Mall feels the Impact

Published 8:00 am Sunday, February 10, 2013

Michael Riddles demonstrates an escape on Zach Miller as Leon Delgado watches during a training session Tuesday night at Impact Martial Arts & Fitness at Oak Park Mall. Eric Johnson/

New gym combines fitness and mixed martial arts

When Troy Williams decided to open up a gym at Oak Park Mall, he had big plans in mind.

“I’m just trying to bring my winning formula down to Austin,” he said.

Williams, owner and operator of Coon Rapids-based Impact Martial Arts and Fitness, opened the Austin location on Feb. 4. The gym focuses primarily on mixed martial arts, a full-contact combat sport that uses both standing and grappling techniques. Williams will teach at the gym Thursday through Saturday, with assistant coaches including Adams resident Michael Riddles staffing Monday through Wednesday.

Impact Martial Arts and Fitness, besides being a place to work out, is also a mixed martial arts training facility. Eric Johnson/

Email newsletter signup

“We’re trying to put a state-of-the-art fitness center down there for all ages,” Williams said.

The martial arts aficionado started Impact about eight years ago, but his experience extends much further back. He has trained and instructed for more than 20 years in muay thai, and earned eight black belts in four different disciplines: taekwondo, kenpo, aikido and American karate. He has coached numerous MMA students to national championships, and was voted Minnesota MMA “Coach of the Year” in 2012.

If that sounds like it requires nothing short of a lifelong dedication, it’s fitting.

“I’ve been in martial arts since I was 3 1/2,” he said.

Williams had already had experience as a body guard and a personal trainer when, seven years ago, he was asked to coach an MMA fighter.

“I said, ‘Hey, all right, I’ll try it,’” he said.

Ever since then, he’s been training fighters who go on to win championships. At this point, the only belts his students have not won are the heavyweight and female belts. Right now he has a number of female fighters in Coon Rapids, but is looking for more in the Austin area.

Williams said his two gyms will cross-train with one another. For example, professionals might come from Coon Rapids to help out an amateur in Austin and vice versa.

There are big plans for his new gym, including bringing TRX, the most popular class in Coon Rapids, to Austin. It uses resistance straps to build strength, coordination and flexibility through 30-minute workout sessions.

“That’s something we’re trying to bring down there that is new to that area,” he said.

Williams is well-versed in TRX. As a Level 2 instructor, he can teach others to become instructors. All of his fighters regularly train through TRX, and other types of athletes, like football players, baseball players and dancers, do as well.

“It’s a great, great workout,” he said. “It’s fun, it’s energetic. We pump up the music.”

In the future, Williams also hopes to bring a kickboxing-based workout called BagWorx to Austin. The cardio-intensive activity uses a freestanding heavy bag to strengthen and tone muscles, and is especially popular among women, Williams said.

Right now, the Austin location is focusing on MMA, which combines muay thai, jujitsu, wrestling and kickboxing moves into one sport. There’s also a junior MMA program, which is geared for children 10-14 years old and introduces them to the fundamentals of the fighting style. It gets them in shape without being quite as intense as the adult MMA class is.

“We’re going to train them the way we do with the big boys, only they’re not going to go into the cage,” Williams said, adding a separate children’s karate class is slated to start in June.

The focus of Impact Martial Arts extends beyond those looking to be fighters, however. Williams has pays regular visits to companies as large as U.S. Bank and to organizations like women’s shelters to teach Total Attack Protection Skills. He created TAPS as a way to give regular people practical methods for warding off an attacker.

“It’s real street self-defense,” he said.

If all goes according to plan, Williams hopes to offer a free self defense seminar at the mall later this month, possibly on Feb. 23, as a way of giving back to the community.

But the point of Impact is about something more than fitness or fighting. Williams said he wants to affect young men and women in a positive way, and to get them to be involved in something so they can learn discipline rather than find their way into mischief.

Williams has seen the sport bring people together. When Austin resident Thomas Herrera took on Matthew Janisch during a fight at the end of 2012, judges declared Herrera winner. He and Janisch later got together to review the fight and teach one another how to improve. They became fast friends. Janisch has even come to Austin several times to help Herrera prepare for an upcoming Feb. 16 title fight.

“It’s just really inspiring to see two warriors with no animosity,” Williams said.

Thomas Herrera and Andrew Lenway work out Tuesday night at Impact Martial Arts and Fitness at the Oak Park Mall. Eric Johnson/