History of MMA at SMAA

 in London - Sherbourne Martial Arts Academy: SMAA



History of MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) Foundations at SMAA


MMA may evoke images of gory ground and pound scenarios when matches aren’t stopped fast enough or opponents are simply mismatched.  Despite the outcome of a match or a self-defense scenario, it is the will to get back in the gym every day to improve and build upon previously learned skills that truly matters.  

The foundations of top quality MMA fighters and Self-Defense Training regimens are rooted in distinct, well preserved martial arts: Boxing, Wrestling, Karate, Muay Thai, Sabaki, Jiu Jitsu.  The most frequently used techniques from each, tend to have the highest success rate because they work.  These potent, proven and reliable concepts and techniques are then combined to address any variation of physical confrontation in the street, or in the ring.  MMA training attempts to fill out a practitioners skill sets so that they are comfortable striking, in the clinch, or on the ground regardless of the environment, or the opponent.


This holistic approach to martial arts training is not a new invention. The concept of “mixed martial arts” was not born with the modern MMA movement, or the introduction of the UFC in 1993.  Decades before modern MMA in North America, there was Vale Tudo in Brazil, and unique systems of mixed martial arts, such as Kajukenbo in the U.S. that began to develop during the 1940s and 1950s (Kajukenbo is a blend of Karate, Judo, Hawaiian Kenpo, and Boxing that focuses on striking, kicking, throwing, and grappling in a combined system of self-defense).  Even looking to the practice of Karate in 19th century Okinawa, we see evidence of both striking, grappling, and joint-locking techniques combined within a single system of martial arts - much of this has been lost in the modern expansion of Karate during the 20th century, but evidence of this “rounded” approach to self-defense is found in the deeper study of Karate, and the “Katas” found in the various Karate styles.


The ability to exert your will in any given situation boils down to being prepared to address the varying possibilities you may have to contend with.  There are some universal concepts in martial arts that allow you to exert or absorb force: posture, structure, and base.  Take away their base and they have no balance, take away their structure and they cannot support a load, take away their posture and they cannot exert force.  This is a quick and simple explanation of three essential elements in combative training for self defense or competition purposes which take many years to be able apply with fluency and fluidity.   


My eventual desire to cultivate MMA training in London, Ontario stems from a lifetime of training in distinct martial arts and blending them over time to create a solid foundation for MMA training and competition, as well as self defense.  The approach at SMAA not only includes the physical aspects of defending yourself, but also includes a focus on the “intangible” skills of self-defense, such as avoidance, de-escalation, and similar skills and modern applications intended to prevent the occurrence of any violence before the “fighting” ever begins - at SMAA, we believe this is your greatest weapon in the tool box.  Avoidance is the best approach, but the physical skills are there, when things go south.  


The development of our unique program, was not created overnight.  The development of the SMAA curriculum has been decades in the making, and has involved input from many different instructors, martial artists, and combat sports professionals - each bringing to the table their unique experiences and perspectives to improve our overall program.  

As a bit of background, I began training in Jiu Jitsu with my Grandfather in Scotland (who taught police Jiu Jitsu in Glasgow), at the age of 8 and continued with this sporadically until my grandfather's passing in the late 1980's.  I wrestled in high school for three years and then moved on to kickboxing and boxing. I practiced TKD and sharpened my kicking skills from the age of 17 - 19. I had a tendency to use my hands too often during sparring sessions in TKD and was accused several times of using Karate which I had never practiced. At the age of 19 I decided to investigate Karate, and after some training, again I was accused of using wrestling and Jiu Jitsu during sparring sessions. In 1992 when I moved to London, Ontario from North Carolina, I started teaching MMA, inviting people from all different types of martial arts (Judo, Karate, Boxing, Kickboxing) to convene every Sunday in a school gym to have MMA matches with some basic rules to prevent injury. This was a time (1992 - 1996) when I immersed myself and the club in Muay Thai and Sabaki techniques and training.

I understood that wrestling and Jiu Jitsu were clearly imperative to surviving a physical confrontation. I trained under Royce Gracie from 2004 -2018 and have spent more than 25 years analyzing and applying the principles and techniques of Jiu Jitsu for real world self defense and competition. In 2012 I renamed our martial arts club: Sherbourne Martial Arts Academy in order to reflect a more unified vision for individual, yet connected martial arts.  I also formed the World Karate, Kobudo, Jiu Jitsu Organization (www.wkkjoacademy.com) which is an inclusive organization dedicated to preserving distinct yet related martial arts.

Together with my group of talented instructors, I now train all of the practitioners at SMAA to become well versed in striking, grappling and ground work... so that students are able to defend themselves when addressing any type of unarmed attack.  Our approach embraces both modern self-defense skills, and combat sports competition.  Many of our students have successfully competed in Karate, Jiu Jitsu, and MMA matches through Pankration and Cage Fighting.


Learning to build on your capacity by training consistently is one of the biggest hurdles for most people these days.  Proper consistent training is 80% of the solution.  Many people like the idea of training and working to improve themselves, but few are willing to make the sacrifices required to do so.  There is no magic potion or quick training video that can transform you into a competent self-defense practitioner or MMA fighter.  True Martial Arts training requires dedication, commitment, discipline, sacrifice and time on the mat.  It’s easy to make excuses or not push yourself to truly cultivate your potential.  The reality is that you don’t know what you are capable of until you decide to do it regardless of the immediate reward.     


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