News: What I've Learned: Sgt. Kyle Stewart
Story by Cpl. Charles Santamaria
TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - Stewart began his journey into the world of mixed martial arts with American Freestyle Karate at the age of four. He participated in point-fighting and continued with karate for 13 years before delving into boxing and kickboxing. Stewart has trained in several martial arts such as Muai Thai, Kenpo-based Karate, submission wrestling and jiu jitsu over the 19 years he has been training. He is currently a member of the Fight Club 29 MMA Team aboard the Combat Center.
Everything for me has been a gradual stepping stone; I didn’t jump straight into the cage and begin with mixed martial arts. If I did that I would have lost a lot, but it was easy for me to transition with all the grappling experience I began getting from tournaments and training.
I’m preferably a striker; I did karate as a kid for 13 years and then went into boxing and kickboxing from there, leading up to submission wrestling before I joined the Marine Corps.
I grew up training as a striker and I was good at it, so I thought I would do well in MMA but once I began grappling with other fighters and losing in the ground game, I told myself, ‘Wow, if I don’t learn to grapple, people are going to take me to the ground and choke me out.’
I joined the fight club on base back in 2010 and that’s where I began to improve and learn more about grappling, jiu jitsu and overall ground game. I started participating in grappling tournaments with Fight Club 29. From there, we did pankration tournaments which are amateur MMA with no strikes allowed to the head and I went on to win the 2012 All Armed Forces Pankration Championship at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.
I went into MMA with my first ‘Smoker’ which is an MMA fight that doesn’t count toward your record. I knocked the kid out with a leg strike to the head and that was the moment I realized I can do pretty good at this.
From That point I began [competing in] actual MMA fights and entered King of the Cage where I’m 7-1 and currently the amateur welter-weight champion.
Growing up, my karate instructor taught me a lot about hard work and competing through pushing me. It kind of planted that seed to keep training and become better at fighting.
Since joining Fight Club 29 in 2010, I have begun taking on more of a leadership role in the club. When I first went to the fight club, one of the first things I noticed were all the skilled and athletic fighters on the team. The Marine Corps has many athletes, on our team we had college or high school wrestlers, boxers, or Marines from the athletic Marine Corps-wide teams.
When we train we take things from each other and learn together by suggesting moves or techniques from all the fighting styles on the team. I took a little bit from all of them and now I can pass all that knowledge on.
I’m excited for the future; I also hope to make a trip to Thailand to train with kickboxers who have been doing it their whole lives.
Everyone wants to jump right into the cage and start fighting but that’s one of the worst things you can do.
For a Marine who wants to begin an MMA career as they transition out of the military I would say take it slow and don’t be in a rush to do your first fight. There are fighters out there who just eat, sleep and train, Marines don’t have that luxury. Learn each component and work up the ladder until you’re ready.