MMA Spotlight, Big Willy Style!


When skill meets smarts, that about sums up William SanGiacomo (a.k.a Big Willy).

William is a normal 12-year old 6th grade from Windsor Academy. He lives at home with him mom, dad, sister, and his dog (his favorite), Izzy…the chorki (Chihuahua & Yorki mix).

He began MMA originally because of being bullied. He wanted more self defense, as well as the opportunity to learn new skills. But after just a few weeks in, along with the desire to learn self defense, Will had set a goal: he wanted his Black Belt.

Now after 2.5 years of training, Will is in the advanced classes, just a few belts away from his Black Belt. He loves to grapple the most (almost as much as he loves gym class and History).

When Big Willy isn’t in MMA class, he loves Laser Tag and playing with his dog, Izzy.

When asked what superhero Will would be if he had the chance, he answered,

“I would choose Flash because he runs fast and his speed of force seems amazing.”


Why All Females Should Learn To Grapple


At least once per week we get a phone call from a female that is eager to learn MMA. The call is going well. But then the topic of “Jiu-Jitsu”, “grappling”, or “ground work” comes up. No matter what you say, they are slightly turned off.

The truth of the matter is, ground work is important for self defense in general, but even more so when thinking of females. Girls…get the silly images of rolling around with sweaty boys out of your heads. There is so much more than you may realize. Lets start with this fact. According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey, there’s an average of 207,754 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault each year.

Now that we have your attention, here are some important takeaways why all females should learn to grapple:

  • Size doesn’t matter when it comes to ground work. Because of this, women (or even small children) can defend themselves against a much larger or aggressive attacker. Ground work is a positional strategy first, with small details that can take weight right out of the picture.
  • 70% of fights end up on the ground at some point. And as a woman, you’ve got to be prepared for the ground. That’s just the facts. Will you be prepared once you get down there?
  • There’s no better way to learn to deal with the stress and pressure of a real attack than when practicing your moves, LIVE grappling in class. Sometimes, when humans are forced to be in close proximity to one another, our brains can shut off in a moment of fight or flight. Practicing ground work allows for muscle memory to pick up the slack should there be a real threat.

On top of those important takeaways, ground work provides a terrific workout, metabolic cardio that both tones and aids in weight loss. Most classes that offer jiu-jitsu or grappling programs do have other women in class. They are also very comfortable to be in once you get to class.

So ladies…the next time you are looking to learn self defense, you may want to consider the takeaways above. Stand-up techniques are important, but knowing how to defend yourself on the ground may just save your life.

Fitness Spotlight: Everybody LOVES Chris!

Pinellas MMA

The remarkable thing is,we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day.~Charles R. Swindoll.

You never quite know what someone is going through in their life until you really get to know them. And attitude is EVERYTHING! As a long-time fitness advocate and instructor I have heard EVERY excuse in the book as to why people can’t take classes…why working out just can’t be a part of their schedule…why it is impossible to lose weight…(I could go on for days). And sure, sometimes these excuses are real. But when you find out that the girl in class with the huge smile on her face, taking two kickboxing classes, is battling cancer, you tend to wonder why you aren’t working out.

That’s right–CANCER! Chris doesn’t let that hold her back…nor does she let it change her attitude.

Chris joined AMMA after her friend Kiera joined and LOVED IT. Her boyfriend had been encouraging her to join a boxing class for some time. And after joining, she has never had so much fun working out. Her main goal is to get in good shape (and to combat some of the medication she takes).

Chris is one tough chick! She grew up a daddy’s girl, riding motorcycles, working on cars, and shooting guns. Losing her dad back in 2011 may have been one of the toughest battles in Chris’s life, but thanks to the support of her boyfriend, she has been able to persevere through losing her closest friend.

In October of 2013 Chris found out that she had cancer in her jawbone. She underwent treatments and then decided to have a two part surgery, in which she successfully completed part one in October of 2014 (part two will take place this July).

Chris attributes her happiness at AMMA to kickboxing instructor, Marshall, who always makes training fun. She says on top of classes being FUN, they are always new and challenging (and a GREAT workout).

When she’s not at AMMA, Chris is a Lead Tech at Sprint. She likes running races with her friend Erin, spending quality time with her boyfriend and her German Shepherd/Husky mix, Tiger.

Her biggest accomplishments? She says her ability to continue to train while going through treatments and surgery. So you are asking yourself, “Where does Chris’s great attitude come from?” She says she’s blessed to have her amazing support system.

Her new goal is to run her first 10K this year and her first half marathon next year.

We did have to ask Chris, if she could change the world, what would she do. Here’s how she answered:

I would want to find a cure for every sickness so that no one would have to suffer. And if that wasn’t possible, I would stop Ben Afflack from being Batman.

Now is that a great attitude, or what? You will see Chris most days taking the 6p and 7p Fitness Kickboxing class. Her laugh is contagious…and her smile is inviting. At AMMA, everybody loves Chris! She’s just another part of why the AMMA family is so special!

After School Spotlight: Meet Javier


Watch out Hollywood…Javier is coming!

That’s right. Meet “Hollywood” Jav…or Javier. This Plato Academy 4th Grader is well on his way to being a star. Let me tell you why.

Javier started at AMMA back in 2010 in our After School Program as a Kindergartner. He was pretty special from the start. Happy, full of life, friend to all, and boy, what an athlete! He started out as a white belt in our Little Dragons program, a natural!

Now 5 years later, Javier is just a step away from receiving a Black Belt. The past year has put some slow, but steady, progress on achieving his goal of Black Belt because of soccer. And as we said before, Javier is quite the athlete. We should probably mention that he comes from very athletic parents. Mom is an avid runner and dad…well dad, was only an Olympic swimmer that competed in the 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games. No big deal there.

javier soccer

So needless to say, Jav may be one of the busiest 9 year old around. He maintains A’s and B’s in school, comes to After School and takes MMA, then is off to soccer, which he not only plays Rec but Club soccer also. Javier’s goal is to get his Black Belt…and to make the Olympic Soccer Team.

Javier gets his nickname “Hollywood” because of his dramatic flare. You can guarantee that every story Javier tells will be entertaining. And his 3 favorite things in the whole, wide world: His Playstation 3, parents, and sister.

So move over Christiano Ronaldo because Javier is going to take the spot of Best Soccer Player in the World. Just wait and see.

The Real Definition of Awesome is Albert

Albert 2

If you Google the definition for “Awesome” you get this: extremely impressive or daunting; inspiring great admiration, apprehension, or fear. At American MMA (AMMA), when we think of defining the same word we think of Albert “The Flying Squirrel” Leavitt! Here’s why…

Albert joined our fitness program back in 2013 upon its launch with his wife, Kim. His kiddos were already in the MMA program. Albert began doing the Fighter Fitness Kickboxing classes and Strength & Conditioning. He was addicted from the start. His goal: to lose weight and get healthier. He was well on his way.

After about 6 months, Albert set his sights on some big challenges. First was the Paleo Challenge. This challenge was 30 days eliminating grains, dairy, and refined sugar. The first panic came when he had to slowly begin to wean off his Diet Coke. You’re thinking no big deal. But did you know that Albert used to consume a 12-pack of Diet Coke in the day and atleast 2 liters at night? Now that’s quite an addiction. But if you want to know, YES, he did wean off. 100%. He’s now made water a habit (and an occasional Sweet Tea).

Albert 5

Next, Albert became an avid “mud runner” with other members of the AMMA crew. Rugged Maniac, Tough Mudder…no challenge was too big for this guy. Maybe it’s the fact that he loves to run…or just because he’s awesome, but Albert is now always up for a good race. And if you ask him, Albert will tell you that his classes at AMMA make the runs seem easy.

Albert 3

Ok…so he’s pretty cool. But he really turned into a rockstar when he took on his biggest test, The 6-Week Challenge. When I decided that I wanted to unleash my high-intensity training program geared to burn the maximum amount of calories possible in 60 minutes, I had a few brave souls that joined in on the fun. Albert was one of them.

And so it began. Along the way I had to fix his squat (quite a few times). He HATES sit ups. He was my first pull up champ. He sweats (a lot). And whines (only here and there)…but one thing is for sure…HE ALWAYS SMILES, no matter how hard the workout. It doesn’t matter if his legs have given out or if I’ve asked him to do 5 minutes of burpees, he is smiling. And that makes any instructor want to come back and teach again. He may not realize it, but that smile has helped several people finish their workout. It is simply contagious!

Over 2 years of later, and approximately 208+ eFIT WOD classes, Albert is one awesome dude! He is in great shape. He looks great. But get this: He’s been able to stop his injections for Arthritis, which he had previously had every 8 weeks prior to joining the eFIT program. WOW! Albert is quite an example to those watching (both young and old). He was named “The Flying Squirrel” because of the intense air he gets while doing burpees, one of his favorite exercises.

When he’s not with his AMMA family, he’s with his actual family, his wife and two daughters. Family time, camping and fishing making the top of Albert’s favorites list.

Albert 1

When asked what his favorite thing about classes was he responded by saying,

“The group I workout with, challenge of the WODs, and the trainer.”

Albert 4

When you ask his two girls why they think their dad is awesome, here’s what they had to say:

“My dad is so patient with me when I am doing math. And math is hard. Besides that, he’s just AWESOME.” ~Kristina

“When I get in trouble, my dad ALWAYS helps me get out of it. And that’s why he’s AWESOME.” ~MacKenzie

You will see Albert “The Flying Squirrel” Leavitt working out on the WOD floor most every night. And when you do, he will be looking AWESOME, as usual!

MMA Spotlight: Meet Jamie

American MMA | Pinellas Park

Meet Jamie. 3rd grader by day, Ninja by night.

By day, Jamie is a normal 8-year old at Rawlings Elementary School in Pinellas Park. She lives with her parents, Cassie and Craig, as well as her two older sisters, Summer and Breeze. Let’s not forget her favorite family members…her dogs…Maxi (Black Lab) and Meeco (Rottweiler). Did you know she’s a math whiz? Her teacher would tell you she’s the best one in her class. Just an average, pizza-loving 3rd grader…smiling the day away and eating as much ice cream as possible.

However, every day after school Jamie comes to American MMA (AMMA), where she can unleash her inner Ninja. She originally joined AMMA because she thought it would be fun, but soon realized that she was AWESOME! Her favorite thing about MMA training is having Mr. Bybee as her teacher, but she also loves learning new combinations (punches and kicks like her favorite superhero, BatGirl). However, her real goal is to be a Black Belt so her very favorite thing is BEST TESTING!

You will see Jamie preparing for testing coming up in May. She will be moving out of the beginners program and into Intermediate, testing for her green belt.

PS: If Jamie could change the world, she would make cars look much cooler.

Fitness Kickboxing is Calling YOUR Name!

Fitness Kickboxing | Pinellas MMA

Did you know there are more than 6 million people, and counting, participating in fitness kickboxing in the United States? WOW! The question is, are you one of them?

If you are, then you know the major benefits fitness kickboxing brings. Here’s one: it allows you to kick and punch things for 60 minutes–talk about releasing pent up aggression. Good bye, stress!

But there are a wealth of other reasons why fitness kickboxing may just be the workout for you. Here’s just a few:

1. You crush calories. Running burns about 100 calories a mile. Weight lifting burns about 180 calories per hour. But fitness kickboxing is unique in that it burns a base of about 500 calories, with the ability for YOU to boost your burn, adding anywhere from 200 to 300 additional calories based on the amount of effort you put in. Calorie burn still depends on your sex, age, and body composition, but rest assured, you are annihilating calories in kickboxing class .

2. It’s a total body CARDIO blast. Cardio is essential to weight loss. And actually, most forms of effective cardio people dread (i.e. running). On top of getting in cardio, you also need to develop your lean muscle mass through strength training. Well, fitness kickboxing allows for 100% cardio WITH strength training. Every class you are getting full cardio, while working the upper and lower body. Let’s not forget the abs. They are getting toned, as well.

3. It is FUN. Your instructor is there to motivate you. You can literally feed off their energy. Your fitness kickboxing class buddies become like family. You look forward to coming. And, on top of that, every class is different. You can actually tell a colleague at work, “I love working out.” Imagine that!

Those three reasons are just the beginning. Getting yourself scheduled to begin fitness kickboxing will be the next step. And if you’re really wanting results, pairing your fitness kickboxing with high-intensity circuit training…now that is a major calorie burn and a total-body change.