View Full Version : The American Shootfighting Academy in Springfield

4/10/2005 12:37am,
The art of fighting

Academy teaches a variety of styles but only to those with real desire.

By Michael A. Brothers
News-Leader staff

April 10, 2005

Jiujitsu instructor Glenn Cozzens shows a movement to Eric Druba and Brad Mahan (right) at the American Shootfighting Academy gym.

Brad Mahan and his cousin Eric Druba are dressed in T-shirts, shorts and socks. They stand quietly surveying the scene before them, waiting to join the action but looking nervous with arms crossed and feet fidgeting. About a dozen men are scattered around the American Shootfighting Academy gym in Springfield. Blue mats cover the floors between the brick walls. Several punching bags hang in one corner, and a large set of free weights rests in another.

Hard rock blasts from a boom box. In the back, a handful of guys are watching a video of one of their own competing in a recent kickboxing match in Ohio. Druba, 21, has never fought like this before. "I played golf in high school," he says. Mann tries to pump himself up by explaining why they have come: "It's the challenge of doing something you haven't done before."

The two are about to become the newest students at ASA, a mixed martial arts training facility that teaches a variety of fighting styles including jiujitsu, boxing, kickboxing, submission wrestling and muay Thai. The facility is one of the few in Springfield to teach this variety of fighting styles, says principal owner and teacher Glenn Cozzens. Besides this cross-section of training, it's the fighting that separates this group from similar dojos or martial arts schools, he says. "We really fight," says Cozzens, who has several years' experience in sanctioned fights and has faced famed opponents like Royce Gracie.

Glenn Cozzens demonstrates a punch to students Brad Mahan (left) and Eric Druba, Mahan's cousin. The two have learned the basics so far.

In the world of mixed martial arts fighting, rules and techniques from multiple fighting styles are combined during full-contact, no-pads contests in the ring. It used to be called "no holds barred" or sometimes "limited rules" fighting, Cozzens says. For many people, the term "no holds barred" conjures images of the movie "Fight Club" guys slugging away at each other in back alleys until they're black and bloody.

This isn't street fighting.

Although body pads aren't used during actual fights, they are used during sparring bouts in the gym. But there is an element of danger, says instructor Brian Schuger, which is why mixed martial arts fighting often appeals to thrill-seekers. The training is structured. The fighters are dedicated, training several nights a week after their day jobs are through. The fights are organized and often sanctioned by official governing bodies.

In a word, it's serious.

Fighters square off one-on-one. They are light on their feet, and circle one another before landing quick, forceful blows to their opponents' bodies and heads. Fists, then feet, fly through the space between. "Good!" Cozzens yells. Several students watching voice their approval, too. The pair move closer to one another, one grabbing the other and pulling him tight into a hold. But it doesn't last. The short sparring match ends when one man hooks his leg behind the other's knee, kicks outward with a grunt and drops his opponent to the mat.

"You have to be totally committed," says Daniel Tscherny, 25, a 6-foot-4 fighter who was recently named a national amateur heavyweight champion in san shou, a style combining punches, knees, kicks and throws. The training may be serious, but the ASA atmosphere is often informal. Before and after the training sessions, Cozzens blends in with the rest of the students. During, he walks around and gives pointers or addresses problems. Cozzens is a corrections officer with the Greene County Sheriff's Department by day, and he's also a singles minister at Bellview Baptist Church. This is a night job and though he is passionate about it, he doesn't think of it as such. He and the gym's other owners have yet to break even a year after opening the doors.

The ASA began as a group of about a dozen guys who gathered in Cozzens' basement to train together and learn mostly from Cozzens how to compete in mixed martial arts fighting events. They met through friends of friends, or by chance. Some were referred to Cozzens by other facilities that couldn't offer the training they sought. They came from a variety of backgrounds: Krispy Kreme manager, law enforcement officer, nightclub owner. Tscherny, an officer with the Springfield Police Department, was traveling to Kansas City once a month for training before he met Cozzens at a local martial arts demonstration.

"I've been training with him ever since," Tscherny says.

For two years, the group gathered several times a week in the 13-foot wide, 7-foot-tall basement room at Cozzens' house with one mat and a single punching bag. Eventually Cozzens recognized the cramped quarters were hindering the students' progress, so the idea of a gym was born. They pooled their money and found a suitable space to rent at National Avenue and Chestnut Expressway. Much of the equipment was received secondhand. They bought a large set of free weights from Ozark Fitness when its owner opened a new gym. They bought several punching bags from a Joplin gym that went under, and welded a frame to hang them from.

Now the original students are all part-owners of ASA, though Cozzens has a 50 percent stake.

ASA is insured and students' contracts include an injury waiver. No medical professional is on hand during sparring, but Cozzens and Tscherny are first-aid certified as law enforcement officers. Cozzens says the gym is not raking in students, nor does he want it to. He wants adult students who desire to train hard, possess at least some natural athletic ability and will fit into "the family atmosphere" the group has fostered there. Besides the original owners, there are only about 10 students and another 10 in a new class for kids, Cozzens says. A year after opening, the gym's only advertising has been word-of-mouth. Cozzens admits he's not a salesman, which is why he tries to gauge a potential student's desire.

"Either you want to do it or you don't," he says. "I'm not here to sell you a new car."

New students like Mahan and Druba don't have to wait long to experience what it feels like to get dropped to the mat. Cozzens and a few of the other experienced owners are their instructors for basics like foot position, holds, leg throws and break falls the art of falling the right way to minimize the impact of the body on the mat. Beginners usually start in the jiujitsu class. It takes three months to really assess someone's potential and six months of hard training to be good enough to spar with one of the other owner-instructors. While Cozzens, 36, has extensive experience in mixed martial arts fighting he's been in more than 50 sanctioned fights and was a three-time national amateur san shou champion in the late 1980s he says there's only so much he can demonstrate in each of the realms of fighting taught at ASA.

So he seeks out specialists to teach each fighting style, while keeping the overall focus on blending them under the umbrella of mixed martial arts. They include former Brazilian jiujitsu world champion Jorge Gurgel (who's based in Ohio), and boxing trainer Frank Flores of Ozark, who has 25 years' experience training professional boxers. "(Cozzens) wanted to improve their boxing skills to help them out in the overall perspective of the (fighting) game," Flores says. "... They're a pretty dedicated group of guys." When specialists can't come to Springfield, ASA goes to them. The group has taken several trips to Oklahoma to sharpen wrestling skills with Oklahoma University assistant wrestling coach Barry Weldon.

"My whole goal with the gym ... is to find some of the best people out there to teach us in each realm," Cozzens says. It's starting to pay off for some of the fighters like Tscherny Josiah Mann, who at 19 is the youngest of ASA's regular students. They were among those who traveled to Ohio last month to compete in the Arnold Classic (named for the bodybuilder turned California governor). That's where Tscherny earned his san shou amateur heavyweight champion title. Mann earned a national title in the super heavyweight class. They're nearing the same point Cozzens was at during the most active period of his fighting career 15 years ago.

"What's kind of cool is Josiah and Dan won that title, so that kind of brings it full circle," he says. As for Mahan and Druba, their apprehension has given way to confidence. The pair has only learned the basics so far but "they've showed us how it's going to play out later," Mahan says. He leaves the gym motivated for more. "I'm looking forward to progressing in it," he says.

Adds Druba: "The sky's the limit with it."


Want to go? American Shootfighting Academy in Springfield
Members of the will compete in the Charity Boxing V event at 7 p.m. April 16 at Willard High School, 205 Miller Road. Tickets are $5 and $20, and proceeds will benefit WHS Project Graduation and kidney transplant costs for senior Laura England. Call 742-3077.

For more details on ASA, call 880-3558.

2/25/2009 5:52pm,
This sounds like a really good place to go....I'm trying to decide between ASA and Springfield Fight Club

4/23/2009 11:32pm,
I've trained with Glenn and he's the real deal. Only one with a black belt in Springfield. I believe he's in Republic now and it'll be called Cozzens Ju-Jitsu.