Filed under: training
The smell of sweat and leather invades the air. A musty, muggy heat causes an instant perspiration, creating a slick layer of sweat on my brow. I’m nervous, but excited. The setting is empty of any human presence, aside from a man wearing an all black gi, sitting on a bench cracking his knuckles. I take a deep breath and muster up every ounce of confidence I have. “Kyle?” he asks, shaking my hand. “Welcome to absolute.”
I wasn’t sure what to expect out of my initial tryout session at absolute martial arts. Mixed martial arts is the fastest growing sport in the world and that being said it’s no surprise that Keith runs mandatory tryout sessions for proper placement in his gym. I can only imagine the types of people watching an Ultimate Fighting Championship card and get the sudden desire to punch and kick and run around playing pretend fighter. It is never as easy as one expects. I remove my shoes and walk onto the vast mat surrounded with sporadic pieces of cage. Thick, dense heavy bags hang from chains with a taunting aura amongst them. I scan the walls, wondering if they could reminisce the pain and blood that had surely been shed in their glory. A post with thick rope wrapped around it for demolishing the nerve endings in your shins, lies in predatorial wait for prey to attempt kicking it. Championship belts hang from the wall legitimizing Keith’s ability.
We begin by shadowboxing, he counts out combos and I throw each punch with precision and an exhilarated breath. “tsh tsh” can be the only way to describe the proper sound of breathing during combat. Breathing upon exertion causes the abdominals to constrict protecting one’s self from a counter attack whilst on the offensive. We move on to hand pads, boxing combos, jab, cross, hook, cross, uppercut, body hook, cross. Easy. Carry on to a heavy bag, black to hide the bloodstains? Using my right leg, low kick, middle kick, high kick and again with the left leg. Easy. Bring on the Thai pads. Muay Thai is a deadly art that essentially uses 8 points of attack, fists, elbows, knees and shins/feet. Jab, cross, hook, cross, left elbow, right uppercut, left knee, right knee, left high kick, breathing heavy. “Again!” Jab, cross, hook, right elbow, left uppercut, right knee, left knee, right low kick, middle and high kick. Difficult. Sweat beads down my body like dew on grass of an April morn… and then someone sprays the grass with a garden hose while it’s raining. Lots of sweat. Three more 3-minute rounds pass and the final “beep beep” of the timer sounds like an angel whispering sweet nothings in my ear.. What? I didn’t just type that. It sounded like a dump truck driving over a bunch of steaks, rare. Needless to say I was relived the Muay Thai portion was over.
Brazilian Jiu-jitsu is like a game of human chess. It makes no difference who is stronger or bigger, it matters who is smarter and more patient. Jiu-jitsu bouts have been known to last for hours when the famous Gracie family first developed the sport in Brazil. Timing and leverage is key while methodically constricting your opponent into submission by isolating a joint or artery causing your opponent to ‘tap’ or give up. A precise yet blood- thirsty approach is a necessity. Keith’s 3rd degree black belt advertises his superior diplomatic approach to this selected discipline. He explains a few things to me, which I essentially already know. Guard, half guard and mount positions, as well as some very basic submissions, kimura, guillotine choke and an arm bar. He then beckons to my attack and the challenge has been set. We begin to roll, which in Jiu-jitsu is basically full contact sparring. For two strait rounds, Keith shatters my self-esteem and makes me his bitch. The most dominating position I was able to gain was a half guard, which I was actually quite proud of, I attempted a sweep to gain a mount position, he easily countered my attack, took my back and tapped me out to a rear naked choke. Now one has to understand, Keith doesn’t fit the stereotype of your typical mixed martial artist. He doesn’t have cauliflower ears, tattoos, or even muscles for that matter. He looks like a total geek. A very humbling experience regardless, and this Brazilian Jiu-jitsu ace is a fighting machine, bred for excellence.
Everything is sore. My shins are beat/beet red with the skin on my knees and toes sanded down to a thin transparent layer. My forearms tremble and my fingers ache. Everything is sore, but I feel fucking fantastic. My shirt clenches to my body, soaked in sweat and I stand up, proud of myself for giving everything I had. We bow to each other and I shake Keith’s hand thanking him for the opportunity to test my gameness.
“You may want to stretch when you get home and practice what you learned during today’s” He begins.
“Isn’t there a training tonight?” I cut him off questioning.
He eyes me up and down and nods approvingly. A smile emerged on his face showing the first hint of emotion that he has displayed thus far.
“Yes, you are welcome to join tonight’s sessions.”
I had proven myself, I’m a worthy contender and trainee in his gym. I went for an intense 30-minute tryout session and I initiated my return for later in the same day. I begin to wonder how many souls Keith demolishes in those trial sessions to weed out people who have no business belonging there. Davey and I return an hour and half later for Kickboxing class and Brazilian Jiu-jitsu class. Each class runs 45 minutes in length and is significantly more intense than the initial session. I roll with several dedicated patrons and hold my own, not getting tapped once and tap out two others with a triangle choke and a front guillotine. Feeling great!
Returning to Absolute 3 times a week at the very least is shredding me into a training machine. I go not to become an MMA fighter but more so to improve my ability in a professional wrestling atmosphere. A successful pro wrestler should be well rounded in my opinion. How can you be a pro if you cant amateur wrestle at the very least? Rhetorical question. My kicks are more precise and my stamina is heightening greatly. Strikes are more lethal, yet in turn that makes them safer. To protect my opponent will be easier attributed with strength and conditioning in peak form. MMA is on the rise and the route that professional wrestling is taking is geared towards that mentality. If you watch RAW Monday nights and see someone’s head being stomped in, changing the channel to an MMA program a simple jab could knock somebody out. I just feel that to add more realism and effect to the sport, wrestling could use more MMA influence than less. However, everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion.
Jab, cross, hook, cross, elbow, knee, low kick, high kick and cross is getting easier every week.
Sweat it out. K.
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