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Hot martial art enters global contests (2)

By  Andrew Chin   (Shanghai Daily)

13:17, November 21, 2012

Cool sport

The team's youngest fighter, Hector Tournier from England, fought last year at the age of 15 and is now in his second year of sanda training.

"It's a very cool sport and really helped with my balance and flexibility," Tournier says. "I'm pretty active and it helps get rid of some of that energy."

The classes are not restricted to fighters and many students take classes to get in shape.

"It increases core strength, reduces fat and improves your cardiovascular system," Maynard explains.

His student Brice Romain lost 26 kilograms in six months of training and healthy eating.

"When you're training, everything is about respect and all the movements are so controlled," Romain says. "It makes you want to be smarter than your opponent and motivates you to have your body in good condition."

Women like Nadya Badmaeva, who came to Shanghai from Russia a month ago, is taking the class. She used to dance and do yoga, "and now I'm learning to fight, which I like so far."

"A lot of girls are afraid that they'll look like a man taking these classes but it just tones what you have," Maynard says. "It takes some of the fat areas away and it gives you a cut, fit body type."

Students can spar with each other during class, but it's not required. Student Richard Becker from France observes, "People have this view that fighting sports are really violent but unless you're actually competitively fighting, it's really not. It's a great way to build self-confidence, stamina and general health. It builds up something you can be interested in and do regularly."

Becker has been training in sanda for four years and won the under-18 sanda championship in France. "Kung fu is quite popular and all 'wushu' schools teach sanda there," he says.

Since landing in Shanghai, the 21-year-old has been transitioning from sanda to MMA. "The floor game is the biggest difference," he says. "Also, sanda fighters like grabs and swipes a big more, which is quite different from MMA, which is more stand-up fighting."

UFC managing director american Mark Fischer is aware the differences. "Sanda is an excellent martial art for striking but to be successful at MMA, sanda fighters need to develop grappling skills and other aspects of the MMA ground game."

UFC plans to roll out a development program for Chinese fighters in coming years designed in part to teach MMA ground game skills.

Since it helped internationalize muay Thai and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, UFC can do the same with sanda, Fischer says, especially if more Chinese sanda fighters enter UFC.

Cung Le's recent entry into the UFC has already helped build awareness of sanda in the West.

Tiequan Zhang from the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region is the only Chinese fighter currently on the UFC roster.

"If you can do sanda, then you can acclimatize yourself into MMA quickly," Zhang says. "I think more Chinese fighters will joining the UFC. If they are all sanda-based, people will find out how good they are."

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