MMA and Marine Martial Arts

Martial arts instructors participate in MMA

Robert Abrantes is relaxed, calm and collected. Each stroke is delivered carefully to his canvas. A design unfolds, and as time wears on, the finished product moves into focus. Working like a painter before an easel, Abrantes draws from an array of tools and techniques. However, he doesn’t use brushes and paint. Instead, he uses raw flesh and toned muscle. His blank canvas doesn’t rest on an easel – it’s the body of his opponent.

Sergeant Abrantes, and Staff Sgt. Daniel Sandlin are Martial Arts Instructor Trainers with the Advanced Infantry Training Battalion at School of Infantry (East), Camp Geiger, N.C. In between the hours spent at their physically exhausting work, which begins as early as five in the morning and often goes until dark, they train and prepare themselves for their demanding past time – participation in mixed martial arts tournaments.

“I professionally began MMA a year ago after coming through training here, but didn’t really start seriously training until after I met Sandlin,” said Abrantes, who has competed in five official fights, with a record of three wins and two losses. “I’ve always been competitive by nature. It’s sort of the same principle behind being a Marine – wanting to be the best. I like seeing the progression and development of all the hard work you put in.”

In addition to advancing in the professional world of fighting, Abrantes attributes a lot of his growth as a teacher and leader of Marines to his participation in MMA.

“I feel I’ve grown a great deal,” said Abrantes. “The mental toughness you get from having them lock the cage with you inside it, and additionally through me ‘destroying’ my body, helps me reach new levels.”

By learning to push himself, Abrantes explained that it has helped him gain a better understanding of how to push his students.

“Just the mindset helps – sparring everyday gets you used to it,” said Abrantes. “It helps you easily assess how every Marine must be fought a little differently in order to benefit the most from the training.”

In addition to reaching new levels of physical and mental toughness, their preparation and participation have allowed Sandlin and Abrantes to further develop their patience as instructors and as fighters.

“Fighting is a game of chess, not some barbaric event, and that patience carries over.” said Sandlin. “We try to get our students into that mindset. We try to instill our students with that patience and get them thinking of the end game.”

“MMA helps a lot – that leadership and dedication transfers over to teaching,” continued Sandlin. “You learn greater levels of self discipline and that helps you encourage discipline as a leader.”

Train with UFC fighters

Mixed martial artists and the Ultimate Fighting Championship fighters from the Victory Fitness Center, Point Loma, came to Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego’s martial arts satellite school, Oct. 1, to teach servicemembers additional martial arts techniques.

“There are many military members that come to Victory Fitness Center,” said Elias Gallagos, an MMA instructor at the Victory Fitness Center. “I feel that by coming here we are giving back to them.”

Military members and their families who took time to go to the “dojo” learned a few different techniques from three different categories: striking from standing, takedowns, and submissions.

“This is an awesome experience,” said Staff Sgt. James McFaline, martial arts instructor, Instructional Training Company, Support Battalion. “It’s a little extra knowledge for our ‘tool belt.’ It builds on what we already know and teaches us additional moves.”

It expands on the Marine Corps’ training, according to Gunnery Sgt. Francisco Galvan, martial arts instructor, ITC, Support Bn. It sparks interest outside of the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program, and gives a chance to grow as a martial artist. We get a chance to see where the MCMAP techniques originate.

The instructors and fighters were interested to see each other’s commonalities. “It’s good to learn martial arts and to constantly be a learner,” said Shannon Gugerty, a UFC fighter from the Victory Fitness Center. “It’s awesome to see that the Marines train the same as we do.”

While the Marines were happy to see the instructors and fighters, the guests seemed more excited that they got to spend time here with servicemembers.

“This is awesome,” said Tony Palafox, an MMA instructor at the Victory Fitness Center. “It’s amazing what we can do to help these guys in any situation, it’s tremendous.”

The guests were allowed to use the dojo’s training equipment before their class started during a mini-lesson from the Marines, according to Palafox.

The techniques that they taught the Marines seemed pretty effective, even in the practice stages, according to Sgt. Charles Roche, a MCMAP Instructor Trainer with ITC.

“The best part about coming here is the after affects,” said Gallegos. “Showing attendees they learned something, and the satisfaction that they know it and can use it to save their lives.”

When the session was over, attendees had more tools for their tool belts, and the instructors and fighters were able to see the results of their training.

“We are honored to come out here and help out our servicemembers,” said Palafox. “There is no speech I can make for it, we are just honored that you let us come here. With the military members being out there protecting us, we like to give back. It makes us feel like we are.”