By Perry Lefko
Professional wrestling has a performer known as Fit Finley and Battle Arts Academy has its own Fit Finley.
Matt Finley – or Finley as he’s known to most people – is a 29-year-old resident of Oakville who is a member of Battle Arts Academy and is veritable proof that proper training and eating healthy can have a dramatic effect on your mental and physical well being and lead to improved self-confidence.
Matt had been working out since he was 15, focusing primarily on weight lifting and very little to do with cardiovascular and core training. He had also been eating poorly. He packed a total of 181 pounds on his 5-foot-7 frame when he joined Battle Arts about six weeks ago because he had known Steven J. Wong, one of the owners of Battle Arts Academy, for several years. They met originally through a mutual friend, and Steven invited Matt, who is a huge Mixed Martial Arts fan, to come to Montreal for a weekend while filming The Striking Truth, a documentary about Ultimate Fighting Championship competitors Georges St-Pierre and David Loiseau. Steven is a veteran film maker and his work has received tremendous acclaim. Steven, who is a third degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, gained the trust of St-Pierre, who gave him unlimited access to his private world of physical, mental and spiritual fitness.
“I’ve known Steven for awhile and I know how he is as a trainer, so I knew right away if I joined that gym I’d get my results,” Matt says. “I’m down about eight pounds. My core is stronger than it’s ever been and my confidence is higher than it has ever been. I feel happiest with the way I look right now than ever before and it’s motivated me to change my diet 100%. As soon as I started seeing results, I knew cutting out all the crap I was eating would get me better results. When I was lifting, I was eating fast food every day, drinking pop every day, and I’ve cut most of it out.”
Matt says he lifted weights and didn’t work on his cardio and core because of a mindset.
“I thought being lean was weak and you had to be very muscular to be fit,” he says. “I’d try so hard to work out, but I wasn’t eating properly. My body is meant more for this kind of work than lifting weights. I wanted to get that big, big build, but I couldn’t do it.”
Matt began at Battle Arts with a one-hour kettlebell session instructed by Tony Wallace.
“I really liked Tony’s style and his passion, so that’s when I knew for sure I’m going to try another class,” Matt says.
So he followed it up with one of Steven’s classes, which lasts for an hour or so depending on the size of the group, which is expanding rapidly from about five to 20 or more. The class is in many ways a boot camp involving high intensity interval training to build up cardio, core strength and agility. The classes involve various kinds of stretching, squatting, lunging, running, skipping, rope climbing, pull-ups, pushups and sled pushing. It is a form of Tabata training, although Steven has tailored it in his own way and calls it Wongbata training. There is virtually no weight lifting.
“The first workout was absolutely brutal. I was dripping in sweat,” Matt says. “Muscles I didn’t even know I had were aching for two or three days. It kicked my butt and I knew I loved it.”
Matt loves the kettlebell classes, too, and mastered the proper technique by about the third or fourth session.
“It’s great for fat burning. It’s very good for core. It’s very good for a full-body workout,” Matt says. “Steven’s class has a better mix of strength conditioning, whereas Tony’s is more fat burning. In Steven’s class you build muscle, but you also cut fat.”
Steven has also taught Matt how to eliminate soreness by doing stretching and using a foam roller after the workout.
“Doing that after each class has helped me tremendously,” Matt says. “Steven is very, very passionate and he believes a lot (in his philosophy of the proper way to train), and because he does I started doing it and that’s where my results have come. I respect Steven. I appreciate his education and his passion, so anytime he’s talking I listen because I know I can learn from him. It’s almost like if you listen to him every day you learn something – about life and working out. He’s very humble. He’s very friendly. If he thinks you’re taking it easy or slacking off, he’ll get right on you. If you have a weakness, he’ll tell you. If you’re making improvements, he’ll tell you. He’s very good at making people feel motivated.”
Matt recommends people try a class at Battle Arts Academy, and says the results will come if you stick with it.
“I’d definitely say give it a shot,” he says. “The trainers are more educated than at most gym. They care more about their clients than most gyms. There’s a wide variety of classes that benefits everybody. There’s nobody that wouldn’t get a benefit. Just because somebody doesn’t like kettlebells they can do kick-boxing. If they don’t like that they can do Steven’s class. If they don’t like that, they can do Jiu-Jitsu.”
Perry Lefko is an award-winning Toronto-based writer/author.