Thursday, July 14, 2011

near death in nova scotia: mixed martial arts

let the beatings begin! after exploring nova scotia in my trusty yaris hilton in
Road Warrior and then checking out its claims to global fame in Biggest & Best
last year
, i'm back in the ring for round three: Near Death in Nova Scotia.
over the next couple of months, i'll be delving into the province's extreme
sports and those who love them.

first up: mixed martial arts.





CLOSE WINDOW
Published: 2011-07-10
Finding my inner Gumby 
through mixed martial arts



EDITOR'S NOTE: Sometimes, life can get too comfortable. 
To counter that, reporter Jon Tattrie is going near death in 
Nova Scotia this summer to investigate extreme sports 
and the people who love them.



By Jon Tattrie
The walls of Palooka’s Boxing Club in Halifax drip with sweat and testosterone. I slink in and ask for the mixed martial arts class. The guy at the desk nods me over to the boxing ring, where men with veins bigger than my biceps clash on floor mats.

I try not to look terrified, but realize I'm standing with my legs twined and my hands clasped coyly in front of me. I plant my feet firmly on the ground, fold my spindly arms across my bony chest and avoid eye contact.

I eventually find a giant called Peter Martell, my guide into the violent world of MMA, a.k.a. ultimate fighting, a.k.a. cage fighting. Martell has been studying the art of bodily destruction for 18 years and has a black belt in Brazilian jujitsu, along with expertise in muay thai, wrestling, judo and taekwondo.  He runs Titan MMA in Halifax and Sackville.

I expect to start with stretching and gentle techniques on the bags, but Martell hands me boxing gloves and throws me in with a professional fighter. I tell the bulky man this is all new to me and he punches me in the face.

"Sorry! I thought you were ready," he apologizes, checking I'm okay. 

I assure him I am ready, and he punches me in the face again. I get a burst of testosterone and decide to attack. He counters by punching me in the face.

I try different techniques with different fighters, but everything ends with a punch to my face. They’re clearly thinking two or three moves ahead of me. Martell, I’m told, is usually seven moves ahead of his opponent. It’s like chess in real life, where you actually try to kill the other guy's king.

A solid right sends my chin to my shoulder blades and me to my knees. Martell pulls me aside. "You want to take a few minutes after a shot like that,” he advises.

When the birds stop chirping, Martell tells me it’s time to work on my floor game. He lies on his back and invites me to hit him in the face. I drop to my knees and unleash a vicious punch – Martell catches it like it's a butterfly and bends my arm to my shoulder blades.

After a few more rounds of Martell introducing me to my inner Gumby, we switch spots. Martell conducts some amateur plastic surgery on my face before nodding another fighter in. I explain this is new to me; he nods, we touch gloves, and then he touches my chin with his glove. Hard.

I tell my fists to punch back, but my arms appear to have hit the showers early and do not respond. They are accustomed to punching keyboards, not men weighing 100 kilograms.

The third fighter returns for his third round grounding and pounding me. He quickly positions himself on my neck and smacks my chin like a bongo drum, before growing bored starting on my ribs. Then my thigh. It's like I'm fighting Jackson Pollock and he's painting me with bruises. How can I put this delicately? I’ve never spent so much time at another man’s junk yard. I feel like I’ve gotten a direct message from Anthony Weiner’s Twitter account.

I roll off to the side for a breather before Martell stands me up again. Then lowers me to the ground in a rear naked choke hold.

As my forehead touches my chest and the lights start to go out, inspiration strikes. I remember a move I saw on a TV and am certain it will end the fight. I take a deep breath – as deep a breath as I can take in the circumstances – and unleash it.

I reach for Martell’s shoulder and tap out.

 www.jontattrie.ca

 Jon Tattrie is a journalist and the author of The Hermit of Africville and Black Snow.

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