After visiting Turlock’s Academy of Martial Arts, one thing is apparent — you don’t want to mess with Derrick Williams.
Head instructor of the academy and mixed martial arts expert, Derrick Williams, 34, has been practicing MMA for nearly 20 years. Currently he is preparing himself for an upcoming heavyweight title match in San Francisco on Saturday against Josue Lugo, competing in the Dragon House 18 Cage Fight Series.
When Williams isn’t fighting MMA for championship titles, he teaches American kenpo, judo, and mixed martial arts classes to both kids and adults. He’s also focused on other various fighting forms such as boxing, kickboxing, and Muay Thai. He has lived and trained in Turlock since 1994.
Williams started his teaching career as an instructor for Sascha Williams Kenpo Karate in 2001, but went on a short hiatus when joining the Navy the next year.
“I got sent overseas to be stationed in Japan,” Williams said. “That’s where [my training] progressed from tournament-style sparring and fighting to full contact.”
For his heavyweight title match on Saturday, Williams has prepared by studying his opponent’s previous fights.
“I’ve watched his fights,” Williams mentioned. “He’s mostly a standup fighter, I’ve noticed he likes to clench a lot. I’m just going to go in there and fight my fight, that’s about all you can really do.”
When training, Williams tends to lean toward more “old-school” techniques.
“For a lot of my training I still do forms, I still do katas,” Williams said. “I still practice those a lot.” Williams also uses a basic jump rope to practice cardio.
“Like an old Japanese saying; all forms and katas must be done correctly, actual fighting is another matter. Practicing katas is how all your basics are formed.”
For people interested in learning MMA themselves, Williams stressed how important it is to find a good school.
“Find a school that takes its time,” Williams said. “One that doesn’t just throw you out there to the wolves. Guys come out and they get eager, they really want to fight. Many times skipping the work and the effort and going straight for the match. You can’t do that, you gotta do it right.”
Williams says MMA fighters train at least three to six months before going out and attempting their first contest.
“You’ve got to have patience and you’ve got to have a good school.”
Williams opened up the Turlock Academy of Martial Arts, located in downtown Turlock at 334 N. Center St., at the beginning of the year. He teaches kids’ classes ages 6-12 from 5-6 p.m., adult classes 13 years old and up from 6-7 p.m., and MMA classes from 7-9 p.m. Williams also teaches a 4-5 year olds class at 4:15 p.m. Classes run Monday through Thursday.
After the New Year, Williams plans on starting up a martial arts boot camp. “Those looking to get in shape, we’ll have six to eight week programs of two to three days a week,” Williams said. “It’ll be a good workout where you’ll learn different martial arts techniques from different styles of fighting.”
Williams’s heavyweight title match against Lugo will be held Saturday at the Keazar Pavilion in San Francisco, with fights beginning at 4 p.m.