Wongmania isn’t just a physical activity for people trying to improve their fitness. It is a way of life for the Wong family.
Tricia Wong is married to Steven J. Wong, one of three owners of Battle Arts Academy and the instructor of the Saturday morning strength and conditioning class dubbed Wongmania. She truly understands the methodology behind her husband’s attempts to make a difference in people’s lives with rigorous training exercises that quite often lead to exhaustion.
And so do the couple’s three children – Alexa, 10, James, 8, and Marcus, 4 – who are exposed to this ideology on a daily basis. They see the physical and metaphysical meaning of what Steven is trying to accomplish and are able to apply it in other activities – school, sports and, in Tricia’s case, marriage.
At times Steven’s ideas seem incomprehensible, perhaps maddening, to anyone who has taken Wongmania and found themselves fatigued following the two-hour endurance, which is as much about testing the mind as it is about the body. From the activation that begins the workout with some easy twists and turns to create movement in the synovial fluid that lubricate the joints, and moving into more demanding/challenging exercises that test flexibility, co-ordination, strength and conditioning Steven has crafted an interesting program. It is taxing and tiring and is often followed by aches and pains the following day or two because the muscles have been stretched.
As anyone who has taken the class will attest – and Tricia has been a regular since Wongmania began last September when Battle Arts opened – there is an attraction to it. It is the pain/pleasure duality, one that is alluring and compelling even if at times it seems daunting.
“It’s intense, I live it,” Tricia told me following last Saturday’s class when I asked her to explain the essence of Wongmania and her husband’s beliefs. “It is a lifestyle, his mantra. Once he got that fitness bug, it is how he models everything. When he helps the kids with their homework, it is a mental strategy. It’s that execution of mind over matter. or it’s getting you in the right frame of mind. It’s the basics or the structure and the foundation of simple math. He uses that reference in the class on Saturdays, too. These are building blocks. You do all these things at a basic level, you do them well and you progress to the next thing. It is 100 percent a twist of lifestyle for him. It’s how he does everything; his approach to work; the way he interacts with people; the way we function at home. There’s always a reference to the fitness, the lifestyle, the training, the intensity – doing things to the best of your ability, never worrying about what someone else is doing, but doing the best for yourself, your own personal best, your own goals and achievements. It is 24/7.”
Tricia and Steven have been married for 18 years and together for 22. Tricia says she resisted with every fibre of her being embracing her husband’s teachings, but hereditary genetics forced her to accept them. Her father passed away of a massive heart attack at the age of 41 and an autopsy discovered that three of the four arteries were severely restricted/blocked.
“Now that I’m that age plus a few years I can see there are things we can do proactively in our lives,” she adds. “I’m not driven in the same way he is, so it could possibly be a way of opposites attract or our differences are complimented to how we function.”
Tricia has played competitive soccer all her life and felt that would suffice in terms of physical activity. But now she realizes it’s important to do more.
She has various weights and equipment at home to exercise.
“Where I’ve resisted his training all along the way, in and out having three kids, I now know I can no longer do that,” she says. “I have genetics stacked against me with some bad medical history on my family’s side. Something finally switched for me. The lifestyle choice that he talks about 24/7 is embodying for our kids by example. We want them to be healthy and active and you need to do these types of things because they help you do all these other things you want to do in life professionally, socially, recreationally, whatever it is.”
She marvels how their three children have become students of their father’s teachings and are passing the knowledge forward. They come with their parents for Wongmania, watching and observing and occasionally using some of the apparatus to demonstrate a particular activity such as climbing ropes or swinging from one vertical ring to another or merely having fun.
“It is easy to role model this because we try to live it at home,” she says. “We try to work out the days we’re not here at the gym. We have a pretty good setup at home. We often do Wongmania at home with the kids. I have watched our four-year-old Marcus – his co-ordination and physical abilities are still quite limited – and he has 100 percent watched his father teach and instructs these classes; I watched Marcus take my nephews through a pretty good activation. He had them stretching and it’s the repetition he’s watched us do here. He couldn’t use the proper terms, but he was 100 percent mimicking what he’s been watching us do. James and Alexa fit in the same age range and he often uses them to exercise and test if he has to scale down routines based on co-ordination, growth and ability, so it is age appropriate. James is now able to participate in it a lot. He’s hooked. He has the bug. He makes Steven create a circuit for him where he does Wongmania two, three or four times a week. He loves it. It’s amazing to watch them complete some of these things. Alexa is a gymnast and dancer, and everyone often comments on how she does some crazy, bendy, strength moves that you see with an acro dancer or in advanced yoga. While Battle Arts was being built and we were coming to watch the progression as equipment started arriving, she was probably the first person – adult or child – to climb the battle rope from the ground to the beam across the top. She was the first kid across the full length of the monkey bars. Her strength is amazing. I’d like to say I gave it to her in utero and passed it on, but I don’t think it’s quite how it worked. She sees there’s things she can do that adults can’t.
“So, yes, it’s 24/7. They’re exposed to this environment. They see it, and one of the things Steven says to them is it doesn’t matter how well you do it at the beginning; it’s about learning the technique properly and then doing it to the best of your ability and you’ll grow in strength.”
Tricia says it is infectious watching people come to train at Battle Arts to improve their health. This is what Steven and his partners, Terry Frendo and Anthony Carelli, had in mind when they created Battle Arts to be a unique fitness facility, one that is specifically geared for some combative sports and has trainers experienced in teaching skills and drills that are designed to improve core fitness, balance and strength.
“Steven’s sister said years and years ago that Steven is the type of guy that when he’s passionate about something, he could sell it to anybody,” Tricia says. “Her analogy was Steven could probably sell dirt to a farmer if he was passionate about it. His fitness bug or the strive for fitness to embody everything you do it’s 24/7. It’s just how he thinks of everything. Something like Battle Arts is obviously a dream and now a reality. Everybody that comes in, everybody that enjoys a class, finds a fitness niche that helps them somewhere else in their life. I think he takes pride in having a small part of it or just being a part of a facility that is turning it around for someone else.”
Editors notes: Battle Arts Academy is proud to announce that Steven J. Wong will be leading a special one time WongMania session on the mainstage at The Toronto Fitness Challenge on May 31, 2014 @ 11am at The Metro Toronto Convention Centre during the Toronto Pro SuperShow. Some proceeds will be donated to Toronto SickKids Hospital so please register at www.TorontoFitnessChallenge.com. If you register today and use promocode “battlearts” you will save $5. Admission includes access to the Toronto Pro SuperShow and all master classes on the main stage from 9am-6pm!
ABOUT PERRY LEFKO
Perry Lefko is an award-winning journalist and best-selling author living in Mississauga. He has worked in the media for more than 30 years, including 21 for the Toronto Sun, in which he was a runnerup twice for the Dunlop Award for outstanding sports writing in the Sun Media Newspaper chain, and voted writer of the year by the Ontario Curling Association. He has also had articles published in The Toronto Star, Trot Magazine and is currently a frequently contributor to Goodlife Mississauga Magazine and Goodlife Brampton Magazine. He is also a contributor to Sportsnet.ca. He writes about sports, health and fitness, business, entertainment, arts and politics. He is passionate about writing personality profiles, in particular the human condition and overcoming the odds. He has had seven books published, including two that were national bestsellers: Sandra Schmirler, The Queen of Curling; and Bret Hart: The Best There Is, The Best There Was, The Best There Ever Will Be. He has also written books about Doug Flutie, Michael (Pinball) Clemons and Sandy Hawley. He has been contracted by Penguin Publishing to help broadcaster/athlete Colleen Jones write her life story. He also reviews books for Quill and Quire Magazine. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.