Australia · My MMA Journey

My Amateur MMA Journey, Part 16: One Month at Darkside Gym

No martial arts gym I’ve been to has given me a full of as valuable an experience as Darkside Gym in Sydney.

By the way, if you haven’t read Part 15 of this series, check it out for my introduction to this and other gyms in Sydney’s inner west.

In my first month at Darkside, I managed to fit in 24 classes–many in their convenient midday slot. (Check out the timetable.) Of the various fight forms offered to build up the full MMA experience here at Darkside, boxing classes are the most abundant.

I’ve done the most training in boxing because it was the first fight sport I started training in nearly two years ago at Elorde in the Philippines. As such, I might have thought I’d be coming in with at least a decent foundation.

However, in more than one area, it has felt like I’ve been starting from scratch since coming here.

Many of the things I wish I had learned from my trainers in six months of boxing at Elorde, I have been learning here.

That’s not to discredit my Pinoy trainers at all: Elorde gave me an excellent introduction to the sport by building fitness, toughening up my knuckles, and starting to put some power in my punches.

In a way, my experience at Darkside is best compared to the short time I spent at Team Lakay in Baguio in that they train people how to actually fight and, when you’re sparring, you and your partner want to hit and get hit.

It comes down to the difference between a fitness gym and a fighters gym and that is, in fact, something I like quite a lot about Darkside: you can walk in here–curious to try a new way to get fit, indifferent to actual fighting–and fit right in.

However, you won’t be going through the motions; you’ll be learning proper footwork, good form, and pertinent punching sequences.

Depending on your level or how badly you want to get fit and/or want to get hit, there are a variety of boxing classes you can join, from Fitness to Fundamentals to Advanced.

The Fitness class is full of conditioning drills and bag work and has already become somewhat dreaded as it will wipe you out physically. You won’t be getting hit but your knuckles might feel a little sore after the pounding you give the bags.

Fundamentals is a great entry-level boxing class; you’ll be learning basic moves and sequences and mostly practicing with a partner on focus pads. The likelihood of getting hit is fairly low.

In the Advanced class, we’re full contact: this is where the sparring happens. However, how hard you go at it is entirely up to you and/or your partner. Regardless, you will be getting hit and you’ll learn quickly to keep your guard up.

From there, you might progress to Muay Thai and finally MMA, in which case you can add getting kicked and strangled, respectively, to getting punched.

After my six months of boxing at Elorde, I switched to Muay Thai at the same gym and I can make similar comparisons here as I did earlier with regards to the boxing classes there and here.

Where at Elorde I learned the basic movements and conditioned my body to kick and throw knees, I’ve started covering better footwork, more targeted kicks, and–the most neglected of my skills–blocking, at Darkside.

I have found the Muay Thai sparring, and leg sparring in particular, to be decidedly fun and helpful.

I’m always excited when my teaching schedule allows me to make it to one of the MMA sessions–probably because I have the most to learn in this arena. Plus, because it covers so many styles, you can look forward to something different in every class.

On a final note, Darkside also offers Brazilian jiu-jitsu classes. I haven’t tried any of them but I’ve watched out of the corner of my eye while doing Muay Thai and it’s basically boys in pajamas taking turns watching each other roll around in intimate pairs.

You know I’m kidding. I love BJJ and I the only reason I haven’t jumped in on these classes is that I don’t have a gi to use here in Sydney.

Before coming here back in December though, I did three months of jiu-jitsu at Fitness Unlimited in the Philippines and enjoyed it immensely.

By the way, Darkside Gym has a new look and now features an elongated cage area and a full-sized boxing ring. Come check it out.


What’s next for me?

For one, I intend to get in another solid month of training before I head back to Manila and then Europe for a stint.

Additionally, I’m intrigued to learn more about the Sydney fight scene from the bits and pieces I’ve heard of it here at the gym.

I certainly hope to attend an amateur fight while I’m here and maybe find out how long I’d have to train here to be ready for one of my own. (I’ll only know after the fact, obviously.)

On a final–somewhat related, somewhat unrelated note–you may care to know that I am no only martial-arting at the gym; I have also officially begun my, training in Ninja Writing.

In all likelihood, there will be more on this to come.


Australia · My MMA Journey

My Amateur MMA Journey, Part 15: Picking a Gym in Newtown

In January I started my yoga challenge because I couldn’t fit a steady gym routine into my schedule. However, it’s a new month, I’m in a new place, and I’m seizing the opportunity to get back into martial arts training.

In December, when I was staying out in The Hills District of Sydney, I talked about doing some free trial sessions at various MMA gyms in Castle Hill. Now that I’m in Newtown, I’m ready to check out my training prospects here.

For starters, I mapped out gyms within a two-to-three kilometer radius that I could walk or jog to in a half hour or less. I found a couple of MMA gyms in Marrickville, Sydenham, and St. Peters.

One was a Gracie Barra Brazilian jiu-jitsu gym but having already done a trial class at a Gracie Barra in Castle Hill, I more or less already knew I was looking for a more complete MMA experience.

Another prospect within range was Power Core MMA Gym but when I checked their timetable I got the idea that they were more focused on fitness than fighting.

Moreover, they didn’t have any morning or midday classes and since I’m often working in the evening that would be fairly essential for me to keep a solid training schedule. They did invite me to come in for a free trial class but I never found (or made) a way to work that into my schedule.

Next and nearest was Zeus International Martial Arts Academy. Although–like Power Core–they also do not offer classes before 5 or 6 PM, it was close and I was interested in trying their Muay Thai.

My free trial session at Zeus was enjoyable and both the instructor, Costa Prasoulas, and the training assistant who was my sparring partner gave me lots of helpful tips to adjust and refine my fight game.

Coach Costa is a fantastically warm and welcoming fellow and I loved the friendly vibe at this gym.


Though the gym is very small, they do a lot with the space they have.


Located at the Marrickville District Lawn Tennis Club, Zeus Academy offer Muay Thai and Brazilian jiu-jitsu. When you come in for a trial session, you can immediately sense the spirit of family built around both styles.

However, I knew it would be difficult to commit to training here because of my schedule so, as much as I would have loved to keep training here, my search continued.

This week I took a trial class at Darkside MMA in Sydenham. Even though this is the farthest of the gyms in the area, I was immediately drawn in by their timetable.

With daily classes at 12, 5, 6, and 7 PM I knew I would be able to fit at least one, if not more, sessions a day in with my current online teaching schedule.

Here’s the dealmaker: each class is something different, from boxing and Muay Thai to grappling and jiu-jitsu, as well as MMA classes to put them all together. Before even showing up at the gym I had a feeling it would be exactly what I was looking for.

After contacting the gym online and being told I could walk in for my free trial class at any time, I received a warm welcome from the instructor and was even taught their secret handshake at the end of the session.

The MMA training was great. Right off the bat, we jumped into sparring drills with mouth guard and shin pads. The class ended with three 5-minute rounds of ground-and-pound cage work and my total exhaustion by the end told me this is exactly where I want to be training.

A few days later I came in to enroll for a month and join the midday boxing class. Again, we spent most of the lesson doing sparring drills and, in addition to learning some great sequences, I got some practice keeping my eyes open and focused while gloves came at them.

Before week’s end I joined two more classes and in all four I’ve taken so far I’ve had to focus on footwork and defense–both weaknesses of mine.

In the last MMA class, there were only two of us training and my partner and I got into a nice groove with an initially tricky southpaw setup that could open a fight with some stellar striking and takedown opportunities.

It’s a five-kilometer walk, jog, or run to the gym and back and on Thursday it was a trip I made twice–for noon boxing and evening MMA. I was thoroughly wiped out by the end but anticipant of achieving a new level of fighter fitness by the end of my first month.

Honestly, I’d been too caught up and thoroughly exhausted by the training here that I hadn’t gotten around to taking any pictures until just the other day. I’m going to consider that a good thing, but now that I’ve enrolled and been to a few classes I finally got around to snapping some.

Pictures, of course. Snapping pictures.

Here’s a look at the gym and facilities.

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I’ll let you know what I’ve learned at the end of my first month here.


Australia · My MMA Journey

2018: Mindfulness, Minimalism

You won’t even find the word “and” in the title because, from a minimalist point of view, it’s entirely unnecessary. How mindful of you to notice, in any case.

I have a few things on the agenda for this post.

First of all, I’m following up on my  24-day yoga challenge, which ends today.

Other things that end today: the month of January; my time in Sydney with my daughter.

Despite these monumental culminations, the day has paid little regard to reverence or reflection and jam-packed itself with work to do, classes to teach, reports to write, and bags to back.

It is then, with transparency in mind, only fair to note that I wrote a good portion of this yesterday. Sitting on my brother’s patio in the Hills of Sydney with my home-brewed iced coffee, I reflected upon a day in the city packed with pizza, play, sunshine, and feelings, and upon two beautiful summer months spent with family and friends.

Finally, with this post, I have a mind to write about my thoughts for the new year and let’s face it, the last day of January is really as far as we can push such things.

Before I get stuck in that, let’s revisit the yoga.

24 Days of Yoga

I started this yoga challenge as a continuation of my amateur MMA series, since I couldn’t swing the gym for awhile and wanted to keep flexible and fit.

If you’ve been following my MMA journey, you may have picked up a hint here and there that it’s not only one of physical transformation but that it bleeds into other realms as well.

That being said, my yoga practice this month has been about more than fitness and flexibility: it has also helped me manage my energy and emotions and provided an alternative to feeling restless, worried, or on some days even a little depressed.

Here are the yoga classes by Fiji McAlpine’s that I tried this month, many for the first time:

  • Revolved Bound Side Angle Pose:
    • Dynamic Twists
    • Reach & Wrap
    • Workshop
  • Morning Wake-Up and Flow
  • Vinyasa for Vitality
  • Arm Balance Power Flow
  • Power for Deep Release
  • Inspire the Fire
  • Chakra One Flow
  • Chakra Two Flow
  • Dancer’s Pose:
    • Supple Spine & Shoulders
    • Balances & Binds

Having missed more than a week due to an injury, I ended up completing 12 classes in 24 days and I’m reasonably happy with that.

Of the classes listed above, I especially enjoyed the chakra-based ones and the freedom of flying into wild thing towards the end of Chakra Two Flow.

Morning Wake-Up and Vinyasa for Vitality are two of my favorites that I’ve revisited many times. Both are short 20-minute classes that will pick you up when you’re feeling sluggish and leave you pulsing with energy and strength.

That really is what I love about yoga, and specifically, Fiji McAlpine’s classes on Do Yoga With Me: her classes give you a physically challenging workout, an influx of energy, and finally, a calm and meditative state of mind, all of which set you up for a day filled with gratitude.

When life slows down a little bit, I will revisit this post to add more information, a hyperlink, and a brief review of each of the above classes.

Until then, why don’t you have a perusal of your own on and share your experience in the comments?

And so we come to the end of the first month with which we have started the new year.

I hesitate to call them resolutions, but these are my words:

Mindfulness: to be mindful of people, of self, of the body, of consumption, of want, of need, of choices.

Minimalism: to have less and live more.

In the spirit of minimalism, I’m going to make the mindful decision to stop now. Also because I have a bunch of stuff to do.

Namaste. Cheers.

Australia · My MMA Journey

My Amateur MMA Journey, Part 14: Yoga Challenge

When I was training at Bulldog Muay Thai, what probably impressed me the most was the almost unnatural flexibility of these great big bulky fellows.

I can also say that the fighters at Team Lakay back in the Philippines, were extremely flexible: most of the guys I trained with could take their splits a whole lot farther than I could, for example. They were built fairly small, though.

Watching meaty six-foot-something, 200-plus-pound fighters stretch like gymnasts without batting an eyelash is something entirely different.

Yup, last week I talked about MMA-ing in Sydney before the start of the new year and I mentioned, sadly, my schedule wouldn’t allow for much training in January.

So here I am with old faithful: yoga at home.

I honestly haven’t done much of it at all in the past year–being so preoccupied with the martial arts–but I’m happy to be getting back into my practice with the challenge of taking my strength and flexibility to a new level.

Additionally, I don’t think my body will hate a spell of stretching and recovery and–on top of all that–what’s a fighter without flexibility?

It was probably a few years ago when I first discovered DoYogaWithMe and it has become a staple in my life since.

Classes are conveniently categorized by length into 0-20, 20-40, 40-60, and 60+ minutes and range in style from nice relaxing stretches to short energizing practices and lengthy, sweaty challenges.

In short, there’s no reason not to fit at least one of them into your day.

This month, my challenge is 21 yoga classes in 24 days, starting with the first one I did on January 8 and ending on the 31st.

Additionally, I’m pushing myself to move from intermediate to advanced and upping, among other things, my arm balance, headstand, and inversion game.


On, click “Yoga Classes” and you’ll see a bunch of this:


Without even creating an account, you can take almost every class (except the ones with an orange plus sign).

You can browse by difficulty, class length, style, and teacher to find exactly what you’re looking for.

Certainly one of my favorite instructors is Fiji McAlpine.

What I love about her classes is that they don’t just feel like and a nice stretch and some decent exercise; she always makes sure you feel the burn, whether it’s incorporating pushups in your sun salutations, holding plank or chair pose, or balancing on your arms for a spell.

She has amazing strength in her arms, legs, and core and inspires me to develop the same.

I also enjoy classes by Tracy Noseworthy as I love the flow in her classes and find her instructions very easy to follow.

I bought an audio recording of Sun Salutations III to keep on my phone for yoga-on-the-go. This sweet and simple 15-minute practice flows through an energizing series of sun salutations and Tracy’s instructions keep you focused on fluid breathing throughout.

You can make a free account if you’d like to save your favorite videos to your bookmarks, become a subscriber for access to premium videos, challenges, and programs, or choose to make a one-time donation to the platform.

You can also buy an audio file for $3, a small-screen video for $6, and a large-screen version for $9 if you’d like access to your favorite classes offline.

I’ll let you know how my challenge went at the end of the month.


Australia · My MMA Journey

My Amateur MMA Journey, Part 13: Rolling in The Hills

Or: Kicking, Punching, and Rolling in The Hills District of Sydney

Or: Tryouts at the MMA Gyms of Castle Hill, NSW

Back in July of last year when I was backpacking in Baguio, I wrote about staying healthy on the road and I consider this a bit of a sequel to that.

Now that I’m in Sydney for a few months enjoying the summer and holiday season with family, I’ve been looking for ways to keep up with my training and fitness.

Before my departure from Manila at the end of November, I was doing two to three hours of training, typically four nights a week. I didn’t want to lose that entirely when switching to holiday feeding and beach lounging mode, so I looked up a couple of MMA gyms on Google Maps, found their websites and Facebook pages, and got in touch for some free trial classes.


I’m often asked how long I’ve been doing MMA.

In truth, there are two stories of where it began. One is in high school when I put on boxing gloves for the first time and gave a large soccer player an accidental bloody nose with a left hook he apparently didn’t see coming. You can see how love for the sport was spontaneously born.

The other is many years later, at the turn of my quarter century, when I finally decided to put the gloves back on.

In the week following my 25th birthday, I started classes at Elorde Boxing Gym, moved on to Muay Thai after six months, and throughout the year 2017 began experimenting with MMA at various gyms in Manila and notably at Team Lakay in Baguio.

I ended my time in Manila with three months of circuit training and Brazilian jiu-jitsu classes at Fitness Unlimited, a gym that quickly became my second home.

The year came to a close in Sydney, where, as we were getting to earlier, I took a peek at the MMA scene by visiting various Castle Hill gyms for some free trial sessions.

Free Trial #1: A Day at Pollet’s Martial Arts Center

An instant favorite, (certainly as far as my daughter was concerned) Pollet’s Martial Arts is a franchise with a number of dojos across Sydney and Australia.

You can come here to learn karate, jiu-jitsu, Muay Thai, and MMA, or to improve self-defense and fitness.

While Gracie gyms (coming up) teach the Brazilian style of jiu-jitsu (BJJ), Pollet’s is home to a Master Instructor with an 8th-degree black belt in Kempo jiu-jitsu. This more traditional Japanese style tends to put ground-based BJJ back on its feet as it incorporates judo throws and wrestling takedowns in addition to grappling.

Grant Miller, the owner of the Castle Hill franchise, is a friendly and accommodating trainer from whom I learned a great deal in only one lesson.

Since I was the only student to show up in the middle of the day, we had a one-on-one session of MMA grappling, sparring, and Muay Thai drills.

At the end of the class, we reviewed grappling techniques and Grant helped me up my submission game with a handy variety of rear-naked chokes–one of my go-to’s.

Grant also gave me a lot of information about the dojo’s various martial arts styles and was helpful in giving tips and instructions for improving areas of personal weakness.

Let’s take a look at the gym.

There is a large training area on the ground floor with mats, a boxing ring, and a cage, weight training corner, and another matted area upstairs as well. The dojo also sells fight wear and essential gear.


Pollet’s is wonderfully respectful and at the same time child-friendly environment. There is a small collection of toys for kids to play with and the owner himself has a friendly daughter just a year older than my own.


Children are of course expected to keep food and shoes off the mats at all times.

I’ve been eager to return to Pollet’s, not only because my girl keeps begging me to, but because of how much I learned in less than two hours time. I’d love to train here more because I’ve seen how much I have yet to grasp and I can see myself picking up a lot of it here.

Check out their website for classes in Castle Hill and elsewhere or get in touch on Facebook.

Free Trial #2: A Week at Bulldog Muay Thai

Right off the bat, I appreciated the generosity of the 7-day free trial period here at Bulldog in Castle Hill.

This gym is run by the McKinnon brothers, a great bunch of people, fighters, and trainers.


Because of my schedule, the only class I was able to show up for on my first day was the sparring, which on Wednesday’s at 11 AM, Stuart said, was for fighters.

He wasn’t lying, Among those in gloves and shin guards was none other than Tyson Pedro, one of Australia’s very own in the UFC.

Stu, head of the gym, recommended watching from the bleachers but welcomed me to use the facilities for personal training. Tyson–friendly guy–invited me for a spar but unfortunately got a knee to his already-injured elbow and had to call it a day before I had the chance to take him up on his offer.


We had a nice chat nonetheless and he told me about his next fight in Perth, for which he’d soon be traveling to the US to train.

Tyson, ranking 12 out of 35 in the light-heavyweight division, is currently training for the upcoming fight on home soil against Saparbek Safarov on February 11.

The classes I was able to participate in, however, were physically challenging and a lot of fun.

First, there was a regular Muay Thai training session lead by Stuart’s younger brother Steve at 12:15 PM that same Wednesday. In addition to an excellent warmup and a set of combination drills practiced with training partners, I enjoyed the ab exercises at the end of the class.

Steve, who was taking over for his brother that day, told me I was welcome to come back the next day for the Fighter’s class but did mention that Stuart calls the shots when it comes to the lessons.

When I returned Thursday evening, since I couldn’t make it on time for the 6 PM Muay Thai class, I had hopes of joining the Fighters class at 7. However, Stu explained that his students had to work their way up to this level through regular attendance of regular classes–in some cases for many years. He didn’t consider it fair to let me jump in and again welcomed me to use the facilities for my own drills.

Following the class, Stu invited me to join the Stretch & Roll session, which was stellar.

After I busy beach weekend, I returned to the gym on Monday for Muay Thai and sparring. I immensely enjoyed sparring with a partner and later with the trainer–something I hadn’t had the opportunity to do since I was up in the mountains of Baguio with Team Lakay. And this time I even got to wear shin guards.

It’s difficult to compare my training at Bulldog Muay Thai with Pollet’s as it was a completely different experience. Where I learned a great variety of MMA techniques at Pollet’s, I had the pure pleasure of intense fighting and physical exercise at Bulldog.

I can say, however, that Bulldog was equally child-friendly. It’s basically a playground and my daughter loved it here too.


They sell Muay Thai gear at the counter and you can visit their website to check out the trainers, fighters, classes, and timetable. Go ahead and send them a message on Facebook if you’re interested in training; they are very responsive.


Free Trial #3: A Day at Gracie BJJ

This time, I dragged my own sparring partner along, entirely new to martial arts and with whom I was hoping to have some fun.

At this point, we were right in the middle of Christmas and the New Year so the gym was operating on a slightly more relaxed holiday schedule–luckily for us because we had a hard time finding the place and showed up late.

I should note that at some gyms, arriving late at a jiu-jitsu class is considered highly disrespectful and in some cases flat-out unacceptable.

However, I called the gym a few times as we were trying to make our way there and they assured me that it was OK to arrive a little late this time.

We found Gracie’s a little after 6 PM on a Thursday and, because of the holidays, the Fundamentals and Advanced classes were combined into a two-hour session from 6 to 8.

After suiting up, my partner and I stepped in a little late but that instructor was kind enough to take some time introducing us to the gym and getting us caught up with the lesson.

Because my partner was entirely new to jiu-jitsu, the instructor ran did a quick run-through of the basic positions for him and we enjoyed rolling through those in the sparring rounds.

For programs, timetables, and more information visit their website. If you have questions and want to get in contact first, it’s best to give them a call.

Note: As of the now, I have no pictures of this gym. I jumped in late and was immediately engaged in the class, so I honestly didn’t think to take any. I might be back for a follow-up on my free trial, however, now that the training schedule is back to normal. It’s a nice place though; you can take my word for it.


Jiu-Jitsu Styles

It wasn’t until I tried jiu-jitsu in Sydney that I was properly introduced to the various styles, from Barra and Humaita to Kempo. Let’s get this sorted out, shall we?

Starting from the beginning, we have jujutsu–a traditional Japanese martial art form–giving birth to judo, BJJ, aikido, and other such popular fight sports.

The name jujutsu can be translated to “gentle art” or “flexible technique” and it is one that is used to defeat an armed opponent without a weapon (or with a small one).

When judo was brought to Brazil around the time of the first world war it was picked up by the Gracie family, who shifted the emphasis to ground grappling.

Judo, at the time, was still known as Kano Jiu-Jitsu, for its founder, which is why its Brazilian variation became known as BJJ and not “Brazilian judo”. (Probably a good thing.)

One jiu-jitsu association, Gracie Barra, is more traditional and focuses on self-defense. Conversely, the association of Gracie Humaita teaches a form of the sport that has evolved for competition.

Gracie Barra and Humaita Jiu-Jitsu gyms can be found all throughout Sydney and its suburbs.

Beyond that, I’ve heard talk of many noteworthy MMA gyms in and around the city as well and I look forward to visiting as many as I can.

However, racing into the first month of the new year, I have not yet been able to make regular classes work with my schedule.

With the nearest gyms over in Castle Hill still a good 40-minutes away, my 4-year-old with me most of the time, and English classes that conflict with most of the training sessions, it appears I will have to forego training for the remainder of January.

When the summer holidays come to an end for my family here in The Hills of Sydney and I escort my daughter to Manila to spend the Philippine summer with her father, I will be returning to Sydney for a stay in the city and a chance to dive deeper into the MMA scene.

To make the most of the interim, I’ve taken up a 24-day yoga challenge. More on that later.



My MMA Journey · Philippines

My Amateur MMA Journey, Part 12: Best of the Arts in Manila

It’s been almost a year and a half since I first stepped into a boxing gym for my first lesson.

After about six months of that, I tried my hand (and foot, knee, elbow) at Muay Thai for a few months, before taking a break for a trip to Australia.

Upon returning to the Philippines, I trained for a few weeks at Lakay, an MMA gym in the mountains of Baguio City. While there, I was introduced to grappling and–seeing how terrible I was at it–I took up Brazilian jiu-jitsu back here in Manila.

Now I’m packing my bags for the skies again and wrapping up my third month of jiu-jitsu at Fitness Unlimited.

Here are my favorite things about each art I’ve had the pleasure of trying in Manila (and Baguio).


Elorde was my boxing home for some time and I had a number of good trainers but I must say that it was at The Den where I, shall we say perfected, my punches with the help of one of their head trainers.


The Den Fitness and Athletics; get great apparel from Pinay Fitness


Here’s what I love about boxing: It’s fun to hit things, and in Manila, there are gyms on every street corner where you can do just that. If you want the real deal, though, I hear you have to train with the national boxing team and they have relocated to Baguio–another reason to head north for your training.

Bonus: nothing gives you tight abs like boxing. Jiu-jitsu comes close, though.

Muay Thai

I’ve done a bit of Muay Thai at Elorde, The Den, B.A.M.F., Team Lakay,  iGym Yaw-Yan Fervilleon, and Fitness Unlimited.

Why I love Muay Thai: it challenged my balance and improved my footwork, which was a weakness of mine when boxing. It also forces you to master your breathing–I nearly hyperventilated the first time I did 50 kicks–and builds serious leg muscle.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

With a 30-day trial at B.A.M.F. and then three months at Fitness Unlimited, I’ve enjoyed a fairly solid introduction to the art of Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

What I love about jiu-jitsu: it’s a struggle from the bottom up, but–comparable to say, rock climbing–nothing is more satisfying than getting past the point where you almost give up and making it to the top, in this case, of your opponent.

Jiu-jitsu is, in my opinion, humbler than boxing or kickboxing, or perhaps it would be better to say that it’s more humbling–and that’s exactly what I love about it.

Also, you can join amateur competitions after only a month of training, whereas competing in boxing or Muay Thai can be a little more daunting.


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Brazilian jiu-jitsu class at Fitness Unlimited Submission Sport Paranaque



MMA is a violent sport. To be honest, I’ve never watched UFC and, excepting names like Rousey and MacGregor that buzz around, I don’t know any of its fighters.

As a hobby, a workout routine, and a competitive challenge, however, I find it quite fantastic. It’s an excellent way to build physical, mental, and practical strength, fitness, balance, speed, and coordination and it never gets boring.

Plus, it feels good to know that you could sweep someone twice your size off of you and incapacitate them if necessary.

Hands down, my favorite place to practice MMA is Team Lakay in Baguio. There’s nothing quite like it.


My MMA Journey

My Amateur MMA Journey, Part 11: This One is Personal

So my MMA journey has been more than a journey about MMA.

My life as I knew it ended quite definitively a few months ago and here I am, on the path of rediscovery. So far, I can say that it has without a doubt been the most difficult one I’ve walked yet.

Today, I would like to say, to friends, to family, to strangers:

I’d like to think I’m good at being strong and I don’t exactly like receiving attention (Why am I blogging again?) but that makes me good at pretending to be OK and sometimes I’m not. When life falls apart it’s an opportunity to rebuild and that, truthfully, is fairly exciting. It still hurts, though.

When I’m not OK, please don’t worry about me; don’t look at me with pity. Do nothing but acknowledge and carry on with me as usual; neither seek me out nor ignore me. I want neither more attention nor less. I still want to smile and enjoy everything that’s good but I also want to be able to cry and not ignore everything that’s bad and I can do that only with people who are comfortable with me not being alright all the time.

To those in my life with whom I’ve been out of touch: chances are the things I’m going through are not about you and you can’t do anything with or about it anyway. If you are concerned you’ll acknowledge that and give me space and freedom to make the decisions I need to make without having to worry about you worrying about me. I need to trust that you know I still love and care for you even though I don’t have much time or emotional space for you right now.

To those in my life who are trying to understand my situation and draw conclusions: don’t. Let it be.

Don’t ask me to tell you the story of what happened like it’s an interesting piece of news and don’t make me justify what is happening in my life to you. Don’t ask me why or why not. Don’t tell me it’s awkward.

To my new family at the gym: you guys have been amazing and have kept me sane in ways you’ll never know. I will always have gratitude in my heart for you.

To the good Christians who I thought were, dare I not say family but let’s settle on friends when I first moved to Manila: please remove yourself from my life so that we can stop pretending you have any concern for me or mine.

How odd that sometimes the angels among us are not the pastors or the missionaries who say they are here to preach God’s love.

Instead, I’ve found angelic folk in unexpected places.

Take those sweaty people at the gym, for example. The ones who teach you how to fight your way up from the bottom, how to cope when you’re being crushed, how to get hurt and never give up, how to show respect and compassion, how to come out on top, win or lose, broken and bruised, laughing and smiling and giving glory to God.