Kicking it into high gear

Female teacher to spar in kickboxing competition

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  • Photos by Rose Sgarlato Kathleen Paiva and Garrett Goldsberry training at NJMMAA.

  • Kathleen Paiva and Garrett Goldsberry.

“In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than you fear of failure.”
— Kathleen Paiva posted this quote recently on her website at Jefferson Township High School.

High School teacher Kathleen Paiva likes setting goals in and out of her classroom. One of the latest ones is preparing for her first kickboxing competition in New York City on June 13.

Always an athlete playing soccer at Wallkill Valley High School and later at Bloomsburg University, 25-year-old Paiva enjoys the outlet of exercise and turned to kickboxing at a local gym near her hometown of Ogdensburg. She would go often after her work teaching earth science and astronomy at Jefferson Township High School.

“The more I did kickboxing, the more I loved the whole aspect of it. So I wanted to take it to the next level, and a friend told me about NJMMAA (North Jersey Mixed Martial Arts Academy),” said Paiva.

For over a year, Paiva has been taking kickboxing classes three times a week at NJMMAA in Lafayette. A few months into it, she began sparring there and eventually training with owner Garrett Goldsberry.

“Kickboxing became a priority and part of my daily routine after work. I like that it’s always high intensity, high energy and a challenge,” she said. “Both mentally and physically its always something different.”

Paiva did not let being one of two women at NJMMAA stop her. Quickly going from a white to a purple belt and this past April earning a yellow belt, she looks forward to moving forward and progressing.

“Its intimidating — it’s a boys club," Paiva said. "But as soon as I get on the mat you get to know these people, and Garrett wants you to succeed.”

NJMMAA is the longest running mixed martial arts business in Sussex County offering Brazilian jiu jitsu, kickboxing and mixed martial arts training for men, women and children. In his 26 years of experience, Goldsberry has trained many people for competitions and is confident that Paiva has what it takes.

“Great athletes raise their levels. Kat is the first woman out of NJMMAA to fight competitively, but we don’t put people out there who aren’t prepared. She has been consistent and goal oriented. She puts in extra time and that’s what you look for,” said Goldsberry.

So when he received a call six months ago from a promoter looking for a female kickboxer for an amateur competition Combat Capitale, Goldsberry knew Paiva could go the distance in her weight class of around 141 pounds.

Over a six-week period, she trains six to seven days a week for an average of three hours a day. Mental toughness and time management, speed and agility along with kicking and punching are some skills that Goldsberry lists as essentials in kickboxing as well as a different mind set.

“The biggest change for people is that this is an individual sport. If you have a bad day, you pick that up immediately. You have to be at a higher level mentally and physically,” explains Goldsberry. “It’s just you and the other person.”

Perhaps what she is most proud of is the example she is setting for women. Paiva believes the “door is opening" and it is becoming more common for women to learn how to defend themselves and encourages all women to consider it.

“Women in general should know how to throw a punch in the event that they need it,” said Paiva. “And when looking for a place to learn don’t judge a book by its cover. Meet the students and find the right fit because the right coach will make you feel comfortable.”

Goldsberry emphasizes that NJMMAA offers a variety of classes at many levels including a self-defense class and suggests a free trial class for new students.

“We approach all angles here. Some women want to lose weight. Kickboxing is an incredible workout where you can have fun and burn over 800 calories in 45 minutes,” he said.

Paiva adds that it’s “empowering for women.”

Although Paiva feels nervous about her first competition, she draws from her sports experience to combat the jitters. And she has managed to strike a positive balance between her profession and her training.

“I get what I can done at school. I work hard there too, so I can come here,” she said.

Paiva laughs when asked how her students react about kickboxing — “Well some students know and think it’s really cool.”

And this journey does not end on June 13, there is yet another goal in mind.

“It’s always a work in progress," Paiva said. "As soon as I started kickboxing, I had a feeling I would try to achieve a black belt because I am a competitive person."

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