What could a high white belt possibly offer to a reading audience of Tiger Schulmann’s MMA students?
By: John Hawley AKA John McHugh – TSMMA Garden City
Perhaps I will start with a little bit of my story for context. I first joined Tiger Schulmann’s in 2001. I was in my mid-twenties and studied under Sensei Vincent Doonan, and then Sempai (now Sensei) Leonelli. I trained hard, instructed the children’s classes, and was ready for my red belt test. I cannot give a simple answer why I stopped, life happened as some say. I moved almost an hour a way, was in the infancy of my professional career, and was engaged to a young lady.
These things are by no means reasons to stop but they contributed. Life went on and I wound up getting married, advancing in my career, and even had two beautiful children. Through these ten years a series of events happened that dismantled my life. Let’s skip the ugly details though and focus on coming back over 10 years later.
To steal a stand up comedians line “I was fat and skinny at the same time!”. I just didn’t feel good physically, or emotionally
.This past year I’ve been putting my life back together and everything on paper was looking much better but something didn’t feel right. I still had a wandering mind at work, I was smoking too much, I was drinking several coffees and red bulls a day, and my diet was atrocious. To steal a stand up comedians line “I was fat and skinny at the same time!”. I just didn’t feel good physically, or emotionally.
A discussion with my girlfriend kept coming up. She wanted to introduce some sort of exercise as a couple into our lives. We looked at some gyms, did some walking and hiking, and even started eating healthier by our standards.
Tiger Schulmann’s came to mind at some point. I had been looking at other martial arts also because I felt it might be wise to find something that didn’t include punching. A few years back I was bit by my cat and didn’t seek medical attention immediately. After a few weeks of fevers, intense pain, and my fingers swelling into bratwurst shaped monstrosities, I went to the ER. It turns out the the bacteria in the cats saliva had infected my bones in the joint of my left index finger and had become septic. I almost lost my finger but I got lucky and only lost all cartilage in that joint and considerable amount of mass in two bones. I never did physical therapy so I wasn’t able to make a full punching fist.
All I have to do is show up, shut up, and train hard – the rest takes care of itself. My goal is to train, to learn, to fight, to be involved in something bigger than myself.
One might see why I was reluctant to come back, but I still suggested training to my girlfriend. So after putting it off for a month or two, we stopped by TSMMA Garden City and spoke to Joshu Karikas. Before he started talking to us I made a decision: I WAS COMING BACK. Seeing people training on the mat brought me back. I remember filling out the paperwork and not being sure whether to mention I was a student before but I did. Something immediately kicked in mentally – shut up, listen, show up, train hard (at least I remembered that much)
To steal a stand up comedians line “I was fat and skinny at the same time!”. I just didn’t feel good physically, or emotionally.
Now that I’ve been training for three months, my quality of life has gone up dramatically. I feel better, my thinking has become more clear, I quit smoking (although I still make a mistake with that now and then), I am looking better, and I am happy. The last one is the most important : I am happy. All I have to do is show up, shut up, and train hard – the rest takes care of itself. My goal is to train, to learn, to fight, to be involved in something bigger than myself.
There is a genuine quality of character that people at TSMMA have that include integrity, enthusiasm, a sense of community, family values, teamwork, and honor. Each day I feel stronger, faster, healthier, and happier. I don’t have dramatic before and after photos nor have I overcome a horrible adversity.
I am very low ranking in belt now but instead of offering you a submission technique tip or how throw your hip into a strike, I can share the things I have learned that are the keys to successful learning at TSMMA in my opinion. Metaphorically I suppose am the guy talking and trying to give you tips about your kicks instead of focusing on my own training, so I’ll rapid fire it out before Sensei or Joshu come over and tell me to stop talking and start punching 😉
What is remarkable about TSMMA is how accessible the instructors are. We need to take advantage of this generosity. Here are some suggestions:
Use social media – Many of the schools, instructors, and fighters have pages or profiles. Friend request them and speak to them. I noticed that TSMMA instructors and students are very quick to accept friend requests from fellow students. Message them, ask questions, get involved.
Go to a fight – There are many students who fight as amateurs and professionals. Go watch and support them. Not only is watching all the other fights fun, but you are building a rapport with whoever is fighting. It makes asking these people for help on the mat much easier, and they have seen that you have the same passion as they do by attending fights.
Participate in Challenges – The challenges like the weight loss challenges are designed to help you, my school is starting the dolce diet challenge which is a lifestyle change NOT a diet. These challenges are part of the curriculum and can help improve your skills on the mat. If you went to IKEA and bought a living room set would you take everything but just leave the coffee table?! No, you would take home everything you paid for: part of MMA training is improving all possible aspects of your life, SO PARTICIPATE IN CHALLENGES
Participate in School Functions – TSMMA has many functions like charity fundraisers, mother’s day training, ect. Not only do these help encourage a sense of community but they help foster a sense of friendship with other students.
Make sure TSMMA has your correct email – Give the school an email you check regularly. They don’t send excessive email, and the email they do send has links to useful information. It’s also a good idea to check your email filter settings and junk mail. For some reason my Hotmail account was seeing TSMMA as a spammer so I had to fix that.
I don’t know if this story or tips helps anyone, but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!