To the Beat: An Interview with Tif Wolf

Self-defense moves.

Pumping music

A slamming cardio workout.

I mean, really, what else do you need? Tif Wolf, a karate instructor at the Center for Anti-Violence Education in Park Slope, is all about a fusion of those three ingredients along with the essential – a mix of tunes that match the beat.

Wolf, who is also the drummer of the now defunct (since 2008) Brooklyn-based punk rock emo band Triple Crème, has been teaching a new class at CAE called Fight Back Fitness, which rolls endurance (aka reps galore), some serious cardio and music you’ll probably want to dance to. All for an hour. All for $10.

If this sounds like an ad, sorry. It’s that good. I’ve been a few times and I am seriously sore for like three days. Which, you know, is the point.

The idea for the class came twofold – Wolf had started doing more cross-training in her own workouts taking boot camp and spin. While she was hating on the lunges, squats and ab work because they hurt so good, she loved the music – even though her boot camp instructor could not match a beat to the techniques to save her life.

“It would drive me crazy when she would say, OK run in place or do this but don’t do it to the count of the music because it’s too slow,” Wolf said. “There’s no point to having music unless it’s being integrated into what you’re doing. And that’s also the drummer in me. If it’s not on the beat, I can’t do it.”

The idea, however, came to fruition last fall when there were numerous assaults on women coming out of the train stations in Park Slope, not far from CAE’s space. Wolf thought it would be great to create a space for everyone – of all genders – to come and learn a few techniques without having to attend a full-on self-defense class.

“Self-defense classes are awesome but they can be a little intimidating for people to go to as well,” she said. “I like the idea of just having a lot of repetitions in your class so it’s in your body and you don’t really need to think about it.”

The idea was to merge the boot camp style workout so you are getting your hour workout in, according to Wolf, but also incorporating self-defense technique such as a block or a knee to the head when doing a lunge.

“It is all really easy to incorporate once you think about it,” Wolf said. “The music is just to keep it light and keep you moving through the class.”

So then the question becomes, what comes first – the music or the moves?

“When I first started this class I was thinking about moves that would make sense. It’s a work in progress. For me, it was first coming up with some combos that make sense while at the same time coming up with a playlist. I had sort of fallen off the musical world for a long time after Triple Creme broke up. I couldn’t listen to rock music for a little while because I was sad. So, this kind of made me start listening to new music.”

But the music could be tricky. What Wolf thought would work wouldn’t and vice versa – and it had to be in the flow of a class which starts with loosening the joints, moving into some cardio, lunges, groundwork (have you ever kicked from the ground listening to Karen O from the Yeah Yeahs Yeahs? It’s pretty bad ass), kicking and squats. “Combos change,” Wolf said, “but that first chunk of time is pretty set and I have an idea of what the pace of the song needs to be to get you the proper kind of workout.”


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