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1041 S Edgewood St
Arlington, VA, 22204
United States

703-521-1000

Pentagon MMA is a community of fun-loving, adventurous folks of all ages and walks of life who have a passion for Muay Thai (also known as Kickboxing or Thai Boxing), Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), and mixed martial arts.

Pentagon MMA News and Updates

Updates from Pentagon MMA in Arlington, VA

Finding Her Strength Again: Nicole Heydt, Kickboxing and Recovery from Breast Cancer

Elizabeth Bartels

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Treatment and recovery from breast cancer can leave even young, fit women with frequent pain and barely a fraction of the energy they used to have.

That was the case for Nicole Heydt. After being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014 at just 22 years old, Nicole found herself in recovery more often than not.

Nicole had always been an active person, trying lots of different types of workouts to keep herself interested. She was a regular at Down Dog in the hot Vinyasa flow class, running, lifting weights, swimming and more. She even completed a mini Army training camp at Fort Knox in Kentucky the summer before her diagnosis, which left her feeling the most fit she’d ever been.

But all of that changed when she had to begin cancer treatments. She had a total of six surgeries on her chest in just two years.

“I went from being able to do 30 to 40 pushups straight, to barely being able to do 10 or 15 modified pushups, on my knees,” Nicole remembers.

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By the beginning of this year, Nicole was starting to feel a little more like herself again, so when a friend invited her to join her for a free trial class at her gym, Pentagon MMA, she agreed. Her friend had been a member for a while, and couldn’t stop raving to Nicole about how much she loved it.

“I saw the difference Muay Thai made in her life,” Nicole recalls. “I wanted to feel healthier and stronger again, and since she had been so happy with the gym, I came in for a few trial classes.”

Right away, Nicole was struck with what a complete workout she got.

“I threw up after the warm-up during my first Muay Thai class,” she said—but she wasn’t going to let it stop her. “I thought it was tough, but definitely what I needed. After I got it out of my system, I finished the rest of class.”

After trying a few trial classes, Nicole eventually fell in love with Pentagon MMA’s Women’s Fitness Kickboxing program. She says, particularly with her health challenges, the program is perfect because of its flexibility, allowing her the ability to customize it depending on how she’s feeling, health-wise.

“I ended up choosing the Women's Kickboxing program because I can make my workout as strenuous or light as I need to depending on my day and my body's needs,” she explains. “I come back as often as I have time because I love the workout and the energy that accompanies it. I also just really enjoy the community—the instructors and members.”

Since joining Pentagon MMA as a member in March of this year, Nicole says she is seeing myriad changes in her body for the better—especially the giant energy boost she gets from the kickboxing workouts, which she says really help her body’s recovery from breast cancer and all the treatments and surgeries that come with it.

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“My body has definitely become stronger — I can run two to three miles without getting winded now. That might not be much for most people, but for someone who hates running and has never been great at it, this is definitely a personal accomplishment,” she explains. “Now, not only can I work out comfortably, but I can run, AND I can do around 10 pushups without my knees again.”

“The chest pain is still significant, but it has started to decrease as my strength increases,” she adds.

The changes have been more than just physical, too.

“Mentally I am also stronger. I push myself in ways that I had not before, and I also just feel healthier having a safe way to exert daily frustrations!”

Most amazingly, Nicole says, the workouts have changed from being something she used to have to push herself to do, into something she chooses and gets to do.

“I started out thinking that kickboxing was necessary for a workout and to maintain my strength, but now I see it as a reward after a long day,” she says. “Kickboxing has helped me find my strength again - physically and mentally.”

 

Body Strong, Spirits High: Meet Pentagon MMA Muay Thai Student Mark Felipe

Elizabeth Bartels

A lot of people are a bit grumpy first thing in the morning until they have that first (and second, or maybe third) cup of coffee.

For Pentagon MMA student Mark Felipe, Muay Thai is his morning coffee. “I find myself getting cranky if I’m not in the gym at least three times a week.”

It wasn’t always that way. Mark says his first class challenged him harder than he could ever recall being challenged—but it sparked something inside him.

“I thought, ‘Mother of God, what have I gotten myself into?!’” he recalls. “I remember being so worn out that to sign up for further classes, I had to use both hands to hold the pen steady. But I fell in love with Muay Thai.”

Mark says it goes even further than that – he credits Muay Thai and the Pentagon MMA community for keeping his body strong and his spirits up as he recovered from surgery to remove a brain tumor last year.

Despite the challenge, Muay Thai kept him coming back

Mark describes himself as someone who used to fall in love with a particular type of activity quickly, then drop it later when he lost enthusiasm for it.

“I go through periods where I get really into activities,” he says.

First, it was running.

“In the early 2000s, I was a runner. I ran 5k and 10k races, and ran the Marine Corps Marathon twice,” he recalls. “Now, I don’t think I’ve run more than five miles at a time since.”

Then, weight-lifting.

“I used to lift weights, but a herniated disk and spine surgery put an end to that,” he says. “After that, bodyweight calisthenics were a lot easier on my back. But it just seemed like I was doing pushups, pullups and squats just for the sake of doing pushups, pullups and squats.”

One day, his wife drove by the Pentagon MMA building in Arlington and told him about it.

“I’ve always been interested in martial arts. I studied Isshinryu Karate at various stages of life, first in high school, then in my late 20s to early 30s. Then the kids came along….” he says. “Pentagon MMA is close to our house, so I came in to check the place out—and I’m still here!”

Mark has been at Pentagon MMA for close to three years, and he says he can’t imagine life without it—though his brain tumor diagnosis last year forced him to, for a short while.

Coming back after brain surgery

“The tumor wasn’t cancerous and wasn’t going to kill me, but it had to come out,” Mark explains. “Recovery from the surgery took three months. Having to take a break from training last winter was tough on me, but I didn’t have much choice.”

As eager as he was to get back to Muay Thai, his doctor warned him to take it slow.

“After being cleared for physical activity, my surgeon told me that drills are okay, but that I couldn’t spar. Obviously, getting hit in the head was—and still is—a bad idea. I thought, ‘maybe I’ll give Jiu-Jitsu a try—they don’t hit each other in the head.’” he said. “But not training just isn’t an option.”

These days, Mark’s face is a regular sight around Pentagon MMA again, and he said he loves all the positive ways his workouts and training have changed his body.

“I’ve lost about 15 pounds and three inches off my waist. Most of my pants are loose in the waist and tight in the thighs. And I have more energy,” he says. “But more importantly, it’s improved my state of mind. If I have a rough day, I know I’ll walk out of the gym happy.”

He also credits the friends and mentors he’s made at Pentagon MMA for his new outlook on life.

“Vivek and his staff don’t just run a gym—they’ve built a community,” he says. “It’s a community I’m glad to be a part of.”

When asked what he would say to anyone who may be thinking of giving Muay Thai or Jiu Jitsu a try, Mark says, “Give it a shot! If I can do it after having brain surgery, so can you!”

IBJJF New York Open Results

Diana Nakarmi

Master Sugi brings home a Gold in open class and Silver in his weight class at the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation New York Open! Well done Master Sugi!

A huge congrats to Kelsi, who placed 3rd in her division with only 4 months of training under her belt. Lots of great things to come for Kelsi!

Happy Birthday to us!

Diana Nakarmi

We'd like to send our sincere thanks to everyone in the Pentagon MMA family who helped us over the last four years. Have some cake, and we'll see you at the gym!