I was in countless scraps during my law enforcement career, but I’m going to tell you about my first Tae Kwon Do match.
I was apprehensive when I looked across the mat and saw my opponent. I was only 18 years old and had been sparring with adults since I was 14 years old, but this was the first time I was competing and putting it all on the line; at least that’s how it felt at the time.
The moment the referee dropped his arm, my fear turned into aggression.
Tom DeBlass stood across the octagon from his opponent moments before his last mixed martial arts fight began.
“My mindset going into every fight was to destroy the object in front of me,” Tom said. “I didn’t really look at them as human beings. I looked at them as objects that were physically trying to impose their will on me, so I wanted to execute my will against them.”
The fighters had traded strikes for 93 seconds into the first round when Tom connected with a tight left hook. His opponent dropped to the ground but immediately popped back up, and the fight continued. Only 13 seconds later, Tom landed the same left hook, and the fight was over.
That is the moment when most fighters explode with excitement to celebrate their moment of glory, but Tom dropped to his knees to embrace the other fighter, who was unconscious on the mat.
“The moment I knocked him out, I questioned what I was doing there,” Tom said. “It was hard to celebrate when I knew he also had a daughter and his whole world had just come crashing down.”
Hurting opponents was never Tom’s goal, but to win in MMA, you have to hurt the other person; otherwise, that person is going to hurt you.
“It was just a weird feeling,” Tom said. “For sure, I want to be the one winning, but another person had to lose viciously. That’s when I knew my run was coming to an end with this MMA thing.”
When Mahamed Aly left Rio de Janeiro, he walked away from almost everything—his home, friends, family, and training partners—but he brought with him his determination to becoming a world champion.
“It was rough, man,” Mahamed said. “I could not communicate because I didn’t speak English, and the people were cold. It was different in Brazil, because kids were running in the streets, and making friends comes naturally when you’re young.”
The weekends in the U.S. were especially rough for Mahamed when he looked at social media and saw his friends in Brazil having fun without him.
“I would be alone the whole weekend,” Mahamed said. “But I did not have a plan B. My two options were to win or win. There were times I would cry at home because I was so lonely, but I didn’t have an option to quit. There was no other way. I had to keep going.”
That was the beginning of a four-year journey of intense training and competition that earned Mahamed world championship titles at purple and brown belt levels as he worked his way to the black belt division. When he finally reached the final seconds of the last black belt match of the world championships, Mahamed struggled to process what had just happened.Continue reading “Mahamed Aly: When Becoming a World Champion Is Your Only Option”
Growing up, Chuck Rylant was driven to become a real-life hero.
Not having a healthy father figure in his life, Chuck sought out male role models, which ultimately came through the fictional characters he saw in movies. He was naturally drawn to action movie heroes of the eighties such as Sylvester Stallone in Rambo, Bruce Willis in Die Hard, and Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon, and these heroes were his inspiration throughout a traumatic childhood that was filled with chaos.