An Interview with MMA Hall of Famer Alex Wilkie!
[ Richard Choueiri ] Hi Alex. Provide some background on yourself. How did you first get started in mixed martial arts?
[ Alex Wilkie ] Back in the early 70s, I was always boxing and wrestling with my brother. We loved it so much, and did it so often, that one day my dad said "You guys like fighting so much, why don't you actually train for it?" Back then, martial arts schools were not as ubiquitous as they are now, but we found an instructor teaching Wing Chun Kung Fu. After that instructor moved away, the only other option in the area was Tae Kwon Do, so that's where I trained next.
From there, I began studying the Filipino martial arts (Kali, Escrima and Arnis) along with all forms of stick and knife fighting. The more I learned about the fighting arts, the more I wanted to learn and master. Going forward, I studied Aikido, Kickboxing, Thai Boxing, Ninjutsu, and Brazilian Jujitsu.
[ RC ] What is your primary fighting style?
[ AW ] I honestly cannot say that I have a "primary" fighting style. I adapt my style to wherever the fight takes me. I am equally comfortable standing as I am on the ground. I let the situation dictate whether my response fluidly redirects an attack or meets it head on.
[ RC ] What are some competitions that you have participated in?
[ AW ] Over the years, I've fought in many, many competitions. In the early 70s, I competed in point fighting (tae kwon do) tournaments and, in the late 70s, moved into full contact/knockdown tournaments. Eventually, after I had started my own school, I began having inter-school challenges, which initially began as full contact kickboxing matches and later, long before anyone even thought of the UFC, became no holds barred competitions.
I hold rank in many different styles and have won numerous awards and certifications.
[ RC ] How did you prepare for some of those competitions?
[ AW ] I trained by sparring and doing conditioning drills to build up endurance.
[ RC ] How much emphasis did you place on nutrition?
[ AW ] I placed quite a bit of emphasis on combining proper nutrition, including protein, fruits, and vegetables, along with nutritional supplements to ensure my body could hold up to the rigors of training and competition.
[ RC ] How did you prepare yourself mentally?
[ AW ] I really didn't have to do anything to prepare myself mentally; I fought all the time so I was always mentally prepared.
[ RC ] Which competition is the most memorable to you?
[ AW ] My most memorable competition was a Tae Kwon Do sparring tournament where I was awarded a perfect score. One of the judges was Shihan Gary Alexander; he's a martial arts legend, and someone I admire and respect a great deal, so that stands out in my mind as a huge honor.
[ RC ] What kind of training do you still do?
[ AW ] I train six days a week either directly while working with my fighters and private students or indirectly while teaching group classes.
[ RC ] Is there any chance you will participate in any more competitions in the future?
[ AW ] My participation in competitions is now as a coach and corner man. I've done my time, and had my fun, in competitions, in the ring, and on the mat, and now I enjoy working with my fighters and helping them to bring out their own talents, excel, and win competitions.
[ RC ] Talk about your gym, Alex Wilkie's Mixed Martial Arts Academy.
[ AW ] I've always loved fighting and wanted to make a living by teaching others how to fight, but I realized early on that the type of training traditionally found in martial arts schools, at least at the time I was starting up, was lacking. People were not being taught, and were certainly not practicing, how to fight in a real fight. So with a friend, Chris Bond, I started a club where we held real NHB-type fights. So, essentially, my school started out as a real life fight club and then gradually formalized into a training environment, with scheduled classes, as more and more people approached me asking for formal lessons in our freestyle approach to fighting.
My class offerings include instruction in kickboxing, ground fighting, self-defense, and NHB fighting. At the heart of it though, we are still a freestyle school and I blend in techniques from all my years of training and experience so that my students and fighters can learn and use the best techniques from every martial art.
Shortly after the attacks of 9/11, I visited ground zero and was so moved by what I was seeing that I was inspired to begin working directly with law enforcement agencies to teach their personnel how to better protect themselves. I immediately began offering law enforcement-only seminars and have been doing so ever since. All I have to do is take a look at some of the many letters and plaques I've received from the various agencies to know that I have been able to make a difference. I'm very proud of that.
[ RC ] Do you prefer the role of serving as a coach and instructor or the role of a fighter?
[ AW ] In the early days, I truly did love to fight and compete but now, I honestly do love working with and helping my up and coming fighters, most notably Joe "Apocalypse" Abouata who recently became the USKBA & BCX heavyweight champion.
[ RC ] Talk about your new line of premium MMA clothing, Defiance Fight Gear.
[ AW ] People tend to think of me strictly as a fighter but, like everyone else, there are many facets to my personality. Long before branded fight gear really became popular, I had had an idea for it but, with time constraints and not really knowing how to get started, it never moved past the idea phase. Earlier this year though, in a casual conversation with some friends, the topic came up again, and we decided to give it a go. I recruited my webmaster, Frank of Aiki Designs LLC (www.aikidesigns.com), onto the team and asked him to put together the Defiance website and project manage our efforts.
Our line of clothing has been well received and, although we are currently only doing t-shirts, we will be expanding the line next year.
We have a very exciting project in the works that I'd like to mention. We want to honor the memory of the brave men and women who have given their lives in the service of our great country. Our team has created an awesome new shirt design and we are going to donate $10 from each sale of this shirt to carefully chosen causes in three categories: those helping active duty personnel, those assisting combat wounded/disabled personnel, and those providing support and assistance to the families of fallen soldiers. In this way we will pay honor to their memory, their service, and their sacrifice by providing assistance to their families, and to their comrades who are still serving or have been wounded/disabled in the line of duty.
We are calling it the $1,000,000 challenge, because we hope to raise and distribute $1,000,000 from this effort. Our military personnel are the real fighters, the true warriors. They are the ones putting their lives on the line each and every day and we want to show them it is appreciated.
[ RC ] Where can people check out the full line of clothing?
[ RC ] How can people keep up with upcoming events at the MMA Academy and with Defiance Fight Gear?
[ AW ] Upcoming seminars and events are published on both websites (www.alexwilkiemma.com & www.defiancefightgear.com); in addition, people can get advance notice of activities by sending an email to email@example.com (or firstname.lastname@example.org) and asking to be put on our mailing list.
[ RC ] You were inducted into Action Martial Arts Magazine's Hall of Fame in 2002. How much did that mean to you?
[ AW ] After all of the years I've spent training, fighting, coaching, and teaching, it meant quite a bit to me to receive that honor.
[ RC ] What are some of the other honors that you have attained throughout your great MMA career?
[ AW ] I've received quite a few trophies, medals, and awards over the years but the two most meaningful and memorable are the induction into Action Martial Arts Magazine's Hall of Fame and last year's award for "Outstanding Mixed Martial Arts Practitioner, Instructor" presented to me by Shihan Gary Alexander.
[ RC ] The sport of MMA has exploded over the past few years. What do you think about the future of the sport and how much longer do you plan on being involved in it?
[ AW ] I don't believe the sport has reached its full potential yet. It's big, but it's going to get bigger as more people realize what spectacular athletes these fighters are. The sport is constantly evolving and getting better. In the early days, the competitors were all experts within pure styles like kickboxing or jiu-jitsu. It then evolved as fighters realized they needed to cross train in a variety of styles to be truly effective. Going forward, fighting skills, training methods, nutritional supplements, and diets will be refined more and more as fighters continue to seek new ways to improve.