WWE Superstar Provides Athletes With A Place To Train Leading Up To The Pan Am Games

By Perry Lefko

Anthony Carelli aka Santino Marella

WWE superstar Santino Marella, whose real name is Anthony Carelli, is helping some Venezuelan athletes prepare for the TORONTO 2015 Pan Am Games at a multi-faceted facility he started almost two years ago in the west end of the city.


And it’s rekindling some memories of the days when he was a high-level judoka for Canada who had dreams of representing his country in the Pan Ams.


Carelli launched Battle Arts Academy in Mississauga, Ontario in September, 2013 with the intention of giving young athletes a chance to pursue their dreams of athletic excellence at a multi-faceted facility that has a boxing/wrestling ring, Mixed Martial Arts cage and a mat for judo, grappling and taekwondo.

He was contacted by a member of the Pan American Games committee a few months ago looking to build a data base for training facilities for potential teams to book and train while they were in Toronto for the tournament. He was later called by a member of the Venezuelan consulate and a deal was struck up for its country’s boxing, wrestling and judo teams to train in Toronto in the days leading up to for the Pan Ams.

“We welcome them all. It’s awesome to see them training here,” he says. “They’re walking around filming the gym and coming up to me and saying, ‘You’ve got a beautiful facility, a beautiful gym.’ They absolutely love it. It’s great to see such high-level athletes give their opinion. Some of the coaches are world champions, and we have all these amazing athletes absolutely adoring the gym, so it’s pretty cool. I’m going to go to some of the judo and freestyle wrestling at the Mississauga Sports Centre.”

It’s the only venue that will have daily competitions every day of the Pan Am and Parapan Games.


Long before he became famous playing the role of an Italian national who won the WWE Intercontinental Championship at a TV show in Milan in April, 2007, he was an aspiring judoka who started at the age of nine.

“I didn’t know a lot about judo,” he said. “I wanted to take Martial Arts because of guys like Bruce Lee and some of the Kung Fu movies. I wanted to take some kind of Kung Fu or karate, and judo is the one that fit into my Mom’s schedule. Once you get that in your blood, that’s it. You’re a judoka for life.”

He competed for Canada in various international championships, but never had the opportunity to compete in the Pan Ams because to qualify you needed to win at the Nationals. He competed at the 78 kilogram level and won at the Ontario Senior level, but didn’t enjoy the same success at the National level. He also competed in wrestling, winning back-to-back Ontario regionals, finished first in the Atlantic Canada university championships and finished fifth in the university nationals at 80 kilos.

Carelli appreciates the importance of the Pan Ams because of his experience as a high-level amateur athlete and is excited about seeing it unfold in the city in which he grew up.


“It’s some of my favourite things put together,” he says. “It’s Mississauga and judo, and I wrestled at university. I was an athlete my whole life in the provincial and national system, and these competitors, although they are from different countries they have all participated in that same system where they have regional championships, provincial championships and national championships. Everyone here competing is a champion already. So it’s the championships of champions, it’s amazing.”


He wonders now what the feeling would have been like to compete for his country in the Pan Ams.

“It would have been amazing,” he says. “I’m watching these athletes and reminiscing with Don Kolov, who was a world champion wrestler for Bulgaria (and his mentor). Seeing the athletes step on the scale to check their weight reminds us of when we had to weigh in for tournaments for all those years.”

He says some of the Venezuelan athletes know him because of his worldwide popularity as a WWE performer who has participated in some of the biggest events in the company, including Wrestlemania.

“In fact, several members of the boxing team came to our monthly show wrestling show last Saturday,” he says. “We invited them and they had a great time.”

One Football Coach Gives Another Coach Tips On Training

By Perry Lefko

Patrick McCallion is a 44-year-old physical education teacher in Mississauga, and he’s learned a whole new way to train and pass on some tips to his students and soccer and football athletes he coaches in after-school programs.


A few months ago, Patrick received a text from JP Falacho, asking him to try out the strength and conditioning class he was beginning Saturday mornings at Battle Arts Academy. The two knew one another as rival football coaches in the Peel Region – Patrick is the senior football coach at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Mississauga, while J.P. is the head coach at St. Marguerite D’Youville in Brampton – and let’s just say JP wanted to see if Patrick had the intestinal fortitude to try the class. He told him the class would consist of functional training and it would be a good way for him to get away from the everyday gym routine of simply lifting weights.

Well, he’s become a regular member of the two-hour class, and it’s taught him some interesting things about physical fitness, specifically training to improve cardio.


“I guess I was able to survive and get through I and I was proud of myself,” Patrick said. “JP pushes you and you don’t ever want to quit. When you work in a group environment, the other people in the class definitely motivate you to keep going.


“It was very challenging. The fact that it was two hours challenges you in a different way. I was looking at the clock, thinking, ‘Can I make it?’ I was moving muscles in a way I had never moved before…a lot of things I hadn’t done before. It was a real eye opener. Surprisingly the next day I felt great. I anticipated that day after the day after you’re going to hurt (what is called delayed onset muscle soreness), but it wasn’t like that. I felt really good. I think that has to do with the care that goes into the warmup. JP cares about our bodies. He wants to see us do the proper warm-ups so we can train hander. It opened my eyes to the fact I’m not training the right way and I needed to change things.” 


Patrick began the new year with a goal of losing weight. Through JP’s class and some of the things he’s learned from it and incorporated into his own workouts, Patrick has started to win the battle of the bulge. Patrick weighed 231 on January and hoped to drop down to 205.


“But JP has talked to me extensively about body composition – you shouldn’t necessarily aim for a weight,’” Patrick said. “I may lose body fat and gain muscle and never achieve this weight that I had in my mind, but still my body composition would change and it would be a good thing. He’s tried to direct me away from the scale. The last time I weight in I was 218, but my body fat percentage had dropped from 23.1 to 19.5 in about four months, so that’s pretty good. The waist line – the core area – is definitely looking a lot better.”


Patrick said he used to work out five days a week at a gym with a friend, and each day he focused on lifting weights to build up a specific area of the body.


“The typical routine was 45 minutes and the workout was very social – there was a lot of talking and then getting a set in, unlike this class which is just work, work, work,” he said. “Since then I’ve been lifting weight three times a week, doing spinning classes twice a week and doing some track running once or twice a week and then this functional training class. The functional training has kind of opened my eyes to complete body training and that aspect that JP sold me – train like an athlete to look like an athlete – rather than the guy who does a lot of curls to have big biceps. I think what I’ve learned is athletes look good, and that’s the look I want to strive for now. Things are coming along.”


Two-thirds of his daily job is teaching phys-ed (the other third is teaching civics), while the coaching, which also includes senior girls soccer, is extracurricular after school. He’s taken some of the practical training from the strength and conditioning class into his phys-ed classes, beginning with the activation that is a warm up to loosen up the body for more rigorous training.

“Learning how crucial warmup has also been another key aspect to coming to these classes,” he says. “It’s been a positive thing. As I get older, the most important muscle in the body that I want to look after is the heart. Adding this cardio element to the workout has definitely opened my eyes to how important cardio is. It’s something I’ll probably always work into my workouts now. A lot of the body movements (in the class) you’re required to move your own weight, whether it’s a pushup or isometric squat, chin-ups. They all work the muscles. You don’t need weights in this class. You get a full workout. Any aspiring athlete or anybody who just wants to feel better and look better should definitely give it a shot.”


The Man Of Many Names Explains Financial And Health Strategies

By Perry Lefko

Meet Christopher Dewdney, also known as Lord Dewdney and Rhett Butler. Although he has many monikers, which he uses for various reasons, he is consistent about two beliefs: staying financially sound and physically fit.


The 33-year-old is a certified financial planner and partner with the firm, DWL Financial, which is a North York-based wealth-management firm focusing on risk-involved management. He has been advising individuals and companies how to manage their assets for 11 years, and has also been conducting financial literacy programs in schools.


“Regardless of what you want to do in life, you need to have some kind of financial background,” he says. “You’re going to start a mortgage one day, open a bank account, lease a car or buy a car, you need to have some kind of financial knowledge. That’s kind of my theme and I really want to push that. My practice is based on affluent clients, but I still want to help the low- to middle-income bracket because I don’t think there’s any real emphasis or focus there.”



So at what point did Christopher go from his birth name to the more distinguished Lord Dewdney?

“That’s a good question,” he tells me following two hours of the strength and conditioning training class led by JP Falacho at Battle Arts Academy. 


“The whole Lord Dewdney thing is really a joke. It was inspired by Scott Disick, the common-law partner of Kourtney Kardashian. Within all of us we should believe we are royalty to a certain extent. You need to believe in yourself and need to believe you can do things. So the Lord Dewdney thing is a joke, but it’s not such a joke. There’s an underlying theme there.”

Okay. What about Rhett Butler?  “It’s a character from my favourite movie, Gone with the Wind. If you watch the movie, I can relate to his stories, so I’ll leave it at that.”


I’ve seen bits and pieces of the movie, which in a Hollywood classic that was released in 1939 and centres on the American Civil War. One of the movie’s lead characters is Rhett Butler, played by Clark Gable, who is asked by Scarlett O’Hara, played by Vivien Leigh, how she will cope without him.


“If you go, where do I go, what do I do?” Scarlett says, to which Rhett, who looks her in the eye, responds rather haughtily, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

Chris, similar to Rhett, professes that idea in his social media commentary with the handle Rhett Butler.


“There is definitely a convergence between my personal life and my professional life,” he says. “If you look at a doctor, lawyer or advisor 20, 30 years ago, you had to put on this image with your suit and a figurative mask and have this role of the profession, which I completely understand. There’s a lot of responsibility and trust in what in what we do, but the consumer today wants to know that their professional/advisor is competent, but they’re also a real person. With a lot of my clients, it’s not just a business relationship, it’s a relationship. I might golf with them, have dinner with them, have a drink, whatnot. I don’t hide any of my profiles or block anyone. It’s completely wide open.

“When you take me on for business, you’re taking on the individual as well. Or if you take me on as a friend, there’s also a business side.”


Christopher has a simple philosophy about money and health, specifically you can acquire wealth in a variety of ways – in some cases simply by winning a lottery or through an inheritance – but it doesn’t matter if you don’t have your health. So while he understands financial planning, he also believes strongly in health planning.


“An individual may say ‘I’ve got to wake up for work, I’ve got to pick up the kids, I’ve got to do this and that, and then if I have time I’ll go to the gym,’” Christopher says using an analogy. “What I would say is ‘there’s 24 hours in a day, I’m going to designate 45 minutes to work out and everything else is going to go around that.’


“It’s very important to try to live as healthy a lifestyle as possible within reason. Health is huge for what I promote and what I’m an advocate for, but it’s also huge for what I do in my day-to-day life.”

Christopher has a lean and muscular body, which is a product of playing sports since elementary school days and maintaining a regular workout routine in the gym.


“I’ve done it naturally, too,” he emphasizes. “I always want to be bigger and muscular, and for some guys they cheat by using steroids. I try my best to be healthy and to do it honestly. I’m not taking any shortcuts. I want to live and make money and have a good life, so I don’t want to cheat for a few years and have issues in my 40s or whatever the case may be.”


He has been part of the Battle Arts Academy strength and conditioning class for several months, having heard about it from Anna Babij, who is the fiancé of Anthony Carelli, the owner of Battle Arts Academy. It is in the strength and conditioning class that Christopher has pushed his cardio level, improved his flexibility and strengthened his core by doing functional fitness exercises that involve the whole body as opposed to isolating one area. Collectively it involves running, jumping, throwing, doing pushups, planking and similar exercises with only a minimal amount of weight lifting. Many of the exercises can be done at home, but there’s a certain dynamic to doing it as part of a group in a training/workout facility


“Prior to this class, I’d never trained like this before,” he says. “I live (in downtown Toronto) and for me to come here it’s a real commitment. I do it because it’s fantastic, and when you look at this class you’ll look at someone and aesthetically it might not be the picture you see in a magazine but that person is fitter than me. They’re able to sustain that movement longer than I am. It makes you really think about and realize who’s healthy, the guy that aesthetically looks great or the person that is actually able to do the exercise and last the two hours?


“Every week I come here and obviously try to get better. I lift weights, I do yoga, box and I do this class, and the mixture of everything is how I’ve developed the physique I have today. My cardio is so much better, and my flexibility and my movement. I feel better. This class is painful while you’re doing the exercises, but when it’s done you exhale and say to yourself, ‘that felt good.’

“When I tell my friends I do a two-hour class, they say it’s crazy, but the way the class is set up it really works for me."


Teaching Assistant Finds Fitness Classes Very Educational

By Perry Lefko

Did you hear the one about the teaching assistant who decided to take some physical fitness classes after watching her kids do it?


Jane DiMaria is getting top marks for her commitment to getting into better shape.


When Battle Arts Academy opened in September, 2013, Jane’s middle child, Lawrence, joined the various kids’ classes, such as judo, striking and wrestling, and the following May her eldest, Anthony, followed.


“We saw Anthony Carelli’s gym advertised on the wrestling shows and decided to check it out,” Jane says. “My middle one loved it, and my older one wanted to join, so he decided to quit karate and came here.


“Instead of me sitting on the bench I decided I might as well take a class while they are taking a class, and I wanted to get healthier and get myself fit and have more energy. So I thought ‘Good opportunity’ and I decided to sign up.”

What started out last June as one class has expanded into four to six times a week at BAA.


“When my boys are here, I’m here. When they’re not here, I make an effort to come,” she says. “I’ve dropped some weight. I’m not a scale person – I don’t like to go on the scale and look at numbers. I go by how I feel and my clothing sizes have gone down. I have more energy. I’m eating less. I’m less moody. That’s what I’m noticing.”


It took her about three weeks after she first began to get over the physical soreness and convince herself she could continue. “It was never that I didn’t want to come back,” she says. “I always wanted to come back because I wanted to push myself that much harder. She regularly takes the strength and conditioning class led by JP Falacho, Triston Brookes’ cardio kickboxing class, and Nichelle Laus’ fight and function class.


After Jane was watching the Saturday morning class, she was encouraged by Anna Babji and Deanna Mamo Pacheco to try it.

“They were telling me I can do and I will do it,” she says. “The next Saturday there I was, very scared but ready to try my new adventure. If not for their push and verbal encouragement, I would never have tried it the class. I am so happy they did. I LOVE the class. It shows that I CAN do it.


“It is new to me and it’s more intense than anything I’ve ever taken, so I’m still working on I can (mentally) do it. But I’m trying. It’s just mind over matter. The planking I find very intense. I find it frustrating that I’m trying so hard and I’m not able to do it yet. But I will be able to do it soon. That’s what I find the most challenging – just pushing myself that little bit further in order to do it. Everything is different than what I take in any other class.”


She enjoys the strength exercises such as wall planking and using the TRX bands and is getting more comfortable with some of the mobility exercises such as bearwalking and lunging with medicine balls.


“Now what I’ve got to do is getting my left knee better so I can do jumping activities,” she says, adding she suffered a shattered knee cap in a middleschool biking accident and tweaked it a couple weeks ago.


She has also become active messaging friends to come to the Saturday class.

“I love it,” she says. “I would recommend it to everybody. Oh my God, we’re like a family here.”


A couple months ago, Jane approached Tara Barry, who is another parent who has a son taking BAA classes, and encouraged her to get physically involved in a class.


“She didn’t want to and I kept bothering her until she got up and joined us,” she says. “We help each other. We push each other. When we know we’re at our limit, we give each other a poke and keep each other going. Even when we’re working out without a class and it’s just the two of us doing our own thing, we push each other.”


She finds there is a social aspect at the BAA classes that make it an enjoyable atmosphere.

“Oh my God, we’re like a family here,” she says. “A long time ago I joined another fitness club and I hated it there. Nobody talked to you. Everybody had their headphones on and focused on their machine or their weights, but here everybody is like a family, and if you need help in any class someone’s there to help you. We’re like a little, tight-knit group and I love it. If it’s the wrestlers, if it’s the kickboxers, if it’s the judo guys, we’re all together as one. It’s great.”


I asked her if getting involved in a regular fitness routine has changed her life. “It’s making me take more risks,” she says. “I’m a teaching assistant and I like staying in my little bubble of what I’m comfortable with and what I know. I’m trying new things that I don’t think I would have ever tried before and I’ve got my goals set. Before I never would had real goals because I didn’t care, but now it’s like ‘this is my goal to do this.’


“This summer Tara and I are doing the Toronto five-kilometre Foam Fest walk/run (running or walking through a course full of mud, foam and obstacles). Maybe not run the whole thing, but finish it. A year ago I never would have considered trying it, so I’m looking forward to it.”


Perry Lefko is an award-winning writer/author. He can be reached at perrylefko@hotmail.com