Showing Your Body Some ALOHA

Student Life Center offers additional fitness, dance classes

News Writer and Photographer Gina Selig

Graphics/Comic Artist Tiffany Erickson

Description of photo

“I kept coming back after I graduated, because it’s a family now” - Alumnus Dustin Chim

Do you have a valid student ID? A desire to get fit? If so, Valerie Yamaki has a simple message: e komo mai, welcome.

Yamaki has been the fitness coordinator at the Student Life Center (SLC) since 2011. She is tasked with the planning and oversight of all the fitness classes at SLC, along with the hiring and supervising of fitness instructors. She creates the schedule of classes and makes sure there are a variety of classes being offered every semester.

Zumba, Boot Camp, Abs and Core, Fit as a Fighter, Total Body Conditioning, Hip Hop, and Spin — these are some of the classes Yamaki has planned and oversees at SLC. She also coordinates fitness workshops in the fall and the annual Fitness Day Fair.

Yamaki works hard to ensure that the instructors are qualified and ready to instruct.

“When the instructor is interested in teaching for us, they first must apply for the position,” Yamaki said. “On the application, we put that it is recommended that they have a certification, but it isn’t required. What would be the best scenario is if they came to me and said, ‘I have five years teaching experience and this certification,’ but most of the time that doesn’t happen. I am open to taking on instructors who are interested and like to teach them how to teach classes here.”

Among the experienced instructors at SLC is the “kumu hula” (teacher) Vandey Okinaka, who has been dancing hula since grade school. Her hula class was also offered last year. This semester, it is held on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6 p.m., which Yamaki notes is “prime- time.”

Okinaka danced hula with kumu Lori Lei Shirakawa for 10 years, and has also coached for the UH Hilo Running Club for the last seven years.

“For me, I like to help people, and I like getting knowledge and passing it down to other people, which is why I coach and instruct hula,” Okinaka said. “I like to teach them my culture and what I know about it... just the smile on other people’s faces make me feel good.”

Along with experienced instructors like Okinaka, Yamaki has hired some new instructors and woven in some new classes into the fitness schedule - including Fit as a Fighter, Yoga, and Zumba Strong. “For every semester, the popularity of certain classes changes,” Yamaki said. “For the most part — because they like the teachers too — the most popular class is Zumba. However, last year it was between Zumba and Yoga. Our yoga classes do very well here too.” Yamaki noted the Sunrise Yoga class, which is offered at 6:45 a.m., gets a very big turnout.

For this semester, Yamaki has added another yoga class with a new instructor, Alyssa Grace, slated for 5 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. Yamaki also added a total body conditioning class with a new instructor at noon on Tuesdays.

SLC’s newest class, Zumba Strong, is on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. One of the instructors, JoYi Rhyss, teaches the Thursday class. Plus, SLC has another instructor, Moses Lee, who teaches Zumba classes on Monday and Wednesday, and also teaches the Tuesday class. Lee has been a Zumba instructor for three years, even though it’s his first semester teaching at SLC. “It’s good to give the students a good variety of instructors,” Yamaki said.

Although all the fitness classes are listed on the SLC website, not all of them have the same registration process.

The classes that are highlighted in pink are considered kinesiology classes, so they require the students to be enrolled in them, according to Yamaki. The ones in green are the classes sponsored by RISOs (Registered Independent Student Organizations). To join, students should contact the respective club president, Yamaki said. “All the other classes labeled in blue or yellow, that’s us.” To attend all those classes labeled in blue or yellow, all students need is a valid ID and a signed risk and release form. Those who sign up for classes and turn in a form get put on an email list that Yamaki then uses for notifications of class changes and cancellations, along with upcoming workshops and new classes to be offered.

Meanwhile, Ellie Crawford, a student studying tropical horticulture, opted to try out the new Vinyasa yoga class with Grace for one of the Tuesday sessions.

“I decided to come today, because I want to try to have a healthier lifestyle,” Crawford said, noting, “it’s free, which is awesome.”

“I had been going to a studio downtown, but it’s becoming too expensive, so I thought I’d take advantage of the gym,” Crawford said. “I think yoga is a great exercise, especially if you’re sitting for a long time.”

Crawford noted that her favorite part of Grace’s class that Tuesday was the beginning, when Grace encouraged students to focus on their breathing and get fully relaxed before proceeding with the “asanas,” or yoga postures. “I love when I get time to relax and ease into the more strenuous parts of yoga. I will definitely try to come back to this class.”

On a recent Wednesday, Hans Himmelsbach, the assistant coach for Fit as a Fighter, held up a pad as Daniela Sanz, a junior kinesiology major, practiced her sparring.

“I love boxing,” said Sanz, a UHH tennis player here on scholarship from Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. She noted that she had boxed in Rio a couple years back. Sanz found out about the free boxing class at SLC and signed up this semester.

“I want to learn the details, like the movement and everything, because it’s something I like to do,” Sanz said. “The cardio is good, too.”

Then, of course, there are the RISO classes, which are incorporated into the SLC calendar. One of the RISO classes geared toward fitness is Jujitsu, offered from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

“Our style of Jujitsu was formed here on the island,” said Travis Prose, the “sensei” (teacher) for UH Hilo’s Jujitsu club. Prose has been involved in the club since its inception 13 years ago. “We tend to be generalists more so than anything else, where Judo is all about throwing,” he said. “Karate is all about hitting and taekwondo is all about hitting people. Brazilian jiu-jitsu is all about the ground work. We tend to play in all the different areas. We don’t strive ourselves to be the best at any of these. However, if I see you’re a judo person, I’m going to try and not get thrown by you. If you’re a karate person, I’m going to throw you.”

Dustin Chim, who graduated from UH Hilo with a marine science degree last semester, continues to stay involved with the Jujitsu Club.

“I kept coming back after I graduated, because it’s a family now,” Chim said. “You bond with people by throwing them, which sounds funny, but it’s accurate. I love being around these people.” “I was looking for a martial arts club when I first got to campus and I just kind of stuck around,” Chim said, noting he took Jujitsu for the last five years. “It was better for my academics because I had a scheduled workout routine, which helped me to focus on my academics.”

“Anyone can join this club,” Chim said. “You will start as a white belt and work your way up. The skills necessary to be successful in this club are patience. We will teach you everything you need to know, but you need to be willing to learn and not try and do things your own way.”

Disclosure: Alyssa Grace, one of the new yoga instructors at SLC, is the science and technology writer at Ke Kalahea.