What is Mixed Martial Arts?


Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) did not originate locally but has been growing in popularity. Some people think of MMA as guys fighting in a cage, broadcast as entertainment, but for some it’s more than that – it is a workout and self-defense.

Sky and Alissa Rudloe own Train. Fight. Win. on Gaines Street in Tallahassee. According to Sky, mixed martial arts is a sport, not a fist fight in the streets.

“When you say M-M-A, it means a lot of different disciplines, so we try to teach classes in each discipline that makes up MMA,” explains Alissa Rudloe. “We have the four things that we focus on. We focus on striking, and that would be boxing, and we do Muay Thai-style kickboxing, mainly, which is a type of kickboxing from Thailand. It uses elbows and knees which is very functional in MMA.”

“We also do standup wrestling, which is the Judo, and ground wrestling which is submission wrestling, Brazilian Jujitsu, that type of thing.”

Muay Thai is the most popular class during the week, with people from all walks of life attending – from college students, young professionals to soccer moms. It’s a universally fun class that a lot of people seem to like. Instructors give detailed descriptions of how to execute the moves, including which muscle to employ when doing specific kicks.

Sky Rudloe elaborates on styles of MMA. “Judo really focuses on bringing an opponent to the floor. It’s an alternative we like to have to just the traditional wrestling such as Greco Roman or freestyle that is more popular here in the states.”

“Usually the teacher will instruct and then they’ll drill, which is a good workout. And at the end, they always try to incorporate a workout into every class. So even if you’re not taking just the fitness classes, you can still get a really good workout by our martial arts as well,” adds Alissa.

The reasons for taking a mixed martial arts class are as varied as the students who take them.

Journalism student and newspaper photographer D.A. Robin has been taking classes for two weeks. “Why? Because I want to get in shape. I’ve always been, uh, I guess a bit fearful of athletics. I’ve had that long-standing fear of being able to be athletic and also the belief that I didn’t have the athleticism in me. So now that I’ve lost some weight, I’ve decided to see how far I can push myself.”

Shelly Kimrey is a state worker who never thought she’d take a fight class or a Jujitsu class. “I kinda just wanted to get into shape, so I started with HIT and conditioning classes. And then slowly but surely, I picked up a few of the women’s kickboxing classes and then women’s Jujitsu… and then it just sort of snowballed from there.”

“To me, it’s more of just zoning in, being in that different realm,” says Architecture student Christian Inga. “It’s not caring or worrying about anything around you… just that one person that’s in your face trying to take your head off. So to me, that’s the appeal of it and once you start getting good at it, you just want more.”

A lot of women take the classes at Train. Fight. Win.

Sky Rudloe comments, “Being co-owners with my wife has added sort of a feminine element to the gym in general. And I think when women come in and see her here, and they see her teaching, and they see her training with the team, it becomes a lot less threatening to them.”

“I think that the initial reason for a lot of women coming here is they’ll come to the women’s kickboxing because they want to do kickboxing, but they’re drawn to the fact that we have to do self-defense in that class and they want to learn self-defense,” says Alissa Rudloe. “Then from there they feel comfortable in that so they want to try other classes and I always encourage that. Go try other classes. They have this perceived notion that they can’t do certain things because they’re a girl.”

Gym member Shelley Kimrey is an example of that progression. “So I competed in my first grappling tournament in April and that was awesome. I won gold at that one which was really, really cool. And then this weekend I just competed at the International Kickboxing Federation World Classic and it was my first fight. So it was the first time I had ever been in an actual fight with hitting. You know, grappling doesn’t involve hitting at all, but this was. And so I didn’t win. It went to a split-decision but it was by far the coolest thing I have ever done and the hardest thing I have ever done, it was amazing. And I would have never thought I could do something like that.”

A lot of the workouts incorporate moves that help the fighter, but are accessible to everyone. A fighter and a day student have the same workout modified to different levels of fitness. The coaches can help guide the students to explore different techniques in the mixed martial arts.   Another benefit of the classes is the camaraderie that develops between students.

Sky Rudloe says “It’s a kickboxing class. We say pair up, grab pads. Now you’re interacting with people. Now you’re dealing with people and I think that’s a huge, huge benefit of this. Almost equal to the physical part of it is just that getting to know people and it’s in this setting where you know, you’re in there. You’re working out together. You’re sweating together…you make friends, honestly and it’s a great part of the whole aspect of it.”

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Mike Plummer is a content producer and editor for television at WFSU Public Media. He spent 25 years in commercial television as an art director, commercial director, promotion manager, station manager and creative services director before coming to WFSU in 2008. Mike likes to find the “unusual” or “out of the ordinary” stories in our Local Routes. He says the best part of his job is getting to know people he would otherwise probably not get a chance to meet. Mike is widowed, has two terriers named Truman and Dexter, and is constantly at war with the vines growing in his backyard.