Mar 312011
Authors: Kate Bennis and Nic Turiciano

Wednesday morning started out pretty regularly: I woke up, brushed my teeth and went to work. I had a cup of coffee, listened to NPR and watched the sun rise. Little did I know that 12 hours later I, Kate Bennis, would be knocking a 170-pound man to the ground or pinning people to the wall of a cage that I happened to be fighting in.

I consider myself a pretty peaceful person; I do yoga. However, when the opportunity to try out mixed martial arts at the local studio Trybz arose, I was intrigued. I was also terrified. Usually the stars align so that my co-columnist Nic has to do the activities where injuries are a possibility –– or in this case, “concussions, strokes, skin rashes, lacerations or other serious injury resulting in death,” which was the colorful description on the waiver we had to sign prior to beginning our lesson.

Mixed Martial Arts is a combination of boxing and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, spawning from traditional martial arts into the realms of what a real-life fight might be like, according to our instructor and fighter Sebastian Puente. Puente has been involved with MMA for 18 years.
We warmed up with a basic jab/cross, which is a lot more difficult than it looks. It’s a full-bodied motion, where you shift your weight. “It’s a lot like dancing,” Puente explained, and we too realized this as the basic rhythm that Nic and I lack began to show and past memories of our salsa dancing excursion came flooding back.

Then, we learned the “crazy monkey,” our hands quickly rising over our faces as a means of protection. We practiced on each other, going back and forth between jabbing at one another and covering ourselves. I’ll take this time to mention that this is where Nic punched me in the face.

Things began to pick up from there, as we practiced each new move on each other. We learned how to roundhouse kick and all the while I envisioned Chuck Norris and Bruce Lee fighting in “Way of the Dragon,” and I wondered who would win in a fight: them or me.

But MMA is much more than Bruce Lee or even Jet Li. Yes, the physical effort is strenuous. But the mental effort that goes forth in both learning new tactics to fight well and trying to avoid really injuring someone during practice is extensive, and I remembered this after roundhouse-kicking Nic a little too hard.

“Hey, he said go EASY!” he shouted, holding his thigh. I had become possessed.

It only seemed right that after roundhouse kicking we go straight into driving our entire body weight into our opponent and pushing them up against the cage in order to knock them to the ground. Using both adrenaline and my razor-sharp shoulders, I managed to get Puente off his feet.

I wasn’t so lucky during groundwork. Groundwork is exactly what it sounds like: fighting on the ground.
What the name doesn’t say about it is that down here there’s a little something called an arm-bar, which, when using the right pressure, can snap a person’s arm in two.

Suddenly I found myself pinned underneath one of Puente’s students, who was holding my forearm in a compromising position and waiting, I thought, until I cried “uncle!” Little did he know, I never cry “uncle.”
And he didn’t break my arm. Instead, the second time around I remembered what Puente had showed us and really concentrated on what I was doing. Pulling myself to one side I bridged my body and pulled myself over. Man down.

While fighting that evening, it became clear to me that being conscious is a big part of this practice.

The amount of adrenaline that rushes through one’s body should more or less be matched with the amount of thought placed into each action prior. As Master Bruce
Lee once said, “Take things as they are. Punch when you have to punch. Kick when you have to kick.” Connecting your actions with your mind is both a valuable and very difficult thing to acquire.

For Nic and I, though, we will continue to go forth with, “If you make an ass out of yourself, there will always be someone to ride you.” Thanks, Bruce.

Columnists Kate Bennis and Nic Turiciano can be reached at

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