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Slowing Down
'So You Start Training Again'

They were college wrestlers I met, an electrician; he lived down around Columbia, Route 32. He said him and his buddy would work out and grapple. He was a Division One wrestler in college. He also did judo at a high level. His buddy wrestled mainly at the state level and did Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Both were a little older than me. They invited me out to his house in Columbia, lifted weights. They’d do MMA and were fast—it seemed—because of the success in wrestling; I was talking about takedown defenses. We’d work out, order pizza, drink beer, watch MMA. It was fun, a good group of guys. The Greek guy I used to wrestle with was good, but these guys tossed my ass. I was bigger and stronger, but they’d throw me around. I learned a lot about wrestling.

They had expensive mats in the garage, grappling dummies, punching bags, weights. Being a college wrestler you’ve got to be more dedicated than other athletes. These guys impressed me. I really gained an appreciation of how a determined wrestler that wants to take you down can drive in like a hungry dog and keep going for it until they get you down. They also had a chicken wing eating contest, and they had one guy who ate 237 buffalo chicken wings.

I was 36─37 and worked with some guys that you would probably like to interview. It was a father and son I worked with. The father was a biker, a pagan, who did his time in prison and came out and worked as a carpenter. His son was a drug dealer. His son was a cool guy, did federal time in Fort Dix, New Jersey. They turned it into a giant federal prison. I was talking about being interested in MMA, and he knew these two idiots. These were Brooklyn Park boys; they worked out of some MMA gym on Ritchie Highway. One guy said he had some pro fights in Virginia, and the other guy was on his way.

We did some sparring. We threw on MMA gloves and banged it out, no headgear or nothin’. I was a good bit bigger than them, 220 to their 150─160. The whole thing was fucked up. If we did this in a boxing gym, it would have been shut down by a coach. You had nobody there to mediate this shit. Part of it was my ego. If they had been pro boxers I’d a got my ass whooped. I was disappointed in these guys. It was as if they had just put down the pot and the video games and decided to be pro fighters. It was hands, kicks, MMA.

I was already working out with the college wrestlers who threw me around like a rag doll, and these guys couldn’t do anything with me. These guys were trying to kick me in the head. As far as the boxing, I’d stiff-arm them out like bareknuckle and knock them around. They were getting their licks in. It was not a satisfying experience—not a learning experience at all.

Their hand work was basically at street level. I could tell they hadn’t worked with a boxer, slightly better than wild haymakers. I went back for a second time. We did this twice. I had no problem dealing with the leg kicks. I had grown up with the karate kids who always wanted to sweep your leg and had some awareness of my leg. My shin was a lot bigger—this guy is 70 pounds lighter—he ain’t from Thailand, hadn’ been kicking down trees. He’s from Brooklyn Park, kicking around cans on the railroad tracks. The one guy tried to grab me in the Thai clinch and knee me. That didn’t work because it’s mainly a method for like-size fellows. The elbows and the shoulders create the space for the knees. But my arms were long enough that I could just reach around and bear hug them.

If they were really pro MMA fighters, it was someone handing them who really didn’t care too much for them and was throwing them in there. When I was young, I’d spar good amateur boxers, and they’d beat the shit out of me. That’s nothing against MMA, but it’s flawed in terms of bringing talent to the forefront. Now, a college wrestler might not have any hands, but he’s got the wrestling part down.

These guys that are not coming from a solid background—and I just don’t see how some of these guys can come out of nowhere with no base, like they walk in off the street and decide to be an MMA fighter. As long as you pay the fee, they’ll bring you right along. These guys that come from base disciplines like wrestling and judo are outstanding athletes and do well in MMA when they come over because they have that high level athletic experience. I put wraps on under the MMA gloves and faked it both times—I wasn’t sure how they do it [wrap the hands] for MMA. I had a mouth piece and cup, no head gear.

We had swelled up eyes. My eyebrow was cut right there [points to inside of left bridge]; it was a weird cut. The eyebrow isn’t growing back right. We had busted lips and shit. Their faces were fucked up too. And these guys go back to their gym, and they’re getting high fives. Where in a boxing gym—like when I marked up Squeaky and Mister Mack bitched him out—that doesn’t happen. There is a big cultural difference between MMA and boxing. I was really disappointed and took it serious as a good learning experience. It just turned into a “whose dick’s bigger” meathead experience. In a street fight, either one of these twerps I’d grab hockey-style and beat the shit out of them.

When you get close to 40, you start slowing down and release some of what you missed, the physical side, so you start training again. That’s when I found your site. I think I started getting involved in MMA due to my age and my body slowing down, the desire to step into a no man’s land.

My wife tells me I’m childish for taking up the stick-fighting. But it’s good for me, has been helping me with my recovery. Besides, when I stop acting childish, it’ll be time to move on. The only thing good about us is the kid in us. Everything else is bullshit and lies.

Twerps, Goons and Meatshields: The Basics of Full Contact Stick-Fighting

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