Thursday, May 27, 2010

Taking the plunge

I'm diverting from my usual format of highlighting something from a Maryland gym or tackling a similar subject and instead sharing a personal decision.

For a while I have talked about taking a mixed martial arts fitness class at a local gym. Well I have finally put my money where my mouth is and starting June 22 I will enroll in the "Primal Skills" MMA fitness class at the Evolve Academy in Gaithersburg.

I previously took a tryout class at this gym last summer, by virtue of winning a drawing for a free membership. I took the class and while I was a little overwhelmed (mostly because my utter lack of coordination and flexibility was on display; seriously, I am about as flexible as plywood), I did enjoy it but did not follow up on it because at that time, I was still getting adjusted to my job and felt that I could not devote the time and commitment something as disciplined as MMA requires.

But now I feel like I am in a better place and ready to commit to this. Plus I am wanting to find new ways to get in shape, since I have been going to a regular gym for about a year and while it has paid dividends, I would be lying if I said it hasn't started to feel a little monotonous.

As my education in MMA continues, I am looking forward to some hands-on experience.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Getting a head start

When I was in elementary school a week wouldn't go by where our teacher would hand out flyers on karate classes that we could take home and have our parents sign us up for. I often brought them home and asked my parents to sign me up but they never did and to this day, I don't know why.

But I wish they had, because I feel like I could have become this kid, a 10-year-old from Frederick who has already won a pair of events at a national grappling tournament and appears to be well on his way to being a mixed martial artist.

He already has a first-degree black belt in tae kwon do and hap ki do, so needless to say he could probably kick my ass even though I'm 15 years older than him.

One of the gyms mentioned in the article as where he trains at is Frederick Fight Club, a local gym I have noticed during my time here in the area.

Even though my parents didn't sign me up for karate classes as a kid, I suppose I could have joined the wrestling team in high school as a segway to MMA, since fighters like Randy Couture and Dan Henderson were wrestlers before they were mixed martial artists.

I also suppose I could enroll in karate classes now as an adult, but I'm not sure I could handle being a novice at 25 while kids around Joshua Paige's (the kid mentioned in the article above) age are already excelling and receiving a black belt or higher.

Though since I am still planning to take a MMA fitness class soon, I suppose I should get used to the notion that I will probably be around younger competitors who are already more advanced than me.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A 'star' instructor

Before I discuss this, I want to fully disclose that I write for The Gazette. However, I am a business reporter and have no interaction whatsoever with any of the sports writers, though I know them to be great guys and even better workers. I was also not aware of this taking place prior to the article's publication, so I am in no way trying to endorse my full-time employer or bring it free publicity.

That said, The Gazette newspaper ran an article yesterday about UFC lightweight Kenny "KenFlo" Florian holding a Brazilian jiu-jitsu seminar at the Yamasaki Academy in Rockville. The academy was founded by Mario Yamasaki, who is a referee for both the UFC and for other mixed martial events, including Shogun Fights in Baltimore.

If Yamasaki wanted to bring in someone to help him teach his students, he would have had a tough time finding a better assistant. Florian was dominant in his last two fights, defeating competitors Takanori Gomi and Clay Guida each by submission. And though he lost his UFC Lightweight Title fight last year against BJ Penn, he held his own against Penn at a time when Penn was considered almost unbeatable.

Florian will fight again at UFC 118 in August against Gray Maynard in what is considered to be a No. 1 Contender fight for the Lightweight Title. If Yamasaki is the referee for that bout maybe they can reminisce about the time Florian stopped by Yamasaki's gym to provide some star-caliber instruction.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

A broad scope

Last month I highlighted an article written about an Annapolis resident who was trying her hand at mixed martial arts. Whether or not the two women I'm about to shine the spotlight on next read this article or not is unknown, but the Carroll County Times in Westminster recently wrote about two Maryland women who are trying their hand at MMA as well.

The two are training at Shaddock MMA in Eldersburg and one of the women featured in the article in particular, Nancy Cook, mentions how she got started in MMA and her path sounds similar to my own. In the article she says she "immediately fell in love" with MMA after watching a UFC event, which is basically how I became a big fan of MMA.

The other woman in the article, Bernice Parson, says in the piece she figured MMA training would be a good way to get in shape, which is also something I have given a lot of thought to. I am seriously thinking about taking a MMA class at a local gym in an effort to get in better shape. I have been going to a regular gym for about a year and while I have seen some results, I feel like there is more I can do to challenge myself to get in better shape.

But to me, this article once again speaks to the broad impact MMA has and will continue to have. Whether it becomes a love affair or just something to whip yourself into shape, MMA's scope continues to grow.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Keeping it going

In my previous post I highlighted some recent accomplishments by Team Lloyd Irvin of Camp Springs and Evolve Academy of Gaithersburg. This post will be no different, as both schools continue to showcase the success of their students on a national level.

A pair of Team Lloyd Irvin students recently brought home gold medals from the 2010 Brazilian Nationals, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu tournament in Brazil "that is considered the 'Toughest BJJ Tournament in the World'," according to Team Lloyd Irvin's weekly e-newsletter.

Brazilian jiu-jitsu is more or less the foundation on which mixed martial arts was built, so if you can bring home a gold medal from a world-renowed tournanment like that, both students would have a bright future in MMA if that is the path they choose to follow.

Evolve (which is an affiliate school of Team Lloyd Irvin) also brought home medals from a tournament recently. The school sent 8 competitors to NAGA, a grappling tournament in Charlotte, N.C., according to Evolve's weekly e-newsletter. Evolve also brought home 14 medals from the event, which is a very impressive number.

Speaking from personal experience, I'm not surprised that Evolve seems to enjoy success at these various tournaments. Based on the time I have spent around the school, it really seems to be one of the hidden jewels of MMA scene in Maryland. When you walk in their gym you definitely get the feel that it is a competitor's gym, even though they go out of their way to make everyone feel comfortable regardless of skill level.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Taking a bite out of the Big Apple

They say if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere.

Team Lloyd Irvin of Camp Springs and one of its affiliate academies, Evolve Academy of Gaithersburg, sought to make their mark in the world's most famous city. Both schools competed in the New York International Open Jiu-Jitsu Championship last week.

Both schools performed very well at the event. In its weekly e-newsletter, Evolve Academy student Rachel Demara said the school brought home seven medals and its students finished in the top three of their respective divisions. Demara even finished first in her division, she says, which is yet another sign that mixed martial arts and its many forms knows no gender boundaries.

A video recap of the event on Team Lloyd Irvin's website does a good job chronicling the schools' experience in New York, which I'm sure was a thrill for the students and instructors alike. Their enthusiasm and what I'm sure was a little bit of anxiousness is on display in the video as they have the opportunity to showcase their skills against some of the world's best.

As mixed martial arts continues to grow in Maryland, hopefully other camps in other states can see that not only is it a burgeoning market for events, but is also a fertile breeding ground for competitors.

Monday, May 3, 2010

With a little help from my friends

I covered a mixed martial arts in Pikesville last week. But rather than write a comprehensive review of the event, like I did with Shogun Fights II in Baltimore in March, I will just go ahead and provide a direct link to the review, which I wrote for another site, Mid-Atlantic Combat Sports. It can be found here.

I wrote the review with my friend Erin Morgan, a very intelligent and knowledgeable person when it comes to martial arts and who herself has studied the art for quite a long time.

In lieu of my own review, I will provide a few observations I gathered while attending the event, Cage Time Mixed Martial Arts:

- There was a good-sized crowd for the event. Obviously not as big as Shogun Fights, but then again Cage Time MMA took place in an armory and not an arena.

- There was a group of very cute girls there who were doing promotional work for some company called Istanblue Vodka and one of those girls was wearing a top that was painted on; it was not an actual piece of clothing. I just felt the need to point that out.

- Only the last two fights went beyond the first round. I'm not sure what that says about the fighters. Either most of them were very amped-up and just came out swinging and looking to finish early or some of the fighters had sloppy form or technique that ended up costing them the fight early.

- Either way, the enthusiasm of the fighters was very evident, especially during the fights between Jeremy Miller and Tom Desmond and Stephen Franklin and Matthew Dean. Miller finished Desmond early but those two guys just came out swinging. Dean came up short against Franklin but displayed tremendous heart.

A few fighters who competed at Shogun Fights II were also on the Cage Time MMA card, including Jacob Kirwan, Elijah Harshbarger, Joe Stripling and Brian Van Hoven. Kirwan, Harshbarger and Stripling all won their fights early while Van Hoven was in one of the fights that actually went beyond the first round. Van Hoven fought valiantly but lost by unanimous decision to Michael A. Santiago.

In addition to thanking Erin for her help in putting our review together, I also want to extend kudos to my boy Kramer for coming along to the event and to John Meyer for taking some awesome photos. John is a freelance photographer and more of his work can be found here.