A few months ago, I was asked by MMA Wreckage to cover an MMA seminar in Los Angeles.
The seminar was hosted by the Paradise Warrior Retreat who traditionally brings in successful UFC fighters. The goal of the seminar is to allow the fighters to discuss and show guests some of their training techniques.
This time they featured Muay Thai Specialists Valetina Shevchenko and her sister Antonina Shevchenko.
Human beings have been competing since the beginning of time...
It has become a common belief that MMA is too violent of a sport and that it caters to an audience's need for blood and violence rather than technique or skill.
Some states in the past have even banned the sport all together. Back in 1996, the state of New York decided to ban the sport. It would be 20 years later in 2016 that New York with lift the ban and the first MMA fight would be held at the Madison Square Garden.
Even with these achievements there are still Skeptics that question MMA.
Probably shouldn't have let them watch Highlander before bed.
Before passing judgment on the sport, I felt that there needed to be a deeper understanding on professional MMA.
Jennifer "Warrior" Waters after her first MMA fight in 2016.
Some Skeptics compare MMA to the Gladiator sport. However, I don't believe they truly understand what a gladiator sport is...
Gladiator Sports in ancient Roman times involved Armed men who competed against other gladiators as well as wild animals and incarcerated criminals. These Competitions were life-or-death that were used to entertain the masses.
This is a gladiator sport... to help avoid confusion.
“The sport has grown so much from the early days of "No Holds Barred" fighting. And I can see why some people would say that it looks barbaric. Typically these people are not educated about the technical aspect of fighting.”
Jennifer spells it out clearly,
“Honestly, that was 20 years ago. Just like the NFL has gone through rule changes, regulation enforcement, and a pattern of continuous improvements, the sport of MMA continues to do that also.”
Regulations have been created and enforced to not only help the reputation of the sport but most importantly to protect the fighters well being.
“Many promoters also want to see some kind of fight footage before you step inside the cage. They want to know they are not putting a back street brawler out there with zero experience against someone with years of training.”
Boxing and kickboxing regulations call for a 10 second countdown when an opponent is knocked out.
Its because of these regulations that Jennifer says,
“Many people feel that MMA fighters suffer less traumatic brain injuries than boxers due to this increase of safety.
To someone with no martial arts training the two could look the same, but in reality the trained MMA fighter has been training for years and is regulated.
“This really is no different than watching two kids swim a race in a swimming pool and then watching Michael Phelps swim for an Olympic gold medal. The activity is similar but definitely not the same. Real and successful MMA fighters will spend years and hours of training to perfect their craft just like any other professional athlete does.”
I attended my first live professional fight back in December 2016.
What left me unimpressed wasn’t the fighters… it was the audience.
While many were in the same mind frame as myself, so many were the opposite. When the fighters would reach a stalemate with either grappling or gauging reactions, many of the audience members would begin to boo.
It blew my mind.
Here were these amazing athletes showing their talent not just physically but intellectually, and they were being heckled. It made me start to wonder how much power or influence the audience might have over a fight? Jennifer explained to me that like any sport, the amount of butts in seats will determine the future. Some promoters are focused on selling tickets rather than the longevity of the sport.
“I think it will take people with vision in leadership to really promote the sport to a high level. This will mean that the integrity of the sport must be thought of in advance before its profitability.”
If the focus falls primarily on money, then audiences would hold more power than they realize. What audiences need to understand is not every fight might meet their expectations. A lot of planning goes into creating a match-up but it doesn’t guarantee anything.
Jennifer reminds us,
“You have to remember when you are going to a fight that competitors are matched in skill level and style if possible, but sometimes opposite skill sets and the lack thereof can make a fight boring.”
Jennifer's first MMA fight was anything but boring, it was considered the "Fight of the Night"
When you attend a fight, always be prepared for some crowds to be somewhat uneducated of Martial Arts and MMA. For beginners to Martial Arts, don’t let your limited experience keep you from watching and learning through exposure. While many attend fights purely for the entertainment aspect of it, there is much to learn there as well.
Whether skeptics are gaining their opinions from the audience’s mood swings or on current regulations, MMA continues to be one of the fastest growing professional sports in the World. Whether it’s your cup of tea or not, MMA still remains one of the top popular venues to display martial arts competitively. One of the greatest ways we grow as martial artists is through exposure. Regardless of criticism, if you are intrigued or curious about attending a professional fight you should go and have an open mind but most importantly...
That's exactly what I plan to do with my besties at UFC 209 in March.
Jennifer "Warrior" Waters next match will be April 8, 2017 for NFC in Greenville, SC.
She can be found on Facebook @ Jennifer Waters or Instagram @jennifer_s_waters.
My parents enrolled me in a martial arts after school program when I was young ...
Needless to say my experience with competitive martial arts is limited. I’ve never paid to watch any fights, usually stumbling upon results or highlights on my Facebook feed, and discussing them with whoever brings it up around the Dojo water cooler. It’s not that I am against competitive fighting—I have just always felt knowing who the top ranking fighters are in UFC wouldn’t save my ass in a street fight.
When I was asked to help promote/attend the grand opening of the UFC GYM in Northridge, CA and the Paradise Warriors Retreat UFC Seminar, I was surprised. I didn’t know what to expect and I didn’t know what I would walk away with. That’s even if I could walk away afterwards.
When I and Ms. Z arrived at the gym we were pleasantly surprised to find that UFC GYMs are like martial arts versions of Chucky Cheese. It was clear that this place was well stocked for any form of fitness training but was also equipped with a mat and their own cage.
Yes that's me playing hide and seek.
It sounded ruthless and I had been told the classes were for any age or level but I was skeptical.
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I was proven wrong by the first class. The striking class with Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson and his dad/coach Ray Thompson was a pleasant surprise. Here where two clearly experience instructors not only providing realistic drills but discussing the technique and theory behind each drill that was obviously Kempo based (and yes some of the students were kids and women).
It was also an eye opener. As I watched it became clear that very few students had any martial arts basis to go off of. Some of the students didn’t even know what a proper fighting stance was. The Thompson’s were introducing them to literally basics and principles such as...
There is technique in MMA. It comes from the basis of whatever system you choose to start with. You have to learn the basics and hone your technique otherwise you’re just another bozo jumping around in gym shorts.
After class I got a chance to talk to Stephen.
A funny history lesson: My Grandmaster Sifu Ed Parker Sr. was Elvis’s instructor and it was Elvis’s involvement in martial arts that inspired Ray Thompson to start martial arts.
Stephen replied, “No, because of the way I move I don’t worry about it. I see these guys, you can tell (they’re effected) by the way they talk but they get that way in the gym. You have to train smart. When we spar we work light, we work the body not the head. You just have to train smart.”
Training smart was something he had brought up in the class repeatedly even discussing his former injuries and how he listens to his body to determine work outs at times.
Stephen didn’t even hesitate, explaining the importance of learning to defend yourself regardless of age and that it helps teach modesty and respect. He also brought up bullying, that learning to defend yourself will deter bullies.
Pretty much what all proper martial artist instructors have been saying since the beginning of time that no one wants to listen too. Now at Upstate Karate they teach various styles of martial arts. I have been somewhat confused about this in the past and I had read articles and rants online about learning too many systems and never mastering one. “Some people feel that by doing MMA you aren’t mastering a system. Your response?”
I can relate as an instructor. The countless times a student missed class for a week because of a track tournament or even a fatigued student because of back to back practices; at times the parents seeming to be more concerned with the quantity instead of quality of sport activities. I had a wonderful time talking to Stephen. He appeared to be a genuine guy that enjoys not only doing martial arts but teaching it, even taking time during the seminar to help the younger kids in the class. The complete opposite of what I expected.
We later watched the class by Carlos Condit ...
This ended up being pretty much a drill class. Carlos introduced incorporating elbows into blast double take downs and double under clutches. This was interesting to me because I had never heard of such things but as I watched the students you could tell that because they lacked the power principles most would have to try hard to take someone down or get pulverized in the process. The main lesson I walked away with from Carlos was a comment he made that indirectly connected back to Stephen’s interview...
“The more wars (sparring) you have here (gym), the less you have out there.”
Carlos responded, “Yes my son’s been doing Jujitsu a few years. He’s 6. I don’t train him, I just play and wrestle around, let it be fun.”
There are many different systems of martial arts and at times I think parents get confused on what is what and which they should enroll their child in. So I asked him for advice he would give parents thinking of enrolling in martial arts.
Carlos believes and advises, “Take out the competitive aspect and let them train and have fun. When they have fun it allows them to make mistakes and grow.”
I think in turn MMA has the potential to be no different from a singular martial art. It really just depends on where you train and who you train with. Unfortunately with the popularity growth of UFC I believe we will see more MMA versions on McDojos popping up. Anyone who’s contemplating training in a MMA style should take their time to do their research and don’t be afraid to ask questions. The trainers that enjoy the sport and know what they’re doing will welcome the questions because they have the knowledge to answer and are worth your time.
Jesalyn Mae Harper
Hello my name is Jesalyn. I'm a divorced single mom and a karate addict...
I am currently a 1st Brown belt in American Kenpo and a Junior Instructor at Double Dragon Kenpo Karate under JR Diaz, I am part of the Parker/Planas Lineage and study Karbaroan Eskrima with JR Diaz, under Guro Ed Planas
Antonina "Black Panther" Shevchenko
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
Carlos The Natural Born Killer Condit
Ed Parker Jr.
Fight Or Flight
Huk Planas World Gathering Kenpo Camp
Jennifer "Warrior" Waters
Josei Heishi Jiu Jitsu
Long Beach Internationals
Martial Arts History Museum
Martial Arts Mania
Mixed Martial Arts
Rick St. Clair
Stephen Wonderboy Thompson
The Martial Arts Woman
Valentina "Bullet" Shevchenko
Women In BJJ