Taking punches to the head and body, and grappling with an opponent, doesn’t sound like a conventional way of becoming a strong-willed, focused and self-disciplined person. But for Senior Airman David Adolfo, 452d Civil Engineer Squadron, it is a regular routine because he practices and competes in Mixed Martial Arts.
“MMA is more than fighting. It incorporates every fiber of your being; your body, mind and spirit,” said Adolfo.
A full contact sport, MMA incorporates techniques and skills such as striking, kicking and grappling, from various fighting practices including Tae Kwon Do, Kung Fu, kickboxing, Muay Tai, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Wushu Shaolin Kung Fu, Sanshou and Western-style boxing.
Adolfo said he used to get into fights growing up in his neighborhood, so his mom decided to enroll him in martial arts classes.
“My mom put me in Tae Kwon Do classes and I learned that instead of getting in fights, I could train to be a warrior in martial arts,” said Adolfo. “Anyone can start fights or take their aggression out inappropriately, but when you are a warrior, you demonstrate discipline and power under control.”
After realizing his potential using martial arts, he began to explore other practices, focusing on Wushu Shaolin Kung Fu and Sanshou, both Chinese martial arts disciplines.
In addition to martial arts techniques, he learned what it means to have a warrior ethos, dedicating his life to the mental and physical training required to become the best person he can be in and out of duty, which he said is parallel to that of the Air Force Core Values.
“MMA has helped me in my Air Force life as well, helping me remain fit to fight and teaching me to do the best job possible when dealing with the mission at hand,” said Adolfo.
Adolfo took his training a step further, learning more practices and eventually began instructing with the Noguiera brothers, Ultimate Fighting Championship fighters. He also trained pilot and flight attendants to use some of the techniques for self-defense in case of in-flight emergencies or terrorist threats on board.
“I like teaching others and watching their confidence and strength grow.”
Along with self-defense, MMA has many holistic and health benefits including improved self-confidence, improved perception, cardiovascular health, a leaner physique, increased speed and agility and greater ability for focus and remaining disciplined.
“Anyone can learn the techniques and use them for different aspects in life, whether you have to protect yourself or protect someone else, they are good skills to have,” said Adolofo.
The workouts can vary depending on your knowledge, level or what you are training for.
Adolfo’s training has resulted in an undefeated record of 13/13 in amateur fights. He trains rigorously during fight preparation, first by losing body weight.
“If I walk around regularly weighing 158-160 pounds, I have to lose enough weight to be at a fighting weight of 135 pounds in order to increase my speed exponentially and get stronger,” he said. “Weigh-in for the fight usually takes place a week to three weeks before and afterwards you can begin eating and hydrating as much as you’d like.”
In addition to reducing body weight, fight preparation is intense and time consuming. Adolfo trains two hours each in the morning, afternoon and evening, working on all areas of conditioning; grappling, sparring, striking, flexibility, various drills, moving in and out of submission positions, take-down practices, lots of cardio and use of Tai pads, focus mits, weight training and calisthenics.
“Preparing and fighting has a huge mental aspect. You have to think about how hard your opponent is training and train harder,” he said. “In a fight, you are fighting your opponent’s mind, heart, spirit and body. If I’m able to defeat him that means, in a sense, my essence was strong than his.”
Although MMA can sound as if it’s a brutal sport, it isn’t focused on injuring anyone. It began by bringing together different competitors, trained in various marital arts, to see how they would compare against each other.
For example, someone trained in Tae Kwon Do or Muay Tai might fight someone trained in Kung Fu or Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Eventually, MMA grew as a sport and in order for participants to progress they had to learn different styles then incorporate those into their own fighting styles to become more efficient and effective fighters.
“I like MMA because it’s the closest thing that simulates hand-to-hand combat in real life,”
Adolfo said. “It has taught me to not give up and has kept me always striving to be better.”
He continues to train and practice with a goal of competing in five more amateur fights and then fighting as a professional. Adolfo has also developed his own MMA curriculum and would like to have his own facility where he can teach and instruct others in the sport, he said.