You can join Unity MMA for any reason. Raja Kler will spin you in the proper direction.
A wicked wrestler in high school in Burnaby, Kler got some instruction in the national program and later switched to boxing and kickboxing.
Today, he is the owner and main teacher for Unity. He just moved from downtown into a much bigger, brighter space in the Seymour Building on 25th Avenue.
“It’s twice the size and better suited to the club,” said Kler.
Raja’s late father, John, and grandmother urged him to try boxing as a teenager. His boxing and grappling background helped groom him as an MMA junkie.
“People come to MMA for all different reasons,” said Kler, a modest 33-year-old who graduated from Fulton. “For some, it’s about fitness and health or social. For others, it’s about self-defence and competition. People are partial towards MMA because of its practicality.”
Kler, who was born in Vernon, has been running Unity since 2007 and has close to 60 students of all ages. He is an excellent communicator and inspiration, getting every child to sharea life story or answer a simple question during mass workouts.
Kenny Pope, who is 3-3 in MMA, and Cameron Love, who is 2-0, are his assistant instructors.
Kler’s prize pupil these days is 15-year-old phenom Rylie Marchand, a dynamo who won all three of her fights last weekend in Vancouver. Marchand struck gold in pankration (empty-hand submission) teen and adults category along with teen kickboxing.
Kler will accompany Marchand to Texas in August, where she will defend her North American 140-pound title for 18 and under fighters. She is the youngest MMA champion on the continent. She also fights on a June 10 card in Penticton.
“Rylie’s strength is her commitment to getting better,” said Kler. “She really is well rounded. She can strike, wrestle and submit. As well, her mom (Wanda Duncan) does a great job helping her achieve her goals.”
Kler offers free weekly trials with open classes going Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights. A monthly membership is $90.
“My philosophy is to try and help people achieve whatever they are looking for. My job is pretty rewarding. I get pretty stoked when someone tells me they lost 20 pounds or they won a medal thanks to my coaching.”
Kyle Watts won a silver medal in U13 grappling in Vancouver, while Leo Voracek took gold in U7. Gabe Voracek garnered silver in U9 and Dom Voracek did the same in U12.