Recently, we here at “Nalini”, a non-profit geared towards children, community projects, and the reconstruction of southeast Asia, had the opportunity to interview an MMA fighter who goes by the name, Stuart “Flash” Gordon. Like the comic book character, “Flash Gordon”, this Gordon is just as intelligent and athletic as his superhero counterpart. He is 36 years old, grew up near Queens, New York, and has had quite a journey thus far which has now landed him in Wichita Falls, Texas, where he fights out of “Fight Science” gym.
Here at Nalini, we seek to cover unique individuals who will serve as inspirational figures for the communities in which we serve. One of our founding members has a martial arts background, thus it seemed like a perfect opportunity to interview a fellow martial artist in order to showcase the character building qualities that the arts give its practitioners.
(MMA fighter and innovator, Stuart Gordon, 36, 5-1 in MMA competition)
Here is a summarized paraphrased transcript of our interview:
Nalini: How did you get started in martial arts and what was your motivation for getting involved?
Gordon: I was the type of kid who was on the skinny-side and found myself getting into a few fights because of it. You know, people sometimes judge you based on your appearance and think it is ok to treat you a certain way because of it. My mom took notice of these occurrences and encouraged me to seek out martial arts training.
Nalini: What was your early training experiences like?
Gordon: I started off training in Wing Chun Kung Fu near Queens. I would rush home everyday after school to meet up with my Sifu (chinese martial art term for “coach”). He only took on a few private students in a converted garage-styled gym. Even though it was a traditional martial art that he was teaching, he allowed us to practice it in a very free-form way. We didn’t rely solely on pre-arranged forms like other styles, he allowed us to freestyle on heavybags and spar with minimal restriction.
Nalini: How long did you train in this style and when did you start to notice that martial arts was changing you for the better?
Gordon: I trained in Kung Fu for a few years, and during that time I did notice changes within myself. People always got onto me about being skinny and appearing weak, so I began to really indulge in strength training and old-school conditioning methods like banging my forearms and shins against hard objects to harden my bones. I figured I would turn the thing that people made fun of into a weapon, my bones. When my partners would do blocking drills with me they would make comments as to how solid my structure was and how hard my body was even though I wasn’t a large person. These type of comments made me realize that my dedication was beginning to mean something.
Nalini: Where did the transition to MMA competition start to happen?
Gordon: After graduating high school, naturally, your life starts to change. You begin to experiment with romance, working, and generally just experiencing adult life. I never had the luxury of training consistently in one gym early on because martial arts classes can be quite expensive. I gym hopped for quite a while because of it. When I started to attend Purdue University, I found myself being exposed to different types of people and clubs. There I got to cross-train in Judo, Catch-wrestling, and even Kendo which really helped with my range and timing.
Nalini: What do you think allowed you to be so open to different styles of martial arts? Prior to MMA going mainstream , I remember it being frowned upon to cross-train in different styles, unless it was a JKD affiliated gym. Some viewed it as being disloyal to their teachers or admitting that their singular style wasn’t perfect.
Gordon: Very true! I think it was a combination of things. My first martial arts teacher from my Wing Chun days was traditional yet pragmatic. Like I said earlier, he was traditional and made us do structured drills,learning forms, but allowed us to freestyle as well. Also, growing up where money was sometimes tight, I was always looking to get training wherever I could get it, so it didn’t matter who was teaching or what style it was as long as I got to participate.
Nalini: Obviously you eventually got stable training partners, who were some of your early and current MMA coaches.
Gordon: I briefly moved back to New York after college, and then I began to seriously consider MMA. It was in the early 2000’s and MMA was slowly starting to become mainstream. I started to train with “Team Mad Dog TKD and D’arce BJJ.” The D’arce family is credited with creating the famous “DARCE” choke, which is actually a mispronunciation of “D’arce”. (Dee-Are-Say)
Nalini: What was it like training with such a well known family in the Martial arts community?
Gordon: It was great! The family originally had a Taekwondo pedigree before they became famous for their BJJ skills, so I also got to experience different types of kicking techniques and how to deal with them. Most MMA gyms only offer training in striking arts like Boxing and Muay Thai. The kicks in TKD are usually a little weaker but much faster and come from awkward angles. I enjoy learning and retaining little tricks from traditional martial arts to mix up my MMA game so that I do not become a predictable MMA fighter that just relies on the standard jab,cross, roundhouse combination.
Nalini: So how did your first MMA fight come to be?
Gordon: I ended up going back to Indiana and it is there that I met ,Tom Norris, who was training MMA fighters. I began training with him consistently and shortly thereafter had the opportunity to fight presented to me. I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I’d be, I was actually quite excited to see the collected years of my training put to the test to see where I measured up.
Nalini: How did it go?
Gordon: I won in the first round via triangle. The triangle choke became my bread and butter for a while and I become known for it in our gym. Just as in life, being able to fight off your back is an important skill. Anybody can be the aggressor, but to be able to secure a victory from a seemingly disadvantageous position is even more impressive in my eyes.
Nalini: What did you feel after your first victory in MMA?
Gordon: I have (5)wins and (1) loss in MMA right now, but I have to say that my first fight was a positive reinforcement for me. After winning, I looked at Tom, my coach, and I thought to myself, “This is what I’ve been training to do my whole life. My training wasn’t for nothing, it now means something.I can now effectively measure myself.”
Nalini: Do you have any competition experience prior to MMA?
Gordon: I did a “Leitei” tournament in 1996 and some BJJ tournaments, but the feeling couldn’t compare to winning in the cage.
Nalini: “Leitei”? I used to compete in those myself! Tell me about you experience with that! That was back in the day when “Cung Le” was putting Sanshou on the map.
Gordon: Well, as you know, Leitei competitions are fought under Sanshou rules. Punches, kicks, and throws are allowed but no groundfighting. I truly believe that Sanshou is one of the best ways to transition into MMA. It really gets you used to striking while remaining conscious of takedowns without having to worry about the submission elements.
Nalini: So have you ever had to use your martial art skills in real life scenarios?
Gordon: Yes. I did work security detail in a few bars and nightclubs. I used both the physical and mental benefits of martial arts there. Physically, I mainly relied on Jujitsu and restraining techniques. You always had to be on the lookout for weapons and being able to spot them and restrain the person before they got the chance to use them. Secondly, I used mental or verbal judo to de-escalate situations. After being punched and choked out in practice so many times, being intimidated or trying to act tough wasn’t an issue for me. I stayed calm and confidently showed that I wouldn’t be bullied, and most people would just walk away after venting for whatever reason.
Nalini: Why did you quit that type of work?
Gordon:The opportunity for people to sue you and other potential liabilities swayed me away from it. I learned alot about myself and people during that time, but it got old.
Nalini: What is one of your weakest traits that martial arts has strengthened?
Gordon: I am naturally a very impatient person. But, martial arts taught me to breakdown my work efforts and gave me a comparative study. In martial arts, we start with basic stances and stretches, and over time we learn individual techniques and slowly learn to string them together. After some time, we look back and say, “Wow, when did I get so good at this?” Life is the same way. It’s like when I studied Calculus in college, at first it was really intimidating but after I realized that it was just a step-by-step process combined with theories and concepts, I realized that it was an identical process to martial arts training.
Nalini: That is very profound! I came to the same conclusions myself. Martial arts truly can be a metaphor for all of life’s challenges! So, where has this new found level of patience brought you now?
Gordon: It has brought me to Texas. I came out here recently for a job installing Solar panels, and discovered that my coach Tom Norris was also moving to the same area. Now I’ve partnered up with “Fight Science” gym here in Wichita Falls and that is where I will be training and representing. Tom is like family to me, great guy, and the Fight Science gym is attracting a lot of local talent.
Nalini: That’s really cool! Sounds like your always on the cutting edge and aren’t afraid to develop yourself. But, let me ask you, you are 36, what happens after martial arts? We all succumb to age, disease, injury, or other issues that eventually force us out of the fight game.
Gordon: I could see myself fighting for an organization like “OneFC” , but this is a topic I have thought about. I enjoy coaching a few of my friends here and there, but I couldn’t see myself coaching on a large-scale, there are already enough talented coaches out here. I want to be an innovator. Just as I am passionate about solar-energy and alternative forms of energy, I also want to change the way we train in the martial arts community.
Nalini: Creating new training tools?
Gordon: Exactly! Martial arts training has had the same motivational rationale for centuries. Competition, health, coaching, or self-defense. I want to create ways that people can enhance their training beyond their mental motivations. Technology is all about individual empowerment. I am interested in robotics, product engineering, and similar avenues that can give practitioners more autonomy in their training so that they can maximize their efforts in solo-practice. Who knows, we could even be training with cyborgs in the future, and I am ok with that!
Nalini: You sound alot like Bruce Lee. Little do people know that he designed training tools in his spare time and was in the process of designing a heavy-bag that could hit back. Sadly, he passed away, but I like your mindset. Think of a trainer like “Freddy Roach”, if someone never invented focus mitts, he could be out of a job today! If not for the product designer, the famed users of said product could have never existed! I’m stretching a bit far of course, but you get the idea!
Gordon: You hit the nail on the head! I would love to be the guy that changes the way people train and coach.
Nalini: I am really excited to see where your journey takes you next. You seem to be a very positive thinker and inspiring person. That is precisely why I wanted to interview you. Who knows, one of our supporters may be reading your story and is becoming inspired to take charge of their life as a result. I hope that you and your associates will continue a relationship with our organization. We plan to hold martial art seminars to inspire locals and raise funds for crumbling schools in southeast Asia.
Gordon: I’m all about building relationships with like minded people. Maybe in the future we can train together and trade knowledge. I think what you guys are doing is great and will definitely get the word out about Nalini.
Nalini: Alright! Sounds like a plan! I’ll be sure to share links for you team and current projects. Any final thoughts for our readers?
Gordon: Whatever you’re doing in life, after you have done it enough times, the skill itself won’t be as important as the effort it took to get there. I’m proud of myself for coming this far, but nobody does it alone. My mother passed away three years ago, and that moment changed my outlook and and made me question what I really wanted in life. Don’t be afraid of those crossroads. Stay open to experiences. I am an open-book and am always available so long as the experience is emitting positivity.
Nalini: My condolences for your mother, I’m sure she is watching over you with pride and joy. Thank you once again for being so open with us and sharing your story. You have left us with some powerful words to meditate upon. I look forward to seeing what comes next for you in your evolution as a man, a martial artist, and human being.
Gordon: Thank you for reaching out! I look forward to future partnerships with you and your organization, and love what you guys are doing! I’m here anytime you want to collaborate. I want to say thanks to my team and all of those who have supported me over the years, it’s been great and there is still more to come.
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