Mixed martial arts mayhem


Yusra Hasan

Junior Luke Cavallo spent a free night testing out a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu class.

Luke Cavallo, Special contributor

Months ago, I was introduced to a sport that I had never before come across, one that captured my interest with its simplicity and unique culture.

As a long-time casual fan of boxing, it was only a matter of time before I came across mixed martial arts. I paid close attention to MMA in the months leading up to the much-anticipated Charles Oliveira v. Islam Makhachev fight of UFC 280, and in doing so I researched many of former Champion Oliveira’s fights on YouTube.

I recall watching with surprise as Oliveira abandoned the traditional striking stance to lie on the ground and wait for his opponent to approach, before tangling him up with his arms and legs.

Whatever Oliveira was doing, it was clearly going well for him. Within seconds he managed to sink in a choke, and his opponent quickly tapped out.

Further research introduced me to the martial art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, an art of which Oliveira happens to be a master. I was instantly hooked, and I quickly immersed myself in the vast world of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, discovering various forms of the sport, legendary figures, and a seemingly endless catalog of positions and techniques.

After an educational period as a third-party observer, I decided that it was time to experience Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in person. I began to research local martial arts gyms. Immediately, I found one only minutes from my home, and better yet, they offered a free trial class.

I was shocked by how quickly and painlessly I felt myself losing consciousness. Mere seconds in the choke had me tapping out, as my vision began to fade, and I felt pressure in my head and neck.

— Luke Cavallo

After a brief correspondence with the gym, I set a date to try out a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu class, and because it was also offered, a free kickboxing class directly beforehand. I persuaded a friend of mine to join me for the classes, which would be on a Friday night.

As the date approached, I watched YouTube videos on proper behavior and respect in the gym, nervous but excited to experience something completely new. My friend and I arrived at the gym for the kickboxing class just before 6 p.m. After a fun and educational – but brutally exhausting workout, it was time to get a taste of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

The class started by briefly bowing in and being welcomed by the especially professional and welcoming instructor, a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu brown belt. Next came dynamic warm-ups.

Having played soccer all of my life, I am no stranger to the customary jog and stretch, but these warm-ups were truly foreign to me. We began by shuffling around the mats, and occasionally extending our hands to the mat. Following this, we practiced falling flat on our backs, and then crawling on hands and feet.

I have never been an especially flexible person, and I began to struggle, to little of my own surprise. Compounding this issue, my entire body was drenched in sweat due to the hour of kickboxing that I had just finished.

Challenges especially began in the “shrimping” exercise, in which a person pushes themselves across the mat on their side, simulating a realistic situation from competition. My sweaty hands and feet granted me a complete lack of traction, as I slid slowly and pitifully across the mat. Despite the slight embarrassment, I stood up with a broad smile, only to be humbled with a dramatic slip in a puddle of my own sweat.

Moving into the main portion of the class, the instructor demonstrated three takedown variations and then dismissed us to practice with our partners. My friend and I, with some special assistance from the instructor, managed to perform these throws and takedowns to a standard that I was proud of.

After about half an hour of struggling across a mat and being slammed on the ground, I was feeling a bit fatigued and bruised, but a far more powerful sensation of catharsis came over me at the realization of an experience that I had been pursuing for months.

When the instructor decided that my friend and I were prepared to move on, he began to explain a triangle choke to us. He demonstrated with a student of his, throwing his legs to either side of the student’s neck, and trapping one arm in the triangle created by his legs, before applying a gentle squeeze. The student quickly tapped, signaling the instructor to release the triangle.

I had never been put in a chokehold before, and during the period of attempting to recreate the choke with my friend.

I was shocked by how quickly and painlessly I felt myself losing consciousness. Mere seconds in the choke had me tapping out, as my vision began to fade, and I felt pressure in my head and neck. By the end of class, both my friend and I had managed to perform the choke relatively well.

As the class ended, we had a brief cool down, before we bowed out and went our separate ways. I bade goodbye to my friend and drove home, still a bit light-headed, but flooded with excitement and endorphins.