Teaching Tampa Bay self-defense

For 18 years, Garret Brumfield prepared himself to fight off an attacker. Now, at Tampa Martial Arts and Self-Defense, he’s training others to stay safe.

His gym is located at the corner of Nebraska Avenue and Bougainvillea Avenue. He specializes in Wing Chun, a form of kung fu that focuses on redirecting an attacker’s aggression. This practice of countering and redirection allows anyone to learn it: men, women and children alike.

Brumfield began studying the style in 2008 under his sifu, or teacher, Justin Och. Now, he can add instructor to his repertoire, which hasn’t been the easiest of transitions.

“It’s tough, because like my sifu I have to make sure I’m showing them how to defend themselves,” Brumfield said. “There’s different personalities in the school, so I have to adjust to everybody’s personality to make sure that what I’m teaching them is correct and that everybody is satisfied as well.”

Unlike larger martial arts schools, Brumfield’s courses are smaller in size, allowing him to give more hands-on training and tips to his students. As a result, Brumfield has formed friendships with his students. Yan Gusinsky, who has been attending classes for over a year, built strong relationships with his peers.

“We’re definitely like a family,” Gusinsky said. “We do a lot of things outside of just the classroom atmosphere. We train together, encourage each other and push each other to be the best we can be.”

Friendships aside, students say they’re getting their money’s worth. They’ve not only seen improvements in their self-defense skills, but also in other aspects of life. Ruben Felix started three weeks ago and already has a different outlook on the challenges ahead of him.

“Life-changing, totally life-changing,” Felix said. “I’m more motivated to achieve anything in life. I feel like Wing Chun gave me a core to actually want to achieve all things in life. Aside from self-defense, I’m keeping fit, and I’m all around a more driven person because of it.”

According to Brumfield, Wing Chun is simplistic in style, so it is a great form to learn for beginners. For advanced students, Tampa Martial Arts provides an excellent environment to perfect techniques. USF student Ivan Koveni practiced the style for two years, but never competed in a tournament until joining Brumfield’s class.

“As a fighter, I’ve become a little more technical, a little more confident,” Koveni said. “Especially because last year we had to go to a tournament. It was my first one. I thought I would never be able to do one, and with the training, I’ve been able to get here, I had to transfer and muster my strengths and the qualities I needed to be able to get into that tournament.”

Learning a martial art is no easy feat, but Brumfield promises to deliver quality instruction that is applicable to the real world.

“The real nitty-gritty stuff is what you learn here in the gym. We do a lot of sparring, a lot of realistic self-defense here. You’re not going to learn it overnight, but it’s rewarding to learn Wing Chun.”

Newcomers can try out five classes for $25 or take one class free of charge.

 

The Lights Fest makes Florida debut

For the first time ever, The Lights Fest and its incredible lantern launch took to the skies in the Sunshine State.

Over the past two weekends, the worldwide festival made its first stop in Florida at the Little Everglades Ranch in Dade City. Originally starting in Utah, The Lights Fest now spans across the United States and Europe. Each location includes food, games and live performances from local artists across the globe. It is a celebration for family and friends as well as a way to find closure and peace. Event Director Tiffany Townsend believes the festival is a way to put troubling matters to bed.

“The Lights Fest is special because it allows people to have closure about certain things,” Townsend said. “What happened in Florida, last week with the school shooting. Some people have bought tickets just to get closure about that, and really that’s what the company is about; giving people closure, giving people hope, giving them a chance to say goodbye to loved ones, and to pray for their loved ones if they’re injured or whatever it may be. So, it’s just a really good chance for people to think about their lives and basically look back at the good things and pray for the not so good things.”

The company has made a conscious effort to be as environmentally friendly as possible. Guests are reminded to properly dispose of their bottles and cans. The lanterns are designed for low flight, making them easier to track down and properly throw away. Even if one is lost, the lanterns are biodegradable, allowing them to break down naturally. The Lights Fest has also adopted a “Leave No Trace” policy, promising to leave venues the way they arrived.

While the festival is an all-day event, its well-known lantern launch is the grand finale. Each guest is given his or her own lantern to decorate and design as they please. Many are encouraged to write wishes, prayers and personal goals on their lanterns. Once they are launched, it is a remarkable sight to see. Samuel Malachowski, who acts as the master of ceremonies during the lantern launch, knows what the spectacle means to its guests.

“The main attraction why people come is for the lantern launch,” Malachowski said. “Just like what people have seen in the movie Tangled, you know it’s something seriously amazing, and it can become quite spiritual and very emotional for people. So, that’s what brings people to the event, and we’re just trying to leave good vibes, a good atmosphere for everyone to hopefully leave as a better person.”

For those interested in the event, The Lights Fest is planning to make Florida a regular stop with four planned events annually. The next two dates this year will be sometime in the fall. Cities such as Jacksonville, Gainesville and Tallahassee have already pre-registered to host future events. With The Lights Fest now touching base in the Tampa Bay area, it is encouraged that people experience the event first-hand.

“It’s just a really good experience. I think everyone should do it at least once in their lifetime, just because it’s a cool thing to experience. Very spiritual. Magical.”