SBG: A Multi-Generational Tribe

This is the story of Sam Tally as told by his father Dr. William Tally: licensed orthopedic surgeon, GA Regents Med-School Professor, and father of Sam, a young SBG Tribe member.
Youth Martial Arts Athens Ga
William found SBG while looking for an outlet for his sons.

His oldest son, Sam, had long struggled expressing himself and focusing on tasks. William discovered SBG through a friend’s recommendation.

“I first learned about SBG from my dearest friend, Pete,” William says.

Pete had taken private training sessions with Coach Rory Singer, SBG Co-Proprietor and Head Coach of the Growing Gorillas Martial Arts and Youth Enrichment Program. Pete enjoyed the sessions and persuaded William that his sons would enjoy mixed martial arts training more than “the usual karate experience.”

William took his sons to the gym and both enjoyed their classes and had fun with the staff there. However, Sam “really fell in love,” William says. SBG provided a fun, safe place for Sam to enjoy himself and grow. For William, the gym offered a wealth of positive role models for his son, an extension of the values of discipline and healthy self-expression that he preaches in the home.

“By training under Master Rory, Sam has grown both athletically and personally,” William tells us.  Not only has this gym—and it’s coaches—provided physical training and skills, they have provided role models (now even more import following William’s divorce).  Rory cares about these kids. He will push them, congratulate them, and scold them as necessary.  They strive to provide a complete martial arts training, not just fighting skills. For that, I am grateful.”

Do you struggle with some of the same things with which Sam struggled?

You CAN make that change and TRANSFORM your life also!

Fill out the form below and one of our coaches will call you back as soon as possible. This is SBG, you will be okay.

How Aliveness Makes Your Life Better

If I told you I had the ability to increase your confidence, help you lose weight, help you get stronger, teach you to be comfortable in uncomfortable situations, and introduce you to some incredible people;  would you be interested?
SBG Athens Georgia
What if I included improving your ability to defend yourself from a violent attacker? Are you now interested? Still not sure.

I’ll add to it by making you a better friend, father, husband, and person. Have I finally got your attention? Great!

I have just the thing to help you achieve things you never before thought possible. It’s actually pretty simple. The cure to all that ails you is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, also know as BJJ.

What is BJJ? Simply put, BJJ is a ground based self defense that helps one control an often times stronger and larger opponent by the application of leverage. What differentiates BJJ from the large majority of other martial arts is the application of Aliveness. Aliveness is best defined as non-choreographed  training against a resisting opponent.

This is where I like to pull out the following football analogy. I have witnessed many of the University of Georgia’s G-Day games. This is where the Offense plays the Defense in a live and refereed scrimmage. Both sides are trying to “win” by imposing their will on the other players. They all play for the same team so there is obviously a large consideration given to safety but pride is on the line; as well as a Steak and Lobster dinner.

This is as close to a real football game as you can get. It would look drastically different if both sides of the ball knew what plays the other was running. If the offense told the defense it was running play X, the defense would certainly know to run defense Y. At times that can be very useful and may even be important during the learning phase of the plays. Nevertheless, the way a football team gets better is by learning how to react when things go off script (on either side of the ball).

Football isn’t a paint by numbers game, and neither should be your martial arts training. In the vast majority of martial arts people stand in lines, do choreographed dance routines, and memorize one and two step sparring scenarios. I’m reminded of this sketch with Jim Carey on In Living Color.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu evolves, as most things do, because of competition. That competition can be done in the gym against training partners, against strangers in a tournament, or on the street against a violent attacker.

The meritocracy of BJJ provides all the benefits I mentioned at the beginning of this essay and then some. It creates mentally strong men, women, and children. When you find yourself stuck in a bad position you are forced to relax, problem solve, and find success (or be submitted). Just as important is the confidence created is backed up by an actual ability to defend oneself. It’s a win for everyone!

If you would like to learn more, fill out the form below and one of our coaches will call you back as soon as possible. This is SBG, you will be okay.

Looking to take your workout to another level?

This is the story of SBG Athens coach Lee McMichael.
SBG Athens GA
Lee felt like he was in a rut before joining SBG Athens.

A lifelong athlete active in several sports, Lee had always been in decent shape. After leaving school, however, he says that he never developed a satisfying routine. He would vacillate between being completely dedicated to a workout routine and doing the bare-minimum to stay in shape. “I was never able to find a reason to keep myself in shape,” he says, other than wanting to look good or avoid “being super-unhealthy.”

He says that he found SBG Athens due to being an MMA fan. He knew that the gym had spawned Forrest Griffin, and living nearby, he wanted to see what the gym had to offer. According to Lee, the gym has much more to offer than he would have anticipated.

Lee has found an outlet to channel his competitive drive in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Learning BJJ at the gym, Lee has found a sport that will allow him to compete for decades. “Aside from some flag football and things like that in college I think too many of us just put that kind of thing aside after high school.  However, something like jiu-jitsu gives you something that you are always working on and working toward.  Even if you don’t compete in jiu-jitsu you still are competing against yourself or just trying to get a little better each day.”

Not only is Lee excited to have a good reason to work out, he says that in SBG Athens, he has found a deeper sense of community. “I was a pretty aimless 25 year-old when I started my journey here at SBG,” he says. Training martial arts, and training with other martial artists has “both directly and indirectly have helped me a great deal in providing some direction and sense of purpose.” He has coached both kids and adults at SBG, becoming a staple at the gym. At SBG he has plenty of training partners, students, and teachers, but he has also made valuable personal connections. He says that the community of the SBG tribe has benefitted him greatly: “I have met many amazing people and I am luckily to call quite a few of them “friend!”

Here are three tips that Lee wants to share to potential tribemates:

  1. Don’t quit!  Even if you can’t make it to as many classes or do as much as you want.  Just keep coming back!
  2. Don’t take it too seriously, especially early on.  Make this something you enjoy doing, not a chore that you must do!
  3. Talk to people!  Early on I did not do a good job of putting myself out there and making connections at the gym.  We are a welcoming place but the gym and its’ people can only do so much.

Do you struggle with some of the same things with which Lee struggled?

You CAN make that change and TRANSFORM your life also!

Fill out the form below and one of our coaches will call you back as soon as possible. This is SBG, you will be okay.

Looking for stability? Structure?

This is the story of Josh Norris, SBG Athens athlete and assistant coach.
SBG Athens Ga
Before coming to SBG, Josh felt literally lost.

From ages 18 to 24, Josh had lived in ten different places in five states. One of his parents had passed away, and the other disappeared from his life. “I had lost my family by blood, family by bond, the structure that was high school and my literal home,” Josh says. Lacking structure in his life, he says “chaos took its place.” He ended up in Athens by chance, just another stop on his journey.

Josh had always been interested in fitness and the martial arts, but he didn’t see a future in traditional martial arts. He was excited to get involved with Mixed Martial Arts (like the MMA program at SBG) since “Mixed Martial Arts are pressure-tested by their nature.” SBG gave him a chance to learn these pressure-tested skills, to get involved in something concrete and practical. He ended up finding that chance and more. In his words:

“At the time I thought SBG would get me a great workout, train me in martial arts that actually work, and would let me apply myself towards a goal. Well all of that did happen, however I found something so much more. I found the most positive and supportive group of human beings in my life. Each coach and member of the gym genuinely cared about me and wanted to help me not just in my goals within the walls of SBG but in my life outside the gym as well.”

He says that he found a passion in martial arts, but even more, a reason to stick around in one place for a while. “I didn’t know what would happen next in life, how I’d make enough money or survive, but I did and whether or not my “Tribe” at SBG knows it, I did it with their support.”

He now owns a home and enjoys a stable life. He feels like he’s regained a sense of family at SBG that was missing for a long time. Regularly attending classes at SBG has Josh feeling stronger at 185 lbs than he did weighing 205 lbs and working out in a traditional setting. He feels stronger, more patient, and has the confidence that goes with acquiring skills that he knows work. He has to test them in sparring on a regular basis. In so many ways, Josh is thankful that he found SBG.

Here’s more of Josh’s advice:

  1. I cannot tell you all of the benefits you will find at SBG but I can tell you that in one way or another, you’ll become an even better version of yourself.
  2. Everything you put into SBG, you will get back in some form. Whatever your goal, we can help you reach it. If you think you can’t do it, you can and you will. You will have fun, you will be safe, you will learn amazing skills and you will enrich your life.
  3. The only catch is you have to earn it, but each and every step of the way you will have a Tribe by your side, working together to become the best possible version of ourselves.

Do you struggle with some of the same things with which Josh struggled? You CAN make that change and TRANSFORM your life also! Fill out the form below and one of our coaches will call you back as soon as possible. This is SBG, you will be okay.

Want to challenge the limitations you set for yourself?

This is the journey of Dr. Ben Fuqua: PhD, Professor of Literature, and martial arts student at SBG Athens.
SBG Athens Ga
Before joining SBG Athens, Ben struggled with anxiety and lacked healthy outlets.

Ben was convinced that people were meant to choose a path and never deviate from that path. He found success in the classroom, earning several advanced degrees and teaching college courses before the age of 30. Something was missing, however. He was drawn to the idea of being more active—a youth-athlete and lifelong sports fan—but resisted dedicating himself to becoming more active. “I thought that training [martial arts] was for other people,” he says. “I thought that you already had to be athletic to learn to do something athletic.” Afraid to leave his comfort zone, Ben ignored the itch to train for years.

Ben became aware of SBG Athens (then called The HardCore Gym) during the rise of MMA fighters like Forrest Griffin, Brian Bowles, and (co-proprietor) Rory Singer. He was sure that he couldn’t belong there. “I looked at the gym as this institution in sports. They have world champions…I was happy just living in the same town where these guys trained.” Growing more and more interested in finding a way to round out his life, Ben started researching local martial arts programs. He discovered that SBG Athens offered a whole arrangement of beginner classes, even encouraging beginners.

In the middle of writing his PhD dissertation, Ben says he finally became exhausted with “spending all of [his] time obsessing” over work. He walked in off the street without letting anyone know he was coming. He ended up having a private workout with one of the coaches just days after walking through the door, and he felt welcome. Ben has been attending Brazillian Jiu Jitsu classes at SBG ever since.

“I think that just walking through SBG’s doors has been the biggest obstacle I’ve had to overcome,” he says. “I was in my own way…Grappling gives me a chance to express myself in ways that I can’t get anywhere else. I get to exercise while practicing an art; I think that the gym gives me a balance that had been missing from my life for a long time.”

Here are a few tips that Ben has found helpful:

  1. Just train. Forget whatever your reservations are for a minute and give it a try. To paraphrase SBG’s motto, “You’ll be okay.”
  2. Don’t worry about being a tough guy. People that last in martial arts are the people that learn to love it for their own reasons, people that are willing to put in a lot of time and effort, and people that are willing to risk failure.
  3. Remember to tuck in your elbows. (This one will make more sense when you start grappling. It can never be emphasized enough, though).

Are You Lost in the Weight Room and/or Lacking Self Defense Skills?

This is the journey of Lucas Federico: GM of SBG Athens, Kid’s Coach, and BJJ Brown Belt. 

Straight Blast Gym Athens Ga

Before joining SBG he was lost in the weight room, unmotivated, and lacking self defense skills.

Lost in the weight room, Lucas went through the routines and motions, but without direction or understanding didn’t know how those things were helping him. Finding motivation to keep going and the subsequent lack thereof became the main reasons he couldn’t keep up with a routine.

Having worked in bars in a college town, Lucas was concerned that lifting weights wasn’t the way to learn how to defend himself and keep me from getting his a$$ kicked. He said, “That’s going to sound like the thoughts of a crazy person, but having worked in bars in a college town you find yourself surrounded by people looking to ‘beat their chests’ and going to the gym had it’s own sub culture of ‘tough guys.’” He got tired of being in the weight room surrounded by people thinking they were tough just because they had big arms.

It was in 2006 that Lucas began working with a bunch of college kids that were learning the fairly new sport of MMA. “It sounded pretty intense and had piqued my interest”, he said. They had all told him he would love it and would fit right in. After a few weeks of waiting for one of the guys to bring him by the gym he got in his car to drive over and check the place out.

He was greeted by one of the owners, TUF and UFC fighter, Rory Singer. He recalls his first class, “The first class was fun and different and I felt like a fish out of water, but it was just was I was looking for, the opportunity to learn how to fight, actually fight.”

Lucas has been at the gym ever since and it has transformed his life in every aspect possible, and all for the better. He is a more confident, relaxed, focused, and happy individual than ever before in his life. He is surrounded by some of his closest friends and family and benefits from being a part of one of the greatest social networks around. “I get to live the life others dream of because I wanted to learn how to defend myself. Learning MMA and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has been a long road, but one I wouldn’t change for anything,” he continues.

I have been at the gym since 2006 and my life has transformed in every aspect possible, and all for the better. I’m a more confident, relaxed, happy and focused individual than I have ever been in my entire life. I’m surrounded by some of my closest friends and family and have one of the greatest social networks because of this “gym”. I get to live the life others dream of because I wanted to learn how to defend myself. Learning MMA and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has been a long road, but one I wouldn’t change for anything.

To any and all new students Coach Lucas has the following three tips that helped him transform:

  1. Take baby steps and enjoy the journey. Any transformation worth a crap takes time and sacrifice, but if you focus too much on the destination you’re going to miss out on all the other great benefits a place like this has to offer. So many long lasting friendships have been forged inside the walls of this academy. I always hate seeing people miss out on that.
  2. Stay consistent in your training. Even on days when you are sore, come in and jump on the mats.
  3. Last piece of advice I’d like to offer, BE COOL!

Do You Struggle with Drinking and Lack of Motivation?

This is the journey of Greg Galmin: PhD student, Future Physician, and Assistant Coach. 

Straight Blast Gym Athens Ga

Before joining SBG Athens, Greg struggled with binge drinking, lack of motivation, and an unsure future.

A former martial artist from his youth, Greg was afraid of getting taken down and not knowing what to do. He knew he couldn’t solely rely on his stand-up, Karate knowledge. Additionally, he needed a physical outlet for his struggles, and lifting weights wasn’t cutting it. Probably the largest driving force for reaching out to SBG was his alcoholism. He knew he had a void in his life and if he didn’t fill it with something, he would drink himself to death.

After only two weeks at SBG Athens Greg didn’t feel the desire to drink anymore. “Now I had people that legitimately cared about me close by and people I did not want to disappoint. I felt included and a part of something, and that was too valuable to me to screw up.” With the support of his tribe his confidence grew and Greg started making changes to secure his future.

Greg is now working to finish his PhD and go on to medical school to become a physician. Although it is something he has always wanted he was too unsure to fully commit himself. Physically he has gone from 175 pounds to his ideal body weight of 154 pounds. As he said, “I didn’t even intend to lose the weight but it just happened.” He can now also confidently defend himself on the ground. Something he says is an invaluable skill.

I leave you with the top three tips that helped Greg transform:

  1. Be a scientist. Implement what works and discard what doesn’t. So often we’re trapped in a cycle of repeating bad behaviors whether it be in combat or in life.
  2. Connection is key. Whether it be in jiu jitsu or in relationships, making a connection makes all the difference.
  3. Failure is healthy. Failure shows us our weaknesses and shortcomings. Failure is okay, but repeating the same mistake is unacceptable. If you don’t fail, you don’t learn. You either win or you learn.

Are You A Middle Aged Man Struggling With Stress, Weight Gain, And Lack Of Motivation

This is the journey of Chris Riser: 50 year old lawyer and father of two teens.

Straight Blast Gym Athens Georgia

Before coming to SBG Athens, Chris struggled with middle-age stress, weight gain, and the motivation to deal with them.

On the recommendation of his trainer at another gym, he reached out due to his love of fitness kickboxing. He wanted to learn about real kickboxing. After a few years of kickboxing classes Chris “learned how to punch, kick, and defend, had a lot of fun, and got in better shape.” At 44, he was in the best shape of his life and boxed competitively at the famed Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn, New York. Although he lost that fight it didn’t stop him from getting his first victory a couple years later in an old high school gym in West Virginia.

“My family told me I was crazy, my doctor told me I was crazy, but nobody at the gym told me I was crazy.  My friends and trainers at the gym just helped me prepare for my boxing matches and feel confident.”

It was later that Chris was inspired by another gym member to get into powerlifting. He competed a couple of times and “put up numbers that made [him] happy.” Finally, after several years of watching everyone training BJJ, he finally “plunge[d] into full-on striking and BJJ training a little over a year ago.” His only regret is that he didn’t start sooner.

Since training at SBG Athens, Chris has accomplished quite a bit: he’s lost a “bunch of fat”, gained “a lot of muscle”, reduced his stress level, made friends, gone 1-1 in amateur boxing in his 40s, hit a 1000# powerlifting total at age 50, completed a Coaching Candidate Course, and traveled to three different SBG training camps all over North America. Confident that he will earn his BJJ blue belt in the next year or two, he proudly believes one day he could be, “SBG Athens’ oldest black belt.”

I leave you with the top three tips that helped Chris transform:

  1. Show up to train, even if you don’t want to. I’ve never regretted showing up. I’ve regretted not showing up a bunch of times.
  2. Believe in “This is SBG; you will be OK.” The instructors know what they’re doing. Your training partners are there to help you, not to beat you or hurt you.
  3. Prioritize protein and lift heavy weights.

Are You a Lone Wolf Suffering from Inadequacy Issues?

This is the first in a series of blogs devoted to individual members of our Tribe. They are sharing some of their history, both prior to and during their time at SBG Athens. They tell of struggles, fears, concerns, and questions about wanting more from life. There is a Hero’s Journey in all of them. They each recognize that which they are lacking, search for guidance, “Slay The Dragon”, and provide insights to others on a similar quest. It is our sincere hope that contained herein, you the reader see there is help for you within these walls. Join the premier martial arts, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and Self-Defense gym in Athens and learn why: This is SBG, you will be okay.

This is the journey of Cate Harris; student (and coach) at SBG Athens.

Straight Blast Gym Athens Georgia

Life before she started training at SBG Athens was spent as a “Lone Wolf” struggling with  severe inadequacy issues.

Her job as an adolescent interventionist is what led to her originally search for martial arts training. Her job requires that she remain calm in stressful situations and be able to defend herself while keeping her clients safe. “I needed to equip myself with the proper stand-up/transition to safe take-down/and ground workin order to stay safe while transporting at-risk teenagers.”

Originally finding herself at another facility while trying to fill those voids; she never felt very connected with what they had to offer. “The moment I stepped in the doors at SBG Athens, I felt at home and everyone welcomed me with open arms!” Years of “disliking who I was shed before my eyes in a very short amount of time, along with some unwanted weight.” It’s also at SBG Athens where Cate finally learned to stop being a people pleaser and started to truly work on herself “alongside my new pack.”

Cate has seen some pretty incredible results; not just from taking martial arts but from also participating in the Training For Warriors (TFW) program located inside SBG Athens. As stated earlier, she has lost weight while gaining new found self-defense skills.   She has also learned to accept herself because, “I understand that it is a process and in transition (much like learning techniques).”

TFW has helped her find a strength she never knew she had. Learning how to properly lift weights and run fast has helped her perform pull-ups and pushups with ease. I’ll let Cate tell you in her own words about her new found shape, “I now have the toning I have always wanted (hello ‘V’ on my hips and what’s up triceps n’ biceps!)” Additionally, she has more energy throughout the day and sleeps much better. This is a far cry from her nights of insomnia and her trouble falling and staying asleep. “Now? ZzZZzz!” She now has a confidence to face whatever comes her way.

I leave you with the top three tips that helped Cate transform:

  1. “He who does not howl may never find his pack.” Author Charles Simic.
  2. “Martial Arts is the fight against yourself.” SBG Coach Liam O’Shaughnessy.
  3. “Everything should be kept as simple as possible, but no simpler.” SBG President Matt Thornton via Albert Einstein.