As far back as I can remember, I’ve always had an interest in Martial Arts. There’s something about almost every style that interests me. From the speed and grace of Kung Fu, to the power of Muay Thai, to the devastating throws of Judo, to the strategy of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. It’s all very intriguing. I don’t recall specifically my first Karate class, but I know it was when I lived with my mother. I was about 6 or 7. That whole period in my life is a bit of a blur. If I remember correctly, I attained my yellow belt before I moved to permanently live with my father. I don’t know what the style was or the name of the school. The only thing that sticks out in my mind is practicing a Kata…
During high school I was a member of the Gananoque Secondary School Karate Club. We met 3 times a week after school or at lunch. It was taught by one of our guidance counsellors. A very nice and knowledgeable man. I worked hard and by the end of grade 13, I had attained the rank of brown belt. I wish I still had my belt certificates, but they have been lost over the years. I competed in 3 tournaments. 1 in Baltimore MD, 1 in Brooklyn NY, and 1 in Kingston ON. I did well in all three. Bronze, gold, and silver respectively. I have lost touch with my former Sensei. I know he suffered from arthritic hips and I often wonder if he still practices Karate.
In August of 2005, I started attending classes at Grizzly Gym in Kingston ON. It was/is run by Michael Martelle. When I joined, the school was primarily a Muay Thai club. It’s safe to say that I loved it from day 1. I had never experienced such a workout. The core group was great as well. It was a small number of students, but everyone was very friendly. It’s a shame that not many of those people are left as regulars with the club. I have never asked Ajarn Mike what he thought of me after my first couple of classes. I’d be interested to know, but at the same time, maybe I don’t want to. I consider Mike not only my teacher, but also a friend. I’ve been a bit of an ass to him over the years. That’s par for the course though. Eventually if you know me long enough, I treat you like crap.
Late in 2006, I successfully passed my Muay Thai fighter’s test. It’s the black belt equivalent for Muay Thai (there are no official belt ranks in MT). All I remember about it is thinking to myself that I wasn’t going to make it. I have never been so physically tired and beat up. Each club has their own variation, but the basis is the same: You’re going to be exhausted and take a beating and you better keep coming back for more. It’s a true test of the fighter’s heart. You can be amazingly conditioned and you will still feel like death. the test is designed that way. My test consisted of 3 3 minute rounds of skipping, 3 3 minute rounds of shadow boxing, 3 3 minute rounds on the heavy bag, 4 5 minute rounds of pad work (the 3rd round a 1 to 10, 10 to 1 is required for round kicks on each side and if you fail to complete it in the 4 minutes, the entire test is an automatic fail), and finally 3 2 minute rounds of sparring with instructors, all of whom are fresh. What make it difficult is, all the testers are constantly instructing you to go faster, kick and punch harder, use more technique, throw more combinations, and get up! Every single tester has previously completed their own test. It is an unwritten rule that you never let a candidate leave in better condition than you did on your test. Needless to say, may front legs have felt the devastating power of the AnthonyR kick.
In 2007 I made it known to Mr Martelle that I was very interested in learning some grappling. Thusly, the submission wrestling division of Grizzly Gym was born! It started with myself and a fellow GG Thai fighter meeting with professor Martelle once a week at the local YMCA. We’d put down a few folding mats and run through a series of take downs, sweeps, and submissions. I really was a lot of fun. It was more like guys just hanging out… all sweaty… rolling around on the floor… in tight shirts… I miss those days. Don’t get me wrong, I have fun at most BJJ classes, but those times seemed more comrodery and friendship rather than competition. There were a lot of laughs and very little ego.