Gyms Around the World: Hammer’s Gym

Evolve Daily introduces a new series called, “Gyms Around The World!” With this new series, we will introduce you to the world’s top martial arts schools in every country.

Ever wondered what it would be like to be able to train anytime? Well, you can experience it for yourself at Hammer’s Gym if you happen to be in Melbourne, Australia! This 24/7 gym is always open so you can train anytime you wish to, according to your schedule – having no time to drop by the gym while it’s open is no longer a legit excuse!

Besides offering martial arts classes and access to weights and cardio equipment all day, everyday; Hammer’s Gym also has an infrared sauna for detox, and a hyperbaric chamber for those who wish to recover with oxygen therapy. Also, it has a chill out area for resting and eating or simply hanging out with fellow gym buddies – hence, making it a home away from home for its members.

Today, Evolve Daily speaks to Mark Castagnini, founder and head instructor of Hammer’s Gym.

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How did you get involved in martial arts?

I got involved in martial arts when I was a teen. Back then, I would train Judo after school with a friend, as his father was an instructor. It was all purely for fun at first, but it actually kick-started my journey in combat sports. I always wanted to know more about every martial art practiced.

Some years later, in my early 20’s, I developed an interest in Kyokushin Karate. So I trained and fought Full Contact Karate, before eventually moving on to Muay Thai, Kickboxing, and Boxing.

 

What’s your favorite thing about martial arts?

For me it’s a great form of active meditation and stress relief, but most importantly, it builds mental strength and focus. It also has a host of physical benefits you can’t deny – it builds overall strength, helps your cardiovascular health, and of course, flexibility.

Apart from the mental and physical benefits, there’s also the friendships forged in a positive environment with like-minded individuals.

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What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your martial arts career?

There have been many challenges that came from personal issues, but those couldn’t distract me from training goals. However, I also dealt with physical challenges like injury. I broke my knuckle in a full contact bare knuckle tournament, and couldn’t punch with my right hand for some time.

I was then advised to stop fighting in a style I was very committed to, and I was disappointed. There were also some political issues that made it difficult for me to carry on in what I was used to doing. Fortunately, it was all for the best as I moved into styles that required me to wear gloves to compete – so it all worked out great!

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What do you consider your biggest martial arts accomplishment?

My biggest accomplishment is founding my own style and teaching thousands of people over the years, who have all seen the positive side of martial arts.

When I first introduced a traditional structure and grading system for Muay Thai, many people questioned me and even mocked me. They said Muay Thai can’t have structured classes and grading systems as it’s not the way.

But I had gone through the Bob Jones Freestyle and Muay Thai system, and as the real founder of a basic structured teaching of Muay Thai, I loved it. I then thought of adding some of my Kyokushin techniques to it, and combine the best of the 2 strongest martial arts on the planet.

It took me many years to put my curriculum together. I travelled extensively and looked at a lot of Muay Thai gyms in Thailand before finalizing my system 20 years ago. Since then, with the help of my senior students, we further refined our system to what I believe is a very complete stand up style, along with some great self-defence elements for all to benefit from.

It’s funny though, that many who mocked me are now teaching graded type classes themselves these days, which is great to see.

 

What do you believe are the main benefits of training martial arts?

As I mentioned in the benefits for myself in the previous question, the same can be applied to all. In general, that’s improved physical and mental health. For children, they’ll have improved confidence, focus and discipline that will hopefully benefit them for all their life.

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When and why did you start Hammer’s Gym?

I started my system (Blitz Thai Kickboxing) in 1995, and was teaching out of a martial arts centre in a room, 2 or 3 nights a week. I had a growing group of students that inspired me to take the next step and open our own dedicated full time centre… Hammer’s Gym.

I had a vision of a place that had both the traditional martial arts training equipment as well as weights and cardio equipment, to give students a complete facility that they could enjoy. We then moved from the martial arts centre and opened the original Hammer’s Gym in 2008.

 

What’s your favorite thing about running a martial arts gym?

My favourite thing about running a martial arts gym is that the people around me are all so enthusiastic and hardworking. Their energy and commitment makes me want to give them only the best in everything.

Seeing my members get results for themselves, form friendships with others at the gym, and walk around the place with a smile and simply be happy to be there is awesome.

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What’s the hardest part about running a martial arts gym?

The hardest part for me is that there are not enough hours in the day to get all I want done.

Also, with a bigger facility open 24/7, you can never really switch off as there is always something that needs to be done or organised. It has an impact on family/personal time, but that’s just how it is and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

What are you most proud of about Hammer’s Gym?

I’m most proud of the gym being innovative, as I’m always looking to raise the standard of what we have and do, and I always want to offer the best to all my members.

This is why I invite some of the best in martial arts to come and teach my members. Some of them include Hollywood martial arts star Dolph Lundgren, K1 Champion and UFC stars such as Mark Hunt & Alister Overeem, Muay Thai World Champions John Wayne Parr & Caley Reece, Boxing World Champion Danny Green… These are just a few of the best that come to Hammer’s Gym, and I’m proud and grateful to them all for supporting me throughout the many years.

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What advice would you give to someone beginning their martial arts journey?

Always have a beginner’s mind and enthusiasm, no matter how you feel. Train regularly and push through the hard times. We all have to go through them in order to get the long term benefits. Just like any challenge in life, you must always push forward to achieve your goals.

One of my favourite sayings is… Character is the ability to carry through on a resolution long after the enthusiasm of which that resolution has made has passed.

 

Who are some martial artists you admire?

I’m thankful to all my instructors and trainers… But I admire every black belt, and everyone that has trained in their chosen styles, while showing commitment and loyalty to their instructors. I admire people that inspire because of their age, or physical restrictions, as well as personal challenges. Also, those who push themselves to achieve their training goals.

A person who never gives up is a real champion to me.

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How does your philosophy for martial arts differ from those of other instructors/coaches? 

I don’t know about every other instructor, but I can safely say that my teachings and knowledge come from first-hand real situations. I’ve fought in many styles under different rules and experienced a lot of things in competition and on the street.

Working in the security industry as a bodyguard and also at the doors of many nightclubs, I’ve had hundreds of physical confrontations and situations where some techniques that are believed to work by some people actually aren’t that effective.

I keep things simple and also like to explain the psychology of confrontation and situational awareness. I’d say I’m not the only one doing it but my way is my own.

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