Youths do up-downs as instructor Dustin Johnson watches at Thru The Wall Mixed Martial Arts in Menominee. EagleHerald/Jody Korch
Youths do up-downs as instructor Dustin Johnson watches at Thru The Wall Mixed Martial Arts in Menominee. EagleHerald/Jody Korch
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MENOMINEE - In its first six weeks, Thru The Wall Mixed Martial Arts has clearly filled a void.

The Menominee business offers year-round wrestling, jiu jitsu and mixed martial arts for all ages, and women's self-defense and fitness classes.

Since The Dungeon closed in Peshtigo, the closest MMA gyms were in Green Bay and Iron Mountain.

"There were a lot of people who thought there was a lot missing when the last gym shut down," said Dustin Johnson, Thru The Wall co-owner and instructor.

The business, located at 383 6th Ave., opened with an open house on Waterfront weekend, and the response was overwhelming - about 200 visitors.

Classes are held five days a week, with youth classes (ages 4 to 15) from 4 to 5 p.m. and adult classes until 8. A later class is held for second shift workers. Open gym is held on Sundays from 5 to 6 p.m.

Youth classes cost between $20 and $40 per month, depending on the type of instruction.

Johnson, Dave Clarke and Jason Slawinski are the instructors. Brandon Han, Terry Dahl and Dallas Willis are junior instructors.

Clarke, who coached wrestling at Menominee High School for seven years, teaches freestyle and Greco (Olympic style) wrestling. Olympic style wrestling is faster paced, with more throws than folkstyle wrestling, according to Clarke.

"We just want to offer an all-year-round wrestling program for people who want to go onto the next level," Clarke said.

Wrestling is not just for youths. There are open tournaments for adults.

Thru The Wall already has 20 youth students.

"In a month they've picked up on it quickly," Clarke said. "Kids that come here, you know they want to train."

Rather than promoting bullying or violence among youths, the skills instill discipline and self-esteem, and the training is geared toward helping each other out.

"It teaches kids a lot of respect," according to Clarke. "It makes them competitors. It doesn't make them violent. It's a way for them to release their aggression. We don't let people bully each other here. Everybody should try to help each other when you're in the gym."

Christine Swanson enrolled her 8-year-old son, Drew, at Thru The Wall.

"It makes him feel good about himself," she said. "Everybody gets to do everything at their own skill level."

Johnson specializes in jiu jitsu and wrestling instruction. Jiu jitsu is a skill that allows a smaller person to defend against a larger person.

"Honestly, I get a lot of calls from parents saying how much it means to them to have kids have something to look forward to," Johnson said. "We've had kids in that were in trouble, not doing well in school. They start doing something they enjoy, it adds incentive to everything else they do."

Anyone interested in enrolling can stop by the gym or call 715-330-1074 or 715-330-8688.