After our Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class we caught up with Fenriz Trainingszentrum founder Ulf Fritzmann to talk about personal training, life coaching and how being a bouncer in Berlin was the ultimate martial arts training…
USC: Tell us a bit about Fenriztraining centre…
Ulf: It’s the greatest gym in Berlin and all of Germany [laughs]. It’s a combination of a martial arts gym, a personal training facility and an athletic training facility.
I focus on modern training techniques with kettlebells, barbells and circuit training. We don’t use machines. I studied sports science and the strength you gain from these machines does not help with martial arts or with carrying heavy stuff like a washing machine. All the strength from these machines is just for optics, and that’s a bad reason to train in my opinion.
USC: What’s your approach to training people?
Ulf: I spend 3/4 of the class teaching technique and the rest is a workout. I encourage members to do the workouts by themselves, so I design classes to prepare for the training.
USC: How and why did you start Fenriz Trainingzentrum?
Ulf: I have two partners who own part of the gym. I started it in 2010 after a long period of being a personal trainer at a large gym chain in Germany. As soon as I discovered martial arts as a teenager it became a big part of my life. I felt I could learn so much from it on multiple levels.
Since I was a teenager I’ve been fascinated with martial arts and the link it has with human psychology, so much so that I almost studied Psychology instead of Sports Science. This gave me the idea of a complete ‘Personal Training’ service which included life coaching.
USC: So you combined personal training and life coaching?
Ulf: Yes, I made a package of it; personal training on every level. It worked very well. When I turned forty and had 10 years as a personal trainer I used the money from my life coaching success to start this gym. I wanted to help young people and offer an alternative to solving problems with violence and bullying. But I decided to give up life coaching when I opened this gym as I wanted to focus on that new challenge. Although sometimes I pick it back up if someone approaches me having been recommended by a former client..
USC: What’s your sporting background? How did you get into martial arts?
Ulf: As a kid I was kind of troubled. I’m an intense left-hander. In the ‘70s in West Berlin, left-handers were taught to write with their right hand. Which, as we now know, is not a good idea. This, together with a very high IQ, made me very anxious and bored in school. So I was always disturbing the class and distracting people.
In high school I had trouble with teachers because I found it hard to control my temper. At 17 I thought that maybe martial arts would help. I understood it taught discipline and self control, so I started with Karate, and that’s where my career began. Then I started Judo and Jiu Jitsu.
When I turned 20 I wasn’t sure what to study. I liked fighting and solving problems so I decided to study law, but after a few semesters I decided to switch to Sports Science so I could have a deeper understanding of martial arts. My parents weren’t happy. But I knew it was what I really wanted to do.
Then in my early 20s I realised I had a fear of confrontation which I couldn’t solve with martial arts. I’ve always thought that to overcome your fears you must confront them. So, in 1993, I became a bouncer.
USC: You were a bouncer in Berlin in the ‘90s?
Ulf: Yes. The wall had just fallen. I started in the outskirts of Berlin at a club called Flora Park. It was for very right-wing people. It was not a nice club. In later years I worked at other clubs, including House of Weekend where I was a bouncer for years. This is how I learnt all about people and how they function in different situations. I was a bouncer for about 20 years.
USC: What are the health benefits to martial arts?
Ulf: Martial arts gave me self-control and self-confidence. I won 8 Berlin championships and 3 German championships in Combat Fighting. After this I started professional MMA fighting. I took part in 8 fights, I won 4 and lost 4 so I know both sides. I had my first professional MMA fight at 33 which is really very late.
I can tell you that if you have the right teacher and environment MMA can form your character in a positive way. I was always a fan of the old karate movies and the sensei figures; I wanted to teach and help others to find their way.
USC: Since you opened Fenriz Trainingzentrum have you had any moments that have made you feel very proud?
Ulf: I have many of these moments. Since my best friend Robert came on board as a partner the gym has flourished. As you can see we have many students here, and all of the classes are busy. That was always the dream and it makes me very proud.
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