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.