic pole and Flex & Bend, to keep you strong and supple. The Pole Project instructors are champions in a number of local pole competitions, and two of them even qualified to represent South Africa in the World Pole Sports Championships! They are passionate about showing you the amazing things of which your body is capable, and will undoubtedly inspire you to push it farther.
The Pole Project instructors are also available to host fun pole dancing events such as bachelorette and birthday parties for both an exciting and unique celebration, and are available for hire as entertainers on the pole, silks, hoop and trapeze.
Upcoming events: The Pole Project instructors are preparing for a pole dance first by choreographing and starring in a storytelling production called A Feast of Flight: Alistair in Wonderland, scheduled for July, so stay tuned.
Specials for first-timers: Your intro class is completely free of charge. Try it out at 11am on Saturdays. Make sure to book in advance.
What to wear: Always bring a small towel for wiping the pole, and you’ll want to be showing plenty of skin in order to grip onto the pole. Time to bring out those very short shorts.
Location: Fishhoek – 1st Fish Hoek Scout Hall, 58 Upper Recreation Rd | Observatory – 85 Station Rd
Classes: Classes from Monday to Fridays include beginner Kung fu, Tai Chi, Chi Gung, Fu Fit and TKT.
Times: Classes run all week. Enquire with the instructors for details.
The Chinese Martial Arts Centre has been teaching traditional styles of Kung fu, Tai Chi and Chi Gung in South Africa since 1986. The methods taught are referred to as the Chang Hong system as taught by Master Chen Ching Ho of Taipei, Taiwan. The styles it encompasses have a long history and are well known and practiced throughout the world. The centre maintains its 3000-year-old family traditions while including a modern spin.
Students of all ages can enjoy the dynamic Kung Fu, the more passive Tai Chi, the meditative Chi Gung, high intensity Fu Fit and the TKT self-defence program against knives and firearms.
The Chinese Martial Arts Centre is currently offering a golden ticket for a free week of training at one of their centres.
Location: Groote Schuur Hospital Engineering Building (turn right 200m past traffic circle at the top of Anzio Rd, Observatory)
Classes: All levels train together. The Judokan prefers a minimum age of 12 unless a student has prior experience.
Times: Judo training at the Judokan takes place on Monday and Wednesday evenings at 6.30pm.
Judo, an Olympic sport since 1964, is a physically demanding sport that develops strength, fitness and confidence. The Japanese martial art involves throwing and submission techniques such as armbars, chokes, and pins. Judo is an exciting, whole-body workout for those who enjoy structured, progressive training. The rules in practice and competition revolve around safety and sportsmanship, and the internationally recognised ‘belt system’ indicates the level achieved.
Due to the high intensity, instructors recommend a moderate standard of fitness in order to get the most out of practices. The average class attendance is 20-30 people, with at least two experienced black belt coaches on the mat providing instruction. Instructors coach from beginner to competition standard for those who wish to compete on a national level. The dojo has a dedicated space with the best possible facilities which include two full size Olympic standard mats, numerous crash mats, and a sprung floor. Each 90-minute class consists of a warm-up, technique training and sparring.
Specials for first-timers: The club offers two free trial lessons at the beginning of your training.
What to wear: Students are required to wear a judo gi (suit) to class, but for trial lessons comfortable clothes will suffice. Certain sizes can be purchased at a discounted rate from the Judokan.
Location: Mushindo Aikido Cape Town, cnr. Waterkant and Rose Sts, St. Andrews Church Hall, Cape Town
Classes: Aikido for all ages, weapons classes, private classes, toddlers’ classes, women’s self-defence, and pensioners’ self-defence.
Times: Group classes (2 hours) on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 3pm and 6pm, with Saturday classes at 8am. Toddler classes every Saturday at 12noon. Women’s self-defence every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 5pm. Pensioners’ self-defence runs on Monday at 1pm. Tuesday and Thursday are private classes.
Aikido, referred to as ‘the art of peace’, involves entering and turning movements with the aim of redirecting the momentum of opponents’ attacks and throws and locks to prevent them from attacking. In terms of physicality, Aikido relies less on strength training and muscle isolation and more on controlled relaxation, joint movement, flexibility and endurance. Aikido emphasizes coordinated whole-body movement and balance, and is considered one of the most effective martial arts due to its being purely defensive.
The Mushindo Aikido School of Samurai Martial Arts prides itself on teaching traditional Aikido: The way of Bushido ‘the warrior’ Samurai, and welcomes anyone, from toddlers to those in their nineties. The instructor, trained in Japan every year, offers a unique Japanese style of Aikido, and members of the dojo are treated as a family.
Specials for first-timers: The club offers two weeks free for beginners, as well as a free month of self-defence classes. Toddlers also receive their first month for free.
What to wear: Serious students can order a uniform from the dojo; otherwise wear comfortable clothing.
Community Project: The dojo runs a community project in Hangberg Hout Bay, teaching young people self-defence, and is seeking donations.
Location: Graphic Centre, Shop 2A, 199 Loop St, Cape Town
Classes: Beginner, intermediate, advanced pole and beginner and advanced Exotic Pole.
Times: Classes run all week (excluding Sundays) with intro classes on Saturdays and exotic classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Booking is essential.
Pole Dance Cape Town welcomes anyone of any age to share in the joy of movement, the satisfaction of achieving new goals and the thrill of a body that keeps getting stronger. Their classes keep you hooked with bite-sized challenges as you learn increasingly more difficult tricks each lesson and finish every class with a renewed pride. The studio caters to everyone’s goals: increasing flexibility, enhancing muscle tone, losing weight, getting in touch with your sensual side, or just dancing your heart out!
The studio’s new owner, Chantal Nell, is an aerial artist, former member of Cirque du Soleil and pole sports competitor. With South Africa being an international pole competitor, PDCT has many local champions and international pole superstars regularly visit for workshops and training. This means that the students have the opportunity to take their sport to new heights. The instructors are also available for pole or chair dancing parties either at the studio or off-site.
Upcoming events: The studio’s Annual Showcase is coming up in the last quarter of this year, and amateur and professional students from across Cape Town put months of work into solos, duets and group pieces. The aim of the show is for students to show their friends and families just what this still relatively new sport is all about, and to give them pole goals to work towards.
Specials for first-timers: The studio holds introductory pole fitness classes every week at a reduced rate for those who have never tried pole before. Be sure to book in advance.
What to wear: Bring a small towel and shorts for maximum grip onto the pole.