Mum's his fight inspiration
She introduced Mitch 'The Dragon' Chilson, S'pore's rep at upcoming mixed martial arts championship, to Japanese fighting techniques when he was 6. -TNP
By Tan Kee Yun
AS THE saying goes, a house is built one brick at a time.
For mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter Mitch "The Dragon" Chilson, the bricks that laid the solid foundation for his future success as a professional sportsman was his Japanese roots.
The muscular 32-year-old, oozing testosterone with his chiselled chest and enviable six pack abs, told The New Paper that his mother was the first to tap his potential in combat sports.
He was born to a Caucasian-American father and a Japanese mother in Washington DC in the US.
"When I was six, she started exposing me to different types of Japanese martial arts; first, it was karate, judo; then aikido and kendo (a Japanese form of fencing)," said Chilson, who has been practising MMA for the last 10 years.
"I think it was her way of getting me to connect with my Japanese heritage.
"At 21, I had a chance to step into a muay thai gym for the first time. Two years later, I took part in my first fight and I've never looked back since."
Chilson, now based in Singapore as an assistant instructor at teaching facility Evolve MMA, will fly the Singapore flag at Martial Combat 2010 - Asia's Ultimate Mixed Martial Arts Fighting Championship.
The competition, which is being held here for the first time, is one of Asia's biggest MMA events.
Chilson is one of 20 contenders from countries such as Brazil, China, South Korea and Thailand at the two-day championship, which begins on Wednesday.
It was held at Resorts World Sentosa.
MMA fans will be pleased to know that the Martial Combat series will feature similar two-day events every month at the same venue till the end of October.
The fights will be broadcast on ESPN Star Sports TV channel.
MMA is a full-contact combat sport that allows a wide variety of fighting techniques and a mix of traditional and non-traditional martial arts.
Victory in a fight is determined either by the judges after an allotted time has elapsed, by submission (where a fighter admits defeat) or a knockout (where a fighter becomes unconscious).
The bout can also be forcefully stopped by the referee when one competitor can no longer defend himself.
It became popular in the early 90s in the US, where professional fighters would slug it out at the annual international event, Ultimate Fighting Championship.
The competition even made superstars out of American Frank Shamrock and Brazil's Royce Gracie.
The beauty of MMA lies in the combination of different fighting styles, said Chilson.
He should know. In his match on Wednesday night, he faced Taiwan's Zhang Jingxong (who goes by the nickname "Lightning"), an expert in the Chinese self-defence art of sanda.
Unlike Zhang, Chilson's expertise lies in muay thai andBrazilian jiu-jitsu.
"Zhang is a tough competitor and a highly decorated fighter in sanda," Chilson said. "I have great faith and confidence in my coaches, though. They've done everything to prepare me for the fight.
"I will go out there to execute what they've taught."
No matter how the duel - tipped to be the biggest fight of his career so far - turns out, Chilson hopes to live up to his nickname "The Dragon".
"Ever since I was a kid, my mum would tell me that I have a dragon guardian spirit protecting me.
"Being so young then, I didn't think too much of what she said. But the mental image of a dragon grew stronger and stronger over the years. I realised that it has always maintained a presence in my life. I have statues and pictures of dragons in my house."
Chilson also has a unique ritual before he enters the ring each time. To keep himself calm, he does "light meditation".
He has been influenced by Japanese culture all his life, said Chilson, who graduated from Western Washington University with a degree in nutrition. But he added sheepishly that unfortunately, he speaks the language "very badly".
"I can get by when I'm travelling in Japan, but that's about it."
Ayes for these guys
Mitch "The Dragon" Chilson is not the only good-looking fighter here for the inaugural Martial Combat event.
The New Paper meets three other gladiators who will have no problems charming the socks off women MMA enthusiasts.
OLE "IRON FIST" LAURSEN, 32
Laursen's menacing expression says it all - his opponents fear him for his talent in muay thai, a combat art he began practising at the age of 15. Born in the Philippines and brought up in Denmark, the hunky tattooed beefcake now makes Ubon, Thailand, his home. That's where he runs his own gym, Legacy.
"At 19, I knew MMA was what I wanted to do with my life," said the professional fighter.
His nickname Iron Fist was given to him by his older brother when they were teenagers.
"It's the name of a comic book we both loved, he felt it suited me because I hit hard with my fists."
AYESFORTHESEGUYS ZHANG JINGXONG "LIGHTNING", 28
He's not called Lightning for no reason. Taichung native Zhang, who picked up taekwondo when he was just in kindergarten, is known for his swift and sharp moves.
"My speed is my greatest strength," said the tall, dashing dude, who will take on Singapore representative Mitch Chilson for the first time.
"I've watched him (Chilson) in videos and I'm confident of putting up a good fight.
"Our styles differ greatly, so we'll need to up our sense of rhythm and pacing."
WIKTOR "THE SLAYER" SWENSSON, 26
Towering over most of his fighting compatriots at 1.88m, Swensson - who picked up MMA when he was an army regular seven years ago - may look like a gentle giant, but he executes one of the most aggressive moves in the sport.
"My best tactic is the ground-and-pound. I am good at pinning my opponents to the ground and punching them," he said.
This Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialist used to own a martial arts school in his native country before relocating to Phuket, Thailand, in 2008.
"I want to improve my muay thai skills and Thailand is the mecca for muay thai."
This article was first published in The New Paper.
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