Saturday, November 14, 2009

Taking a beating

The third graph is waaay overly dramatic, but I think the story holds up.

Published June 9, 2006, in the Keizertimes

Sweat streams off their body as a dozen young men yell advice at two of their friends grappling in the center of the mat.

The scene feels as though it was ripped from the pages of the novel "Fight Club," and one can't help but wish Tyler Durden would show up to school them on the rules.

But this isn't Fight Club. This. Is real.

Team Chaos meets four days a week at Keizer's Gold's Gym to hone its skills in mixed martial arts fighting.

In the past two hours, the temperature of the room has risen at least 10 to 15 degrees as they've slogged through a backbreaking conditioning regimen.

It's Thursday, the final day of the training week, and the guys here tonight are the some of the most unshakable, perseverant and relentless members of the team.

Mondays are something different; that's when the newbies show up. Some have just a passing interest in what goes on after hours at the gym and others want give it a shot.

"The dropout rate on Mondays is about 50 percent," said Denver Mayangitan, a Gold's Gym trainer and head coach of Team Chaos.

A single workout includes elements of judo, jujitsu, wrestling, kickboxing and trapping, but it starts with a pore-clearing warm-up akin to high school wrestling programs.

Making it through one of the workouts would be a feather in most athletes' caps. Even in a group of seasoned fighters, two to three lose their dinner each night.

"This isn't Pilates, this is cage fighting," said Mayangitan.

If newcomers survive the first night, what they have to look forward to is more of the same.

Fighters work on grappling techniques and boxing throughout the night, but the focus is on submission holds – arm bars, wrist locks, ankle locks and choke holds.

Mixed martial arts matches typically end one of two ways, by submission or knockout. The third method is based on a point system, but it's hard to imagine guys as tough as this would count a win by decision as anything other than failure.

"There's always some guy out their tougher than you and that's what keeps you going," said Jake McKnight, a Team Chaos fighter with a 2-0 record.

As fighters become more skilled in individual techniques, they are allowed to pursue more aggressive training leading all the way up to full contact on the mat and in the gym's boxing ring.

The boxing ring makes the sport seem more tame than it actually is. When Team Chaos fighters graduate to sanctioned fighting with other teams they fight in a 24- to 32-foot ring surrounded by a cage.

However, fighter Kyle Prather said the cage is less intimidating once he's inside.

"Once you're in it's all about you and the other guy," Prather said.

It's an exciting time to be part of Team Chaos. McKnight won the team's first title belt last Saturday in Albany and several other will be competing for titles in the coming weeks.

The team is also preparing to host its first promotional fight at the Salem Armory Saturday, July 29.

"We've come such a long way in a year and a half," said Mayangitan. "We started with three or four guys and now we've got almost 50 training to fight."

Despite their toughness, the bonds among fighters run deep, all victories are team victories and their ranks are rapidly growing.

New fighters have only to live up to the team's motto:

"You're welcome to train, but you must earn the pain."

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