Arts and Culture

How to get my job: Mixed Martial Arts Instructor

Bashing someone's face in, locking their arms down, kicking them in the stomach -- it's all in a day's work for a mixed martial artist. Of course, every fighter has to have a teacher to learn technique from, which is where Billy Hendricks, a former MMA fighter, comes in. As an instructor at Starz Training Center, Hendricks has helped people learn everything from self-defense to conditioning. It's not just about competition and being a bad-ass though; like all martial arts, MMA has roots in conditioning your body and your brain. If you've got the balls to give it a shot yourself, you can even take a free introductory class. It's a fascinating profession to be sure, which is why we wanted to talk to Hendricks this week.

Westword: Tell us a little about your history as a martial arts instructor. Billy Hendricks: I began training in martial arts at the age of 12. As a kid I always enjoyed watching action and martial arts movies. Seeing martial artists like Jean-Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal, Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris performing their various martial arts skills is what inspired me to learn martial arts in general. My first martial arts school I enrolled in was Kung Fu. I trained for over two years learning many different techniques.

One day I went to my local video store and picked up a copy of UFC 4. Watching fighters like Royce Gracie defeating much larger opponents with technique and leverage is what got me hooked into MMA. After that I trained in many different martial arts schools, learning Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, Sambo, Shootfighting, Wrestling, Boxing, and Kickboxing. I have been training and competing in MMA ever since I was 14 years old. I have also traveled around the world to Japan and have cornered and trained fighters that have fought in many big events, such as the UFC, Pancrase and the Pride Fighting Championships.

WW: Why did you decide to start working as an instructor, and when did you know it was what you wanted to do? BH: Ever since I got involved in martial arts, I have had a passion to teach and have my own school someday. I always thought it would be a very interesting job to do, and so after competing and training for many years, I was presented the opportunity by my father, who is a manager and world fighting promoter. I have been teaching for many years, I enjoy showing people the experience I have, seeing my students grow with the skills I have taught them and watching as they change over the years with confidence, discipline, respect and being an all-around different person.

WW: How would you recommend someone get started in your field? BH: Well, it takes many years of hard work and dedication to become a martial arts instructor. Learning how to work with people is the biggest step, because it's not just showing your students martial arts techniques, it's about having good people skills, helping your students develop and meet their goals and making sure your students are happy with what you are giving them. As an instructor, you should always appear confident in your skills, and most importantly yourself. It's not easy becoming a martial arts instructor, especially an MMA instructor. Like all jobs, it's something you have to enjoy doing, and being in good physical condition is very important as well. If you enjoy teaching, working with people, being physically active, and you have the years of experience in martial arts in general, then I would highly recommend a teaching job.

WW: Can you describe an average day? BH: An average day would be me getting up in the morning, doing my daily exercises to stay in shape, which also helps me prepare for the classes I teach. It always pays off to be in good physical condition when teaching martial arts, especially MMA classes. Of course, answering/making phone calls, sending emails, promoting the school and teaching the classes are integral as well.

WW: What's the best part about your job? BH: Well, there are many things I like about my job, but one of them would have to be meeting new and different people from all walks of life. Everyone is different, no one is the same, they all have different reasons for joining our school, and that's one of the many things that I find so interesting about teaching martial arts. Another reason is that you are a part of something, like a big family. Everyone knows who you are, and they have respect for you. Watching your students grow and fulfill their goals is a very exciting experience to be apart of.

WW: What's the worst part? BH: The worst part of my job is when the classes are over. I enjoy working with my students, getting to know them, and just having a fun time teaching.

WW: How about the biggest misconception? BH: I would say the biggest misconception when teaching martial arts, especially mixed martial arts, is always having to convince people that what we are teaching them is for everyone, and it's not some tough guy thing. For a long time, the average person has had the belief that MMA is for fighters only, but MMA is another form of martial arts, and it can be used for self-defense purposes, physical conditioning, building self-confidence and for recreation. MMA has grown over the years; people are starting to understand it more, but it's still evolving, and it's always very important to advertise your school in the right way, so that people don't get the wrong impression thinking that it's a place to get beat up.

WW: Anything you're particularly proud or embarrassed of? BH: I'm proud to be a martial arts instructor, it's a very interesting job, meeting new people all the time, traveling around the world, and teaching is what I enjoy doing, it's my passion.