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By: Brad Walker, MMATorch Contributor
This is going to be the start of my weekly blog as I train at Team Curran MMA in Crystal Lake, Ill., keeping updates on what I'm learning, how my body's feeling, and what it's like to learn with the pros. I will continue doing my regular columns and round tables as well, this is just a side item I am doing since I've joined Team Curran. I will be as in detail as possible, and try to keep it as entertaining as I can for everyone, since the Torch readers deserve all the best that we can offer. I appreciate you all following along as readers during this journey, and if you ever have any additional questions, don't hesitate to ask! I will also be making a point to add the hilarious musings from my wife during my training, because she is not only my biggest supporter, but also my biggest heckler, so let's get started!
Day 1: The Introduction
Yesterday (Tuesday) I called up the gym, and scheduled my introduction for the evening, and was told to arrive at 5:30 and expect to be there past 7PM. When I walked in, Erik greeted me, and got me squared away with all of my equipment; a gi, Thai pads and gloves, a Team Curran MMA shirt and a renewed sense of awesomeness. First, let me say that the price for the equipment is dirt cheap, but it is all customized for Team Curran, with their name and logo on most of it, which really adds a nice personal touch to the whole membership. I tried on my gloves, and they fit like, well, a glove, and my gi was a nice fit too; apparently it's going to shrink, but then again hopefully so am I. Now it was time to get my introduction on, and Chuck came by to whisk me away to the back mat for my introduction to Muay-Thai and the sweet science behind the violence.
As I approached the back mats, I noticed I was joined by four other new faces that were going to be going through the introduction with me, and we immediately got started on the basics - the jab and the right hook. To perform it correctly you have to master not only your movement, but your breathing; personally I found the breathing slightly more difficult than the movement. After getting down the art of each strike, we learned to put them together as a two punch combo - still not bad, but being the larger guy I am, I was sweating like a cold jug of water in a sauna already. We practiced in the mirrors for a bit, practicing our form and movement, and making sure we got down the breathing too. Then it was time to bring out the pads, which makes you excited and nervous at the same time - since you don't know if you're going to miss and accidentally punch someone in the face.
Luckily, I did not miss, or punch anyone in the face; the striking drills on the pads went great with the punches, and then Chuck told us it was time to work on our rear kick. Let me admit; I first thought to myself, "Why the hell am I going to kick someone behind me?" My first thought was as off the ball as it could have been, since the rear kick moves forward to the opponents ribs, where it lands and can hurt immensely. Having lackluster balance I got through the kicks just barely and my partner did his much better than I did - probably to be expected at this point. We got in the ring and practiced our striking a little bit more, and then Chuck told us it was time to get an introduction to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
We were folded into a class where they were doing some tumbling to warm up, which due to my lack of flexibility and currently injured ankle I had to sit aside and watch. The dedication of the students, even in the beginner jiu-jitsu class, was incredible, these guys wanted to learn - and they came to the right place. Shortly thereafter we were paired up and shown a wristlock to take turns practicing, I didn't catch the name of the hold, but it was certainly effective, as soon as my partner locked it in, I was ready to tap. There is so much more to BJJ than I could have imagined, and this was only the first five minutes of class, and I was already garnering a new respect for the masters of this art. Then we re-paired and it was time for one of the more effective arm bars of all time, the Americana.
I wound up back with my three original introduction teammates and we watched the demonstration of the proper way to lock in an Americana, and I memorized - no thumbs, rev the motorcycle, and paint the mat. As soon as you have it locked in on you and torqued, you understand why everybody inside of a cage struggles to get away from this, the discomfort is immediate and the pain is following just a smidge behind that. One of the introduction members had an incredible range of motion in his arm and was able to have it torqued very eerily to the side without tapping - I had to give him props for that. We then learned the importance of the far hook during the hold, so that you don't get rolled over - and some surprising secrets that I shall not reveal about the use of the thumb. Locking in the hold against an unwilling opponent is not easy, so let's give these guys some extra credit for pulling it off against other professionals.
As my introduction to BJJ came to a close, Jeff "Big Frog" Curran was on the back mats teaching a mixed-level Muay-Thai class to some of his students. He was walking around evaluating and giving personal advice to each and every student - which is exactly what any individual learning would want and need. When I got home my hips were sore, and my right elbow was about as achy as it gets, but upon waking up this morning, I felt like a million bucks. I hopped right out of bed, - ok, that's a brutal lie - I laid in bed and avoided waking up while my wife and daughter were eating breakfast, then rolled out of bed. The aches were already gone, and I'm looking forward to attending more classes this week, probably some Muay Thai tonight, with a chance of BJJ or just some treadmill work later in the week - but I guess we will see how the week unfolds!
As promised earlier I am going to share some of my wife's musings on my first trip to the gym;
"Honey, you know you're old – so don't get hurt, you're going to be 28 this year"
"If you try to use me to practice I'm going to kick your ass"
And last but not least
"Does everything actually fit in your cup? I don't get how it works."
Thanks for reading everyone - follow me on twitter @BradMMATorch
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