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1310, 2014

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October 13th, 2014|Blog|

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My favorite past time just so happens to be my career. I travel around the U.S. and the world teaching seminars and certifying instructors in the art of Muay Thai, a kickboxing art from Thailand, and in my life coaching. Travelling and teaching is what I look forward to everyday. Through my journeys, I get to reach out and impact new people regularly. I get to positively influence people from all walks of life, while satisfying my desire for variety and adventure through visiting new places.

This past weekend, I was in Auburn, New York, teaching at one of my affiliate gyms. The school, Shogun MMA has become a second home for me. Kru Dave, the owner of the gym and one for my instructor candidates, has graciously opened his doors for me to teach. As a result, I have made new friends who have become more like family to me. I eagerly drove 9 hours from Norfolk, Virginia so I could share my knowledge and, more importantly, have fun with people that I love and cherish.

In preparation for my seminars, I spend a lot of time on the computer marketing for it. Social media has been a great way for me to share with the world my upcoming events. Through Face book, blogs, website posts and fan pages, I am able to tell my story of adventure and invite others to join me. I am a storyteller by nature (which is a nice way to say that I like to talk) Marketing allows me to do just that; tell my story to the world.

As a result, I find myself online more than I am in the classroom teaching. It takes diligence to keep your story current on social media, and often I have felt the burnout caused by staring into my Mac book daily. “Didn’t I get into martial arts to teach?” I remind myself. Is it worth it to me to spend the bulk of my days, blogging, tweeting and posting just so that I can teach?

My answer came to me as I ate dinner with my friends in Auburn. We had trained all day, and now the most important part of my trip was about to happen.

At dinner, we would talk about anything and everything. The importance of honest communication is the cornerstone of any successful seminar or training camp. Training has a unique way of bonding people. It allows us to open up and be more vulnerable which is the first step to building deep and meaningful relationships. We would talk about our hopes and dreams. We would laugh and sometimes cry together as we shared our deepest secrets within a circle of trust. More importantly, for the first time in a really long time, we would put our cell phones down. Blogging could wait till another day. The desire for instant recognition that comes from a “LIKE” of a post was replaced with something more long lasting and meaningful. It was replaced with true human connection; something that I feel this world needs more of.

We live in a world where social media has replaced true human bonding, but it does not have to be that way. Social media is a wonderful tool. It is a great way to share information and develop initial connections with people you may never meet otherwise. Ultimately however, our bonds with actual people will only come from face to face interaction. True relationships are built upon the touch a friend’s hand, a physical pat on the back, the sharing of a good laugh, or the opportunity to give someone a hug. We become chemically and physically connected to people by actually being WITH people. Though social media can spark initial excitement of a relationship, it is the physical presence of another that turns that spark into a lasting, smoldering flame.


609, 2014

Bringing honor back to martial arts

September 6th, 2014|Blog|

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I do not watch MMA as much anymore, and after the reports from last nights UFC, I remember why I do not watch it as much. I also remember why my focus has shifted to certifying instructors and leading leaders.

When a heavyweight contender dances over the body of his fallen opponent, when a middle-weight cannot perform due to the thoughts inside his own mind, and when a light-heavyweight who has been suspended for drug abuse twice in addition to currently being charged with aggravated assault with a firearm is allowed to come back to competing in the most elite organization in the world, their is clearly a problem occurring.

I love combat sports. As a retired fighter, it will always have a place in my heart. But the world does not need more fight coaches and fighters. The world needs leaders and martial artists. We need people to teach these young men and women how to be good people and to have self worth outside of their fight records and titles. We need true roll models, and we create them through coaching, mentoring and leadership.

Buck Grants Muay Thai University is on a mission to bring honor back to the martial arts. We are a university that emphasizes leadership development through the art of Muay Thai. We believe that who you become as a result of your fight is far more important than the fight itself. This view point is not shared by all of us in the fight world, and that is ok. We aren’t out to change the world. We are committed to changing those who desire positive change in their life both in and out of the ring.


1706, 2014

sparring like a dog

June 17th, 2014|Blog|

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Last week my girlfriend Liz and I adopted a 5 month old Beagle/Sheppard mixed puppy and named her Moksha. At a mere 20 pounds she is bursting with energy and although we are good at entertaining her, it’s clear that she is a dog who needs time with other dogs. We’ve had several friends already say that they want set up play dates with us, it was really just about who’s schedules would come together first.

           After having pizza with Liz’s family, we invited her sister Kate, brother-in-law Nick, and their 60-pound, 2-year old pit-bull Sheba over to our house for a meeting with Moksha. Now I know what you are probably thinking. Why would we bring a 60-pound Pitt over to play with a little puppy? I wondered that myself as this muscle bound tank of a dog came lumbering into our home this past weekend. I thought that this encounter could end one of two ways. Either they get along wonderfully, or Sheba would eat our little Moksha for dinner.

Soon after they walked in, I noticed the distinct similarity between our pups meeting and, of course, martial arts. After all, dogs play fight in order to learn how to hunt prey and to protect their masters. Martial Artists spar, or simulate combat in order to learn how to fight in a ring or on a battlefield.

Their playing reminded me of a common scenario: Two students meeting to spar for the first time with one another. One is a new, nervously anxious pup, the other is a seasoned, salty pit-bull of a veteran. As I watched our little Moksha bark and nip at the heels of Sheba, It reminded me of how less experienced students spar. They move unsurely, overreacting to every punch and kick thrown their way. They usually don’t mean any harm. Like a puppy, they don’t know any better. It is my job as a coach to ensure them that they are safe and to remind them to relax, just like it is my responsibility as a Moksha’s owner to calm her when she is over-aggressive with the clearly larger Sheba.

Conversely, I watched Sheba excitingly answer the enthusiasm of our little four legged fur child. While wagging her tail and barking, Sheba eagerly and happily pounced at Moksha. The problem was that Sheba wanted to play with Moksha as if she were a big dog like her. When Moksha nipped at her, Sheba immediately nipped back, not realizing that she is way bigger than her little counterpart. Often seasoned fighters do the same with newbies. They start off light with their exchanges back and forth, until the rookie hits them harder than expected. This triggers the veteran practitioner to swing back harder than they should, as if they were sparring with another pro rather than a new amateur. Once again, as a coach, it is my responsibility to remind the advanced fighter to bring the intensity down a few notches when the pressure escalates. Nick, Sheba’s “dad”, held onto her leash the entire time that the two dogs played. He would pull on her harness when she got too excited, reminding her that Moksha is just a puppy who doesn’t know any better. Similarly, as a coach, I find myself having to metaphorically reign in more advanced students who are working with beginners.

In my Sparring Courses we address the roles of the beginner, intermediate and advanced practitioner. I teach, “Drills for Skills” that allow student’s of all levels to learn, progress and grow quickly while keeping everyone safe. Parameters are set to avoid the puppy dog or the pit-bull scenario so that fighters essentially learn how to play rather than “fight.” Simply put, my students spar like my dogs, and they are better off because of it.


506, 2014

MUAY THAI: MORE THAN JUST A SPORT

June 5th, 2014|Blog|

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It has been amazing watching the growth of Muay Thai in America. From being an obscure kickboxing art that Jean Claude Van Dame portrayed in a movie, to live fights on cable TV, our art has emerged from the depths of obscurity. It edges it’s way towards being a household entity with every fight and every class that is taught.

I remember fighting in this sport in 1996, back when it was barely legal in Virginia. Fights were scarce, there was no money to be made competing, and most people simply thought I was crazy doing this for “fun.” Now there is a sense of wide acceptance for Muay Thai in the US. With it being the prevalent striking art in the UFC and Mixed Martial Arts, (which has gained massive popularity in the last few years) it is now “cool” to say that one does Muay Thai. Finally our art is getting the attention it deserves, and therein lays the problem.

In the US and world wide, there is a huge emphasis on the sport aspect of Muay Thai. What allows Muay Thai to progress and continue to evolve as a combative art is the fact that it is, and continues to be battle tested. When the Muay Thai of old (known as Muay Chai Ya, Muay Boron, and other ancient names) no longer occurred on the battlefields of Thailand, it became a full contact sport. Because of this, the fighting art was preserved through sport combat and has since manifested itself in various forms. Known as King of the Ring, it has also taken form as kick-boxing (Glory, K1, etc) and has gained massive popularity in Mixed Martial Arts and the UFC as its premier striking art. Ring sport has become the litmus test for Muay Thai. It’s full-contact, no-nonsense nature is what separates it from many arts and is the reason why it so practical for real combat.

The real value of Muay Thai, however, does not end in the ring. It’s value stretches far beyond the constraints of sport combat.

One of my students (who wishes to stay anonymous) saved his own life using Muay Thai a week ago. Two men attacked him, one carrying a knife, and using basic skills that he earned in only 6 months of training, he was able to thwart off the two assailants and live to tell the story.

            One of my student/instructors Kru Jim Hill at 52 years young out-hustles my young guys in our Fighter Fitness  and sparring classes. “Muay Thai saved my life,” is what he has told me. Jim has lost 50 pounds in his 4 years of training and said that if he hadn’t started Muay Thai, he may have dies of a heart attack by now. Now through teaching children, which he has an amazing passion for, he passes on powerful life lessons to the next generation.

Krus Ron Jacobs and Jimmy Canales, two Marines who run the MCMAPS (Marine Corp Martial Arts Program) in Quantico Virginia, teach my Muay Thai system to the men and women who protect our freedom. Like the Muay Thai of old their emphasis is on winning on a battle field, where there are no rules, where winning means life and losing means death.

12-year-old Pedro, who now trains in our adult program, has learned how to be a young leader through training at our gym, The House of Muay Thai. He takes initiative by showing up early to clean the gym. He shows respect by saying “yes sir” or “no sir” when speaking to adults. He looks people in the eyes when he speaks rather than looking at the floor. He will be a champion in the future, not because he can fight, but because he will be a strong, confident leader.

The list goes on and on of people who have benefitted from Muay Thai who do NOT fight in a ring or a cage.

There are elitists out there that only see validity in the competitive aspect of Muay Thai. They feel that only high-level “kick-boxers” or fighters should ever teach because “You can only teach from experience.” As a former fighter myself who has fought professionally and produced high level fighters such as Brandon Vera, Shawn Yarborough, Chase Walden and countless others, I appreciate the value of experience as a coach. 

But this narrow-minded approach to our beloved art undermines what countless students have achieved through Muay Thai outside of the sport aspect of it. By definition, the elite only comprises of a small percentage of the population. What about the rest of the people? True, the SPORT of Muay Thai should only be reserved for those who are committed to the highest level of athleticism and competition. Does that mean that Marines, 12 year olds, 52 year olds and average joes can’t benefit from the LIFESTYLE that is Muay Thai?

            Muay Thai has helped me become a better person. It has made me face my fears both in and outside of a ring. It has taught me the value of culture and respect, something that many of our martial athletes lack. It has taught me that fighting is only a small part of my entire life, and that when I step out of the combat arena, I must still conduct myself as a champion in my business practice, in my friendships and with my loved ones. Muay Thai has taught countless others these same values and more. That is why it will always be more than just a sport to me.

My focus in the last few years has been on promoting instructors through the Muay Thai University. More importantly, I strive to develop leaders in the Muay Thai community.  Some of my Coaches and Krus will choose to produce athletes. Others will choose to teach it for fitness and self-defense. ALL of my instructors, however, see my vision; that Muay Thai is a way of life. It encompasses kickboxing and MMA but it is so much more than just a sport. It is a vessel towards self-discovery for ALL, not just the elite and my mission is to share this powerful, all encompassing art form with the world. For those who believe in what I believe, then I welcome you along this journey with me.


2803, 2014

Leading from the front

March 28th, 2014|Blog|

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On March 22nd and 23rd, the WKA hosted the National Tournament for Muay Thai, Kickboxing, MMA and grappling. Over 500 competitors came to the Arthur Ash Center in Richmond Virginia to compete for the chance to be the national champion and for a spot on the US Team that will be going to Italy at the end of the year to fight in the World Championships. 

I have been a proud part of this process since 2001 as a coach, competitor and now an official. I have had the unique opportunity to watch combat sports evolve and progress in the US and on a world wide scale and I have seen it from every vantage point that I can think of. It has truly been an honor for me to be a part of something so grand.


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This year, after opening my own gym The House of Muay Thai International, I was able to coach as well as officiate. I also had the opportunity to watch my Kru’s and Coaches “Lead from the Front” as two of them competed, while another played the role of coach.  The House of Muay Thai’s very own Jake Chamberlain compete for the very first time under our banner. Jake, who will be testing as a Kru under the Muay Thai University next week at our Coach and Kru Course April 5th and 6th, moved from Charlottesville VA to become a better Muay Thai and Kickboxing fighter. His wife, Maggie, lived in Charlottesville and took care of their household, while he slept on a coach in Norfolk and trained tirelessly for 12 weeks for his shot to be a national champion. Though he did not win the tournament, he fought courageously and set an amazing example for the students that he passionately teaches at The House of Muay Thai. He led from the front by “walking the walk” and showing his students the value of sacrifice and dedication.

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MTU Kru Jimmy Canales, who has spent 10 years in service to his country with the Marine Corp, played the role of coach this past weekend. He brought a young man by the name of Shawn Carey to his first national tournament and was able to coach him to a silver medal victory. Jimmy, who has helped cultivate and grow the MCMAP’s (or Marine Corp Martial Arts Program) taught Marines on a daily basis how to defend our country by implementing Muay Thai into their system. Though I am proud to say I have fought and trained Muay Thai at the elite level, I am in awe of the men and women who sacrifice their well-being for the sake of our freedom and liberty. Men like Jimmy Canales give back to our nation in ways that many will never understand. I am excited to see what he will do with his Muay Thai and leadership as a civilian.


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Last but not least we have MTU Kru Apprentice Andrea “KGB” Lee. A mother to a beautiful daughter Ainslee, and wife to an amazing coach Donny Aaron, Andrea appears to be a good ole’ Texan sweetheart. When she steps in the ring, however, she fights with a tenacity that is unparalleled in our sport.  As a virtual unknown in our region, Andrea shocked many by defeating North America’s top female fighters. Still she remains humble and kind in her victory, setting an example to all fighters of how a fighter should conduct themselves both in and out of the ring.

It is important that leaders in our Martial Arts community set the example of how to behave both in victory and defeat. There will come a day when all of us are not able to compete. When that day comes, it is important that people remember not only your performance, but your character as well. The Muay Thai University and I are proud of our Kru’s and Coaches. They have set a precedence of excellence that will trickle down to generations of fighters, practitioners and teachers to come. 
-Ajarn Buck Grant


801, 2014

Simple is Not Easy: DO THE WORK

January 8th, 2014|Blog|

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I had a student come into the gym not to long ago. He told me what hundreds of students before me had told me. He said, “I want to be a fighter.”
 
I’ve been that guy before. When I started doing Muay Thai back in 1996 I told my instructor the same thing. He grinned, and then told me what every coach should tell every athlete. “Show up and do the work.” It’s the same message that I passed onto my new student. It’s the same message I will continue to pass on to ANY student who has long-term goals.

 Let’s face it: We live in a fast food society. At some point, the notion of investing in a long-term commitment to gain an everlasting accomplishment has disappeared from modern day thinking. Alcohol and druds are taken to hide from daily physical, psychological and emotional pain. Get rich quick schemes are favored over long hours of work perfecting a craft. Loosing pounds in weeks that took a lifetime to gain has become the norm in every fitness magazine you see. We want it now. We want it yesterday, and we want it with little or no effort.

            We all are guilty of falling for the crimes of time. I have entertained the fast track in both the athletic world and the financial world, only to fall short. I know what it is like to want something now. As a skinny, insecure kid in grade school, I would have given anything to wake up one morning full of confidence and charisma.

            The fact of the matter is that all things worth having take time. Fighters are not born overnight. It takes a year’s worth of constant effort before a beginner will even be remotely ready for competition. Meanwhile, unscrupulous gyms are pumping out fighters in a few months time, simply to serve as cannon fodder for up and coming serious fighters. The allure of being a “cage fighter” or “world champion” blinds most from the obvious fact that anything worth doing takes time.            

            In all areas of life, our job is simple. Our job is to do the work that is required of us in order to achieve our desired goals. Smart people seek help from those who know more about their goals than they do. They develop relationships with mentors, coaches and even therapists who have their best interests in mind. These specialists are responsible for giving a game plan, a course of action that will lead them towards a positive result. If the leader who is chosen is competent and caring, then the job of the student, athlete or patient is a simple one. The job is to do the work and stay the course of which they are set upon.

Often when I say that work is “simple,” people get offended. They assume that when I say “simple” that I mean “easy.” That fact is far from the truth. It is simple to just do what your coach says for as long you say it, meaning that there is no complexity to the task at hand. “Easy” however means that the work is without challenges. This is far from the truth when dealing with changes that are drastic. Anything worth having will be challenging. It will require sacrifice and dedication in order to achieve success. It will often take longer than we expect and will rarely go as planned. In the end though, true pride comes from accomplishing something that was not easy. We hold our heads up high when we do what we never imagined we could do. “Doing” becomes contagious. It becomes a way of life. Success builds momentum upon itself, therefore becoming a habit. None of this, however, would occur if the tasks at hand were not difficult ones.

Our responsibility therefore is a simple one. We must do the work that is required. We must seek out people who have been where we want to go and we must follow them with a burning zeal that is equal with no other. We must to show up to the daily grind that is called “life” and accept the challenge that lies before us. We must do what is necessary everyday until the deed is done, however long it takes. This is how champions are created. This is how ordinary people become extraordinary in ANY endeavor.

I cannot help but smile when I hear the new and energetic student come into our gym asking about becoming a fighter. I am as excited for him or her as I am for the student who wants to loose 20 pounds, or the kid who wants to become more confident. I know that the road ahead of them will be a new and adventurous one. I know that some of them will achieve greatness, while others will undoubtedly fail.  I can also say that the success and failure have nothing to do with god given ability or forsaken hardship. They have little to do with skill or ill will. Success comes to those who work for it. It comes to those who show up, day in and day out, and do the work.

            


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