Prime Gym Time: Nostos MMA

| October 23, 2014 | 0 Comments

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The streets of Somerworth, New Hampshire look like they were pulled straight from a warzone; cones, barrels, rutted pavement and other tire-popping obstacles around every twist and turn. As I rolled through the downtown area, I wasn’t sure I’d even be able to find my destination among the confusion of orange signs and detours, but storefront windows ahead gave away the location of Nostos MMA. It wasn’t the signage that caught my eye, but the condensation on the windows from bodies laboring inside. It wasn’t just the road crews working around here, but the newest player in the New Hampshire combat sports scene was at the grinding stone, turning out fighters and grapplers alike.

Walking into a rustic lobby of hand-planed floors and simple furnishings, an enclosed area of white mats and padded walls lay beyond. Through door to the right a full cage was set up and ready to rock, with a variety of bags, as well as the trappings of a strength & conditioning program; not an inch of space wasted in the studio. While the school offers a variety of programs and operates seven days a week, I had turned up for a Gi BJJ, and was interested to see the difference between the traditional style and what we often see in the cage.

Nostos MMA is home sweet home to one Devin Powell, a man with a sandy mop of hair and one of the hardest traveled brown belts I’ve ever seen. Having earned his stripes under Roberto Maia trained black belts; Powell had worked his overall MMA game at The Shop, while honing his BJJ at Port City BJJ. When The Shop began ailing as a business, Powell decided to follow his dream and renovate the school, ready for the mantle of owner and head instructor. On the mat were the embryonic products of his tutelage; white belts, some with stripes, but there on the mats every day and eager to learn.

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Instructor Powell’s focus was on gi-based fundamentals, which is largely missing from MMA gyms these days. While Brazilian Jiu-jitsu itself is a boiled down and concentrated form of Japanese grappling arts, the concentrated style has itself been reduced as it has become part of the MMA framework. While some aspects of the gi-based system certainly don’t translate to no-gi or when implementing a striking game, some of what’s lost isn’t so much technique, but the underlying skills that need to develop to function with the gi. While we often like to stand around in our rash guards and scoff at the idea of training in a traditional sense, the fact of the matter is gi-based grapples have a keener sense of balance of their foes and are pin-point accurate with their foot and hand placement. When moving from chess-like gi grappling to checkers-like no-gi, the mind is freed of much burden, allowing the technique to flow more smoothly.

We worked a variety of offensive bottom half-guard moves that emphasized grips on the shoulder, wrist or knees, with the underlying lesson being about landing hooks on a moving opponent, and having a sense of your own balance with what could be awkward transitions. Something I noticed was that this was part of a continued lesson for the class, which clued me into the fact the students were there frequently enough to fall into a lesson plan. In the sometimes chaotic work of instruction, getting more than a handful of students in consecutively is bothersome, but the dedication of the class to their personal development was evident.

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As the class moved towards free roll time, the fighters arriving early for muay thai started filtering onto the mats and showed the combat strength of this budding team, as well as the fleshed-out team of instructors following Powell’s lead. Troy Pickering, the muay thai and catch wrestling guru of New Hampshire leads the striking program, while New England MMA staple Adam Rivera lends a hand with MMA and youth programs. Well-known battler Bill Jones was in for a long night of training; his fight at Toe2Toe looming on the horizon, and Josh Greenlaw was hoping to find himself on that fight card as well as he continued to evolve his overall game. With their own yoga instructor, as well as strength and conditioning coaches on hand, the school seemed prepared to be an MMA dynamo, and Powell was excited to introduce me to some of the secret weapons learning their craft under his direction.

I worked with Travis, a sixteen year old white belt that Powell was excited about, and the young man gave me more trouble than I’d like to admit when we squared up. He introduced me to Corey, a wrestler who had a full scholarship to OSU before a knee injury sidelined his wrestling career; having returned from the Navy he was ready to pursue MMA to its fullest. A hulking wrestler who once roomed and wrestled with former UFC Lightweight Champion Benson Henderson, Jordan Davis had decided to follow the same path and was turning his unstoppable shot into a freight train right hand working at Nostos MMA.

While Powell told me he’d dreamed of running an MMA gym, I was left wondering if he’d be better off at Seaworld, because he appeared to have created a shark tank in downtown Somersworth.

For further information on Nostos MMA, including full schedules of their daily classes, visit www.nostosmma.com and be sure to follow them on facebook.

Special thanks to Devin Powell and Nostos MMA for having me in, as well as Prime Athletics for providing me with the gear I need to visit and train at these local establishments.

 

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