A new school for mixed-martial arts, American Top Team, held its grand opening in Whitestone last month.
And although the facility bears a striking resemblance to a gym — with instructors leading students in exercises and equipment such as boxing bags lining the walls — the school’s owner and top instructor cautioned against using the term.
“It’s not a gym, this place. It’s a team,” said David Martucci, who owns the Whitestone facility, at 13-15 131st St., and another in Jackson Square, L.I.
He explained that instead of students being identified by numbers on their gym membership cards, his style was to provide a place where everyone knew everyone else by name. It was so close-knit, he said, that instructors would call students who missed a class to see if they were OK.
And, indeed, as Martucci spoke, he often had to pause in mid-sentence to greet a student who came over to say hello or give a high-five.
Martucci said this approach helps clients get results, and he expects the Queens facility to have the same friendly atmosphere as the one on Long Island.
“It’s going to be a great thing for the community,” he said.
David Martucci grew up in Whitestone and said he took his first martial arts class in Flushing when he was 13. Since then, he has gone on to train in multiple martial arts and other disciplines around the world, including boxing in Cuba, jiujitsu in Brazil and kickboxing in Thailand.
He said he brought the American Top Team school to the borough because he saw a huge demand. Some of his students in the Long Island school were coming out from Queens, he said, and he said he went straight to Whitestone to try to find a space.
“I knew I wanted Whitestone because I knew the demographic because I grew up here,” he said.
The school is on the second floor of a nondescript building surrounded by a mix of warehouses, garages and detached houses, and Martucci described it as having a “raw” look to it.
Inside, the training area is one large room, with separate areas set up for different disciplines. It boasts a 22-foot competition boxing cage and premium bags, a full CrossFit section with finished wood lanes, high-quality zebra floor mats for martial arts training and even a section outside for workouts.
Martucci said he was happy with how the grand opening was going, with many newcomers coming out as well as several of his students from the Long Island school.
“My students are so loyal,” he said. “I’m a very blessed guy.”
Reach reporter Karen Frantz by e-mail at kfrantz@cn
©2013 Community News Group
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