Martial plans

Blitz Fitness offers a mix of classes for all ages.


It’s never too late to try something totally different — it’s never too early, either. Whether looking to enhance mental and physical strength, or to build respect and patience in your children, martial arts is a great place to start. Blitz Fitness in Tisbury has a variety of disciplines available for several different age groups, from toddlers to seniors. 

One essential lesson that any youth sport will teach kids is respect and accountability. With martial arts, you only get out what you put in. Catie Blake, a fifth-degree black belt, martial arts instructor, and owner of Blitz Fitness, said kids first learn how to control their emotions and their bodies. “That is one of the harder things to master. We all struggle with self-control, but it’s such an important part of martial arts,” Blake said. “Respect, they learn that right out of the gate — not talking over each other, waiting their turns.”

The tiny tigers group goes from ages 3 to 8. According to Blake, most martial arts disciplines use a ranking system based on colored belts: a white belt denotes the most novice level, and a black belt is more or less the top of the pile (although there are even higher levels). Within taekwondo (Blake’s specialization), there are many different skills that need to be developed. Kicking and striking are mainstays of taekwondo, whereas jiujitsu and Brazilian jiujitsu are focused mainly on subduing your opponent while on the ground. 

At Blitz Fitness, it doesn’t matter what discipline someone chooses — it takes many years to climb the ranks all the way to black belt. “It’s far from a quick thing. One of my students, Joey, started when he was 7 or 8. He is now 17, and has not yet achieved his black belt, so it’s a very serious process,” Blake said. “We teach beginners to come to attention, to bow. We teach them cat stances, front stances, and we work a lot on agility and balance.”

According to Blake, jiujitsu, taekwondo, karate, and other forms of martial arts all go hand in hand, as they each teach essential skills that inform proper technique. 

In many instances, a standing fight can go to the ground in the blink of an eye. Blake said those who wish to truly be successful in martial arts, whether it’s competition or simple self-defense, should be proficient in both their standing and their ground game. 

But in most cases, martial arts isn’t about fighting — it’s about learning when not to, and having the self-control to diffuse a situation before it becomes violent. “We teach you how to fight so that you never have to. When you are teaching children, you can’t teach them fighting skills unless they have self-control. Because if something doesn’t go their way, they can’t use kicks and punches to solve those problems,” Blake said. She added that self-control is what sees you through the martial arts classes, and keeps you on the road to your black belt. 

No one gets to the highest ranks without wanting to quit at some point, Blake said, and it’s all about the support systems that are in place to encourage that child to keep on training and working hard. 

For decades, Blake has watched kids come into their own through martial arts — eventually finding self-confidence and strength they never knew they had. “Parents have no idea what their kids are capable of. I’ve seen kids through the program that are now married with children,” Blake said. “Very rarely does a kid get their black belt who doesn’t go into some sort of medical or fitness field, because they are trained so young to be physical. One of my black belts is now the gym teacher at the high school. We have nutritionists, personal trainers, occupational therapists, and physical therapists.”

After so many years of grueling training, Blake said, she is confident she can achieve anything she sets her mind to — just another benefit of getting into martial arts at a young age. “If you can get through that black belt test, you can get through pretty much anything life throws at you. It’s that confidence that you can’t achieve without going through something that truly pushes you to your limits, and coming out on top,” Blake said. 

Neila Silva, a jiujitsu instructor at Blitz Fitness, said she started taking classes in 2012, a little later on in her life than most martial artists normally start. “I had friends doing it, and I had always been interested in martial arts. I absolutely wanted to learn how to defend myself, but my friends also kept telling me I was very strong, and I thought I might as well put that to some use,” Silva laughed. “Not that you have to be strong to do jiujitsu, but it does help.”

As you train and learn, Silva said, you build strength, confidence, and trust in your teachers and fellow students. Folks also build lifelong friendships out of the classes they take, and the studio starts to feel more and more like home. “I really love the people at Blitz. I love Catie — we’ve been friends for a long time,” Silva said. “The grappling mats are always down and always clean and ready to go.”

Brazilian jiujitsu (BJJ) is a ground-fighting discipline involving chokes and grappling. The dynamic usually plays out with one person defending a choke or submission while on the ground, and the attacker trying to “break the guard” of the defender. Silva explains that most offensive moves target the joints of an opponent, which allows a lighter, weaker opponent to successfully attack and succeed in a fight against someone who is bigger or stronger. BJJ practitioners generally use chokes, strangles, and joint locks to overcome their opponents, mostly from a sports perspective. Japanese jiujitsu mostly focuses on throwing opponents, joint manipulation, striking and blocking, and some chokes and strangulations — all from a self-defense perspective.

“You can choke their neck, their arms, their legs — pretty much any of their limbs. You can use their clothing to choke them,” Silva said. “We usually wear what we call a gi, but if you need to defend yourself somewhere, and of course you hope that never happens, you aren’t going to be like, ‘Wait a second, let me put my gi on.’”

All jokes aside, Silva said, the goal of jiujitsu is always to get your opponent to the ground, and get them to tap out. Through all that pain (both giving and receiving), Silva described the intense connection she feels with those she trains with, saying that the shared experience brings people together in a unique and unusual way. 

The phrase “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” seems to be most applicable when talking about jiujitsu and all martial arts. “The physical pain is very, very real, so your emotional pains become a lot easier to handle. The world just seems a lot easier to take on after training,” Silva said. 

Silva is a purple belt in Brazilian jiujitsu, which is the intermediate adult ranking. A national federation regulates competitions and rankings, called the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation. How long it takes to progress through the ranks is determined by the tenacity, natural ability, and time availability of the student, along with the rules of the individual studio. 

Silva has had her purple belt for almost five years, and in order to go to the next belt, she needs to master a few core movements and tenets. Some teachers will test students on certain skills, while other teachers will simply watch their students and present the belt when they deem them ready. 

Silva spent three years with her blue belt (the rank below purple), and when she finally got her purple belt, it was a big surprise. “I was grappling with my teacher and, believe it or not, he undid my belt and put my new purple belt on me without me even noticing,” she laughed. 

Although Silva said one of her favorite aspects of martial arts at Blitz Fitness is being able to compete against students from other schools and studios, the greatest joy, for her, is finding comfort and support from her friends and teachers who have spent many years training alongside her. 

“It’s a shared experience for all of us, whether you want to just be more active or for the self-defense idea of it, or really any other circumstance, it becomes a family that you love,” Silva said. 


  1. This is a great program. My daughter started in the 3rd grade and received her black belt when she was a freshman in high school. It taught her descipline and technicques that helped her throughout her school studies, sports and now her career. She started as a personal trainer and is now a PE/Health teacher. There have been many times that I watched my daughter spar and it used to make me very nervous. She has never had to use her training in the real world so far, which makes me happy. But I am confident in the fact that she knows what to do if she had to protect herself. Having a female daughter it was nice to know she could protect herself if she really had to.

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