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Do You Want To Fight? How I Got Started In Mixed Martial Arts

mma glovesThis is a guest post from Spencer Throssell, also known as Dunce Two, my amateur philosophy partner over at Dunce Academy.

Do you want to fight?

I do. And I will. Here is how I arrived at this questionably sane mindset.

I had been working out pretty intensely for almost two years straight, strength and circuit training stuff, and was feeling pretty tough. One day, my workout buddy and I, bored with the same old lift weights/run-and-jump-until-you-puke routine, decided to throw on the gloves and see what we were made of. Not much, as it turned out.

Sure, we landed a couple good shots each, and got to spend the rest of the day nursing sore noses, but just in those 10 or 15 minutes of wildly flinging hay-makers at each other, it became abundantly clear that neither of us had any idea what we were doing. And I didn’t like that feeling.

Actually, I had wanted to try fighting for years, but had just never gotten around to it. That is, until the perfect storm of circumstances combined to give me an opportunity I could not pass up:

Local events

Recently, mixed martial arts (“MMA”) has really started to take off in my area. There are local shows, pro and amateur, and I have had a chance to attend several of these events. This has only increased my desire to get involved, because (a) sitting ring-side, the crowd anxious, walk-out music blaring, there is a high-school-locker-room electricty that is contagious, and (b) some of the amateurs are very amateur. No offense to them; it takes cojones the size of semi-trucks to get in a ring at any level, but unlike the lethally efficient killing machines you see on the UFC, a lot of these events just come off feeling more like a good-natured backyard wrestling match between high school kids. And you leave thinking “I bet I could do that.”

Local gyms

Attending these events brought to my awareness the fact that there are local and affordable MMA gyms right here in town. This means you can go and get beat up by the same guy you just saw beating that other guy up last night. And who can pass on that?

Lost my job

That’s right. I was unexpectedly let go. Under circumstances that were considerably less than fair. So I had the time. And the “energy.”

So I went down to the gym and signed up. Keep in mind, I had been working out intensely for two years straight, having lifted weights and run and participated in organized athletics for a lifetime before that. I was in the best shape of my life. And I got my butt kicked. Cardiovascularly first. Then more literally.

But I loved it. There is something called “fighting shape,” and there is nothing quite like it. I went from “best shape of my life” to “considerably-better-than best shape of my life” in about a month of fight-training, 2 or 3 hours a day. I was cut. Energy was through the roof. Self-confidence was through the roof. And I was the furthest thing from bored I could ever remember being.

A two-hour class consists of about 30 minutes warm up/technique, 1 hour cardio/circuit-training, 30 minutes kicking the crap out of each other. It’s a good formula. Fighting once you are already exhausted, you have to rely more on technique than pure strength.

And what you learn really sinks in. “Normal” exercise, it seems like fitness is the goal. But for a fighter, there are actually three areas of focus: (1) fitness, (2) skill, and (3) heart. Fitness (i.e. strength and stamina), which I had to some extent, is important, but cannot completely compensate for a lack in the “skill” or “heart” department.

Skill you can acquire; heart it seems like you are mostly just born with. I enjoy the challenge of cultivating all three.


And you need all three. Because, no matter how “fit” you are, some fat guy gets you in a triangle choke, and you don’t know how to get out of it, you’re toast.

Likewise, some fat guy is sitting on your chest, elbowing you repeatedly in the head, with your arms pinned down, and there are still 20 seconds left in the round, you are going to have to dig deep to keep from begging the ref to make it stop.

I’m still going. Still training. They say I’m a “natural.” And maybe they are right. It feels good, I feel good. Maybe I was born to fight. I’ll keep you posted.

If you have questions or you’re interested in jumping in as a beginner yourself, please ask.

About the author:

When not pinned beneath sweaty fat guys, Spencer Throssell writes for Dunce Academy and yearns for glory.

I have an RSS Feed. It holds the secrets of the universe.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Janette Hanagarne April 13, 2011, 3:09 pm

    So, if you were in the MMA, what awesome song would they play when you walked into the octagon?

    For me, hands down, it would be “Turkey in the Straw.”

    • Josh Hanagarne April 13, 2011, 3:10 pm

      My song would be Baby Elephant Walk.

      • Spencer April 13, 2011, 3:25 pm

        See below. You would have to be tough as nails to come out to baby elephant walk. But I have it on good authority that you are TOUGHER THAN nails. So you’d probably be in good shape.

    • Spencer April 13, 2011, 3:24 pm

      In my experience, the sillier the song, the tougher you better be. Because once that bell rings, you better believe they are going to want to know what “that crazy kid that came out to Turkey in the Straw” can do.

      On the flip side, if you play a super hardcore song, and then get knocked out in the first round, you look like a chump.

      I think rap sets a good tone. I saw a kid come out to “Motivation” by T.I., and I thought that was pretty tough.

      Rage Against the Machine always gets me in the mood, too. A little “Guerilla Radio” or “Bulls on Parade.”

      If I was feeling old school, maybe some House of Pain.

      And if I really wanted to get riled up, I would just have them play that Caillou song, over, and over, and over again. That kid’s voice makes me want to put my head through the wall.

  • Josh Hanagarne April 13, 2011, 3:10 pm

    I do have a question, Spencer. How long did it take you to become accustomed to getting hit in the face? I just feel like I’d flinch every time someone moved fast.

    • Spencer April 13, 2011, 3:33 pm

      That’s actually a good question. In my experience, punching and being punched in the face is very unnatural. At least at first. But you pretty quickly get to a point where you don’t think about it much. It helps to have the proper gear. Getting punched in the face with headgear, a mouthguard, and big boxing gloves is a lot different than just bare knuckle to jaw (I have experienced both). Your adrenaline gets going, you get into it. I don’t think you ever get to the point of “liking” it, like some people pretend to. One of my trainers says “no one likes getting punched in the face. That is just ridiculous. Why would anyone want to get punched in the face? It doesn’t feel good. It doesn’t look good. That’s just silly!” (and this guy is tough enough to say “silly” and get away with it).

      You do toughen up with time. And ideally, at least while sparring, you are not actually giving or taking full-blown swings. And the goal is to be hit less and less in the face as time goes by. A couple of skilled pugilists are only going to be actually getting each other in the face a handful of times per session.\

      It’s addicting, I’m telling you. Painful sometimes, and challenging. But you get hooked. You should check it out!

      • Josh Hanagarne April 13, 2011, 3:56 pm

        You’ve seen me hit myself more than anyone but Janette. I’m used to the contact, but not when someone else is controlling it!

        • Spencer April 13, 2011, 4:17 pm

          Well, it’s not that bad. Especially when heavily gloved. And while someone else is delivering the punches, it’s not like you can’t see it coming. Not that that helps. I have gone toe to toe with some guys considerably better than me. At punching. It hurts. It’s no fun. But you do stop flinching at some point and just take it.

          The goal is to get diversified enough that if someone is really getting the best of you standing up, you can pick them up and body slam them, or grab an appendage and twist it in a knot. Make them pay. The goal is NOT to get hit in the face, but that takes time.

  • frank April 13, 2011, 4:45 pm

    Josh, nice to see you trying this. Real sorry about the job. I did bbj for a year and a half and i took some boxing lessions a while back. Yea there is a difference in being in fighting shape, for sure. Its alot of fun.

    • Josh Hanagarne April 13, 2011, 4:54 pm

      FRANK B!

      You gave me my best laugh of the day, because you obviously did not read the first line of the post, or the author byline:)

      This was written by a friend of mine. I’m interested in trying it out, but haven’t yet.

      How’s everything going?

  • frank April 13, 2011, 5:05 pm

    Oh man I had two kids in my tv room doing there wrestling and crying. Sorry about that. See I told you I am a horrible at reading, lol.

    • Spencer April 13, 2011, 9:20 pm

      Do you dabble, Frank? (this is Spencer, the mysterious guest poster). If we’re ever in the same place at the same time, I’d be more than happy to let you punch me in the face. Let me know.

      • Josh Hanagarne April 13, 2011, 9:26 pm

        Spencer, you want nothing to do with Frank. He makes me look like a dwarf.

        • Spencer April 14, 2011, 8:16 am

          I’m trying to picture someone that would make you look like a dwarf. Andre the Giant, maybe.

          • Josh Hanagarne April 14, 2011, 3:07 pm

            Frank is 6’4″ and probably outweighs me by a few pounds. He is the the world’s strongest barber.

          • Spencer April 15, 2011, 5:45 pm

            I don’t know if I would even be in the running for world’s strongest lawyer. But I’d challenge Judge Judy to an arm wrestle.

  • Rex April 14, 2011, 5:14 am

    Here’s an interesting book on fighting:

    A Fighter’s Heart by Sam Sheridan.

    Keep going!


    • Spencer April 14, 2011, 10:05 am

      I’ll check it out for sure. Thanks, Rex.

      Have you read any of Forrest Griffin’s books? Surprsingly clever stuff!

      • Rex April 14, 2011, 3:03 pm

        Yes. I picked up a copy of ‘Got Fight?’ while browsing a bookshop last year and read twenty or thirty pages. Definitely something I’d like to read right through.

        The notion of an accomplished Martial Athlete who can also write effectively puts me in mind of the ‘Five Excellences’, which I read about in a book called Handbook for Heroes by The Barefoot Doctor. Not sure if you get his books your side of the Atlantic.

        If I remember correctly, he claims in Taoism, the well rounded man is competent in the martial arts, the healing arts, the performing arts, the writing arts and the occult arts.

        A bit like an eastern reannaissance man, I guess.

        • Spencer April 15, 2011, 5:47 pm

          I’m always looking for excuses to visit the other side of the Atlantic. The pursuit of good literature would be more than adequate as such.

          I like the well-rounded approach advocated by The Barefoot Doctor. Except for the occult, I try to do a little bit of each of the rest. Maybe I need to be more open-minded.

    • Josh Hanagarne April 14, 2011, 3:07 pm

      I actually read this book while trapped overnight in the NYC airport. A great read.

  • frank April 14, 2011, 5:18 am

    Spencer, your funny. I use to do some, but its been a long time. Maybe 4 years ago. I am thinking if starting some bbj again. Don’t let let josh fool you he makes me look small. But thanks josh.

    • Spencer April 14, 2011, 8:19 am

      You should get back into it, Frank. I love it! I also appreciated your concern (even though unnecessary) for Josh losing his job.

      The thing is, though, sometimes losing your job isn’t that bad. When part of you feels like it dies every time you walk through that door, sometimes getting fired can be the best thing that ever happened to you. Ah yeah!

      Stay tough!

  • Casey April 17, 2011, 12:08 pm


    As a fellow amateur philosopher and as a fighter I thoroughly enjoyed your post and want to wish you the best in your training! Any idea on when you are going to fight? They say philosophy is preparation for death and while I agree I must attest to its ability to prepare one for fighting as well.

    You sound very humble and dedicated which are the hallmarks of a great martial artist. Heart, skill and fitness will come with time and training, just like anything else man.


    We have to get you in the ring sometime. With your size and power you’d be a hell of a fight for ANYONE. I can tell you right now buddy if we we’re in a tussle I’d be going straight for the throw and to the ground, screw messing around with that reach. And teach I Thai Boxing!

    • Spencer April 21, 2011, 11:52 am

      Hey Casey,

      Thanks for your comments. I would really like to get in the ring some time in the next 6 months. As to philosophy being preparation for death, I’m not sure about that. Philosophy helps me get my head around life, which, I guess, would include death, on some level. My fight prep is definitely NOT preparation for death, however. At least not my own. The more I go, the stronger I feel. I am coming into it with a certain level of humility, but that other dude better bring it.

      As for Josh in the ring, he would be a killing machine! I would pay good money to see that. I pity his unwitting opponent already!

      • Josh Hanagarne April 21, 2011, 12:32 pm

        I’m an old man. I’d get whipped by some 4′ tall wrestler.

  • Clayton Geoege December 3, 2011, 2:32 pm

    Hi my name is clayton. I am in college to be an accountant. But I really like to fight. I am 5’6 175lbs fit but need a trainer so if any one know or would like to invest time into me to help mw get to where I want to be please respond to me and et me know thank you.

    • Spencer March 29, 2012, 3:58 pm

      Where do you live?

      • Clayton Geoege March 29, 2012, 5:44 pm

        Green Ohio