A small group of women who refer to themselves as "mature" convinced local martial arts instructor Chris Bailey to teach a weekly class designed around their needs and comfort level.
"They wanted to improve their health and physical condition, but did not feel comfortable in a gym setting or a karate class with kids half their age," Bailey said. "They approached me about forming their own class and I agreed."
Every Wednesday evening from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., the group begins with some stretching and Pilates-type moves. After warming up, depending on what the participants want, they may practice some self-defense moves or break a wooden board or two.
Bailey, who is a third-degree black belt in the martial art of Hwarang-Do, has been training and instructing for more than 25 years -- the past four years in Payson. At his South Beeline Highway studio, he instructs people of all ages and levels in Hwarang-Do.
The new women's class is a different experience for Bailey, but one he enjoys.
"This class is very low key," Bailey said. "It ranges from hard, physical workouts to a bunch of giggling women telling jokes to self defense strategies. There is no pressure. It's about self-empowerment, acceptance and fun."
Whether the participants are stretching, doing tumbling moves or breaking boards, the mood is light-hearted and non-judgmental, Bailey said.
"If you are somebody looking for a serious, challenging class with a lot of discipline or if you are in the shape of a marathon runner, this is not the class for you," he said. "We do whatever the group feels like doing that evening and they like it that way."
Class member Kristen LeBlanc said, "Not only do I like the casual atmosphere of the class, but the self-defense aspect as well. Where else can you get in shape, learn to fight off an attacker and get advice on overall health and wellness?"
Bailey holds a degree in health psychology from Northern Arizona University and is versed in alternative therapies and the mind-body connection.
"A lot of people don't know that Instructor Bailey has studied the way the mind affects your physical body," LeBlanc said. "He is trained in other kinds of practices besides just the martial arts and he incorporates those aspects into the class."
At a cost of $30 a month, Bailey said it is a cost-effective way to get in shape and meet other women who feel similarly about what constitutes a comfortable environment for them.
To join the class or for more information, call Chris Bailey at (928) 468-8044 or visit his Web site at Floweringknight.com.