ABOVE: Kiwi UFC fighter James Te Huna and Carlo Meister.
CORE MMA is a Hamilton-based mixed martial arts club which offers training for a wide range of disciplines, including Brazilian jiu jitsu, kickboxing, wrestling, fighting and judo.
Head coach and Core MMA founder Carlo Meister boasts a raft of impressive credentials. Having started studying martial arts as a Hamilton Boys’ High School student, he was immediately drawn to the world of martial arts.
A keen and competitive swimmer at the time, Carlo admits that he was always interested in the idea of martial arts, but only got around it trying through coincidental circumstances.
“Two separate groups of friends decided to take it up (one group jiu jitsu and the other karate). I was a swimmer at the time and our club was going through some major restructuring – including my coach leaving the team. I decided that the time was right to have a real go and so joined both groups and replaced my swimming nights with martial arts.
“When I first started, training was fun and very easy to attend – it was brand new, exciting; and I had two groups of friends involved. Grading through the first Brazilian jiu jitsu and karate ranks gave me short-term goals – something to look forward to that year.
“After that, a lot of what kept me training in the medium term were friendships with my training partners, habit, and the medium goals of karate black belt and BJJ blue belt – each of which took me five years to achieve. By this stage, most of my initial training partners had stopped for various reasons (such as shifting cities, change in work, injury).
“Swimming is a rather isolated sport. You spend large quantities of time with only yourself for company as you swim laps. It also takes a long time and a lot of repetition to improve. I think this builds the type of willpower needed for journey to the BJJ Black belt – my long term goal.
“I’ve been a brown belt since early last year under our head coach John Will (Australia) – so I’m in the home stretch now. To stop before reaching that goal would forever leave me with the feeling of unfinished business. But even once it has been achieved, there won’t be any desire to stop. Such a long period of dedication and so many hours invested into the art builds something deeper – a connection to the martial arts lifestyle.”
Carlo admits that one of the biggest challenges during his involvement in the sport was deciding to continue training when most of his friends gave it up.
“My first competition was another major challenge – a combination of mental and physical. The competition scene wasn’t well developed at that stage and I had no idea what to expect. I’d never even seen a competition before.
“Nerves and adrenaline removed all notion of fitness and I walked off the mat after my first match the most exhausted I had ever been and I had three more yet to go,” he said.
Carlo quickly found the self discipline required to cope with competing and went on to realise a number of impressive achievements, from medal-winning performances at the Abu Dhabi Pro BJJ World Cup NZ Trials and Will Machado Australasian Gathering to taking Gold in the New Zealand Free Fighting 2012 competition and a Silver at the ICON NZ BJJ Tournament.
Carlo founded Core MMA initially with the goal of helping younger local martial artists to get the extra training required to compete in MMA.
“We aimed to be collaborative with other existing clubs (some of which we had taught or trained at previously) – such as Incorporated Martial Arts (Steve Wallace), Kobukan (Phil Beale) and San Bu Kai (Terry Hill) – but apply a more modern and physical approach to the training. Many traditional martial arts schools still place a high percentage of training time on memorising forms – something needed for their grading syllabus but non-applicable to modern MMA training.
When Core MMZ students started to get some good competition results (international placings for BJJ, amateur to professional wins in MMA, NZ title in Xtreme Thai), new members flocked and the business has continued to grow steadily, resulting in the opening of the Killarney Road gym in late 2013.
“These days the highlights for me are just spending time helping our team improve,” says Carlo.
“They work well together and complement each other. We’re seeing it in results and in the atmosphere of the gym. I’m looking forward to seeing more of our fight team break through onto the international scene and the majority of our students working towards their next grades.”
For more information, visit: www.coremma.co.nz
Fancy yourself a black belt?
But not sure exactly what is involved? Check out the road to martial arts achievement with this guide provided by Core MMA.
Kickboxing (comprised of Muay Thai, karate, boxing and Tae Kwon Do) is the striking art taught at CORE MMA, with the grappling arts being Brazilian jiu jitsu, wrestling and judo.
Grading systems for both kickboxing and Brazilian jiu jitsu (judo and wrestling takedowns are included as an element of this grade).
The BJJ grades are as follows (rough time frame in brackets):
White belt (0-3 years)
Blue belt (3-5 years)
Purple belt (5-8 years)
Brown belt (8-10 years)
Black belt (10+ years)
The belts are awarded internally by the class coaches on an informal basis. Generally after a significant period of attendance, the coaches will measure a student’s technical understanding, sparring and mindset against the other students in the gym and collaboratively make the decision that someone should move up to the next belt range.
Sometimes competition results will be used to judge the performance of students against external practitioners (helpful when all the students of a belt range are progressing at the same rate – it lets us know that the entire group is either on par with the national standard or is due to start moving up).
The kickboxing grades are as follows:
10th Kyu – white belt
9th Kyu – white belt, yellow tip
8th Kyu – yellow belt
7th Kyu – yellow belt, orange tip
6th Kyu – orange belt
5th Kyu – orange belt, green tip
4th Kyu – green belt
3rd Kyu – blue belt
2nd Kyu – purple belt
1st Kyu – brown belt
Yudansha (black belt)
1-10th Dan black belt after that 🙂
Each belt in the kickboxing system takes approximately six months, and therefore gives a rough timeline of five years to black belt. Grading consists of regular class attendance, demonstration of technical skills, sparring and fitness to an external grading panel (set on a formal grading date).