ELMWOOD PARK, N.J. – Health-conscious people flock to Elmwood Park’s newest fitness studio to practice tae kwon do, jiu-jitsu, muay thai kickboxing and yoga.
But the Wallace Street building that now houses The Art of Self Defense used to cater to a different – more famous – clientele.
The space had been used as a recording studio for stars such as Whitney Houston and Queen Latifah, according to Mike Elayan, who opened the fitness center in September.
“As the industry changed, they needed a smaller space,” Elayan said.
Many of the remnants of the old tenants are still evident, though, including the sound-proof walls of the zen-like yoga room.
Elayan, who has been practicing martial arts since he was 10 and teaching it for five years, decided to follow his passion after being laid off from his corporate banking job.
He said he and his wife, Eid, decided "to take a chance on ourselves" instead of jumping back into the corporate world.
“Working in the banking world wasn’t exciting,” the Hackensack resident said.
Now he spends his days doing what he loves – teaching children and adults about physical fitness, self-defense and self-confidence.
With children, “we work on mental toughness and physical toughness,” Elayan said.
The adult classes are more high impact and high energy, he added.
He also cater workouts to the needs of individuals.
“Being that we are a smaller company," he said, "we are able to work with our client’s goals and make sure they meet them.”
Most of his clients come from Elmwood Park and nearby towns such as Garfield, Clifton and Hawthorne, he said.
Elayan wants to use his business to give back to the community. In just a few months, he already has made a difference.
The Art of Self Defense held a “Kickin’ Out Hunger” food drive in November to benefit the Center for Food Action in Saddle Brook. Currently, it is collecting new, unwrapped toys for Toys for Tots.
For more information, visit www.aosdmma.com .