Craig Pumphrey Asks, “Who else wears your belt?”

Craig Pumphrey

Craig “The Professor” Pumphrey

When I watch pro fighters in any fighting sport I often wonder who trains with them and who helps them get there. I can look at any fighter who is in the lime light and even though they may have what is known as a “fight camp”, usually there is just a few that wear their belt. What I mean is there are many people who help that fighter train for a fight, but there is only one or two that came up the ranks with that fighter. Someone who literally learned their techniques as they trained with that fighter. Someone that all the experimental moves, takedowns & striking combinations were practiced on. These are the ones that will stay with you when others leave because the training was too hard, or they didn’t get rank fast enough. I often tell my students “You’re only as good as the person you train with”. This is very true within martial arts and the people you train with can be an asset, or a stumbling block.

Everyone must find a person who shares their enthusiasm, and is like minded when it comes to learning anything new. I remember when I began looking for a new way to approach martial arts, I researched mountains of information on several different fighting styles & their instructors. I wanted something that wasn’t heard of in my area, and at the time that guided me to research Pankration. I found myself taking moves & techniques from dozens of styles and then researching which of those techniques worked in real fights & which didn’t. This took several years and I went through several training partners. Then I began teaching someone who would take the years of punishment, injuries, blood & sweat, just to find a style that was effective; a style we could call our own. This continued for years (This is a story within itself) but needless to stay he became my first black belt. My friend Ivan Dale, became not only my first black belt, but also became very detailed in his own teaching methods as an instructor. With National titles & World titles of his own, we still to this day strive to perfect our art, Eclectics & Pankration everywhere we go.

You will find yourself more times than not looking for a training partner, and I will tell you this…..they are hard to find. When you do find someone who shares your ideas, you have found a rare thing. Just as when Bruce Lee was searching to create something new, he also found a training partner who shared that dream, Daniel Inosanto. To become a better martial artist it is good to bounce ideas off of other people who have diverse backgrounds, and come from different areas. For example, I have a new student who is working on learning Pankration yet no one in his area is familiar with this style. There are a lot of BJJ students in his area, and he has a friend who likes to train in BJJ; so he asked me “What should I do”? I suggested he train in BJJ with him, and learn all you can learn about that style. Then schedule some days where he can train with you in Pankration so he can learn something new himself. Before you know it you both will be skilled in two different styles, and you both will have a great time training. Later, you can both compete in Bjj & Pankration tournaments which will only enhance your skills and sharpen your knowledge.

There is nothing wrong with learning other styles and competing in other tournaments that are not your style. Personally, I have competed in Wrestling, Kickboxing, Jiu-Jitsu, Submission, Tae Kwon Do & MMA tournaments. So, find someone you can train with even if that means in another style, and who knows, that person may become a good friend and maybe even your first black belt.

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