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MMA: Battleground Combat Club at Gerdon Youth Center

MMA: Battleground Combat Club at Gerdon Youth Center
MMA: Battleground Combat Club at Gerdon Youth Center
In the center circle, trainer Matt Kitterman, left, grapples with Jody Gilbert during Sunday afternoonÂ’s mixed martial arts training session. In the background, Tanner Hollen and Patti Motsinger work on technique. Photos by Brian Smith (click for larger version)

Nestled in the back corner basement of the Gerdon Youth Center is a training place for one of the fastest growing sports in the country: mixed martial arts.
MMA fighting has been the rising sport in the 2000s, from pay-per-view events to reality shows, drawing in many fans.
Matt Kitterman, 40, opens the floor to all comers at the Gerdon Youth Center in Corydon on Tuesday and Thursday nights and caps the weekend with a Sunday afternoon session. With a background in kickboxing, boxing, judo, jui-jitsu and tae kwon do, Kitterman is passing along his knowledge to those who are interested. And for tall and physically strong Kitterman, it also comes with a grueling and demanding workout.
‘It offers a great physical discipline,’ Kitterman said. ‘It is a matter of pushing yourself to get the most out of it. When it’s the middle of the 10th round and your back is against the ropes, there aren’t many sports where there are no subs. There isn’t a bench. To finish depends on your heart and physical self.’
At Sunday’s open-training session, Kitterman and others went through a series of warm-ups: sit ups, punching bags, kicks, weights and stretches. Once loose, Kitterman stood in the squared off padded floor and walls to spar with others.
Tanner Hollen, a 17-year-old from Salem, makes the trek to Corydon regularly to train in kick-boxing. Training in Salem only took Hollen so far in the sport, until he found Kitterman, who elevated his talent level. Outside of his training with Kitterman, a club in Floyds Knobs offers additional instruction.
Once Kitterman finished sparring a few rounds with Hollen, there was a brief break before Patti Motsinger of Corydon steped in. After her two rounds, another trainee, Jody Gilbert, entered to trade blocks, jabs and punches with Kitterman.
It’s a cycle that doesn’t slow down.
‘The Gerdon Youth Center has been great for the last 12 to 13 years,’ Kitterman said. ‘They don’t ask for much from us. They produce the equipment for us to use. The place is good for the kids and the community.’
Known as Battleground Combat Club, Kitterman uses his vast background in various disciplines of combat to teach and train others.
He began as a teenager with martial arts, learning at Terry Middleton’s karate school in New Albany. It turned into learning kickboxing, judo and jui-jitsu. After competing in kickboxing for three years, Kitterman, who is a marshal with the Corydon Police Department, turned to boxing. Posters on the walls of the Gerdon Youth Center tout his undefeated record heading into regional fights. He boxed as an amateur for six years before a run of eight years as a professional.
‘I’ve been doing it for 26 years all together,’ Kitterman said. ‘I quit competitively boxing in 2007. Now, I do a few judo and jui-jitsu tournaments here and there, but I enjoy teaching.’
Battleground Combat Club has 20 to 25 members and has come together throughout the years. The explosion of the MMA scene helped the cause.
‘I’ve been here since Gerdon’s first opened, around 1997,’ Kitterman said. ‘I had talked about teaching a kick-boxing class, then some were interested in judo, jui-jitsu and other things. So, it really evolved from there. It started with just a few kids and some friends of mine, to where now we have children, adults and women.’
Also involved outside the Club, Kitterman leads training with police officers and self-defense classes at the YMCA, sororities from Indiana University Southeast, the elderly and churches.
‘I started with a self-defense class that Matt had, and I’ve been here ever since,’ Motsinger said. ‘I liked how the self-defense class went, and then I started coming to take MMA and boxing. I now know some judo. It’s a very good workout.’
Motsinger has been a fixture at Gerdon Youth Center, having volunteered in the past with several after-school programs.
‘This is definitely a diamond in the rough,’ said Motsinger, who also keeps the training room clean. ‘Some don’t know the facility is here. We have a lot of little boys who get into it. It’s good for older kids who do not have a sport they play at school, like football or basketball. MMA has become pretty popular, so this gives kids another option.’
Dan Christison, a MMA fighter who has appeared in the Ultimate Fighting Championship and was a cast member of ‘The Ultimate Fighter Season 2,’ trained at Battleground Combat Club.
‘He moved to Dale and was looking for places to train,’ Kitterman said. ‘I cornered for him at the Canadian Fighting Championships. He comes in here to train when he can, especially when competing regularly. He has a young child, so he isn’t competing at the moment.’
While Christison may be the big name that has passed through, boys as young as 4 also train. Police officers also get use out of the club, including Josh Orme, Steve Coleman and Todd Stinson, along with officers from Floyd County.
‘It is a way to give back,’ Kitterman said. ‘I come down here and open the doors. No one pays; it is all on a volunteer basis. I get as much out of doing this as anyone else. I come here and enjoy it.’
Traveling to competitions has become regular for some club members. The Gerdon Youth Center hosted its first event this year, a four-match card against a club from Brandenburg. Craig Pumphrey, a police officer in New Albany, presents the television show ‘Human Wrecking Balls’ on G4. He also runs several fights in the area where Battleground athletes can compete.
Other locations for competitions from grappling, MMA, karate, boxing to kickboxing, include Louisville, Indianapolis and Nashville, Tenn.
‘You get in what you want,’ Kitterman said. ‘Basically, if you want to compete in tournaments, we’ll find it for you.’
The glaring positive with Battleground Combat Club is the sportsmanship.
‘Within Battleground Combat Club, trash talk is not allowed,’ Kitterman said. ‘We don’t allow any garbage. They know to obey the rules from the onset. The physical things they learn is to be only used in the gym. If a student is caught doing that outside of here, they aren’t welcomed back. It’s a physical and mental discipline we are learning, not something to take to the streets.’
Touching gloves, handshakes and hugs after sparring rounds is part of the sport.
If anyone wants to try their hand at MMA training, boxing or kickboxing, the club meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays starting at 6:30 p.m. and Sundays at 4 p.m. Training typically last two to three hours. Kitterman is currently unable to attend the Tuesday sessions due to work.