Friday, September 3, 2010

World famous wrestling coach comes to Legacy

Legacy Gym is very proud to welcome one of the world's top wrestling coaches, Jason Townsend, to our small corner of Thailand. He is here as a guest coach to work with our mma guys and I recently had the pleasure to have a chat with him.

Jason Townsend was a champion wrestler as a youth. He has since gone on to coach the USA national grappling team, helping them win three world titles. He has been a wrestling coach at some of the world's most famous mma teams and has been one of the figures behind the movement responsible for the adoption of grappling as an official wrestling style by FILA (International Wrestling Federation). As a result, grappling is soon expected to be recognised as an olympic sport. Jason is currently an active member of the World Pankration and Grappling Commitee.

1) Why are you in Thailand? How did you find out about Legacy gym?
I've been working in the Youth Olympic games in Singapore. I have always wanted to come to Thailand and, when I met Ole at Martial Combat, he invited me to come and train at his gym. I am honoured to be a guest coach at Legacy. I like being a coach, helping make people into better fighters. I feel my 27 years of experience aren't going to waste if they go into making fighters better at what they do.

My parents sacrificed a lot for my wrestling career. Lots of money and lots of time. They were always very supportive and I feel a deep obligation to them to take that investment and pass the knowledge I gained on to others.

I plan on learning some thai boxing while here. I like learning new things and I believe it is never too late to learn a new skill. The more you learn and diversify, the more you understand mma and fighting in general.

2) How long are you here for? What do you hope to achieve during your time here?
I'll be here for 11 days and, while I am here, I would like to help the guys as much as I possibly can, give them as much knowledge as possible, help them understand. It's a short time, but we're recording everything on film so the guys can go back to it and practice, drill the techniques, etc after I've gone home.

3) How did you get into wrestling? How long have you been wrestling?
I've been wrestling since I was 7. I'm 34 years old now, so that makes it 27 years of experience. I believe wrestling is in my blood. When I was only 6 years old, I asked my father if I could start learning wrestling. I didn't even know what it was, but I knew I wanted to do it. He told me to wait a year and, the following year, he signed me up to start wrestling classes.

I worked hard at the gym and started competing. In 1992, a the age of 16, I was state champion. It was around then that I first saw the UFC on TV. I think it was UFC 2. I was fascinated and started practicing armbars and other submissions I saw. I learned a lot of moves from those guys.

In 1994/5, I was lucky enough to have UFC champion and olympic wrestler Mark Kerr as my coach at Syracuse University. He was a huge inspiration to me. I then transferred from Syracuse to Hofstra University, where I competed in wrestling. I was a Varsity wrestler at both Universities and was ranked as high as 10th in the country.

My team at the time was full of really great guys who went on to become well known professional fighters. Phil Baroni, Rich Attonito, Jay Hieron were all in my team and we became good friends, as well as training partners.

Unfortunately, 1999 was the year when tore my ACL and ended up having reconstructive knee surgery. I had to take a year off from wrestling, and it was then that I started to work on grappling and jiu jitsu.

4) When did you start coaching?
In 1999. I moved to Fullerton, California and became assistant wrestling coach at Cal State University in Fullerton. I stayed there until 2005 when I moved to Vegas and started coaching at Xtreme Couture and Marc Laimon's.

5) What was your greatest achievement as a wrestler? As a coach?
I was two times state champion from Maryland. I was also a Junior National and Espoir National All-American in freestyle wrestling.

As a coach, I am proud to have worked at Xtreme Couture and at Marc Laimon's Cobra Kai Jiu Jitsu in Vegas. I have coached two world teams for USA grappling, bringing home the 2007 no-gi world title and both the no-gi and gi world titles in 2008.

I've always thought that I underachieved as a wrestler, but I feel that I've more than made up for that in my coaching career.

6) I know you've coached a number of very talented fighters. So, who is the best fighter you've ever worked with?
Yeah, I've worked with many good people: Frank Mir, Heath Herring, Jay Hieron who is a good wrestling and training partner, Martin Kampman and others. It is hard to pick who is the best. My aim is to help fighters find their wrestling skills. I suppose, if I had to choose, Frank Mir would be up near the top because of his credentials in the cage, but I definitely won't take the credit for his wrestling skills, he was a state champion in Nevada before I met him.

7) Why is wrestling important in MMA?
Well, most fights end up on the ground. If you are on top, gravity is in your favour and, as far as strikes go, it is best to have them coming down. Also, takedowns and top control score highly in mma. It is pretty much always better to be on top and have gravity help you.

Oh, and the occasional slam is cool too.

8) What do you think the future holds for MMA in Southeast Asia?
Southeast Asia is the wide open frontier right now, with so many places getting involved and new shows in so many countries like Laos, Macau, Singapore. It is really the new frontier. With countries like Thailand, where fighting is such a big tradition and has such deep roots, there is no doubt that mma is going to take off, it is just a matter of time. The level of fighters and competitions will continue to improve. In fact, I've been impressed with some of the styles like sanda and sanshou, that I saw for the first time in Martial Combat. These styles are a good base for mma fighters, and new styles are very interesting, they help evolve the sport.

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