Category Archives: Calm Before The Storm

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My boxing rebellion… Glimpsing, describing, discovering the sport at “Battle at the Boat 91”

I risk a bit of pain and confusion this Saturday, the 23rd of March. Not physical pain though, hopefully. I will suffer intellectual pain, and general dumbfoundedness.

Where I was, amid the first pangs of my curiosity toward Mixed Martial Arts competition a little over a year ago, I find myself once again.  I am making an investigative advance into the competitive sport of boxing. Honestly, I know very little. That needs to change.

As much as I love the MMA world, and as progressively more familiar with it I am becoming, I am still seeking something sacred.

Stepping in the ring against Jeff Holcomb really woke me up to the fact that, sure, you can have someone place you in a stance and give you basic instructions in blocking, kicking, and punching. You can watch all the fights you want. You can rent Dragon, the Bruce Lee story. You can go to the gym a couple times and get tossed around for practice. None of that really matters. You need to have the conditions in your life which are conducive to becoming a competitive fighter, or it will never happen.

Writing is my blues. It is what gives me a chance to perform and deliver a product with a particular intention. Fighting is attractive because the intention is quite simple. Winning is the intention.

When you observe a sport and become familiar with the rules, (and I’m repeating myself, but…) all the complicated politics of the world seem to disintegrate. The only politics that matter when you watch a sport are the rules and procedures of that sport. Losing in competition is obviously emblematic of death, but really, even the concept of death is more laid back when fighting is a competitive outlet.

Liberal, conservative, black, white, smart, dumb, it doesn’t matter in combat. Statistics matter, but even then, not everything that happens can be predicted, and no outcome is inevevitable based on mathematics alone. Mind and spirit are very real in these realms. Faith in yourself can have overwhelmingly positive effects on the outcome of a bout. Pride or ego can effect outcomes as well, and they do not always lead to victory.

What do I expect to find in boxing? I want to get a better glance at strategy. There is obviously strategy within MMA competition, but all it takes is a sneeze, or a glance away to jot down an important note, and you can miss the lightning strike. I want to see every lightning strike as it takes place, and to get a better idea of what this factor is that leads to competitive victory. 

Boxing, being channeled through punching, foot-motion, blocking, etc., will allow me to rest my mind on fewer descriptions. That is where Rougheart MMA Journal will begin to grow further.

Falling off the map blues

Dimming the lights, turning up some Robert Johnson on the stereo, and brewing a fine cup of coffee, I look to an empty note-pad and an unsharpened pencil on the clean kitchen table. I see my slight reflection in the window and consider the wet cold of Washington winter outside. The coffee-maker crackles, and I remember that I love that sound. I love that smell, like nothing else on earth, that fresh coffee smell.
Then there is the smell of pencil-shavings, an extra dusty sawdust scent that tickles your lungs a bit. I push a steak-knife to the unexposed graphite tip with my thumb, careful to slant the knife edge back up as I widdle out a dull point.
For a year now, I have contemplated the conditions leading up to two men entering the sanctioned cage. I came into this field completely mesmorized and overwhelmed. Other things have also come to mind, not all of which can be put into a format comparible to that technical one we would approach MMA with.
Maturity, and what that means, a thought which even bothers me a bit now. We can’t all be mature, but it would be a good idea to at least appear somewhat sane or intelligent. This is especially the case with writing about MMA, following people around asking them questions, pestering them for information when half of them could kill you with their bare hands. Don’t be stupid.
Also, how to write about the people regardless of the sport, is something which has moved me deeply. I have realized that even those at the highest pinnacle of cage-fighting competition face many of the obstacles and traps the rest of us are so familiar with. There is an underlying drive not just to achieve temporary victory, but to achieve a longer standing position of honorability which we can take further comfort in. We want our name to be worthy of the objects it will be etched upon. We are forever planting seeds, hoping for favorable outcomes.
Following suit, I too, find myself flesh and bone, trying not to fall off the map.

Wrestling… not so easy

On the first Tuesday conditioning session I have made it to at Full Circle in almost a year (with the intention of participating I mean), James Bergstrom asked if the few guys who showed up wanted to focus on wrestling. This was a smaller crew than I was used to seeing on Tuesdays, and I was a bit surprised at first. R.J. Hoyt and Dustin Praxedes were originally going to accompany me, but Hoyt is a pipe-fitter at the shipyard, and doesn’t have it all that easy as far as his schedule goes. Dustin, after a win against Brad Pole at last Saturday’s Point Casino “Pummel at the Point”, was probably exhausted from the adrenaline coursing through his veins for nearly a week. “This is usually how it rolls the week right after fights,” explained Bergstrom.
As for myself, I had been humbled into rethinking my approach to MMA.
I had seen the footage of my bout with Holcomb, and could now identify a handful of things I had done seriously wrong, even from an outsider’s perspective. Tilting my head away as punches came, hesitating after any solid strike, allowing kicking space, failing to throw a right of any sort that landed. I also realized I know nothing about wrestling. I needed a crash course to satisfy my curiosity. Bergstrom was happy to hear that I was up for it, no doubt wanting to have fun as well.
We warm up, to what Bergstrom and his crew must consider warming up, and what I consider a full workout. I was thrilled that I made it through without wanting to die, which if I still smoked cigarettes, I am sure I would have.
Will Montgomery walks in just as the wrestling lessons and activities begin. Montgomery’s fight against Steve Wing of Red Neck Militia, Oregon, was the bout which landed me a published review in Northwest Fightscene Magazine. It was a nail-biter, which could have gone in quite a few different directions throughout rounds. Since then, I have not seen Montgomery fight, but I have seen Wing in a grappling match which he had won. I have an idea of what these two are capable of.
When it comes to the wrestling aspect of cage fighting, I’m clueless.
Bobby Lawrence and Bergstrom give a fellow newbie and I some basic instructions for breaking away from a leg grip which I am still confused about, and maneuvering so that we might eventually end up with our arms locked favorably around our opponent. This is all fun at first, but when Bergstrom sees one of my attempts at mounting for a submission strike… “You look like a pregnant seal trying to dock itself,” he says. I can laugh about this, because it really wasn’t meant as a “fat-joke”, but even if it was, it was a pretty accurate statement. In the grand scheme of all my endeavors with Rougheart MMA Journal, one of my largest irritations is my lack of knowledge about wrestling. After last Tuesday, I can safely say that higher on my list of irritations is that wrastlin aint easy. At least not as easy as it looks.

Bergstrom curled me into a few common positions, and even got me with the “tickle me Elmo” submission. “Yeah, we don’t tap to the tickle me Elmo submission,” he explains, driving his fingers into my armpit as I am unable to escape. This was the most exercise I think that my abdominal muscles have ever had. Trying to escape from these positions seemed close to impossible to me, and the technical knowledge is weighty. Not as simple to write about as Joe punching Sam in the face with a left, and Sam kicking Joe in the ribs with a right. This involves reflective strategy, much like that required in a game of chess.

Bergstrom pits me against a 185’er named Matt, who looks a bit like Zangief from the video game “Streetfighter”. I have a hard time believing him when he tells me his weight-class. I think of Skyscraper Struve, the tallest fighter in the UFC right now, but sporting an over-sized beard. Matt thrashes me around like a rag-doll, and isn’t as friendly as Bergstrom when it comes to pinning someone down. My jaw is still a bit bruised from where he pushed the top of his head down on me against the gym mats. The only reason I didn’t tap at that point was because I couldn’t move my arms. At first, I was actually tapping my own torso, thinking “I know I give up!”

Then I was happy to be pitted against Will Montgomery, who I introduced myself to, and explained why he was one of my favorite fighters in the Northwest. Here is the review I wrote for Northwest Fightscene with him as the main event:

Montgomery, like Matt earlier, also had the courtesy of not going easy on a newcomer. Like a boa constrictor, Montgomery found ways of bending my body until I felt like whimpering. I wanted to tap at one point when he had turned his entire body around to grab one of my legs while he pretty much used my face as a stool. The final position I ended up in would have been morbidly painful if he was in a serious competition and intended forcing someone to submit. I lay down looking up at the ceiling after our session was over, understanding now that there was just one more part of this MMA gig that I needed to get to the bottom of.

Wrestling, and grappling skills in general, can obviously turn a cagefighter into even more of a threat in the cage. If you land down on the mats when you had been hoping for a good stand-up fight, and have your face squashed under Will Montgomery while he ties your legs in knots at your knees and ankles, that could be the end of your bout, easily.

Bobby Lawrence mentioned Landon Showalter’s Arlington Submission Challenge to me, and suggested I should accompany them. I’m taking him up on the challenge, and will be running a feature on it in January. I need the knowledge.