Self Defense, Fitness and Mental Health Meet at Davis Square Martial Arts | SCOUTV Episode #8

davis square martial artsDavis Square Martial Arts instructor Melissa Sherrin shows off her stuff. Photos by Jess Benjamin.

The benefits of martial arts training extend beyond greater physical strength and flexibility, according to Davis Square Martial Arts founder Mark Carletti. With regular practice, he says you’ll also find your mental strength and flexibility improving.

In this installment of SCOUTV, we step onto the mat with the kung fu and tai chi expert to learn a little more about his center, where people ages 3 to 80 been throwing punches and swinging swords since 2000.

Davis Square Martial Arts founder and head instructor Mark Carletti was always active—lifting weights, playing sports—and even worked as a personal trainer for a time. But eventually, the former engineer and Tufts professor was drawn to the unique physical and mental benefits of the martial arts.

“[I liked] the idea of martial arts, where I would be getting a workout but also learning and acquiring a skill that didn’t have an end to it,” Carletti explains. “You can always learn more, you can always improve your technique, you can always get better—it was the full combination of philosophically engaging, learning self defense and working out.” He opened Davis Square Martial Arts on New Year’s Day in 2000.

People come to the center—which specializes in kung fu and tai chi—for myriad reasons. Many begin practicing tai chi for stress reduction, relaxation or increased energy. Kung fu, which is a more physical martial art, tends to bring in people hoping build their physical strength.

“In the beginning it’s physical, a change in physical flexibility,” Carletti says. “But you can actually then become a little bit more of a flexible person—more mentally flexible, a little more patient with yourself, a little more confident.”

It’s those benefits and the feeling of accomplishment that comes with them that Carletti believes keep students coming back. While he estimates that the “average” student at the center is between 25 and 40 years old, there are participants as young as three. Some students have trained at Davis Square Martial Arts since they were kids and now participate in the adult program.

Carletti says he feels extremely lucky be located in Davis and to share a name with the square. “It’s just such an amazing community. The people are open-minded, they’re diverse,” Carletti says. “They want to learn. It creates such an easy place.” He and his fellow instructors foster that feeling of openness in the martial arts studio as well, encouraging people to push themselves as much as they’re comfortable, take their time and ask questions when they have them. He doesn’t want people to feel intimidated. If someone is reticent to try something, he and his instructors won’t push it. In other words?

“We’re not the school of black eyes and bloody noses,” he says. “Our goal is to help people feel good about learning.”

SCOUTV is a multimedia collaboration between Scout Somerville and SCATV that brings the stories in each print edition of Scout to life with video and audio. You can find more installments in the series here.

This story originally appeared in the January/February print edition of Scout, which is available for free at more than 220 drop spots throughout Somerville (and just beyond its borders) or by subscription.

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