Prime Gym Time: Rising Phoenix Martial Arts

| September 21, 2014 | 0 Comments


The mass of brick came into view as my GPS directed me down yet another side street, the rutted New Hampshire pavement giving my pickup truck a workout as I rolled up to my destination. Looking straight ahead I saw one of the main streets of Dover, New Hampshire; traffic moving by at a carefree pace, and wondered why my GPS had sent me through unkempt neighborhoods. There was an bit of irony there, as I’d come to the school to teach a short seminar on the practicality of deception, distraction and misdirection in self-defense. Touché, GPS.

A bright red sign hanging over the sidewalk caught my eye, the school’s namesake bird emblazoned upon wood and promising some of what I’ve craved for so long: Good old-fashioned karate. I took the steps up to the top floor, the old mill building’s wooden slats, appearing to be original to the building, creaking under my feet. The noise was slowly drowned out by the sounds of a shouting voice funneling down the hallways. It was the sound of vocal intensity you hear in confident instructors, those precious gems of wisdom finding every ear in the room, and thus I was serenaded as I entered Rising Phoenix Martial Arts.

The hybrid Shaolin Kenpo and Muay Thai school was packed to the gills for their open house, eager eyes devouring the scene as Troy Pickering illustrated the dying art of Catch Wrestling for a new audience. It’s a style of brutal efficiency that has left its greatest ambassadors as broken husks late in their lives, yet Troy moved like a cat. He demonstrated how to fight through a guard from standing and lock on a classic side strangle, bringing a wince out of Cody Lightfoot despite the tremendous size disparity between the two. If Cody winced at the side strangle, he hollered out loud as Troy showed off Catch wrestling’s nastiest trick: The shin lock. How does one describe that feeling of your bones bending? We’ll just go with “unpleasant” and leave it at that.

Next up, Cody Lightfoot dragged himself off the mats and showed the crowd; a mix of karate students, MMA fighters, and interested parties that had attended the event, the fundamentals of wrestling takedowns. While some fighters learn wrestling in the MMA gym, Cody displayed the proper techniques that are used on the colligate mats today. High doubles, penetration steps and arm drags had half the class hurling through the air at a time, with the younger karate students delighting in sending the adults to the canvas; the truth of the technique coming to light at their fingertips.

I took to the mat as the final instructor of the day, giving a short demonstration on the practicality of distractions and deceptions in combat. While my oration in public again reminded me of why I spend most of my time behind a keyboard, I talked of the complexity of the human mind under duress, of why we train for muscle memory to free our cortex of labor, and how we can make use of the weaknesses in the mind of enemies. Muay Thai instructor Keegan Hornstra was kind enough to play a part in my demonstrations of tactical entry and muscle mechanics. It’s a true friend that will allow you to throw finger whips at their face.

I had missed the beginning of the seminar; Dave Spero showing off some No-gi BJJ self defense tactics, but Keegan took up the pads to show off his bread and butter talent in Muay Thai instruction. He had the demeanor of an old world Thai working a student towards Lumpinee, shouting commands as Troy and Cody deafened the crowd with the impact of their shots. All the while, Keegan wheeled and presented targets, his sharp eye scanning the posture and execution. This was Keegan’s new home to train another generation of fighters, and his intensity showed he would leave plenty of his own blood and sweat on these mats in that endeavor.


I spoke to Brian Eibert and his wife Jaie about their own martial arts journey, and the differences between the worlds of MMA and self-defense. The Eiberts impressed me with their demeanor and open-mindedness towards MMA, and had shown their abilities as instructors with the younger members of the crowd who had attended the event. Teaching martial arts to children takes a particular tone and understanding, and the couple showed their professionalism in spades. Having been raised within martial arts myself, I could respect their dedication to the craft and ability to imprint it safely and effectively into younger minds.



Inside Rising Phoenix Martial Arts

From left to right: Cody Lightfoot, Justin Harty, Keegan Hornstra, Brian Eibert, Mike Hammersmith

Overall, the event was a hit and showed the wealth of instruction available in the area, with Cody Lightfoot, Troy Pickering and Dave Spero all running shop just short drives away. If you’re interested in delving into Shaolin Kenpo, for yourself or your children, or have the urge to crush pads held by attentive hands, this school will meet and exceed expectations in terms of quality instruction.

A big thank you to Rising Phoenix Martial Arts for having me, and be sure to visit for more information about both instructional and conditioning classes offered under their roof. Also thank you to Prime Athletics for providing me with the quality gear I needed to undertake the class. Prime Athletics is the premier MMA clothing company locally, with their wares sold at many of the local events. Follow them on facebook and keep an eye out for their fall line coming out shortly.



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Category: 3Col, School Spotlight

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