So, are you done judging me for an inferior creature with violence as the only solution?
My Martial Arts journey started with practicing kicks I’d watch in action movies. I looked across the country for an academy I’d call home but none of the places I visited satisfied me (I did not go to EVERY Martial Arts academy in Pakistan, just for the record), because none of them had to offer what I was looking for; a training system where I could train and fight with minimal rules [I hate too many rules, besides, I knew about MMA but knew for a fact that there was no place, in Pakistan, that trained in it]. As a result, I decided to start studying it myself. Somewhere along the road, Sultan trained me, informally, in Taekwondo and then convinced me to train formally. I complied by starting training under Master Wan [Nowsherwan], followed by short training in Kyokushin, under Master Nasir. A couple of years later I was on my own, again. But the formal training had changed my perception a LOT, it had also added to my knowledge and broadened my horizons. I had a solid foundation of kicking, punching, kneeing and elbowing. So I made tweaks, applied my own spins, and manifested my imaginative creations in my body language during training [8-9 hours a day]. Next stop was Wrestling, I started with the Shoot, drilled it day and night and made crazy progress. What I did to achieve that was pretty simple; I’d do Shoot after Shoot, hundreds of reps [keeping strict form]. I then worked, thoroughly, on the other offensive and defensive aspects of Clinch Fighting [Striking, Take-downs, Throws, Reversals, Level Changes, Dirty Boxing, and Submissions], and made it versatile by adding elements of various arts that specialized in fighting in the Clinch. Ground was the biggest problem because I failed to spot and get a hold of an edge so I could untangle the subject, through a proper pattern. But I was consistent; never gave up, kept looking for more and more answers; appropriate answers. Gradually, it started to come to me, and boy did it get on the fast track in no time. I hacked away at the unessential [anything that looked even remotely impractical]. The arts I dabbled, seriously, with were Muay Thai [both Traditional Thai Style and Dutch Style], Savate, Capoeira, Boxing, Greco Roman, Freestyle Wrestling, Catch As Catch Can, Judo, Sambo, Brazilian Jiujitsu (No Gi), Maphilindo and Madjapahit Silat, Shotokan, Sanshou [Sanda], Krav Maga, Wing Chun, Choy Lee Fut, Daido Juku, Pekiti Tersia, and 52 Blocks. The major chunk of my time was spent understanding the basics and major principles of the arts, from there on it was leap after leap. The next major stop was the subject of Combat Fitness. I was never a fan of rep ranges or sets; an example of that is my combat conditioning routine below:
Exercise Days Per Week: 4 [Mon and Tue = Training, Wed = Off, Thu and Fri = Training, Sat and Sun = Off ]
Exercise Sessions Per Day: 1 or 2 [2 hrs/session]
Squats Per Session: 750 [in a go] in one session, and in the second; 100×6, 1×150 [I obviously worked my way up for the ‘750 in a go’]
Knuckle Push Ups Per Session: 400 [2×200 in one session, and 4×100 in the other]
NOTE: Technique Training was a separate four to five hours. I’d add Pull Ups, Chin Ups, Supported Handstand Push Ups, Isometrics & Plyometrics, Explosive Training and Core Training to the mix by replacing one, or both, exercise(s) with the other(s), depending upon the rest I had given to a particular muscle group. I followed this routine for six months [Six years later, with a light maintenance, I am still more chiseled than most of the people who train regularly (checkout my Facebook and/or Instagram).
After a while, I fell in love with Yoga, Power Lifting, Olympic Lifting, Kettle-bell Training, and Bodyweight Training at first sight. The love only bloomed after I read & tested more. Needless to mention, I added, whatever I deduced to be more relevant to my needs as a Mixed Martial Artist, to my fighting system. Since I am a self learned man, and I am bound to commit the most stupid mistakes, I only recently got serious about the study of Nutrition. Not that I wasn’t conscious about my diet, I just did not take it as a subject because my mind was preoccupied with the technical aspect of the fight game. I consider myself a preschooler in the field [and I shall continue to study].
Over the period of years, I have come to believe there are two types of techniques that stay with a person [something he/she calls his/her knowledge]; one that he/she likes when he/she sees it, and one that he/she might not like but would still remember [may be you drilled it more, may be you felt well doing it; any random reason]. So out of all the stuff I went through, I kept some and threw some away, compiled, what I had kept, in an order, and based upon that I created some more. My students were my ‘lab rats’ [P.S: i love them so much], and their fights a test of authenticity of my methods. We racked in way more wins than losses, but I [and my boys] learnt the most from our losses [individual and collective]. That also boosted and sped up the pace of progress. I have no learning lineage and/or formal grades in most of the arts I have practiced over the period of years, and neither am I interested in getting any. But my methods have worked in the cage and in the streets, and I am surrounded with living proofs and walking-talking success stories [which basically is ‘job well done’ for me]. Furthermore, just like a complete Martial Art, my system delivered the mental/psychological and spiritual results of the training as well. People with bullying issues, suffering from being bullied, anger management issues, issues related to confidence, self esteem, ego, and people with stress related issues etc started to benefit, and make progress listening to, following and implementing what I taught them.
How can you not name something after so much?
I named it after the pumpkin-headed genius that created it; Moi! And called it the ‘EKS Combat System‘. Carve that name into your head because you will be hearing it more often, and who knows, you might train in it as well.
As a best friend, Sultan Ali covers up for me in the areas, of life in and outside the gym, I lack in and/or tend to overlook despite their vital importance. One of those areas has been the Strength & Conditioning aspect of Team Fight Fortress. We have been working alongside for years now and his understanding of the fight game is far deeper than mine. Due to his ‘active participation’ in and outside the ring, he has built what I call ‘the common sense of fighting’. During competitions, it is usually him that tells the boys, in between rounds, what needs to be done to win. His ways are simple and highly effective; just what combat sports are about.
He created a strength and conditioning program for the team which has helped our fighters expand their skills exponentially. Reason being; they’re not as tired as they used to be, a few months ago. The program is a forty five minute routine that basically pushes your mind, body and spirit to the limits by making you use each and every major muscle group in your body. It consists of explosive, aerobic, and strength exercises; basically simulating a fight situation where the pace of the fight keeps changing, and one has to use his strength more often. The other day, Kami and Haider beat each other to a pulp for forty eight straight minutes, in Muay Thai class. Now these were the guys with a stamina problem. And it is not just the stamina but the fighting spirit of the team that has evolved after training under the tutelage of Sultan. He pushes them harder than ever, makes sure nobody misses a single rep or a second of the workout, and keeps the energy level of the class high at all times. It is thanks to his contribution that during sparring sessions I now see more and more guys battling to defend a choke that is deeply sunk or a joint lock that is about to be executed, guys that used to tap out of fear. This is all because they’re being pushed to their limits more times during the conditioning routine, usually more than the fight itself. They blackout, they throw up, and then they get back to the class to start where they had left it. Also, Sultan now gets to use my Kali stick, that was lying around in my room, on the boys who try to cheat or skip a rep during the workout.
At the end of the day, we’re making hard working, honest and dedicated men outta our boys (cause there ain’t many of those left, and the Oldie upstairs continues to shock us with His ‘genetic engineering’).
Just so you have an idea (and to hone my cinematography skills), I shot a glimpse of one of the training sessions.
We’ve given so much (me and my boys). We have trained (and still do) on Eid, Christmas, Diwali, Valentine’s Day, Labour Day, Women’s Day, birthdays, and anniversaries. In a country with no professional and financial prospects in any sort of sport, especially Martial Arts, we still live the fighters life and work towards making our dreams come true. And we will not stop until our ideals become our rivals.
Apart from the hard work and dedication, what makes me so confident predicting about our destinies is the fact that Fight Fortress is not just a laboratory for the study and research of the effectiveness of all the Martial Arts styles of the world but its a mission; a mission with an intention to give back to the community; the members who share our dreams, and even all those who don’t. The way our ‘gym life’ is set is such that one cannot progress unless he/she gives back to others. And the best way to do so is by giving someone some of your time; in or outside the training grounds, relevant or irrelevant to Martial Arts.
I don’t know why I started writing *face palm*
I guess… To be continued? (may be)
Now the way I have come so far in my Martial journey as an underprivileged (because I had no formal/direct teachers) yet determined student is by studying literally most of everything there is about Martial Arts out there, through text and visuals.
I came across 52 Blocks while searching for some bar workout videos on Youtube. Did my search and study, saw a documentary and an informal instructional, and was hooked.
One day, while wrestling with a Somalian friend at the university I got thrown around a couple of times pretty badly. As confident as I am in my Takedown Defence, this was something new for me. He grabbed me by my pants (different grips: belt buckle and above the hip, side to side etc.) and spun me while tripping me. I asked him what it is and told me it is the Somalian street-wrestling art ‘Sabaahat OR Sobaahat’, and that it is very popular in Somalia and pretty commonly used in street fights. Instantly, I thought about 52, Stato, and Jail-House Rock. I told him about it and he had no clue what I was talking about. I explained the basic idea behind it’s success in streets and showed him some moves I had copied from Farisi Daniel, Hassan ‘The Giant’ Yasin and King Saladin.
I never got the chance to learn more about ‘Sabahaat/Sobaahat’ from Ali (the friend), so I was unable to start working on it and then its fusion with the African American street arts such as 52. If anybody practicing Sabaahat/Sobaahat does the research and finds someone from 52, please cross train and create links and flows from one to the other since one is a striking-heavy art while the other one is grappling-heavy. Add some ground and pound, some Wrestling and BJJ tweaks here and there in the standing grappling, takedowns and ground control and we’re good to go. Something that should be dear to an African or African American, someone who is interested in learning about the ancient and the contemporary fighting styles of his culture and/or race.
EKS (MMA Preacher)
Its been five years and like every other person my journey feels the oldest and hardest of them all. And it was hard, in its on ways. In the beginning, it was but a mere idea, poorly materialized. Today, it is a successful combination of research, knowledge (successfully and systematically put to practice; hard, rigorous practice) and dedication. Today, it has branched out, of the cage-fighting zone, into being an innovative and a unique system of empowering the weak (socially) with the tools and tactics of a kind this society and culture have never seen or experienced before. Today, the training system of Team Fight Fortress helps people develop their confidence to a level where they are not afraid, to stand up for themselves and others like them, anymore. The team has become a platform, to get their lives back in order and make the right choices, for those who were lagging behind the rest of the society around them, and those who made wrong choices just because they lacked the self-confidence, needed to make a choice and believe in it, and let others be the experts on their lives. Fighting is not even our first priority, but education, hard work, dedication, tolerance, patience and perseverance are. I usually tell my boys; “even if you want to do this full time, even if you want to go pro, fighting is still your option B. Your formal education is the top priority, but that does not make training and/or fighting any less important.” Day by day we have a new success story training at the gym, pumped and motivated than the previous day, getting better, stronger and faster for the next day. From homeless to managing an IT company, from three times ninth grade failure to grad student of economics, from drug abuser to a skilled, strong, and successful MMA fighter on national level, we are evolving on a daily basis. The secret to our success; no matter how knowledgeable, skilled and experienced, we never cease to live and believe in ‘student mentality.’ It is with this mentality and work ethic we are standing at the gates of the global MMA scene, waiting for our chance to enter and dominate. (EKS)