DOCS Gym offers affordable, accessible martial arts classes

Students practice flipping motions as they warm up at the beginning of a Wednesday class.  Photo by Cirien Saadeh.

Students practice flipping motions as they warm up at the beginning of a Wednesday class. Photo by Cirien Saadeh.

By Cirien Saadeh | Staff Reporter

As an advanced belt in karate, who has taken classes on-and-off since I was nine, I’ve always felt most myself in martial arts studios. So when I passed by DOCS Gym on Small Business Saturday, I knew it was what I wanted to explore for this month’s Small Business Spotlight.  As part of our coverage for this month’s Spotlight, I took a two-hour Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class under Instructor Josh Haynie. It was a great class and I could not be more proud of the the bruises and sore muscles I earned from chokeholds, leg locks, drops, and grappling. 

DOCS Gym is squished between Dr. Greg Olson’s chiropractic office and North End Hardware & Rental. It is a crowded space, with a sizable classroom made up of spring-loaded mats and an assortment of other martial arts equipment, an exercise and fitness room, pint-size locker rooms, and big heart. 

DOCS stands for Developing Olympic Combat Sports and Developing Our Community Spirit. It is not a nickname for founder Greg T. Olson, who started the original DOCS Gym on Lyndale Ave. in 2003. They moved to their current location at 3115 Penn Ave. N in 2008. 

“It felt right, and it was something to do. By about year three, you just keep doing it. You just get up and keep going,” said Olson. DOCS Gym is primarily staffed by volunteer instructors. 

According to Haynie,  DOCS affordable dues ($75/month for adults and $50/month for youth) are really just meant to keep the lights on. “Jiu jitsu is not just for people who can afford it, it’s for everybody,” he said. “Judo and Jiu jitsu teaches you what you’re capable of, figuring out what your body and mind can do,” said Haynie, a first-degree black belt. 

I was lucky enough to partner with Janna Lidberg, a two-year martial artist in the class I took. Karate has little to do with Judo and Jiu Jitsu, but I was happy to wear my old “gi” (“uniform”) and a white belt – my brown belt in karate does not transfer over – and hit the mats with Haynie, Janna, and several other members of the class who took the time to guide me, train me, and correct my form. I had little trust in my ability to do the class, but Lidberg says she started out at DOCS the same way. 

“Coming to DOCS and training has taught me to trust myself. It’s helped me so much. I originally signed up for self-defense class and then I fell in love with Jiu-Jitsu and judo and all the people here,” said Lidberg, who helps to teach some of the youth classes and wants to be an elementary school teacher. “Teaching the kids is pretty challenging, but I love it. It combines my loves of teaching, kids, and martial arts," she said. 

According to Randy Mathews (nickname “the Mechanic”), a Northsider and former foster kid, taking classes at DOCS has meant an increase in self-esteem and discipline. 

“This martial art is a gentle art – arte suave. It’s not about how big or strong someone you are. It’s about angles and leverage in the sport, and in life as well,” said Mathews. 

You can find more information about DOCS Gym, including its class schedule and contact information, at 

Kenzie O'Keefe