In his native Poland, Mariusz Janicki represented a victory of both brains — he achieved a master’s in physical education — and brawn — he is a former European full-contact karate champion. He came to the U.S. in 2003 to teach physical education in Danbury while continuing to compete in kickboxing and he began to explore different approaches to sports conditioning.
“I like to study new ways for training,” he recalled. “I was finding the way to be better and stronger.”
In 2010, Janicki retired from competitive sports after more than 12 years as a professional athlete, devoting more time to raising his family. However, he was still receiving inquiries from prospective athletes for coaching and advice, as well as calls from regular people who were eager to get into better shape. By 2015, he decided to formalize his consultative work as MJ Training with the goal of helping people focus on their fitness needs.
“I was working in a couple of gyms and last year decided to open my own space,” he said. “It was a big step.”
Janicki can be found in his 2,800-square-foot MJ Training facility at 248B White St. in Danbury. Now celebrating his first anniversary in business, he built his operation by offering specialized classes in kickboxing along with a fitness boot camp and one-on-one training. Working with two part-time trainers and a full-time administrative assistant, Janicki trains 60 people for his member classes and 10 individuals for the one-on-one sessions.
Janicki’s kickboxing program is called StrikeFit and combines cardio kickboxing with full body conditioning. Participants wear five-finger MMA gloves that allow them to grab and hold fitness equipment. For the boot camp, Janicki seeks variety in his approach and maintains control over participants’ output.
“We never repeat the workout,” he said. “We do 45-minute sessions and not too many breaks. It is a mix of everything: cardio; strength training; agility training; bodyweight exercises like push-ups, jumping jacks and running to kettle bells; barbells; jump ropes. You don’t have any limitation to the boot camp and it doesn’t matter about your weight or your fitness level. We show a lot of modification and you can control your pace. You can stop and no one will judge you.”
Janicki’s focus is on clients age 16 and up and he has a few participants in their early teens focused on losing weight. He is also a certified nutritionist and provides individualized meal plans for his clients. And it appears that he’s getting results, with evidence on a wall collage of before-and-after photographs. But he added that’s just a sampling of what he’s achieved.
“Not everyone wants to have pictures,” he laughed.
Janicki acknowledged his one-location business is up against big-box gyms with numerous outlets. But he is not intimidated by his larger rivals.
“I don’t worry about the competition. They’re always going to be there,” he stated. “I believe that if you are good and you believe in what you are doing, and you see that people are gaining from what you offer, you are going to stand out. It’s not always going to be easy. You have to be very strong-minded and have the drive to keep going. About 70% to 80% of my clients used to be big-box gym members. Now, they don’t go there. Nobody taught them or showed them. Here, my main goal is to make people feel at home, like a second family. So, we know their names and histories on every step of the journey.”
If there is one aspect to running MJ Training that was intimidating for Janicki, it involved his need to immediately master social media marketing.
“I am not a computer guy, so this was the hard part for me,” he said, although he has gotten the knack of Facebook forum postings and Google advertising. “I have a long way to go. My goal is to keep growing slowly and, hopefully, expand to a bigger space.”