www.groovekorea.com / April 2014 76 edited by Jenny Na (jenny@groovekorea.com) COMMUnITy KicK ass and melt the pudge away Body & Seoul shapes up in a new location A nna Desmarais is a hard-bodied fighter, but she never thought she would be. “Not at any time could I have imagined going to fighting competitions — not ever,” she says. “I was totally out of shape!” This is hard to believe when you see her now, a teeny little spritz of a girl with her hands jammed into boxing gloves; she could probably kill someone with her pinky, though she’d do it oh-so-politely. Standing on the squishy red floor at Body & Seoul, a popular fitness center above Craftworks in Noksapyeo- ng, Desmarais makes a great case for martial arts and isn’t afraid to laud its benefits. “The inner confidence, strength and sense of discipline you gain is incomparable to any other hobby I know,” she says. “And all the while you’re getting in great shape, having fun, making friends and learning new things. I mean, what more can you ask for?” Inspired, motivated and longing for a place to practice her hobby, Desmarais threw some money together and opened up Body & Seoul in 2010. It’s been going strong ever since, attracting folks from all over the city: English teachers, diplomats, businesspeople and stay-at-home moms all train together under the easily forged bond of a mutual goal. “It’s become a center for expat life,” she says, “a non-pretentious place where everyone receives world- class training in a relaxed environment. There aren’t many gyms in the world where you hear so much laugh- ter.” That’s not to say there isn’t a serious amount of work going on here. Muay Thai, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, no-gi grap- pling and Krav Maga classes meet multiple times each week in between sessions of yoga, Pilates and yogalates (a combination of the two). But the most popular class is FightFit, which, despite the name, doesn’t involve fight- ing. “Lots of people take this class on its own to get in shape quickly, regardless of whether they intend to join our martial arts classes,” Desmarais explains, “but often they’ll try some other things in conjunction with FightFit and end up loving it.” FightFit accommodates all levels of fitness and is a favorite among newcomers at Body & Seoul, but it’s a wicked workout for everyone involved (the sweat mop comes out after every class). But words of encourage- ment fly freely from the instructors, lessening the intim- idation factor and availing members to a pure, powerful, ass-kicking experience that’ll melt the pudge away. Unsurprisingly, Body & Seoul’s devoted following has long outgrown the modest space, and Desmarais has answered the call for expansion. “Our new place is double the size, full of new equip- ment and conveniently located just up the street from Story and Photos by Shelley DeWees