Blessings

The rare opportunity to be a successful fighter is a blessing and a curse. I feel blessed to have been given the opportunity to compete at this level. I am fortunate in that I can live this lifestyle, training and fighting and winning tournaments. A lot of fighters start taking winning for granted and develop bad attitudes, I certainly expect to do well in competition but I don’t want to win so badly that if I don’t I’m a sore loser.

The curse of being a good fighter is something I have been thinking a lot about. Even at times that I think I might hang it up I don’t. I am almost stuck in something that I love; as if I am trapped inside of a profession that is voluntary. The fact is it would be disrespectful to all of my coaches, opponents and supporters, past and present to stop here. I am not legally obliged to fulfill my dreams. It is a hard road, it is a long road, but I am enjoying my journey.

I am taking the next few weeks really easy. It doesn’t look like I will be fighting until March 2016 so I will take the opportunity to rest up while I can. I have been in a non-stop training camp since October 2014 and have amassed a lot of victories in the past 14 months. I finally became Australian Champion this year, I became the Oceania Heavyweight Vice-Champion, I won my 13th and 14th State Title, my first international medals, my first kickboxing fight, I had my first experience in an MMA fight and won a few medals in BJJ. Needless to say, it has been a monster year. I am finishing up with 40 matches, 10 over what I had aimed for.

I have done a lot but there is a lot more to do next year. Another MMA fight, more kickboxing fights, hopefully some pro appearances for some $$$, a big mid year trip to Korea, the G4 Oceania Championships and becoming a 2 time Australian Champion. Like I said, the fighting life isn’t for everyone, but its definitely the life for me.

You have to be selfish

Yesterday I competed in the Grappling Industries Submission Only tournament. I fought 10 times in one day, the most I have ever fought in one day. It was a difficult experience to say the least. This year has been full of new experiences and I am still learning how best to manage my career.

The first and most important thing is to manage my relationship with my long-time girlfriend Steph. Because of my hectic training schedule I don’t often get to see her. She is a crucial part of my support network. It has been trying at times to have a long distance relationship with someone who lives 25 minutes away. However, it is her understanding of my situation and dreams that makes her so endearing. I often compare it to how movie stars only date other movie stars. They are the only ones who understand. Steph doesn’t compete or train in any martial arts but she understands the lengths I have to go to so I can achieve what I want. She knows that to achieve these things I have to be selfish.

No one bears the brunt of an elite athlete’s lifestyle as much as their partners.

The last 6 weeks have been especially trying. I am back with Warren Hansen, a 2000 Olympian and 2004 Olympic Coach. Warren was one of my coaches at Halls and coached me in my first National Championships in 2009. I hope to rectify that 2009 Silver with a Gold Medal under him later this year. However, in transferring to Warrens club Professional Taekwondo I left my Coach Allan.

Allan’s club, Martial Fitness Australia was where I had my first MMA fight, my first Kickboxing fight; he organised and prepared me for my first International Medal in 2014 and my first National Medal as a Black Belt. I won my 13th Victorian Championship there and competed in my first G2 event under him.

This is the truth, I didn’t want to leave. I believe that Allan has the capability to be an Olympic Coach and was an excellent MMA coach for me. Before I joined his club, for a long time he had coached me at interstate events and coached me the first time I ever wore an Australian Team Uniform. His club is like a family. His wife Kelly organised trips, my Global Athlete License and my entries’ to different events. They both organised and negotiated opponents for me and made sure I was keeping my weight down for those events. Allan gave me extra private sessions at no extra cost and on numerous occasions invited me into his own home. One would ask why I would leave such an environment.

There is no easy answer, although from an athletic standpoint the place was great. Allan and I butted heads sometimes about my dedication, my willingness to attend even more sessions, and my ideas about the traditional Taekwondo Syllabus. There was no explosive argument, no final fight or public airing out of our issues. Our relationship deteriorated in private. I fought it for as long as I could, but I wasn’t enjoying training anymore.

At the other clubs I train at the vibe is much more relaxed. I am supervised and coached from a distance. Carlo would write programs for me then tell me what I had to work on and then in a few weeks would assess me again and change the program accordingly. Allan’s approach as a coach is very good for people who need as much supervision as he gives. I didn’t know I wouldn’t like it until I was already there. I felt overwhelmed and anxious about training, feeling as if every session was a performance rather than practice. It led to sliding results and a mixed feeling about where I was headed.

Our relationship has deteriorated even further now. I really wish it hadn’t. There have been rumblings that I only went there to write down his program, to steal from him. Those rumours hurt me the most. I would never do anything to jeopardise the advantage the juniors, Cadets and Children that train there have. They train like pro athletes and deserve the results and rewards they get.

I sometimes think that I as an athlete have the problem. That I am not coachable; that the reason I have now been a member of 4 clubs in 7 years is that I really don’t like taekwondo; that I like the idea of being a fighter, but don’t like fighting; that I don’t care about what my actions do to others. I have been doing this for a while now and when these doubts enter my mind I stop myself and say, just like Allan told me in our first meeting, ‘Sometimes as an athlete, you have to be selfish’.

Wrestling with the pressure

Adam Meyers MMA

A little over a week ago I had my first MMA fight. I didn’t want to write about it straight away because in front of a hundred people or so, I was unnamed, a Taekwondo black belt with no reputation in this sport,  two ringside tables filled with my training partners and teammates, I was embarrassingly mounted, then ground and pounded into unconsciousness. It was a wrestling lesson.

The fight starts, I come out and touch gloves. For a second I look at this guy in front of me and think ‘Oh shit, I’m an MMA fighter’. Then I remember that I’m actually in a fight and as my Head Coach Allan once said ‘In a combat sport you have to actually fucking hit someone’.

I snap back into the fight, I landed a really solid inside leg kick and he winces in pain. Then he flurries forward with a barrage of punches which pushes me into the corner, I landed two hard body kicks in quick succession. Unfortunately my fight or flight response kicked in and I started kicking instead of getting out of the corner. He shot in for a take down, after some time he got it and landed in side control. His BJJ and Wrestling was a few steps above my own. Eventually he mounted me and pummeled me with punches until I was out.

I lost my debut. That is a sentence I didn’t want to ever have to write. It was my amateur debut so I guess it isn’t as important but it still hurts. I felt lost after the fight, I didn’t feel injured or sore, I stepped out of the ring without a drop of sweat on my body.

A Kanye West lyric has been in my head ever since. “I’m ready for the Worlds Games/ This is my Olympics”.

I will not attend the Rio Games next year. That is the truth, but why did I want to become an Olympian in the first place? It wasn’t a lifelong love of the Olympic Games it was because I was doing Taekwondo and being an Olympian was the height of that sport. Going to a World Championship in Taekwondo is an amazing achievement, but it is only being an Olympian that is on everyone’s mind.

If the Worlds were the biggest competition you could go to that would be my end goal. Being on Team Australia for Worlds. In MMA the UFC is the Olympics. In BJJ the IBJJF World Championships are the Olympics. Its the highest level you can compete at.

After losing 10 days ago I am still on track to make my first ‘Olympics’ next year at the IBJJF Worlds in California. I am competing on the highest level possible one way or another. After losing I can still go to the Abu Dhabi World Pro Championships next year. I am not out of the running to make the UFC because I lost one fight. This reality has taken all of the pressure off of competing.

Taekwondo was always so much about winning this so you can go to that, so you can get enough points for that, but only if you can afford it because the funding is shit house, then if you do well in that you can be in the Top 32 for this, then come back to Australia to fight this, so you can go to that. Its a mouthful. Here is the reality that I live in now. You wanna compete at Worlds? You think you are the best in the world? Come prove it.

The Frequency of Fighting

Taekwondo, gold medal, adam meyers, taekwondo academy

Myself and Coach Alan after I won the Victorian Championship last weekend.

Last weekend I fought in two competitions. The first was on Saturday, it was the Grappling Industries Melbourne Tournament. It was my first ever BJJ competition and I wasn’t nervous at all. I have had so many years of competition prep that I didn’t feel any kind of pressure to perform. The problem was that during the match I was calmer than I should have been against inexperienced opponents.

My opponents were more experienced than me at BJJ but not at fighting. When you watch a lower ranked fight in Taekwondo, it is almost complete chaos, no one  is calm, both athletes are kicking like crazy and points are coming up out of nowhere. I forgot that lower ranked fights are crazy. White belt BJJ competitors are very aggressive. Way more aggressive than the higher ranked guys that I’m used to training with. Its more calm when more knowledge is involved. The same mentality applies in Black Belt Taekwondo competitions. I can be calm, pick my points, attack and counter when necessary.

I felt almost surprised when the BJJ guys were attacking me so aggressively. It put me into some bad spots and I felt a little overwhelmed. I fought 5 times in that competition, I won 2 fights, one via arm bar and lost three, one by arm bar, one my rear naked choke and one by points. In every fight I was bum rushed and attacked straight away. I felt like I was being bullied, it felt like the first time I fought in the Senior divisions in Taekwondo. I was 18 and I fought a 29-year-old. Even though I won the match, the strength and maturity advantage was clear.

As I move up the ranks in BJJ the fights will become calmer and more suited to my style. However, I cannot ignore this new weakness I have found in my game. In BJJ I don’t deal well with aggression. I have looked around for wrestling schools and MMA Sparring opportunities so I can adapt to more aggressive opponents when submissions can come so quickly. You can lose a fight in 30 seconds and walk off the mat with no injuries.

On the Sunday I fought in the Victorian Taekwondo Championships. I had a quick 20 minute warm up and was the third fight of the day. My first fight was against a relatively inexperienced, yet strong player from Team Taekwondo that I haven’t fought before. He landed a soft back kick on me at the end of the first round so he was winning 4-1 but in my head I knew that I would regain control at my first chance. In the second and third rounds I controlled the ring, kicked him in the head, landed a back kick of my own and proceeded to play a smart counter game until time ran out and I won on points. I had a bye in the Semi and fought the final against a taller, very experienced player from OTC. OTC is a very competitive club, with a lot of aggressive players. I expected that it wouldn’t be as simple as the first fight.

As the fight starts I tried to figure out his game and in about 30 seconds I had picked his techniques. He was doing a cut kick into the clinch in the hopes to hit a crescent kick from in close due to his height and leg length. So to counter this I jumped over/punched through his cut depending on its height and in the clinch blocked his crescent and popped him on the flank on the other side. This worked about 5 times throughout the fight. Afterwards in the third round there was about 20 seconds left and he got through my block with a crescent, I moved my head out-of-the-way anyway but the points came up. Luckily I was still up 9-4. the clock ran down to about 5 seconds and his onslaught came. I blocked and avoided until time ran out. Winning the Gold Medal at the Vic’s for the 13th time.

After the weekend I have competed in 8 matches this year. Well on my way to my 30 fight target. Only 1 away from matching last years injury plagued 9 fight total. The frequency of fighting is very important when trying to raise your game to a higher level. I can’t wait for the next comp.

New Routines

This month I have been working out my new routine. I am at a new Taekwondo club this year, I train BJJ more than I did last year and I am training in MMA. For the first time in my career as an athlete I am working 40 hours a week. I know a lot of other athletes have been doing this for a long time so I know it’s possible. What I am trying to find out is if it’s ideal.

I am, if anything, a pragmatist. I will happily eliminate something from my life if it doesn’t suit the end goal. However this philosophy is not always realistic. I have bills. I need to work. I am not fighting professionally yet. I guess at this point I am hoping that next year I will be winning an amount of prize money that would allow me to reduce my hours to 20 or so and then the year after to reduce them further depending on my success.

The more time I can focus on fighting the better. Because at this point I cannot afford to train full time I have to focus on fighting more frequently than the average athlete. Last year I only had 9 matches. This year I want to compete in at least 30 fights. It all starts this weekend.

On Saturday I am fighting the Gi -185lbs and Gi Absolute divisions at the Grappling Industries Melbourne Tournament. It is a round robin format so in my -185lbs division I will have at least 3 fights. The Absolute is single elimination so a minimum of 1. Same goes for Sundays Victorian Taekwondo Championships in which I will be fighting in the -87kg division. If I make the finals of each division by the end of the weekend I will have fought in 11 matches. 2 more than I had all last year.

I am looking forward to the challenge and win or lose I will have had a lot of fights and gained a lot of experience. Don’t take that thinking as a sign of weakness though, when I step into a fight, I step in to win.

Chasing Lions

Two weeks ago I fought at the National Team Trials at the AIS in Canberra. I am not going to mince words. I lost. I won my semi-final by a significant margin, when walking off the mats I fainted, had a seizure and could not participate in the final. I lost by withdrawal. I am the reserve athlete for the 87+ division, essentially, the B Team. A significant step up from not being on the team at all, but not the step that I wanted to take.

The promise I made myself about starting to transfer to MMA still stands, but now I have a different outlook on what that might mean. After my performance at the AIS I feel that I am closer to the Olympics than I have ever been. I will not participate in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. I know that now. That is a failure I will have to live with. I will spend the next 5 years training for MMA and Taekwondo concurrently on the way to the UFC and the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.

There is a saying that if you try and chase two rabbits you will lose both of them. I don’t think this applies here though. The two dreams I am chasing are intertwined, being an Olympic level Taekwondo athlete will help me get into the UFC, and training in MMA will help me build my strength and power for Taekwondo. The Taekwondo background I have is a huge advantage in MMA, in the last few years we have seen more and more UFC fighters utilizing Taekwondo techniques. Stopping Taekwondo all together now would be a huge mistake. I want to retain the kicking advantage I have over other MMA fighters. I typically train in Taekwondo 4-5 times a week, BJJ 3 times and Kickboxing twice. I don’t want to become a Kickboxing striker in MMA, I want to be a Taekwondo striker, who has altered the punching aspect (punching the face and body as opposed to only punching the body). Lyoto Machida is the prime example of what I mean. He isn’t a Muay Thai fighter, he is a Karate fighter who also trains in Muay Thai so his Karate can be adapted to the MMA landscape.

With that being said I am looking forward to a slightly altered competition season. I will be fighting in the Victorian Taekwondo Championships, The Arnold Classic Taekwondo Championships and the Victorian BJJ Championships in the coming months. BJJ is my biggest disadvantage, even though the quality of Australian BJJ in MMA is quite low compared to other countries I still know what it takes to make the UFC. A complete game.

I am chasing down the lions that I train with at the AET. Everyone is so good that it makes every training session a challenge, I have never left training feeling that I won every encounter. I improve with every session and now that all my swelling from the AIS has gone down I am excited to get back to training and achieving things in 2015 that I never have before.

How I got here: The last part

At the end of 2013 I was one of the highest ranked players in the Taekwondo Australia Rankings. I wasn’t able to go to Nationals due to a meniscus injury I sustained during the TA International where I fought world class USA player Philip Yun. Nevertheless I was psyched for 2014 and felt like I was about to make my break onto the world scene. The first step was winning a spot on the National Team.

The Oceania selections were at the end of April so to make sure I was prepared I booked a trip to South Korea. One of my friends Sol is Korean and she organised a few high schools for me to train at. Everyone I spoke to about training at Korean High Schools warned me of the intensity I would be training at. They were not wrong. For two weeks I was battered by the Koreans. On the first day I partnered with a heavyweight boy who kicked me so hard I had to stop training because I couldn’t breathe. It felt like I was under water. The Koreans train with a kind of ferocity I haven’t seen in Australia.

As the training camp came to a close I was becoming used to the way they train, the way they embrace pain as a means of motivation. Although at times the trip was very unpleasant I learned a lot about myself and I feel that I genuinely came back as a better person. I said my goodbyes and made my way home. I had three days after training finished for me to enjoy Seoul and to rest my body in preparation for the Oceania Selections. When I arrived in Melbourne on the Tuesday I had a few recovery sessions and a light kick around before I left on the Friday for the competition.

I was fighting in the Middleweight Division which is an 87kg limit. I weighed in about 85.5kg with my clothes on. I was very comfortable in my weight and due to my success when not dieting hard and dehydrating the year before I continued the trend. I saw my opponent Ben the day after and we had a nice and polite chat in the chairs in marshaling. I didn’t mention that I hadn’t cut any weight, but he did mention he was about 93kg at the time. I was at a weight disadvantage.

Weight aside I do not excuse myself from what happened. I had the best preparation of my life. I couldn’t have asked for better training leading in. I was pulling off a lot of really good stuff in the fight, I felt like I was really close 4 or 5 times to hitting Ben in the head. the scores however told a different story. I was down a significant amount. In the third round Ben started landing double roundhouse kicks on me so hard that I was actually hurt. Fighting hurts, but sometimes when people score on you, you don’t really take notice of the impact your body took. This was something I hadn’t experienced before. He was really, really hurting me. I lost the match by about 7 points. A pretty big gap in Taekwondo. I was really torn up about it.

I started really doubting myself after that. How could I have gone to South Korea, spent all that money to train and prepare for this comp and then be battered in the first round? It made no sense to me. To get over it I entered the upcoming Victorian Championships, a competition I have won more than 10 times. I thought getting a few wins would make me feel better. In my first fight I took control straight away, landing a clean head kick within 10 seconds. However, thirty seconds after that I broke my toe when my foot clashed with his shin. I couldn’t kick with my left foot for the rest of the fight, he realized it and began to thoroughly smash me on the side I couldn’t defend for the remaining 2 and a half rounds. I was wearing an Australian Team uniform, I was in front of my old coaches, usually my Mum is too scared of me getting hurt to watch me fight but this time she came. And I got wrecked. I have never been more embarrassed in my life.

I couldn’t walk properly or train for 6 weeks. So I stewed on it. I came into the next Victorian Championships raring to prove that I was still a force to be reckoned with. I fought the Team AUS Heavyweight Dylan in the first fight, he kicked me in the head but I felt like I was gaining momentum in the last round. I was popping him underneath his arm in the clinch and was catching up. Then I blocked another head kick attempt and when I looked down my ring finger was pointing the wrong way. Two fights in a row I had broken a bone.

Only elite athletes can understand truly what it feels like to be losing like this, to sacrifice years of your life for no reward. I felt that I had spent 6 years of my life for nothing. I felt like I was getting no where. My finger required surgery and I spent 12 weeks unable to train, unable to get my heart rate up without it throbbing. One night I was in a really bad mood so I started watching a movie and I laughed so hard my heart rate rose and my fingers started hurting. I couldn’t sleep with the metal and elastic warping my finger back into position. If it was hot in the room my finger would throb and wake me up. The pins would cut up my other fingers and stab the side of my body in my sleep. In all honesty some nights I would wake up in pain and just cry.

I decided that I couldn’t live like that. It was October and I had spent 5 months out of 10 in pain. My pins came out and I started Physiotherapy, trying to regain the ability to use my left hand. To this day, I am unable to make a complete fist. In October I rejoined a BJJ club I had trained at in 2013 as a means of cross training. In 2013 I was training at Westside MMA in Caroline Springs, a truly elite training facility. They had an affiliation at the time with the Australian Elite Team so when I wanted to start up again I went straight back to the AET. Over the next few months I made myself a promise.

If I couldn’t make the National Team in time for Rio I would make the complete transfer to MMA and try and make the UFC. I am competing for that National Team spot in exactly one month.