Two Shetlanders will be competing in one of the world’s toughest – and fastest growing – sports in Aberdeen at the weekend.
Harry Robertson, a 16-year-old from North Roe, and 29-year-old Martin Mladenov from Lerwick will be taking part in the SMMART mixed martial arts (MMA) tournament at Robert Gordon’s University on Saturday under the watchful eye of instructor Samuel Scott, who may also be competing.
SMMART stands for Scottish Mixed Martial Arts Rookie Tournament and according to MMA blackbelt Scott, it is an excellent way for newcomers to the sport to progress into competitive bouts instead of being thrown into the lion’s den of semi-professional competition.
Scott said: “It is a brilliant opportunity to get some of the people that’s shown promise in the club from Shetland to go down to the mainland and go into a big competition. It’s a nice friendly atmosphere and it’s a great stepping stone for people to progress into having semi-professional/professional bouts if they wish.
“It is a rookie tournament so they get to wear the shinpads, the 4oz MMA gloves and the boxing headgear they wear for the amateur fights. It is supposed to be a good stepping stone, especially for people from Shetland. There are also no elbows or “ground and pound” allowed but all other MMA moves are allowed.
With over 50 fighters taking part from all over the UK, it will be a great opportunity to show Shetland’s talent off in the “fastest growing sport in recent decades”.
Scott was “unlucky enough” not to have the SMMART tournament at the time he started MMA competition “I just had to jump into a nightclub with 1,000 people in Glasgow for my first fight, which was quite daunting,” he said.
The fighters are part of Team Jigoku Shetland – the latter word being Japanese for Hell – which is part of an international movement with clubs in Aberdeen, Holland, Switzerland, Sweden and Belgium.
According to Scott, training with the club, which meets at Clickimin, is hard but fun. It has its basis in Kyokushin Karate with mixtures of kick boxing and judo. It owes its origins in Shetland to coach Mark Howe who started Shetland Budokai in Lerwick 33 years ago.
“Anything that’s practical and effective we do. Any fancy pants stuff that’s not going to help you in a competitive situation, or if you are unfortunate enough to get into a situation where you need to defend yourself, I don’t want to teach you anything that’s not going to be effective.”
After training briefly in karate and boxing, Scott moved to Aberdeen where he was “lucky and privileged” to started training in Kyokushin karate with eighth-dan Howe. He now has a black belt in MMA through the Jigoku dojo and a brown belt in Kyokushin karate.
Scott competed himself in four semi-professional fights, including one where he choked-out his opponent a minute after having his arm broken in the fifth second of the fight. But violent though the sport may be, Scott insists that MMA makes people into “gentlemen brawlers” and he has never trained anyone who he thought had a problem with aggression – something that is easier to assess in a small place like Shetland.
Instead, the sheer discipline and hard work involved in the sport, which Scott describes as “controlled aggression”, is more likely to lead to positive character forming traits.