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Shaddock MMA Fitness Academy in Eldersburg using virtual classes, contests to keep members strong

John Shaddock is counting the days until he’s able to re-open Shaddock MMA Fitness Academy in full.

Until then, the Sykesville resident is doing what he can to maintain workout routines and classes for his clients by hosting virtual sessions and giving people unique physical activities to try amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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“Trust me, I’m champing at the bit. But I don’t know what’s going on right now,” Shaddock said. “It gets me out of the house, and to be honest with you I’m in better shape now. Sometimes you can coach and you can be the gym teacher with the whistle, so to speak, but with this you can’t. You have to be active, you have to demonstrate the movements and do the exercises with the clients.”

Shaddock, 51, established his Eldersburg-based mixed-martial arts workout facility 12 years ago, and has spent most of his life involved in combat sports. He started wrestling at age 3, and placed third in the New York private school championships as a freshman in high school.

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Shaddock later pursued boxing, and was a two-time Golden Gloves finalist in Vermont. Throughout his life he has trained in multiple martial arts, including Aikido, Gaijin Ryu jiu-jitsu, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Shorin Ryu karate, Jeet Kune Do, and catch wrestling.

Shaddock said he teamed with a consultant within the last year to help run his academy’s website, and through that he was able to communicate with other martial arts facility owners.

John Shaddock welcomes students with a bow to start his live online Kids Jiu-Jitsu class at his academy, Shaddock MMA Fitness, in Eldersburg on Thursday, April 30.
John Shaddock welcomes students with a bow to start his live online Kids Jiu-Jitsu class at his academy, Shaddock MMA Fitness, in Eldersburg on Thursday, April 30. (Brian Krista/Carroll County Times)

Shaddock said “as soon as [the pandemic hit], we spoke about doing” virtual classes for interested clients.

“A lot of the kids are into it, a lot of fun stuff. The adults not so much,” he said. “I do have a couple of really dedicated people, a couple of diehards. For the most part it’s mainly the kids.”

Shaddock set up a 30-day challenge throughout April for the younger group. Finishing household chores earn contestants points, and Shaddock said he also makes them perform a physical fitness activity. Contestants are required to participate in one of the MMA Academy’s classes to complete the challenge, and Shaddock said prizes are awarded to the winners.

“That’s something that keeps them engaged,” said Shaddock, who has another month-long challenge designed for May.

Shaddock has Fridays set for story time, and said he’s using the “Way of the Warrior Kid” books written by Jocko Willink, an ex-Navy SEAL. On Saturdays, it’s a night in with Shaddock inviting his younger clients on a virtual scavenger hunt.

“You want to keep people hopefully wanting to come back to your place,” he said. “I could have shut it down and just said, ‘Screw it,’ and threw the towel in. But that’s just not me.”

Shaddock’s weekly classes usually run Monday through Thursday, and he has three virtual sessions going right now — boxing, jiu-jitsu, and weight training. When he’s allowed to resume normal hours and can utilize his academy, Shaddock said there will be social distancing classes to accommodate his members.

For parents who want to monitor their children’s classes, Shaddock said he’ll set up a Zoom video conference so the adults can watch from the parking lot.

Younger members with jiu-jitsu practice dummies will be allowed to bring them into the academy for classes. Shaddock MMA Fitness Academy will become sort of a “hybrid gym,” Shaddock said.

“I understand there are going to be people that are still going to be scared,” he said. “I had one member say we’re going to wait until there’s a vaccine before I bring my child back in.”

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John Shaddock gives instruction to his students during a live online Kids Jiu-Jitsu class at his academy, Shaddock MMA Fitness, in Eldersburg on Thursday, April 30.
John Shaddock gives instruction to his students during a live online Kids Jiu-Jitsu class at his academy, Shaddock MMA Fitness, in Eldersburg on Thursday, April 30. (Brian Krista/Carroll County Times)

Frustration mounts with each news cycle regarding the coronavirus, Shaddock said, but he said he’ll be ready for whatever new rules and regulations will be handed out.

“I’ve actually had people call me up ready to come into the gym. I don’t think we’re going to be open in May,” he said. “Probably in June, realistically, hopefully. And then even when we come in in June, I’m making provisions. ... It’s definitely a whole new world.”

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