It’s raised a few eyebrows – that sign on the front of the Kress Building that announced the advent of, “Bullman’s Kickboxing and Krav Maga.” Kickboxing downtown? What the heck is “Krav Maga?” I met with Terry Bullman to get the answers to those questions and much more. What I found surprised me: this is a full-service gym.
Originally from Asheville, Terry’s lived in Knoxville since 1997 and he’s lived downtown since 2008. He loves downtown Knoxville and wants to do his part to make it as good as it can be. He has two sons who have spent much of their lives in the city. One will attend UT next fall – and may help in the gym – and the eleven-year-old enjoys riding his scooter around the city.
After high school Terry took Tae Kwon Do and began working at a gym in Asheville, eventually becoming a personal trainer. He began entering Toughman competitions and did very well, but wanted to shift to boxing. He moved to Knoxville with the intention of fighting as an amateur, but was forced to fight as a professional because of the prize money he’d won in the Toughman contests. Ace Miller was his trainer for about eight years. If you are thinking, “Well, he might be tough,” he casually mentioned during our conversation that he ran with the bulls last year, so he probably is pretty tough.
Finished with the boxing world, he began teaching at East-West Karate and later at Premier Gym. Training with Darren Levine, founder of the Krav Maga Association of America, both in Knoxville and later in L.A., Terry gained his certification as an instructor. Mr. Levine is largely credited with bringing the self-defense system – it’s not a sport – to the U.S. Just this past November Terry earned a second-degree black belt in Krav Maga. After working at other gyms, Terry started Bullman’s in 2007 in Homberg and later moved the operation to the current location at 4511 Kingston Pike.
Krav Maga is the self-defense system the Israeli Army teaches to all the men and women who serve – and that includes everyone in the country, so weak, strong, male or female, this system was designed to be learned quickly and to be useful to anyone. The words literally translate, “contact combat,” and it includes defense against gun and knife attacks. He pointed out, “not enough people invest in personal safety. We insure for other things – but assume ‘it can’t happen to me,'” when considering personal safety. While he’s fine with people carrying guns, he feels a greater degree of security comes with being able to defend yourself without a weapon since you may not have it when you need it. The classes also deliver powerful cardiac workouts.
One of the plans for the new gym that Terry thinks will be of great interest to downtown residents is that the gym will be available twenty -four hours a day, seven days a week. Members will have key fobs and the premises will be monitored by camera. He also hopes people who work downtown will come in early for a workout (he currently teaches a 6:00 AM class), come for a thirty-minute work out for lunch or come by after work. Thirty minute fitness classes will be offered at lunch time. He also hopes to draw from UT – particularly students who live downtown – and he’s not unaware of the burst of population downtown will experience with the opening of Marble Alley. He also notes that people drive from well out of Knoxville to take his Krav Maga classes.
The gym will feature a boxing ring, hot yoga classes and a full range of exercise equipment including ellipticals, stationary bikes, treadmills, rowing machines and other typical gym workout equipment. Of the classes they offer at their current gym, kickboxing is the most popular, though Terry emphasizes the kicking is done on bags – not other people. It’s a powerful cardio work-out and the other gym runs several classes on a typical day. He also mentioned the possibility of children’s classes and noted that his gyms are family-friendly. He’s also open to tailoring services to meet downtown needs, however that may play out. Showers will be available, as well.
He’s used to working with groups and organizations. He currently runs the fitness program for Gettysvue and has corporate relationships with Pilot Oil and Clayton in which their employees are given incentives to work out in his gym. He hopes to forge similar relationships with TVA and other companies downtown.
A number of membership options will be available. Patrons may purchase a membership simply to use the workout facility or to take classes. A second option is to buy a membership and purchase classes as you like. A final option provides use of the facilities and unlimited participation in classes offered. A long-term membership will not be required, but will be offered at a lower price.
If anything, he’s well aware that he’s going to have to work hard to make the business successful in the new location. He’s aware of the YMCA – he and his boys go there to play basketball. He’s aware of Rocky Top Crossfit. He feels that he isn’t really in competition with each of these as what they do is very different. He also points out that people who are very into fitness are now often holding multiple memberships at different types of fitness centers.
He says that one of the things he loves about downtown is the sense of community. He feels it in the people he’s gotten to know in the center city and notes that he patronizes businesses as often as not based on relationships he’s formed with the people there. And that’s the kind of place he wants to build with his gym. He wants it to be a family-friendly community where people come to get fit or to learn to defend themselves. The downtown gym will open late spring to early summer in the basement of the Kress Building, depending on how long the build-out takes and taking into account the likely expected, unexpected delays.