Maggie’s Review

First Impression:  Remember when you were little and you thought that if you covered your eyes with your hands that whatever was threatening you would go away?  Well, it worked with imaginary monsters, sometimes it worked with the dog but it doesn’t work with sparring.  We asked Kory if she would try sparring with us and she gave a pretty definitive “no”.  Red flag number one.  I asked why?  Her response was that apparently she likes her face and teeth too much to try sparring.  With that response I immediately started weighing my options… hmmm, who hasn’t thought about having some “work done”?  This might give me a valid reason but I really don’t think my face was what I had in mind.  And with that… I became nervous.  I asked a lot of questions, did a lot of research and watched a lot of videos.  No matter how prepared I “felt”, in the end I was afraid of getting jacked in the face, losing teeth and/or looking like I “walked into a doorknob” when I go out in public with my husband.  We took all the necessary precautions.  We borrowed some gloves, wore clothes we could easily move in and purchased mouth guards to keep our teeth from falling out (and to prevent a concussion).  When we stepped on that mat we looked like MMA pros (or at least we did if you were looking from really far away and had questionable vision-  good enough for us!).

 What I Most Liked: Hands down, no questions asked what I liked the most would be our fantastic instructor Duane.  He was a very spiritual guy and it showed in everything he said and did.  The idea of MMA sparring seemed intimidating and at best a little scary; however Duane’s positive energy put me at ease the second I walked through the door.  His spirituality was apparent even in describing how to stand as he made reference to imagining a line coming straight down from the heavens, directly through your body and rooting you in to the ground.  Additionally, he made mention that several times that he was very blessed to have us there… I would argue the opposite.  We were very blessed to have Duane gift us with his knowledge, awareness and positivity.

What I Least Liked: I feel like I should be saying that I didn’t like getting punched and kicked but it really wasn’t that bad.  To practice sparring we used light strikes, so nothing really hurt and our potential for any  real injury was low.  Most of the pain I experienced came from learning to execute a proper strike.  A good portion of the stress was felt in my wrists at first; however it got better as Duane corrected our form.  My only real complaint was that my mouth guard left a super annoying indention on my gums.

It was… an amazing experience.  MMA sparring uses a lot of Tai Chi basics and circular motions.  Although we are not experts we definitely got a quick and dirty look at MMA sparring.  Duane showed us a couple of combination punches, how to block, how to strike and how to land a roundhouse kick.  He also explained to us the mechanics of what we were doing.  We learned how to properly punch using our body and how to focus on the physiology of where the power behind each strike was coming from.  We were instructed to “stay in our box”, rotate our hips when striking and always return our hands to the blocking position to protect our heads.  We were also warned about prevention of common injuries such as rotator cuff injuries which can result from leaving your shoulders open when you strike.

For me personally it was the breathing and relaxing that was the hardest part.  Despite knowing I would not actually get injured, it was a little difficult to mentally and physically grasp this concept when I had a giant man coming at me with the intent of striking me. Let me tell you… relaxing does not come natural to a 5’5” 123lb woman in this situation.  In fact, I thought I was doing well just by fighting my intuition to curl up into the fetal position in the corner and see if he disappeared after five minutes.  The good news is that I never truly got hurt.  I did however; get a fun story to share and learned a little.  At one point when I was practicing sparring with Duane I was receiving pointers from Carlos.  He would advise me to move around, use my kicks and to block my head.  As I kept tensing up, Carlos advised me to relax my stance a little, so I did.  At the same time I inadvertently dropped my hands a little, thus leaving my head unblocked and exposed.  As the mantra goes- an effective way to learn is to learn from your mistakes.  The second I dropped my hands all I could see was Duane’s glove growing increasingly larger as it approached my face.  Duane very effectively landed a strike right between my eyes.  That one may have given me a little stinger but the lesson was learned- ALWAYS PROTECT YOUR HEAD.

In the end, MMA sparring was a blast!  It was very cardio intensive which made it a great workout and with a competent instructor anything can be relatively safe.  Would I recommend MMA sparring- yes.  Would I do it again- definitely.  I once again feel humbled and am amazed by the real athletes that compete in this sport day in and day out.  They have my full respect (and I don’t just say that out of fear of being punched in the face again).

That kicked my ass: I won’t feel it tomorrow, but probably the day after…

Will I ever do it again?  Maybe, maybe not…I hate to commit

Overall I think:  I’m not IN love, but I loved it


Sara’s Review

First Impression:  I was warned prior to going to sparring that I would be punched in the face and kicked in the stomach so I walked in the door with more than a little trepidation.  When I think sparring, I think anger, blood and violence – so I was pleasantly surprised when I met our instructor, Duane, who was very friendly and charismatic.  He first had us practice several punches (I now know what a 1-2 punch is) and kicks (and what a roundhouse kick is) on the bags before we went one on one – then we did the longest 2 minute rounds ever for practice.  I am happy to report I did not get bloody, but did get punched in the faced and kicked in the stomach.  And will admit to one time punching myself in the face – hard – but on accident.

What I Most Liked: This was definitely not something I would have thought to try on my own and I’ve always been afraid to try it so what I liked most is that I actually went through with it and have my very own fancy pink mouth guard to show for it!  Working on the bags was tiring but not nearly as tiring as going two minute rounds that felt like forever.

My other favorite part – other than not chickening out – was learning (although Duane might say not really well) how to put my whole body into it.  He kept telling me not to punch with my arm – but to punch with my whole body.  When I caught a glimpse of doing it right, the force was amazing.  Very empowering.  Duane also did a lot of talking about the connection between your body and the earth’s energy and life in general being about a connection between mind and spirit which was not a philosophy I expected to hear just before being punched in the face  – but it made a lot of sense and was very inspirational.  He said he would thank God that night for having met us and I realized I should be thanking God a good deal more for the phenomenal people I cross paths with on a regular basis.

What I Least Liked: I was not very good at sparring…I mean, maybe for a first time out person I was expecting too much – but it is a lot of work just to remember to keep your hands up and – as Diego said – “guard your house”.  I did land a few good kicks which felt amazing…but then found myself saying “Oh Shit!  I’m sorry!!”  I don’t think apologizing after every move is appropriate sparring technique.

It was… A lot more fun than I expected.

That kicked my ass:  I won’t feel it tomorrow, but probably the day after…

Will I ever do it again?  Maybe, maybe not…I hate to commit

Overall I think:  I’m not IN love, but I loved it


Guest Review – Haley Gooch

First Impression: I didn’t really have a first impression. Since my boyfriend has been involved in martial arts for 10+ years, I’ve been exposed to this culture for a while now. I was anxious and nervous though because being on the sidelines is nothing like having punches thrown your way!

What I liked: I liked practicing combinations on the bag. It was fun to learn the technique that way.

What I did not like: getting hit in the face. Although it wasn’t technically a HIT in the face–it still startled me….but hey, at least i didn’t hit MYSELF like Sara did! hahaha

It was…really fun though!! I’d prefer not to be in the ring and just practice working more on technique on the bag, but the experience overall was great!

That kicked my ass….barely. I think it would be a great workout–but I did not feel as sore as I thought I would. My wrists actually hurt the most and my grip strength was a little weak for the next few days from making my fist so tight, but other than that–I felt great! It definitely will wear you out though. I was pretty tired from the practice!

Will I do it again? Absolutely.

Overall Impression: I had a great time. It was really scary to practice one on one with the coaches, but overall, I felt like I had learned some stuff & got out of my comfort zone. I’d love to do it again sometime!