What is it about brain damage that attracts the traditionally well-mannered IPA-drinking Pacific NorthWesterner to the ring? It may be because of Washington’s trading relationship with the East, as we’ve always had a martial arts presence here. And just as martial arts has evolved into a Brazillian-Japanese-Thai- stir fry, so have the local fight schools. Having trained since the 1990s in various Korean Dojangs, Hilltop Djangos, Japanese Dojos, Gong fu, Muay Thai, and then a brief stint of haphazard competition in Bangkok, I’ve come to learn a bit about some of the best schools in town. Each school is great in different areas, and can certainly be a kick in the butt in others. So choose wisely and don’t be afraid to buy a day pass to try them out.
Disclaimer: Beforehand, be sure and procure an athletic cup, a mouthguard, and always remember that the other guy wants to hurt you. It’s not personal.
- MABJJ: Marcelo Alonso Brazillian Jiu-Jitzu- By far the most well-rounded fight school in Tacoma. Here you will find local legends like Roy Jones Jr., a former golden gloves and Muay Thai champ, brushing sweaty shoulders with local scrappers like Sam “Young Blood” Poulton. Their Muay Thai instructor is top notch and fresh from winning a world championship himself. He’s currently upping UFC contender John “Prince” Albert’s stand up game, (so don’t waste his time if he gives you a shot.) Given the name of the school, you will also find excruciatingly skilled Gracie Jiu-Jitsu trainers here. So whether you’re looking to improve your stand up game or to learn how to ground and pound like the titans, this is certainly the safest choice, in regards to professionalism. You can expect to pay somewhere between $90-$130, depending on the length of contract.
- Tacoma Boxing Club- This club is old as dirt, but certainly is the place to learn the fundamentals and how to rock and sock like Ali. Countless local golden gloves have left this place and went on to be truly well-rounded fighters. Boxers are, after all, the hardiest fighters in the world. This can be seen in UFC champions as most are Olympic boxers who learned to wrestle or All American Wrestlers who learned to box. So throw out your notions of Van Damme kicks as these guys are old school, but you can certainly trust their well-earned experience. Starting here and going on to any other school is definitely a recipe for success. $120 annual fee.
- Team Evolution MMA- Evolution is one of the youngest fight schools, with guys who aren’t afraid to innovate through their athleticism and creativity. Hence the name, ‘evolution.’ If anyone remembers the whole Jeet Kune Do movement in the 1970s, with their experimental marriage of tradition and functionality, this is certainly the Washington equivalent. Because the school is so young, (and quite literally so as I went to high school with more than a handful of these rough-and-tumbles), they are known to be quite run n’ gunnish in terms of throwing anybody in a ring on a high protein diet and a piss-and-vinegar attitude. This works fine if you’re just that damn good, but there are more than a few horror stories of guys getting their manhood, a.k.a their egos, irreversibly damaged in the first round. All that being said, approach Evo as you would an online class: only go if you know you’re own limits and can motivate yourself, otherwise you’re going to get dropped in the first couple of weeks. $60-$150 depending on contract.