I woke up this morning and was thinking of some things, due in part to the fact that I’ve been talking to a lot of people here on my business trip and they’re all asking, “how did you come to get into martial arts?” It’s a good question with a simple answer….well sort of simple I should say.
I started training in Kenpo Karate at age 11. I started because I watched the Ninja Turtles TV show every afternoon at 4:30pm. I wasn’t thinking about self defense or fitness at the time (remember what being 11 is like, thinking is minimal at best!). For me I wanted to do something fun and I always loved watching martial arts movies like American Ninja and Chuck Norris so it seemed only natural that I would go to Karate classes.
My Mom took me to the local rec center in Philadelphia. It was in an area called Fox Chase (middle class area). After my first day I was hooked. From that point on I never missed a class. I went if I was sick or felt tired, didn’t matter, I showed up for class. I got good grades in school so that was never an issue, I assume that would be the only thing that would keep me out of class because my Mom wouldn’t have any of that.
I competed in some tournaments early on and let me assure you guys, I wasn’t good. I lost all my matches in the 2 tournaments I did. Now, I should point out that losing did nothing to deter me from my goals. I just viewed it as an experience and moved on to the next thing. My Mom liked the tournament scene and all but we didn’t have a lot of money so I couldn’t go to many. That was the last time I competed until I was 16.
I did Kenpo for a year and got my blue belt in it. I left after that. Why you might ask? Well to be honest the instructor was kind of mean to me and the other kids. He wasn’t the smiling happy teacher, more like the do what I say or I will yell at you. Now, I’m not being a cry baby or anything because that can be good for kids. It just didn’t fit my style, I liked to be pushed in training, not yelled at. Here is the other thing, I got into a fight when I was in 6th grade and the kid beat me down pretty good. I was a yellow belt at the time and I remember thinking “man, that kid handled me pretty good, maybe this kenpo stuff is fake?” So after the fight and the instructor not being much my type I stopped going there (notice I didn’t say “quit”? I just stopped at that school)
At the time when I stopped doing Kenpo keep in mind that I was still practicing martial arts. I would drill kicks in my yard and work on the punching bag I had at the house. You see, I knew that I would start training again, I just didn’t know where and the gap of time it took me to find the right place was about 1 and a half years. So I did some looking around (a lot of looking actually) and decided that I would train with John Farnsworth, A TKD black belt that had a school about 4 miles from my house on Cottman Ave in Philly.
I was 13 years old when I came to him and began my training in TKD (Tae Kwon Do). Now, I wanna point out that the TKD I was doing back in the day was hardcore man! The training was tough, lots of running, lots of calisthenics, lots of drilling and so on. I think the time I spent training with Red Tiger TKD really made me tough, both mentally and physically. My classes were taught a lot of the time by a pretty young lady who’s name I can’t remember. She ran tough workouts and beat me up in sparring (I had a little crush on her so it was could of cute I guess in a kid way). I did get to train with Mr. Farnsworth from time to time, he liked sparring me because I would come after him and I think he enjoyed that. It’s funny because even today I still have that never back down go forward style.
I did TKD for a while, I used to go with my friend Matt. Matt was doing very well but he all of the sudden quit. I was a bit sad to not have my friend in class with me anymore but at the same time Matt really wasn’t made for martial arts, much more of a talker then a do’er. So no big deal, the training must resume.
I was also mixing in Muay Thai Kickboxing training. I was really into Muay Thai (still am) around that time. Where you might ask? Haha books and videos man! There was a place teaching Muay Thai run by a guy named Greg Puafuy but he wouldn’t let me train there because I was training TKD at my other place and he felt I would “steal” his moves and go back to teach it to my other school….really? A 14 year old stealing moves? That’s pretty cheesy I admit. So I taught myself Muay Thai through books and tapes I would buy from magazines. (I wasn’t very good because you can’t get very far training like that)
At about the time I got my yellow belt I was at west coach video and I saw a movie for rent called “UFC” *note Yes I know the UFC isn’t a movie but at the time I didn’t know that. I just saw blood and fighting and was like cool! Anyhow I rented the UFC 2 and watched it. I. LOVED. IT. I was hooked. The thing I liked most was that the guy who won the whole thing, Royce Gracie, was just a skinny guy who used better techniques to defeat his bigger and stronger foes. He was using what’s called “Gracie Jiu-Jitsu” or Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as it’s known more these days. I always liked wrestling and grappling so I was drawn to this Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu(BJJ). At the time I knew of no places that taught it so I just kept up with my TKD training.
Around that same yellow belt time frame one of the guys who trained TKD with me brought in a UFC poster to the gym. It was for UFC 3, which was to be held in September of 1994. It didn’t take much to get me to rent the UFC via PPV. I watched it and was even more in love. I knew I had to find a place that did Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. That was my goal for 1994, find a Gracie Jiu-Jitsu training center and go train BJJ.
Most 14 year old kids have no idea what they wanna do with their lives. I on the other hand knew that I would be involved with martial arts till the end. I loved it to much. With that said, I really really wanted to get into BJJ training. But couldn’t find anywhere in the Philadelphia area that taught it. I was however getting warmer in my search. I called a Jeet Kun Do (Bruce Lee stuff) academy and asked if they did Gracie Jiu-Jitsu and the guy laughed and said “ah you’ve been watching the UFC’s huh?) I was heck yes and where is a place to do this stuff? The guy said to drive down to the place he was at and he would tell me (why he couldn’t tell me on the phone is beyond me!) so I got a ride from my sisters boyfriend and went in there and the guy said that there was a place in downtown Philly that taught Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, but he didn’t know where….thanks for the help dude! (again, i was getting closer to my goal)
By a stoke of luck and I swear to you guys reading this that it was fate (and some marketing), I got the new yellow pages in the mail and I rushed to open it and sure enough my dreams come true….a BJJ academy in my town! Also, keep in mind that BJJ was small potato’s back then so this was a big deal but Philadelphia was only one of 4 places in the United States that had BJJ classes, yes i was lucky.
So I made my way to downtown Philly to check out a place called Maxersize. I’ll never forget it was on Xmas eve in 1994. My Mom was trying to talk me out of it but anyone who knows me knows that I don’t give up easy and off we went. We watched the class and Steve Maxwell came over to us and talked to my Mom and me and was like thanks for coming in and all. My Mom liked it and I loved it so we signed up and my BJJ training started.
Here I am 20 years later, 31 years old. Still training in martial arts everyday (BJJ, Muay Thai Kickboxing, Judo and Wrestling) and a Black Belt in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. I have my own academy in Severna Park, MD (1 town up from Annapolis, 20 mins from Bowie MD) called Ivey League Mixed Martial Arts. Where we focus on Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu(BJJ), Muay Thai Kickboxing, MMA style and Wrestling.
I love what I do and I’m glad I chose to do it when I was 14. My story should if anything show you that you have to stick to the plan. My plan (goal) was to get my Black Belt in BJJ, goal achived. Opening a school was another, done. Winning in MMA, done. So set goals and stick to them, set backs do happen but stay eyes on the prize and never stop chasing what you want.
I hope you enjoyed reading. For more information check out my main website at www.annapolismma.com
–See you on the mats (or cage),
–Master Daniel Ives