“A Word of Warning”
A fighters view to training for the first fight.
By: Dr. J. Greig
Part 1: Wow, I can do that!
I have trained in martial arts for over 20 years. I started when I was 10 years old in Choi Li Fut Kung Fu. I hold three black belts and several lower belts in various arts. I spent several years in the US Marine Corps. I trained in my spare time with one of the Marine Corps most respected hand to hand combat instructors. I have always fancied myself as a decent fighter and have had numerous encounters on the street in which I have been successful. I am 35 years old and the father of three boys. I am a fund manager and investment banker by profession and hold a Ph.D. in international banking and finance.
So why would a well educated, expertly trained fighter want to get into the ring at age 35? I have always looked to adrenalin sports and have competed in professional paintball, geometric skydiving and auto racing. I wouldn’t say I am an adrenalin junkie, but I like to push the envelope of fear. I have been to many of the cage fights and martial arts full contact competitions but never had any interest in actually getting in there and doing it myself. I was always too busy with other things and thought I was a good fighter and didn’t have to prove it.
Everything changed one night in July of 2004 when I went with my Kenpo instructor Shane Simpson and his wife Penny to the King of the Cage fight in Anacortes, WA. I saw many “Black Belts” get in the ring against trained Pankrase fighters and lose big time. I said, “Wait a minute, that shouldn’t be happening”. Perhaps the black belts were just off of their game? But it kept happening time and time again. I saw the mistakes they were making and realized that the Pankrase fighters were beating them with very simple stand up and grappling techniques. The black belts couldn’t grapple. They also couldn’t punch or kick effectively. Their control of distance was appalling and their positioning was lousy. The Pankrase guy’s didn’t have lots of techniques, but what they did have they used very effectively. I began to think, I would kill those guy’s. They suck. (The black belts that is). I was learning Jiu Jitsu and had some wrestling in my background and thought I could handle the Pankrase guy’s on the ground long enough to get them stood up where I have always been effective. This should be easy. One last hurrah of testosterone before I succumb to my 40’s.
After the event, I spoke to Shane and mentioned that I thought I could do this. He said he would help if I wanted to do it. Shane said I would kill those guy’s too. (The black Belts). He also thought I would do well against some of the Pankrase fighters. This bolstered my image of getting in the ring. We discussed what training I would have to do such as more grappling and stand up drills and such. Shane suggested I give it 1 year to train before I get in the ring and I thought that was excessive, but thought he knew best.
So, I spoke to the wife. (Long Pause) Her response was a blank stare and then she said, “Honey, are you feeling old”. Not exactly what I wanted to hear from my bride, but at least it was honest. She knows I have capability, she watched me knock out a very big man I was in an argument with and doesn’t have any reservations about my skills. She did say that with the newest baby on the way and two already here that I better not kill myself or she would be pissed. I promised her I would only do 3 maybe 4 fights. Three maybe four quick knockouts should alleviate my ego. I could probably get them out of the way in a year or so and be able to go on to the next challenge of my life. My wife’s next statement was a little shocking. She said, “How much time do you need to train?” I thought, train, hell, I’ll just get in there and go for it. But in the interests of marital harmony I said, “Well, I think I will train for 1 year and then do a fight.” She was happy with this and threw in the condition that my head instructor Skip Hancock would have to give his ok before I could fight.
I spoke to my instructor Shane and he said great I’ll help train you. We have had some guy’s in the style get in the ring in Idaho and Shane was sure we could get some help from them. Then we spoke to Skip. Now Skip is one of the most respected fighters to come out of Ed Parkers schools. Even at 50 something, he is a dangerous fighter. Both Shane and I were surprised when he said, “Are you nuts!”. So I said of course we were nuts. Shane was looking at me thinking I must be nuts if Skip thinks I’m nuts. I was incorporating the proverbial “We” in my answer knowing it was really I. So I’m nuts, so what? I have done crazier things than this. Skip said he would give his blessing if I trained hard for 1 year. I said I would and we left it at that. Why is everyone making such a big deal out of giving it 1 year? I’m ready to go now.
So Shane and Drew Ota, our other black belt started to train me. I started running and had in 1 month worked my way up to 1 mile without dying. I could go for a 3 minute stand up round without getting winded too much and was working on slipping and countering. I was feeling pretty good about my capabilities. So Shane thought it would be a good idea to find some local guy’s to come in and give me some competition. He knew a guy who had a few fights and he thought he could get him to come in and work with me a little. I thought great, “fresh meat”.
I continued to train through August and was tearing up the lower belts in sparring. I was still a little fuzzy on my grappling, but they didn’t know much anyway so it all evened out. I was ready to go. I don’t know what I am going to learn in the next year that will make me any better. I’m ready to go now. Bring it on. Perhaps I can do a fight in October.
Cain came through the door on a hot Tuesday night. I was immediately intimidated when he took off his top. He was 6 foot and solid muscle. You could actually see the sinew in his arms and legs. He did the splits and kicked the bag a few times. The bag was folding in half with each kick. I thought he was just showing off, showing how hard he could kick. I thought, ‘That will wear him out.” He has this chin which juts out at you and you can see in his eyes he is a little crazy. No problem, I’m nuts right? I can do this. Just don’t look at his face. Besides, that chin is hard to miss. One quick hard jab and he’s done.
So we started to spar. I threw my trusty jab. It has been known to knock people out with one hit. With all of my 270 pounds behind it I was sure to do some damage. (Long Pause) As I looking up from the floor, Cain said, “Are you alright buddy”. I was sure I was. I must have slipped or something. Wow, my head is splitting. He said sorry, I didn’t mean to kick you so hard in the head. I said its ok. (No it wasn’t) I didn’t even see it coming and I don’t remember it. Was I unconscious? Who was I? What the hell was I doing? Oh right sparring. I shook it off and we went again. I strategized to work to the inside and throw a combination. While I was flying through the air I was thinking, “This is going to hurt.”. I hate being right. Cain woke me up a minute later, slapping me in the face saying, “Buddy, are you alright.” That was twice he said that. Was I having déjà vu? Perhaps this whole thing was a bad dream. Cain helped me up and went to kick the bag until I got my senses back. (Awfully nice of him) As the bag folded in half with each kick I began to realize that this guy was going to kill me. This was my last day on Earth. I suddenly realized my wife’s long stare was her premonition about this moment. I was nuts, and I was dead. She’s going to kill me when she hears I’m dead.
Cain came back to see if I was ready to go again. “Ready for what”, Oh right, dying, I mean sparring. As we sparred, I felt funny. What was that sensation? I felt weak in the knees. I hadn’t felt that since I was a kid. Cain looked like he had grown a foot taller in the last 5 minutes? He took it easier on me, some leg kicks and a few shots to the head but at least I was conscious. A black eye, my nose felt busted, but I wasn’t dead yet. I was just waiting for it. I could hardly breathe. This wasn’t like sparring in class. He didn’t stop moving. I had to keep moving to keep him off me. He was always coming at me. I was breathing so hard I couldn’t punch or kick. All I could do was get out of the way and try to block his punches. I felt like a lumbering cow being chased by a cheetah, a lamb to the slaughter. My legs hurt from being kicked and felt like they weighed 1000 pounds each. All I could hear was the beating of my heart. I was sure my head was going to explode. When will he put me out of my misery? Kill me already! I stopped the session before I passed out from lack of oxygen. We must have been going for ½ hour or so. I checked the clock. Cain had only been there for 15 minutes? Maybe the clock’s batteries were running down?
When we were done, well, I was done, Cain was just warmed up, I noticed everyone in the studio staring at me with expressions of relief. It was nice to see they were so concerned about my welfare. Cain asked if he could come in and workout at the school. He liked the way the floor was laid out with the bags. I said I would appreciate it if he could come in and teach me. He said that would be cool. I was thinking he would teach me how to be as good as he was. He was thinking, “Fresh Meat!”. As he walked out, the crowd of onlookers parted vis’a’vis the Red Sea and he walked out the door like a cowboy riding into the sunset. Everyone stopped staring at me and their eyes followed him out the door. There was silence in the studio for several minutes afterward as if the profit Isaiah had just left. I was still bent over holding my knees trying to get my breath. Thanking the war gods that I was still alive. Shane came over and smiled and said, “what do you think”? I wasn’t sure what he meant. What do I think of dying? What do I think of looking like an ass? What do I think of being beat like a wet rug? What?
If this guy is what I am going to run into in the ring I’m a dead man. I could see that my condition and my capabilities were somewhat lacking. Well, to be honest, I was a fat bloated cow. I was 5 foot 7 with 270 pounds on me. As I looked at myself in the mirror it dawned on me that if I was to survive I had to get some weight off. I was suddenly glad I had the year to train and was suddenly thinking, “Is that long enough?”. I would need to increase my stamina, flexibility, pain threshold, technique and strategy. In short, I sucked. 20 years of training right out the window. I went home that night with my tail between my legs and a new feeling in my gut. It’s amazing what fear does to your psyche.
I wanted to do this to prove to myself that I still had it. That I was still a viable fighter. To prove my mettle again one last time before I get put out to pasture. Guy’s like Cain do this because they like to hurt people. And they are very good at it. My ego trip to prove I was still “The Man” wouldn’t cut it. I had to find another reason. And all at once I had it. That pit in the bottom of my gut. Fear would be my reason. I will do it until the fear goes away. If it ever does.