The punching pastor: Whitehorse church leader also a Muay Thai instructor

Whitehorse’s Jimmy Jo has two flocks: one in church pews and another in a dojo. Jo, 44, is a pastor at Grace Community Church and a Muay Thai martial arts instructor at N60 Combative Arts, both in downtown Whitehorse.

Whitehorse’s Jimmy Jo has two flocks: one in church pews and another in a dojo.

Jo, 44, is a pastor at Grace Community Church and a Muay Thai martial arts instructor at N60 Combative Arts, both in downtown Whitehorse.

“Muay Thai is something I picked up several years ago, I just started practicing, and for me it’s primarily my choice of exercise,” said Jo. “It’s a way of staying in shape. I really enjoy the competitive aspect of it. So for me there isn’t really a dichotomy in terms of my calling as a pastor.”

Muay Thai is a combat sport from Thailand focused on stand-up striking with fists, elbows, knees and shins. Jo took it up about seven years ago while living in Vancouver, before traveling to Thailand for vacation. He has since returned to Thailand four more times to train in and study the sport, most recently in November.

“I had a lot of vacation stored up and didn’t know what to do with it and I discovered an article where people would go to Thailand to train, so in preparation for that I started to train at a school in Vancouver and just sort of fell in love with it,” said Jo.

Jo moved to Whitehorse for the pastorship at Grace Community, an Evangelical Free church, in April 2015. His congregation is aware — most of them anyway — of the other hat he wears at the gym, but it hasn’t raised eyebrows, he said.

“It doesn’t really come up. I think everybody knows because we obviously try to get to know each other as well as possible,” said Jo.

“I had been pastoring full time and part time for a number of years,” he added of his decision to move to the Yukon. “The last church I was at I was working part time and full time at a nonprofit organization with people with developmental disabilities. But I felt the call to return to full-time ministry and had always been interested in living up north. That’s something I had looked at on and off over the years and the opportunity came together with Grace Community Church.”

Jo runs Muay Thai classes Tuesday and Thursday evening at N60 Combative Arts. A typical class will start with a 10-minute warm-up, followed by conditioning work, some pad work, and then technique exercises.

“It’s a good workout. I think it’s accessible for everybody. We have a very wide range of people who attend. We have people who have been doing some form of martial arts for a little while, some people who are brand new,” said Jo.

“We have a wide range of ages. We have an even mix of male and female — actually possibly more women than men. But we have a really good community of people there.”

N60 — an abbreviation of North of 60 — opened last May, and has already been represented in Muay Thai on the national stage. Member Greg Sanderson competed at the National Muay Thai Championship this past November in Toronto, taking silver in the B division’s 81-kilogram weight class.

Jo, who worked with Sanderson, hasn’t himself competed, but it doesn’t sound like he’s ruled out the possibility.

“I started Muay Thai with just the intension of wanting to exercise and I was already older at that point: I was 36,” said Jo. “I was past the age that you want to be competing. It’s something I have some interest, but it’s not a priority.”

In addition to Muay Thai, N60 offers instruction in kickboxing, judo, mixed martial arts, and more.

The gym has lately been putting more emphasis on children’s and women’s self-defence instruction using COBRA (Combat Objective Battle Ready Applications) self-defence, a system based on real-world scenarios.

“The focus has kind of shifted from the competitive fight gym to more the kids programs, teaching kids’ self-defence, helping the kids get their martial art skills, work through their grading,” said owner Graeme Campbell.

For more information contact Campbell at (867) 689-5307 or visit www.n60combativearts.ca.

Contact Tom Patrick at tomp@yukon-news.com

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