As soon as the club room door creaked open, allowing me to peer inside, I was swept up into the action. The room was relatively barren with a few grappling mats laid out in the center of the space. Surrounding the mats were around eight or nine people, all guys except for two girls dressed up as if they took a wrong turn after a night on the town, watching diligently as two pairs fought vigorously on the mats. I walked in slowly and closed the door as softly as possible in order to not disturb the action; I approached the side of the mat to get a better look at the fighting.
The first fight was between two upperclassmen guys, one with dark hair juxtaposed by a brightly patterned rash guard and shorts. He was well over six feet tall but was quite thin compared to his opponent. Despite his apparent lack of broad muscle, he was pummeling the other fighter with a flurry of strikes, even occasionally crossing him up with kicks to the head and side.
“That’s the captain, Sam Keener, he’s one of the best strikers in the region. Rumor has it, he’s even knocked out a bear in the woods behind campus in just one punch!”
His opponent on the other hand was short, seemingly made entirely out of muscle; even his bald head seemed to be flexing at any given point. He was almost half his opponent’s height but was taking every hit like a champion. Suddenly in a flash of motion, he shot into the captain’s leg, which had been exposed from a whiffed high kick, and took him down to the ground. The crowd erupted into cheers.
“The one who just single legged the captain is Alix Warden. His control and pressure while grappling is unrivaled! If you let him get the advantage, it’s Game Over.”
I turned my attention to the other fight happening in the room which consisted of two female students. The first girl I focused on seemed a bit rougher around the edges than the other members of the club. Her long brown hair flowed mesmerizingly as she hopped around the mat, focusing more on surviving than attacking her opponent.
“She’s Quinn Mandell, one of the newest members of the MMA club. Although her techniques may not be as refined, her unique style and perspective keeps everyone on their toes!”
Just as I felt I had a feel for the fight, the second girl suddenly closed the distance, grabbing Quinn’s arm and hooking around her neck mid bounce, and threw her on the ground over her hip with a satisfying thud. Due to the thrower’s little movement before this, I was unable to fully see her before the takedown, her light-colored hair, half shaven on one side, relatively short on the other, and her dark grey and red grappling gear emphasized the professional precision and execution of the throw she performed.
“Over there’s the vice-captain, Madison Locke. She’s second only to the captain and was a judo star in high school. She can turn your world upside down in an instant!”
The crowd once again cheered and this time I cheered with them. A smile spread across my face. This is what I’ve been looking for. Right as I was fully immersed in the fights, a small voice piqued up from next to me.
“Politely, what are you doing?”
I turned to see the dark-haired student I saw from the club fair, the very one who had led me to this moment. He was about the same height and build as I was, although it was hard to tell exactly due to his loose-fitting jeans and jacket. He looked right past me with a serious look of puzzlement.
“Sorry, was I bothering you?”
I turned around to see a larger guy around my height with short blonde hair and a dopey grin apologizing.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to be a shout caster, that’s actually why I joined this club in the first place.” He rubbed the back of his head nervously, making a scratching sound due to his short hairstyle. “I’ll stop if you want me to.”
The dark-haired student looked as though he was about to respond when the captain suddenly began making an announcement to the crowd of people.
“Thank you all for coming on such short notice and I hope you enjoyed our demonstration!” The captain loudly shouted, congratulating his fellow martial artists in the process. “Tomorrow at noon we will have a full taster session which will be structured similarly to a standard class as well as a social to welcome the new people who are interested in MMA this upcoming Friday at five!”
The captain as well as the other members of the club, including the wannabe shout caster, each took turns speaking a little about how the club will function along with classes, scheduling, and other safety concerns. Although not the most entertaining, we will be literally fighting so I definitely understand the necessity.
The vice-captain took the floor, surveying the crowd of students as she spoke. “Now that that’s all out of the way, does anyone have any prior experience in martial arts?”
The crowd remained motionless in silence for an uncomfortably long period of time. Just as the vice-captain seemed as though she was about to continue, assuming no one was going to come forward, a hand slowly rose from next to me. To my surprise, it was the dark-haired student from before.
No wonder he was in such as rush to come here at the club fair.
The vice-captain and captain beckoned him forward to talk, barely out of earshot. After what seemed like an awkward discussion, he seemed to reluctantly go along with their proposal and came forward with the rest of the club, taking off his jacket and stepping onto the mat with the captain.
The crowd’s gazed was fixed on the fight about to begin, but not because of the captain. The unknown newcomer’s arms were almost ghostly; it was as if he had never lifted a weight nor seen the sun in his entire life.
How could he of all people be a martial artist with a body like that?
The vice-captain waved her hand between them, signifying the beginning of the fight. Immediately, the dark-haired student sat down backwards and guarded with his arms by his head, his legs positioned upwards towards the captain. At that moment the tension in the room dissipated greatly as everyone assumed the boy had already lost.
“Hey now,” the captain spoke up suddenly, “just because he sat down doesn’t mean he’s out of the fight just yet.”
The rest of the club nodded along but the crowd had already lost interest.
“If he specializes in jiujitsu and is more comfortable on the ground than standing against Muay Thai, then he can play to his strengths by sitting back. Knowing your weaknesses and playing around them is a key component of a good martial artist.”
In response to his opponent’s disengagement, the captain stepped forward, into his guard, and leaned downwards, trying to grab ahold of his arms or legs.
And just like that, the fight had concluded.
Like a snake striking its prey, the dark-haired martial artist shot his legs up, around the captain’s neck, cinching a tight chokehold. One of the captain’s arms was desperately flailing outside of the leg hold while his other arm was pinned within. The newcomer then, without his hips ever touching the ground, proceeded to catch himself on one arm and flip himself over, landing on top of the unexpecting captain, confirming his domination in the fight. The captain’s freed arm stopped momentarily just to tap his opponent’s leg in desperation.
The room fell silent.