By Charlize Althea Garcia, March 14, 2023
Cal Poly Pomona introduced a mixed martial arts club on campus welcome to all students and encourages students with all experience levels to join its student-centered learning space.
Abrahim Asmaiel founded CPP MMA Club in the fall of 2022, starting only with a small training group that later grew into the sports club. Like most students, Asmaiel had to sacrifice interests to accommodate a school schedule. The club fosters the acknowledgement of students’ bustling timetables.
Mixed martial arts is a combat sport that incorporates a variety of fighting techniques and skills from other combat sports. It is a combination of striking, grappling and ground fighting, as well as a mixture of styles from other combat sports such as boxing, Brazilian jiujitsu, judo and karate.
Mai Narasaki-Jara, professor of kinesiology and a movement analyst who has a background in jiujitsu and muay thai, describes martial art as a constant conversation between two people.
“It’s an evolving artwork,” said Narasaki-Jara. “The athletes are evolving it because they’re learning the different skills, but also the movement pattern evolves too because since MMA is being implemented, there is a constant evolution of different moves and more efficient kicks and punches and use of body. And in that sense, it’s an artwork of human body movement.”
Martial arts are distinctive in sports, incorporating elements of physique and skill with the fear of injury. It plays with the individual’s power of coordination, speed and strength with one not overpowering the other.
Zack Pacheco played baseball as a child and had no experience in MMA prior to joining the club.
“Being on the other side of that, it kind of helped me not be afraid,” said Pacheco. “The other day this guy caught me slipping and he wrapped his legs around my neck, and I started falling asleep. It really makes me not fear as much because now you know what you’re going to do to people. It’s not the UFC. We’re not getting paid to bust each other’s heads open. We’re all trying to get better.”
Whether a student has no experience at all or have been practicing a martial art since childhood, experience from both ends of the spectrum is welcomed.
Criminology student Priscilla De La Luz has learned martial arts since she was 13. De La Luz’s specialty is weapons, focusing on the utilization of nunchaku and the bo staff.
“What keeps me coming would be like just talking to people and being able to spar with them and sometimes I can even learn a few things,” said De La Luz. “I can even teach a few things that I know so we exchange our knowledge.”
The club’s meetings consist of striking and grappling sessions. Striking is hand-to-hand combat in a standing position, whereas grappling is ground fighting.
Club vice president Lauren Wong spoke about the club’s approach to welcoming students.
“We’ll have someone who doesn’t know that much about kicking,” said Wong. “Maybe they just do boxing or maybe they’re just new entirely, so we’ll have someone who’s more experienced show them proper technique.”
Coming in with no experience is not an obstacle when joining the club. It’s all a level playing field when it comes to finding ways to improve.
Club member Ashwin Rajesh started taekwondo in third grade and received his black belt in the sixth grade.
“It’s probably the most intimidating sport before you start it,” said Rajesh. “Going in there is pretty scary — you never know if you’re going to get hurt. But after that first class or first sparring session, there’s probably no other sport that makes you feel like you want to come back and do it again in my experience.”
The club’s goal is to compete with outside colleges and host tournaments in boxing, muay thai, Brazilian jiujitsu and wrestling in the following year.
Feature image by Charlize Garcia
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