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Cage Fighting, Music, All Part of LeFay Teaching

Tuesday, March 26, 2013 @ 12:03 AM

Posted by Ron Wilshire

CLARION, Pa. (EYT) – An average day for Hillary LeFay of Clarion might consist of teaching music lessons in the morning; framing photos and paintings in the early afternoon; more music lessons in the afternoon; and cage fighting at night.

She has spent most of her life teaching one thing or another, and even a degree in architecture from the University of Virginia did not prepare her for all of the strange twists on the road of life that led to owning a MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) academy with her husband.

“I started the piano when I was five, the violin when I was nine, and (then) the school orchestra,” said Hillary.  “When I was a teenager I started teaching piano for people who asked, and my first real summer job was teaching swimming lessons at our local pool.  I was just always teaching something.  Our neighbor asked me to teach their dyslexic son reading.”

“I just loved teaching, but it never occurred to me to go to college for teaching because I always loved architecture.  I went to University of Virginia for architecture, a great school for that, and probably two years into it I realized I didn’t have a great desire to be an architect.  I love doing architecture, and teaching architectural history, and art history and things, and I continued playing music during that entire time.  I started taking education and music classes, but my degree is in architecture.”

After graduation, Hillary taught at a Montessori where she collected pedagogical ideas for the teaching of music.

She met her husband, Leo, when his car broke down in Virginia.

After a series of circumstances, they moved to Clarion, so that they could have custody of Leo’s son, Mikey, and that’s how they ended up in Clarion.

With all of her interests and activities, music remains the primary focus for Hillary.

“My career is certainly music,” said LeFay.  “I have over 60 private students, and I love it.  I love having a new project every half hour, as most of the lessons are 30 minutes.  Literally doing Every Rose Has a Thorn for one half hour working out the guitar solo and then These Are My Favorite Things for the next half hour.  Some people come to me for a short period of time to work on special projects.  One such person just got a recording contract in Pittsburgh for country music. He plays guitar, but he needed some pitch corrections, and I just worked with him for a few sessions.  I transcribed his music for it.  It was a fun project.  Music is definitely the career I love.”

She first started teaching music after arriving in Clarion and filling in for a semester at Immaculate Conception School.  She teaches piano, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, violin, bass guitar, cello, and voice.

Hillary doesn’t use architecture much in her new careers, but once a year, she does an architectural walk of Clarion with Ray Jones, art teacher at Clarion Area, and can even see a little of the architectural training in specialty baking.

“A lot of my education was model building and the sculptural aspect of representing your ideas, and obviously I didn’t make models out of frosting and fondant then, but I might have got a little of it from that.  I don ‘t really know how it all happened, but I’ve always liked to bake and cook. I don’t do it often, but I have made some people’s wedding cakes and special projects for people.”

Hillary LeFay (right) with student Kiera Vinson.

MMA all the way

Along with her musical and artistic side, Hillary always has had a competitive athletic side.

“I’ve always like working out and being an athlete,” said Hillary.  “I played soccer in high school, and they frowned on tackling people.  When I went to college, I was planning on playing soccer, but I saw a poster on a bulletin board for rugby, and that definitely was my speed. I really loved knocking people over…..a lot.”

After graduation, she found kickboxing in Virginia.  She ran for exercise after she arrived in Clarion, but the MMA bug bit Leo.

“Leo got into watching MMA four or five years ago and got into his head that he wanted to turn our garage into a place for him to do mostly Jiu Jitsu, some striking, and similar things.  I thought that even though I played rugby and liked punching things that this would be a guy thing.”

“When Leo started doing the MMA, I thought it would just be for exercise, but I love the technicality of it and the exercise of it.  It consumes a huge part of our time, but it is time normally spent together.” 

Both of Hillary’s kids, Haven, 9, and Mikey, 14, are also involved with Jiu Jitsu, but not striking. The family spends a lot of Saturdays going to tournaments or listening to famous fighters making presentations.

Leo and Hillary are now owners of Clarion MMA located between the former bowling alley and the Clarion County YMCA on Route 322.  The LeFays have trained in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and Leo has a background in karate and striking and was in the Army and went through other training.  They also do a lot of sparring at the academies.

The MMA is open for all ages with a variety of classes starting at the pre-school level.

“Starting at age three, we have classes pre-school karate, which is our youngest class,” said LeFay.  “There’s no striking involved in any of the younger age classes, and we have adults of any age.”

“Parents shouldn’t have any worries about learning the martial arts, and sons or daughters acting out after lessons.”
“Siblings tend to be much safer after these classes,” continued LeFay.  “We do have some kids who do much better when they have that controlled environment of learning how to control their bodies and getting information and learning their skills.  They are told not to use the skills at home.”

Discipline is a major part of MMA.  The discipline can be found with the sensei (or teacher), but also a discipline with one’s body that includes muscle control and nutrition.

There are competition opportunities, but for those who aren’t interested in competing, there are other things to do that offer exercise or self defense in case of a random attack.

“Five rounds of fitness class is based on research that shows the best ways to increase your cardio levels, but it is also works if you are preparing to work in Jiu Jitsu or preparing to compete,” said instructor John Miller. “Five separate rounds of five minutes each. You work as hard as you possible can at your own level.  You might be working up to five push-ups next to someone who is working on sixty pushups, but you can work at your own level quickly and push it.  Once we get to know you, we can also help push you a little further. That can be just based on fitness levels rather than a particular sport.”

There are many separate disciplines taught at MMA, and when you mix them all together and throw them in a cage you get cage fighting, a staple of professional MMA.

“All of the disciplines that we teach separately are the marital arts, and then when you put the mixed to it, that’s when you get the cage fighting,” explains LeFay.  “Some of today’s excellent cage fighters started out in Judo and are Judo black belts.  Other ones are wrestlers, and other ones are Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioners, but they are also working on all of the other disciplines at the same time.”

“Once you have a little bit of knowledge about what in the world they are doing, it’s fascinating and takes a lot of discipline and training to compete. The first time fighting in a cage is not the first time fighting.  You wear a lot more padding when you are sparring and preparing for a cage fight.  Hopefully, you are excellent in a number of disciplines.”

Clarion MMA continues to offer a variety of courses and will also offer summer camps again this year.  One of the most popular camps last year was a version of Hunger Games.

You can’t help but think that there is a little Katniss Everdeen inside of Hillary LeFay.

More information on MMA is available on Facebook or at

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