I went to the Hybrid Academy of martial arts in Virginia Beach today and had a positive experience. I’ve learned the drill – you call or email ahead explaining that you’re from out of town, cite your coach / teacher, and you ask if you can “work in” with them while you’re in town. Some places don’t reply. Some offer an annual or monthly membership as the only option. These are the ones to avoid. From others, you get a friendly “Yeah! come on down! We start at 6:30.” That was the case here. They actually have a standard “mat fee,” of $20 for regular visitors – which is a really good sign.
Walked in, suited up, and warmed up with the class. Nice folks – though there’s this funny thing about a decent martial arts place situated between a large Navy base and a large Air Force base. Short version: tough kids. Really tough. I wound up rolling (grappling) with a marine who, as he put it “grew up on the mean streets of Falluja.” This place specializes in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu – which is the style of fighting that currently owns the commercial fighting leagues like UFC. They focus on Muay Thai for standing and striking, Judo for throws, and the Jiu Jitsu for the ground. That’s, in my opinion, about as realistic and effective a mix as you’re going to find. They also boast some actual real-live UFC competitors, which was a worry to me. Some of those places are filled with angry steroid users and guys trying to prove themselves. This one, however, was fine. I worked out, learned some stuff, held my own, and invited them up to my Judo school whenever they happened to be in Boston.
I consider it a major personal accomplishment that I can now walk into a place where tough men train in combative techniques and be accepted. I don’t mean that I dominate them by any measure – I’m still very much a beginner – and that was made clear today. However, when the question is “have you done this before,” the answer is usually “yeah, some.” Do I have a “ground game?” Yes. Do I have stand up? Yes as well. When there are two groups – rank beginners and experienced guys – I wind up with the experienced guys. Perhaps best of all, I’m accepted and invited back.
This was absolutely not the case five years ago – and it wasn’t even really true a year ago. But now, twice in two months, I’ve walked into this sort of situation, held my own, and felt good about it. When I think back to the terror I had of the jocks and athletes in high school – how they seemed to be a different species from me – I’m surprised. All it really took was about five years of hard work … and now I walk into their clubs and they seem to like me.