Standing around waiting for my prepping trainer to bring me my gear, I recognize the signed photos and boxing gloves of the previous fighters who have trained at this same facility. Well known for its world class experienced trainers around the city of Irvine, the Team Oyama Gym is one of the best mixed martial arts and fitness gyms in all of Orange County.
Staring at these photos of wounded fighters, I’m reminded of my motivation to be here: to learn, to feel, and to live the sacrifice these fighters put on the line every time they step into that octagon.
I meet up with my trainer, Ron, where we undergo preparation before stepping on to the mats. Ron teaches me a common style of hand wrapping and stresses the importance of hand wrapping to protect fractures to the small bones inside the hands. Start by wrapping the around the wrist to maintain a solid base, and layer your way to the knuckles, weave through the thumbs and fingers while making a fist to add padding to the knuckles.
I practice a series of basic punches and kicks on a punching bag, while Ron watches over my form and teaches me the Oyama technique of body control and feet movement. He shows me the foot rotation for some punches, which I find similar to the “squishing the bug” movement in baseball. Ron demonstrates hip rotation when throwing kicks and emphasizes body control and balance from the core. Focusing on controlled breathing and placement of the hit was just another thing to keep track of, as I realized that kicking with my muscles causes more bruises to me, than dents on the bag.
We warm up with an hour and a half long high intensity cardio kickboxing class that involves striking technique as well as bag and pad work and conditioning drills. We partner up and begin sparing with one another and put to test some techniques we just went over. After 20 minutes of sparing with Soo, I feel fatigue settle in and my form gets compromised and it’s safe to say my guard, along with my expectations, are let down and it doesn’t take more than a couple of jabs to the chin to make me aware of that. After a pretty intense cool down, my mind is set to the mats, where I will be instructed by jiu-jitsu specialist, Mo Khayat in a No GI Jiu-Jitsu class.
No GI Jiu-Jitsu is a form of MMA that focuses on techniques of submissions and reversal grapplings without throwing punches. We start off by doing a series of complicated, exhausting mat rolls that requires movement of the entire body as if your body was pinned in various submissions and these movements become your escape.
After several rounds of roll overs, we begin practicing a counter takedown technique that positions your opponent in a choking submission. I start on my back and as my opponent approaches, I stick my feet behind his knees and pull him towards me. As he becomes close enough, I grab his ankle and remove my foot and kick him in the oblique causing him to go to the ground as I jump up, gaining control of his legs. Maintaining core balance, I grab his leg and force it between my armpits and hold control of his legs. As he struggles to escape and pushes against my chest, I push down on his chest with my left arm, I sweep his leg all the way to the floor with my right arm and roll my body above his chest, positioning my arms around his shoulders and maneuvering my body pressure to his chest, achieving my first takedown, and ending my training for the day.
As I learn about mixed martial arts, I’m reminded of the dedication it takes to achieve an ultimate goal of being a champion. But also enlightened about a sport where tapping out means the match is over. Tapping out doesn’t mean giving up, not stepping on the mats of the octagon does.
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