KAHULUI - It's 7:30 a.m. Monday when students team up on mats for a martial arts self-defense class in the Wellness Center at the University of Hawaii Maui College.
"The main thing is use common sense and put a mindset in your head that you're going to survive," instructor Alika Delos Santos tells those in the class. "This is true self-defense. It's real."
An hour and a half later, the room is filled with people sitting on yoga mats facing instructor Danielle Tatik for a Vinyasa flow yoga session.
John Kekino (center in black) practices Brazilian jiujitsu with partner Shawn Coad while Jason Akimseu (background left, in white) and his partner, Kevin Partyka, work out Monday afternoon at the Wellness Center at the University of Hawaii Maui College. The center has nearly 40 fitness classes most hours from 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. weekdays. Enrollment in classes has gone from 36 last semester to about 200 people so far this year.
The Maui News / AMANDA COWAN photo
The Wellness Center at UH-MC offers a wide range of classes
The Maui News / AMANDA COWAN photo
"Yoga is an expression of yourself in the present moment," she says to the class that includes people of varying ages and proficiency levels. "Wherever you are is perfect."
Three other hourlong fitness classes later, at 4:30 p.m., Tori Takayesu leads an after-work crowd - including students, college faculty and staff, and community members - in what she calls "Zumba on steroids."
For the Zumba toning class, participants use 1-pound maraca weights as they follow Takayesu in fitness dance movements with a Latin rhythm.
"I love it," says Takayesu, who has been teaching Zumba for about a year. "At the college, you not only have students and teachers, you have members of the public, and everyone's interacting. Someone from down the street is dancing with a professor of English, who's dancing with a student. Everybody has a good time."
As the Zumba toning class is winding down, the room begins to fill with others arriving for another high-energy Zumba class with instructor Kelly Watanabe, who also teaches business and math at the college.
With an expanded slate of nearly 40 fitness classes filling most hours from 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and later Mondays to Fridays, the UH-MC Wellness Center has seen a boost in enrollment in the new year.
About 200 people have enrolled so far this year, up from 36 last semester, when the program included fewer fitness classes and wasn't publicized off-campus, said Francine Ching, UH-MC student life coordinator.
Along with Hapkido self-defense, yoga and three kinds of Zumba classes, the center offers pilates, mixed martial arts conditioning, kettlebells fitness, turbo kickboxing, Brazilian jiujitsu and boot camp sessions.
The classes are primarily arranged around student schedules, with the goal of making the Wellness Center an integral part of campus life, Ching said. That way, students don't have to leave campus to exercise.
"We want to encourage students to stay on campus," Ching said. "More campus involvement leads to success."
The center is also an avenue for community members to get involved with the college, Ching said.
"The Wellness Center could be the key to bringing our community together with our campus and help make it the hub," she said.
After more than 200 people attended an open house including fitness class and healthy meal demonstrations and blood pressure checks in January, the Wellness Center has attracted more participants from the community, Ching said. There have been requests for more late-afternoon and early-evening classes, which have been added.
"The community has been giving so much feedback about how they feel so much more connected to the college," she said.
Located in the center of campus on the first floor of the Pilina Building, the center is equipped with mirrored walls, a sound system, changing rooms and showers. Enrollment is open to students, faculty and staff, and community members.
The cost is $35 for students, $50 for faculty, staff and seniors ages 55 and older, and $65 for community members. The fee covers classes for the spring semester, which runs through May 13.
The center is closed during campus holidays and spring break from March 21 to 25.
Applications are available at the Wellness Center, or the Student Life office on the second floor of the Pilina Building. More information is available by calling 984-3434 or sending e-mail to uhmslife@ hawaii.edu.
Information about the Wellness Center is available online at uhmcwellness.wordpress. com or at maui.hawaii.edu under student life.
Over the 16-week semester, students who take all of the class offerings end up paying just pennies a class, said Wayne Aguiran, director of the Ku'ina program on campus and boot camp instructor at the Wellness Center. For others, the cost is only slightly higher.
An athlete who played baseball, volleyball, flag football and other sports when he was growing up in Kahului, Aguiran combines a variety of workouts he has learned over the years for boot camp, a nontraditional fitness program using upper and lower body and core exercises to strengthen and tone. He also uses agility, plyometrics and high-intensity exercises.
The physical conditioning students develop in boot camp ties in with the other work Aguiran does on campus.
"As a social worker, my goal is to increase the quality of life, help at-risk youth to graduate from high school or complete a college education and find employment," he said. "The other part is everybody needs to take care of yourself. I think you will be a better employee and citizen in life."
The Wellness Center began offering a few classes in spring 2009.
But this semester, with a Student Life team of Ching, recruitment coordinator Jaymi Wilson, retention coordinator Haley Callahan and 13 students, the program has expanded. A donation covered the purchase of additional yoga mats, blocks and straps, fitness balls and rollers, and weights, Ching said.
"This is a real step up for the school," said Callahan, who has seen attendance more than double in the turbo kickboxing classes she teaches three days a week.
"Especially in a place where we're really supporting mental health, I think it's important to support physical well-being and the full spectrum of being healthy on all those different levels," Callahan said. "We're taking care of our bodies as well as our minds.
"It lessens stress for the students and for the faculty and staff."
Her class includes higher- and lower-intensity kickboxing moves and combinations. "It's designed for fitness as well as weight loss," said Callahan, who earned her certification to teach the class in 2009.
Christina Ramos, a full-time student in business technology, said she likes the convenience of the Zumba, yoga and pilates classes she has attended.
"Everything is right on campus, by my classes," she said. "They work around my schedule.
"In between classes, I used to get really stressed out. I need to take yoga and exercise to make me feel relaxed, so I don't feel so stressed."
Deborah Kaaiawahia, who is retired, said she heard about the rate for senior citizens and decided to enroll "instead of staying at home and withering away."
"I'm going to try all the classes," she said after showing up for various classes, including a boot camp session.
Aguiran, who began teaching boot camp in 2005, said he welcomes all levels in his classes, encouraging participants to do their best while also pushing their limits.
"You can do anything for 45 seconds," he shouts as music blares and sweat drips.
"This is my fun time," Aguiran says afterward. "I get to teach people my passion. I like to challenge people."
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.