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Hitting the Mats: Beginning the Journey to becoming a Martial Artist

For the average MMA fan, performing the maneuvers that they see in the cage is only a pipe dream. Though many if not all spectators of MMA have a desire to do that very thing, perhaps have even entertained the idea. My only question to those people is: what are you waiting for?

Nestled in an unimposing strip mall in east Mesa Arizona is Stand and Command Martial Arts. Where there’s no intimidation factor, no overzealous bully with latent daddy issues waiting to hyper extend your arm, and no attitude. Today we are going to be introduced to Johnny Kapeliela, a new Jiu Jitsu practitioner, who has decided to turn desire into action. Today marks only his 7th lesson. We are also going to chat with his instructor; Blake McClure, in order to get some insight on what new students should expect when beginning Jiu Jitsu.

DS: Johnny, what made you decide to take up a martial art?

JK: For my son initially, then I started getting into it myself as I saw my own progression.

Johnny is an active triathlete, but had absolutely zero background in any sort of grappling, or martial art before walking through the doors at Stand and Command.

DS: Were you intimidated at all when you first came into class?

JK: Yes, just because there were other people that know more, but then you realize they are in the same boat as you, everyone wants to learn.

DS: What’s surprised you most about Jiu Jitsu since you began?

JK: The intricacy of it, repeating drills of each move until it becomes second nature.

Some may be tempted to start learning Jiu Jitsu or another martial art and quickly get discouraged if they aren’t picking up things at a fast pace. Johnny points out that a great deal of time is spent on each individual maneuver, so nuances such as positioning, and transitions can be mastered for strong technique.

DS: How would you gauge the progression since your first lesson?

JK: Steady, I am a quick learner, but sometimes I get caught up in the move and skip steps. So repeating things is necessary.

Unfortunately, some of us get sidetracked by the want for “immediate results”. However, there should be no qualms about having a beginner’s skill level or the need to repeat moves for clarity when learning Jiu Jitsu. After all, the term “art” isn’t associated with Jiu Jitsu by accident.

Blake McClure, a thirteen year practitioner of Jiu Jitsu, was leading the class while I was in attendance. Typically, the class is run by his father; Mike. I stopped to get Blake’s take on those that may be considering getting off the couch and getting on the mats for the first time.

DS: Blake, we always hear about the standard benefits of taking Jiu Jitsu: fitness, self defense, etc. Can you give us a benefit that may be somewhat outside of the norm?

BM: The mental aspect. You can lie to yourself, but you can’t lie to the mats.

Blake went on to say that Jiu Jitsu aids in mental preparedness as well as the physical.

DS: What would you say to those that are “on the fence” about learning Jiu Jitsu but are reluctant?

BM: Just do it. Everyone has their hobby- this could be yours. It’s like not judging a book by its cover; give it a few lessons and several days before you judge it.

The key point being, go into it with a real feel for what is going to happen, but go into it!

In summary, you can go for fitness, fun or for the art itself but just go. I challenge you to do two things; 1) support your local independent MMA training facilities and 2) stop being a spectator and get out there and learn!

By: David “Doc” Schroyer

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