For quite some time now, I’ve been a fan of MMA. The conditioning, training, and strategy involved have piqued my interest over the years. Of course the first time you see a MMA event, you can’t help but to notice the blood and violence that gets displayed. It’s when you take the time to educate yourself about the sport, and talk to fighters that you gain a totally new perspective on the sport.
Reading about MMA and watching it was satisfying to me— until I had a realization: I should get out of my comfort zone, and learn more about MMA by actually doing it. My favorite fighter George St. Pierre, is the welterweight champion in the UFC, and after learning more about George and his training, it became clearer to me that I should at least attempt to train. In his book, “The Way of the Fight” Georges describes how he got his start in MMA training, and how much he had to overcome. With his hard work ethic and determination, Georges St. Pierre transformed into one of the finest athletes the UFC has ever seen. The point I’m trying to make is not about thinking I can transform into a fighter, but to gain knowledge about the sport and experience the world of MMA.
It was a cold night (30 degrees to be exact) and I was on my way to my first MMA training session. Getting out of my vehicle, I walked up to the door of the gym, and proceeded to go inside. Stepping inside the gym was an explosion of activity in front of my eyes. Guys and girls gearing up, stretching, light sparring, laughter, shaking hands, loud music, and me (taking it all in). To my right was the front desk, and I was greeted by a black belt in Hapkido. After filling out a waiver, I was given a tour of the gym and was introduced to several fighters. Putting on boxing gloves, it was time to work out. First up was cardio, and it was the most exhilarating feeling I’ve had in a while. Standing in line, then sprinting to the punching bag and throwing a series of combinations, and sprinting back— completing more exercises was grueling. During that workout, I smiled to myself and was glad to be in such company with great athletes.
After cardio, the real training began: drills. This part was tough to grasp at first, but after getting some instruction I started to nail down some combinations. The constant sound of 1-2-1, 1-2-3, and 3-2-3 was heard throughout the gym. Next I received instruction on how to put it all together and add some kicks. Working on the bag, a professional fighter taught me the basics of combinations and how to properly throw punches and kicks.
The training session got even more intense after that, and it involved sparring. For my safety, I was not allowed to spar whatsoever. My instructor wanted me to observe, and learn just by watching. Surveying the fighters, I picked out (in my mind) the best fighters, and watched them with exquisite detail. It’s amazing what you can learn just by watching something, and I definitely picked up on some things.
The home stretch was grappling, and I was eager to learn this aspect of MMA. Typically in a MMA fight, the fight might go down to the ground and that’s where you will see a complete fighter, as opposed to someone that’s not. In MMA, it’s absolutely crucial that you learn the ground game and learn how to defend yourself if the situation comes up in a fight. Getting to learn various moves was such a thrill, and getting instruction from a seasoned wrestler was the icing on the cake. The last part of the training session was getting to grapple with a fighter. Grappling was definitely the highlight of the night for me, and being able to escape a few times was exciting as well. When the final buzzer sounded, I was exhausted beyond belief. Talking to my instructor afterwards, he expressed to me that from what he could see, I was doing a great job for a first timer. Thanking him for his kind words, I told him I loved every minute of it and that I would return. Walking out of the gym, I felt a sense of accomplishment and was glad that instead of thinking negative and downing myself, I challenged myself and got out of my comfort zone.