Friday, November 13, 2009
February of this year was a month that changed my life. I joined a mixed martial arts gym, Absolute MMA. My little brother (Braeden) had watched the fighting movie Never Back Down and started training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu out of a small gym, with a guy that turned out to be a total whacko. When my mom pulled him out of the gym (which was actually a loading dock in an industrial complex,) he began researching for a new place to study; thankfully, he found Absolute. I was tipping the scale at an unmentionable weight at this time, and wanted to give this workout stuff a try, and was waiting for a time when we could start. For a full month before we went I heard about Steven Sharp and Camrann Pacheco, and I was forced to watch countless youtube videos of both of them. It was February that we were able to check the gym out.
When I first walked into the gym, they were doing body-kick drills on Thai pads, and I have never been so intimidated in all of my life! A room full of men, grunting like animals, kicking harder than I had ever seen was not a welcoming sight. Also, the first person that I notice kicking is someone from high school, that I didn't particularly like, and there was also a guy (turns out his name is Phil) that was clearly on some sort of steroids. In that instant, I didn't think I could handle kickboxing, and I was pretty sure Braeden would have to fly solo with a gym membership. Just as I was writing this place off as a hangout for meat heads, Professor Rob Handley introduces himself. Rob is the owner of Absolute MMA, and he is now someone that I can honestly call my mentor and a great friend. I tell him all of the time that if there was a Jesus, I imagine that he made people feel the way that Rob does when you first meet him. He is a very large man, with legs comparable to tree trunks, and a full beard with a bald head, but his smile detracts from how menacing he is. His smile was so comforting, and his voice was so sincere, that when he put his arm around me and told me to come in and try the place out for a week, I knew I had to give it a shot.
So, after meeting Jesus, AKA Rob, we came in on a Saturday morning. I told Braeden that I was sick and couldn't workout that day, but when we arrived and there wasn't a single person other than us there, I grabbed my clothes and completed the workout. My sickness was purely nerves, and when I realized the only person to witness my humiliation was Brae, I was ready to go. I still remember the exact heavy bag that I worked on for the first class, and I distinctly remember tasting vomit in my throat and feeling death in my lungs. Our warm-ups consist of two- five minute rounds of jump roping (generally) and I couldn't make it through a full two minutes without feeling like my calves were going to explode. Death and vomit aside, I had never felt so proud as I did when I finished that intense hour of work. I had fallen in love with the place, and I was going to come back.
For the first two weeks at the gym I was so nervous before every class that I would almost hurl. I was overweight, self-conscious, and completely intimidated. I worked through those first two weeks and I have been going back ever since.
Now, I don't just kickbox, but I also do BJJ, and some intermittent kettlebell work. Since February I have lost thirty-eight pounds, and I've gained a new appreciation for my body and its capabilities. I feel safer when I walk alone at night, and I feel sexier when I'm naked. The physical challenges that are thrust upon you when you are a member of our team are unimaginable to most people. In fact, most people don't stick around after one class, because it is just that hard. While working out at the gym, I have met some of the most amazing people. I have forged relationships at my gym that I believe will last a lifetime. My home away from home is tucked away in West Jordan, Utah, and is filled with some of the most entertaining characters that I've ever met. For instance, Camrann; Cam is an extremely talented fighter. He looks like he is built out of stone, and fights at 145. He's a purple belt in BJJ, and an all-around astonishing athlete. Cam has quickly become one of my best friends in the world. He is an atheist and an avid podcast subscriber. He has introduced me to the formal Skeptic movement, and I love talking with him about subjects that range from Libertarianism to Gay marriage. We have the same taste in music and movies, and I feel as though I can tell him anything. When I complain that my thighs are still touching in the middle, he tells me not to worry, that I look amazing. When I feel like I am going to vomit, he knows how to push me past the acid in my throat, and get me through it. I have never met someone that challenges me the way Cam Bam does. He challenges me physically as my instructor at the gym, and without him, I wouldn't possess what little skill I have. He challenges me mentally; I am constantly forced to point my skeptical eye at topics with Cam, and because of conversations with him, I have spent countless hours online doing research. He challenges me emotionally, his brutal honesty is unparalleled, and there are times when he tells me the last thing that I want to hear, but he's always the first to tell me exactly what I need. Words literally can not express the adoration that I have for this man and all that he does, I am honored to know him, and his beautiful wife and son (they're also expecting a baby girl soon,) are so lucky to have him. He is a long way from a meathead, and I am convinced that we will be friends until the day that one of us dies.
Vanessa is another one of my favorite people at the gym, and I'm consistently amazed with her integrity and capacity for love. VTS (Vanessa the Scientist) could not be more different from me ideologically. Vanessa is a devout member of the LDS church, and is as pure as fresh fallen snow; if there is a heaven, that girl is heading straight through the pipleline to the highest level, Super Mario style. She has been training for two years and has participated in three tournaments, with a total of four different divisions (approximately.) Not surprisingly, she has placed 1st in three, and has samurai swords to prove it. I never would have imagined that someone like her would be one of my best friends, but she is. She loves me in spite of my vulgarity, but I'm pretty sure she appreciates it. We both love to read, cook, play sports, and act silly! We can speak openly about our insecurities as women, and can talk for hours about how hard it is to balance intellect and independence with the desire for companionship. The person that gets to marry this woman is going to be so lucky, because they will have the most beautiful wife on their arm at the party, and aside from looking hot, she can choke the shit out of someone and then analyze their saliva under a microscope! She smashes stereotypes, and I'm thankful to know such a fearless female.
Ben, AKA Bentrey is another one of my favorites at the gym. Ben is a second-degree blue belt in Jits, and similar to Cam, he is a well-rounded athlete/competitor in every other area. I can't recount the amount of 1st place titles he has taken in Jiu Jitsu competitions, just know that he is a ninja. I constantly tell Ben that he is a freak, because he is. I have never witnessed someone with so much passion and talent. If there is something that he would like to achieve, it will be done. I feel completely at ease with him and can listen to his stories for hours on end. His impersonations make me giggle nonstop, and I have placed more trust in him than I ever believed I could with another man. Ben is someone that I could call at any time of the night, and he would be there to help me, no matter what. I'm amazed by his athletic prowess, but it is his character that blows my mind wide open. He is a freak, because his beauty as a person knows no bounds. Also, every time that I see Ben, I want to tear his pants off with my teeth. He is an extremely attractive man, which only adds to my theory that he is a freak.
Pedro is like a superhero. I'm convinced he is made of titanium. Pedro convinced me to get onto the mat, and every time we roll he calls me a bitch, and if he doesn't, I feel dead inside. It really is an odd relationship, but it is one that I value more than most. Positive reinforcement has been completely revolutionized by this man. He is a tough nut to crack, but we connected almost immediately. You always know where you stand with Pedro, and that is a quality that is drastically under-appreciated.
The man, the myth, the legend, Rob Handley, I'm convinced he hung the moon. Rob is the one that makes it all happen, and I will never be able to repay him with enough compliments to let him know just how much he has done. He has given us all support when we need it, and sometimes when we don't deserve it. To know Rob is to adore Rob, and I hope that one day, I can repay him for all that he has done.
I could go on for hours about these people, and those are just a few. I can't forget Denver, Bret, Riley, Ricky, Komi, Miyo, Alfred, or anyone else that trains with us. These people are more than a team, they are a family, and each personality helps to make the dynamic special.
Who knew that kicking people in the head could be a show of love?