DuBOIS — In June 2023, REAKT Fighting Arts & Fitness at 301 Aspen Way in DuBois will celebrate five years of instilling strength and confidence to athletes of all ages.

Lance and Paige Thompson are a powerhouse husband and wife team that runs the gym together, offering a combination of authentic adult and youth jiu jitsu and mixed martial arts classes, as well as women’s only strength and conditioning morning and evening sessions. REAKT coaches aim to also promote team building, family, community and living a healthy lifestyle.

Lance, who has an extensive wrestling background and is a “Renzo Gracie” black belt in jiu jitsu, said prior to opening the gym with his business partner in 2018, he was driving to Pittsburgh to train in Brazilian jiu jitsu and mixed martial arts. He developed more of a passion for jiu jitsu, competing in the sport that he describes is like “a human game of chess.”

While Brazilian jiu jitsu focuses on the concept of “grappling” and ground fighting, and is more similar to wrestling, Japanese jiu jitsu focuses on attacking and joint manipulation, and can be both very physical or laid back, Lance explained.

Shaping youth

There are several benefits when it comes to area youth participating in fighting arts classes, said Lance. Some kids have been going to the gym since it opened in June 2018, including his daughter. One of the biggest benefits, he said, is learning to deal with confrontation and standing up for themselves.

“Jiu jitsu teaches them to trust themselves, and understand their body and what they are capable of,” he said.

Lined up

It encourages youth to develop skills like confidence, strength, balance and coordination, and is also a social outlet for them. It’s a rewarding feeling to see youth develop a love for the sport, going on to participate in competitions themselves, Thompson said.

Martial arts also teach people how to use their legs effectively, and the use of their bodies to defend themselves, crucial in situations such as crimes against women, for example.

This is something that both Thompson and his wife, Paige, are familiar with, as they are both police officers in the DuBois area. Paige spearheads the women’s fitness section of REAKT, and also started doing jiu jitsu around two years ago.

Thompson said he has used the art of jiu jitsu while on duty.

People of all ages can come in and train, and jiu jitsu moves can be modified depending on the person. Grappling on the mat has also been known to help people with back and knee issues, flexibility, building strength and conditioning.

Group jiu jitsu shot

Thompson and REAKT coaches Scott Rendos and Jason Frawley have traveled all over the country to train and compete in jiu jitsu. One of the gym’s coaches, L.J. Thickenworth, went to Thailand in February to train in muay thai, a form of kickboxing.

REAKT brings many people into DuBois from several areas, including Elk and Jefferson counties, Kane and Indiana, to name a few. People will also come in to train from different states.

The goal has always been to offer something unique to the area, Thompson added.

One could say jiu jitsu “paved the way” for where REAKT is now. It has grown immensely on the fitness side of things, and since incorporating more marketing and getting the word out about what the gym offers, Thompson said.

It’s been fulfilling for the Thompsons to pass down their passions and share hobbies with their three daughters, he said, and REAKT helps them all stay active. It’s comforting, too, that their children will grow up knowing self defense and how to protect themselves.

“As a family, it’s been nice to build this together,” he said. “It’s worth it, to see all of the lives that have been changed.”

It’s important to give back to the community that supports them, Thompson said. They also hold local events, such as the “Ruck and Roll” held the past two years, a “murph challenge” –or CrossFit workout –in honor of Memorial Day and Sept. 11 and sponsoring the CG Johnson Elementary School runners’ group and donating to organizations like the DuBois Jaycees.

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With the help of other female fitness coaches, Paige Thompson says it has been “truly incredible” and fulfilling to see how hard the women at REAKT work, and to see the changes in each and every one of them over time.

Paige –who was an athlete in school and now works as a DuBois State Police trooper –said she has been driven to focus on improving her strength and fitness.

Kettlebell swings

Ladies are pictured doing a “kettlebell swing” exercise at REAKT Fighting Arts and Fitness. 

“Since opening the gym, I discovered a drive to not only do this for myself, but to also share what I’ve learned, from so many people, and help other women achieve their strength and overall fitness goals,” she said. “It always feels good to do something for yourself, but it means so much more to be an avenue for other women to be successful.”

There is always a coach to help guide people through the workouts and strength training, Lance noted, and the coaches work together. It’s rewarding to see women helping other women.

“We focus on a fun atmosphere where everyone is included,” Lance said. “Our instructors learn everyone’s names. We all laugh and have fun.”

The goal is to keep the overall atmosphere at REAKT warm and welcoming –not intimidating. Whether it’s in fighting arts or fitness, people can improve their skills and overall health in an enjoyable way, training at whatever level they are comfortable with, Paige said.

Stephanie Visniesky

Stephanie Visniesky is pictured lifting at REAKT Fighting Arts and Fitness. 

“The girls in our fitness program have an amazing time with one another, and discover that training with a planned program by our coaches and in a group setting limited to women, leads to a much better experience overall.”

REAKT will only continue to grow in both fighting arts and fitness. It will also be hosting a free class for law enforcement each month, and soon acquire the space next door to the gym, making more room for the fitness activities for women. The goal is to eventually make REAKT a 24/7-accessible gym.

REAKT’s Fighting Arts coaches are Lance Thompson, LJ Thickenworth, Eric Bennington, Jason Frawley, Scott Rendos, Doug Manners and R.J. Fotta, and its fitness coaches are Paige Thompson, Vanessa Lettich, Brielle Johnston and Kimberly Sweitzer.

Visit www.reaktbjj.com and REAKT Fighting Arts & Fitness on Facebook.


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