East Coast United more than a martial arts studio
Published 7:10 pm, Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Tucked between a jewelry store and a wine shop on the Post Road is a door that leads one down a long hallway and into a martial arts dojo.
While the adjacent businesses close up shop at least one day a week, East Coast United is never in rest mode.
That's partially because of the business model of personalized instruction and weekend operations.
Co-owner Joe Oppedisano said people get the "one-on-one feeling in a class environment."
A class can sometimes be as small as six people, according to customer Kristen DeLaurentis.
"At other places you're getting no personal attention unless you're paying a lot of money," she said. At East Coast United, DeLaurentis said it's like having a personal trainer for the cost of a monthly membership.
East Coast United, which opened in April, is co-owned by Oppedisano and Alex Nechaev, two men who became friends while training in Jiu Jitsu several years ago at another establishment.
Both have won a slew of grappling titles over the last four years and Nechaev also emerged victorious at the 2006 New England Golden Gloves championships (heavyweight).
They opened East Coast United because they love what they're now doing.
"If it was about the money I wouldn't have left masonry," Oppedisano said.
While East Coast United specializes in Jiu Jitsu, it is also a fitness center as much as it is a martial arts studio.
Children as young as three were taking part in a kids class when the Fairfield Citizen stopped by recently. They were being taught to do the "bear crawl," to "jump like a frog" and to "scoot," among other things.
"When they walk like a monkey, they are working their core," Oppedisano said. "They're having fun. They don't even realize the movements they're doing are helping their body."
The sign on that Post Road door advertises Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, cardio boxing, kickboxing classes, kids and adult classes, pilates and yoga.
The youngest clients of East Coast United are three years old while the oldest, who is taking Jiu Jitsu, is 78.
Though the business has only been around for eight months, it is already expanding.
Oppedisano said a morning class (8 a.m. to 8:45 p.m.) is held at Sherman Elementary School on Tuesday and Thursday morning, and there is an after school class on Mondays starting at 3:30 p.m.
These classes are convenient for parents who have to get to work early or must work some time past when school lets out, business owners said.
"It's easy for parents to know they can just drop off their child at school," Oppedisano said. "We're bringing the training to them."
The morning classes, he added, are invaluable, because children have so much energy and "they need to get some of it out so they can be focused in class."
Lessons include defending against bullies, though no striking techniques are ever taught at the school.
Striking techniques are not needed because Jiu Jitsu stresses grappling, joint locks, how to use leverage against a bigger person, etc. Lessons are never rushed at East Coast United.
"We want to get to know the kids," Oppedisano said. And whether a client is a young child, someome in their 20s, or someone in their 70s, the instructors focus on no more than two techniques a week, rather than a zillion moves. This week the focus is on "arm bars."
Do too many at once, and people will forget them and not master anything, according to Nechaev.
Oppedisano and Nechaev also allow their clients to take lessons at other martial arts studios, unlike other martial arts competitors, who might revoke a client's membership if they heard they were seeking knowledge elsewhere, or praticing grappling techniques with new faces outside the inner circle.
"The only way you get better is by training with other people and other students," Oppedisano said.
One client at East Coast United on Tuesday was Michael Gonzalez, a former Marine and current Trumbull cop.
Gonzalez said what he loves most about East Coast United is the two-hour "open mat" on Saturdays. It's a time when he and others can practice, in freestyle mode, "the moves you worked on all week."
Gonzalez said Oppedisano and Nechaev are doing the right in regards to the quality over quantity classes. In the end, he said, they'll have dedicated clients instead of clients that are here today, gone tomorrow.
Other fitness places may have classes of big numbers, he said, but many don't stay committed because they feel lost in the crowd.
"I know I'd rather have 15 steady clients that come back every week," he said.
For more information about East Coast United, located at 1496 Post Road, call 355-1871 or log onto www.ecuffld.com