The traditional view of martial arts for most people comes from the movies, either featuring Bruce Lee or possibly the Karate Kid. With those classic references, the martial arts of today would seem quite alien. What was once obscure has now become the mainstream with millions of martial artists of one degree or another. The violence of this sport is far beyond what boxing, or football could ever accomplish; while those sports often cause concussions and the occasional broken bone, some of the martial arts expect their students to break the bones of their opponents if the fight goes out of control or simply by accident. This brutality usually shunned by civilized society, instead served to increase the sports reputation. The popularity of mixed martial arts soared over the last couple of years mainly due to the emergence of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) as the fast growing sport in America. With this popularity of the sport mixed martial art gyms are emerging up all across the country. I visited a local gym to study the fighters, with the intention to understand the mentality that goes along with this profession.
As I arrive at the High Altitude Gym located in an average looking strip mall, I am met by Brian Eastman, who setup the meeting with some of the fighters and the instructors. We head inside to a gigantic open space of over 4000 square feet. The room is well lit with rows upon rows of fluorescent lighting. While looking towards the rear of the room, there is an elevated floor a few feet in front of the door and just past the viewing area covered in tatami mats, soft flooring where the length is exactly twice the width. Brian explains “old tires are used under the flooring to provide more spring” (personal communication, March 29, 2014). In the rear of the room punching bags are suspended from a piece of equipment with a nondescript square ring, with white turnbuckles and ropes and black mat, directly behind. There is a class being taught Muay Thai Kickboxing techniques the sounds of the “kiai”, the sounds made when striking to increase the force of the attack, can be heard with each strike. Surprisingly the room does not have the scent of stale sweat usually associated with a gym, but instead a slight antiseptic odor permeates the room.
After the current class finishes, Brian and I proceed to the back of the room near the ring. Brian introduced me to three men dressed in workout attire; of shorts and t-shirts his striking trainer, Jared Hamman and two other fighters Chris Miller and Miguel Garcia. The group began discussing what training would consist of for the day. The discussion was brief as Jared had already planned the day’s events. They decided that Miguel and Brian would train together focusing on knees and elbow strikes. Chris would spar against Jared to prepare for his upcoming fight in April. Once the training schedule was decided a rotation for the interviews was easy to accomplish.