How to Choke People
After TJ Turner’s wife was offered a position as an English professor at Penn State, Turner would have to leave Maryland and find a job in an unknown place.
“When I moved to State College I didn’t have a job, and I met a guy who had just opened a gym, and he trained me on how to be a fitness instructor," Turner describes. "I was always a kickboxing instructor. I would have personal boxing clients that I would teach one on one, but never did I think I was going to be a fitness trainer or own a gym.”
Turner started teaching his wife’s professor friends kickboxing and outdoor training from his garage, but once the winter came he needed a warm place to workout. Loan behold, he bought a gym he would call Momentum Fitness in downtown State College.
With a body covered in Americana inspired tattoos and a passion for trash talk, Turner provides a casual, yet intense vibe that draws in a tight staff and regular patrons.
"The gym is small, and I say there's nobody in my gym I wouldn't want to be friends with," Turner says. "There's no members, there's no clients. I don't call the people clients. They're my friends, and if they're not my friends, like if we don't jive together, they don't workout here."
While Momentum Fitness welcomes anyone seeking an exercise haven, the small space and informal attitudes inhabiting the gym create a close-knit community that motivates people to gather and train together. Momentum Fitness Jiu Jitsu instructor, Jeff Rockwell elaborates on the essence of the training environment.
"Momentum Fitness is a great laid back, yet intense gym. We work out hard, but the vibe is very friendly and relaxed. We laugh a lot. We joke a lot. We're formal when we need to be formal, but we don't hold things too rigid, and we're about having a good time and getting better as a group."
Rockwell later elaborates on Turner's demeanor and role in the gym.
"He's a mad man," Rockwell admits. "He likes to talk a lot of trash, especially when he is losing, but at the same time he pushes himself and pushes other people to new levels with his energy and intensity. He's a great character to have around, and he's one of the leaders in the gym."
Turner teaches the functional training and kickboxing classes at Momentum Fitness, but for his own personal exercise he sought for an intense workout he could look forward to, rather than stick to a laborious routine. Having practiced karate since he was fifteen, naturally, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu sparked Turner’s interest. He would then train with his fellow instructors and gradually reach a point where he was fit to compete. Turner placed first, second and third in various tournaments around the country, but would find himself taking a break from competitions to take care of his, now two-years-old, daughter. While on the subject of his daughter, Turner emphasized how important it is for young women to develop the ability to protect themselves with the self-defense aspect of Jiu Jitsu.