Mixed martial arts is a fast growing phenomenon. Part of the allure of MMA is that many of the fighters are very accessible and seem to be no different than the fans. Unlike professional football or basketball, mixed martial artists come in a variety of shapes, sizes and practice an endless number of disciplines making it easy for fans to identify with and want to emulate them.
The problem for the aspiring MMA competitor is in finding a reputable school.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Gym
An important thing look for in a good gym are coaches who have fought in the ring themselves. I trained for several years under Chet Blalock at Blalock’s International Martial Arts & Boxing Academy in Chattanooga, TN. Chet always emphasized that training needed to be realistic and that your coach could only teach you what he knew. That includes being able to compete in the ring or octagon. If a coach has never been inside the octagon, he won’t be able to identify with what you are feeling and won’t be able to help you fully prepare to fight.
Having been a fighter isn’t the only prerequisite for being a good coach. As can be seen from Ken Shamrock and Quinton Jackson’s teams performance on The Ultimate Fighter Reality Show, not every great fighter is a great coach. Therefore I feel it important that you take at least one lesson to make sure you understand what you’re supposed to be learning. If it seems as if the coach is only there to inflate his ego by beating up on inexperienced students, it’s time to take your debit card and hit the door.
901 S. Carroll Rd
Villa Rica, GA 30180
Affiliated with Carlson Gracie.
Gracie Barra Jiu Jitsu $85 a month; year contract required.
Cardio Kickboxing/Combat Cardio $55 per month one year contract required
Full Membership $95 per month; one year contract required
Kids Membership $75 per month; six month contract required
Schedule: Jiu Jitsu Monday thru Thursday with open mat available Friday and Saturday
Private Instruction available by special appointment
The instructors at Gracie Barra seem to be very knowledgeable and Jose Junior the head instructor has an impressive fight record including wins at the National level in Brazil and top three placements at the World and Pan Am Games.
Kennesaw, Gwinnett, Alpharetta, Douglasville,
This may be one of the more popular mixed martial arts gyms in our area. I see cars with KnuckleUp window decals all over Interstate 75. When I have nothing else to do I imagine a road rage situation like the second Matrix movie with people leaping from car to car fighting and doing martial arts on top of rolling semi trucks. Probably won’t happen but it helps me to pass the time when I’m stuck in traffic. Anyway, KnuckleUp seems to be very popular and the website is very user friendly. KnuckleUp Instructors have fight experience some of which you can watch in the instructor bios on their website. An interesting feature is that KnuckleUp has its own fight league. According to the KnuckleUp site, “Each quarter, Knuckleup Fitness will hold a simulated professional tournament in a safe, structured environment. This single elimination competition will let you go toe to toe with another fighter for some great prizes all behind the spotlight and without your record on the line.” With MMA competition not being the most lucrative in the beginning stages, KnuckleUp gives novice fighters a chance to see if they really want to quit their day job and fight for a living.
2343 Windy Hill Rd
Marietta, GA 30067
If you are NOT interested in sleeping on your coach’s floor for a couple of years while you train and wait for your big fight break, but you do want to take MMA for fitness reasons X3 Sports might be for you. Although they do list Extreme Cage Fighter Clint Hester as one of their their fighters they seem to be geared more toward fitness programs such as cardio kickboxing. Of course you do get self defense classes at X3 Sports but it doesn’t seem to be a school that’s primarily focused on turning out fighters. Rather they seem to be interested in making MMA available to everyday people. One thing that jumped out at me about X3 Sports is they make it possible to sign up for a free session on the internet. This may not mean that it’s better than the others but it is a feature that makes it stand out because they are open to new talent and strive to be accessible to the martial arts newbie.
In addition to the schools mentioned, a good resource for finding MMA schools is www.findmmagym.com. It has a locator function which allows you to enter your zip code and it provides a map and links to all schools in your area. I’m a skeptic so I put in Albuquerque, NM and sure enough it pulled up top ranked coach Greg Jackson’s submission school. It also has a ratings system so you can see what others thought of the schools before you go there.
The most important thing, no matter where you train is that the training be realistic and include full contact sparring and especially have no claim to be some super secret technique from ancient Indonesia. That is a sure guarantee that it’s untested in MMA(it wouldn’t be a secret if somebody had done it in an MMA venue) and probably useless unless you’re facing an uncoordinated drunk. Real MMA schools have fighters who are eager to showcase their hard work by facing real competition, if the school you are visiting doesn’t have that attitude, leave.