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.