Brazilian Jiu Jitsu develops my mind and body says 16-year-old Grappling Juggernaut Parker Graham

Parker Graham

Recently returned from a triumphant tour of New York which saw him win two Gold Medals KnuckleUp Brazilian Jiu Jitsu standout Parker Graham recently shared with me what attracts him to the Arte Suave.

What I love about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is that it develops your mind as well as your body. It is the only sport that truly conforms to the practitioner’s strengths and weaknesses. There is no specific body type that you have to have in order to be successful. What allows you to succeed is hard work, determination, and the will to train whenever possible without excuses.

Although just sixteen, Parker has already competed in over 600 matches.

Competing is important because it allows you to test yourself and your technique. It exposes your mistakes and lets you see your hard work payoff. Competing is the most important thing in my life. There is nothing better than waking up the day of a competition knowing I get to reap the rewards of all of my hard work, sweat, and hours in the gym.

Parker’s instructor the great Master Ricardo Murgel has been training his young American protégé for over eight years.

Parker started training with me when he was just a little shy of eight years old.  I can tell you this, in 58 years of being involved in martial arts, I have never seen greater commitment than the commitment Parker and his family have to Jiu Jitsu.  The whole family is involved; his sister, his father, his mother, himself. Over last 8 years I’ve seen him grow from a young kid to a young man and develop some really amazing skills in Jiu Jitsu and have at a young age an already amazing career.   

 He has one of the most impressive competitive records for someone of his age that I know of any where in the world.  He already has over 600 matches.  That’s an unbelievable number for any level.  I don’t know many Black belts that have that many matches.  His titles speak for themselves.  He’s won the NAGA many times both in the Gi and No Gi divisions and he usually wins by submission.

Parker will be traveling with Master Murgel to Brazil to train and compete.  He is the first of the Master’s students from KnuckleUp to be afforded this high honor. If you would like to help support his international training, visit his Gofundme campaign.



Parker Stretch Graphic

Parker Graham at Podium

PArker and Master Murgel


Posted in Atlanta BJJ

Maryia Arlova Wins Big Again at the IKF World Classic.

The new Champion

KnuckeUp’s own Kickboxing sensation, the lovely and deadly, Maryia Arlova took home another title this weekend.  Maryia won the IKF Super Lightweight Amateur Title when she defeated Angelica Aizpurua in a dominant decision win in Orlando Florida.

Maryia’s trainer at KnuckleUp, Coach Ryan Raleigh, said that this was her best performance yet.

“ It was a complete domination,” he said of his star student’s victorious effort “ but Maryia was also very technical in the fight. “

The new Champion said she was excited to bring home another belt to Atlanta and her home gym of KnuckleUp Fitness.

“It was an exciting and successful weekend. It’s an honor to receive a title and a belt from such a respected and widely recognized organization as IKF. Thank you for all the support I received from my family, friends and the KnuckeUp team!”

Never one to rest on her laurels, Maryia will be back in the ring next weekend, August 8th, at the NFC 76.




Posted in Knuckleup Fitness News

Support the Skip Wells Benefit Ride hosted by the Wingmen MC Cherokee County

Marine Lance Corporal Skip Wells

This Saturday, August 1st 2015, KnuckleUp will be supporting our troops by participating in the Skip Wells Benefit Ride. Marine Lance Corporal Skip Wells was one of the Marines killed in the July 16th shooting in Chattanooga and the ride is being hosted by the Wingmen MC of Cherokee County to help his family and create a scholarship fund in his name. So if you want to have great time while supporting the brave men and women who protect us all,  then join the rest of the riders from our gym  as we take part in this great event.  We’ll all meet  at our Sandy Springs location at 8:30 AM on Saturday morning (5956 Roswell Road Sandy Springs Georgia 30328). We’ll leave at 9:00 sharp and ride together to the rallying point at Sprayberry High School in Marietta. The ride itself will leave from Marietta at 11:00 AM and travel a 100-mile route up I-75 to Thunder Creek Harley Davidson in Chattanooga Tennessee. There is a $20.00 per rider suggested donation and KnuckleUp will match the donations from our group.  For more details about the ride watch this video.

Skip Wells Corrected Number




Posted in Knuckleup Fitness News

The First Time I met Isaac Valle Flagg I Was Carrying Him On My Back Up A Giant Hill In The Desert.

Motorcylce Hill
A good fighter and friend of mine named Isaac Vallie Flagg just signed a multifight deal with the World Series of Fighting.  The first time I met him I was carrying him on my back up a giant hill in the New Mexico Desert.  At the time I was a journalist covering MMA and I wanted to learn what the sport was about from the inside.  As this piece which first appeared in Fight! magazine reveals, I did just that. Although, not by the easiest route.


“You must make friends with suffering!” Greg Jackson shouts to a group of about 15 professional fighters and one aging, but aspiring, participatory journalist as we all struggle up a diabolically steep and absurdly huge sand dune on the outskirts of Albuquerque, NM.

I’d arrived the day before for a two-week crash course at Jackson’s famed MMA camp. The trip caps a six week course begun in Atlanta in preparation for my first professional MMA fight. When I got there, Jackson told me about the brutal conditioning to come and why he was throwing me in the deep water right off the bat.

“I want you to get to that terrible place in your mind,” he said, (referring to the dark mental space familiar to all fighters and athletes who train endurance events) “ and get used to being there, because that’s where you’re going to live for the next two weeks.”

On only my second day at the gym, Greg had “ambushed” his team by springing on everyone that we were running the dunes that day. The object is to run up the huge sandy hills five times, then for the final time, you put another fighter on your back and carry him up. Before we begin, Greg had cautioned that we’d all be struggling to walk up it by the second time up. Then he added ominously that we’d “end up crawling, scratching, getting up any way you can. That’s the point. Having the will to make it through. ” The fighters who had been at the dunes before nod in grim agreement. “Only two rules– stay positive and keep moving forward,” says Greg as he trots up to his Zen-like perch atop the hill.

Read more ›

Posted in Uncategorized

What are the Filipino Martial Arts? – by Chris Caban

Kali Escrima 1

The history of the fighting arts of the Philippines is a long and contentious one.  Before the coming of the Spanish very little written records were kept.  This has been a thorn in the side of modern historians and martial artists alike.  What we do know is that the pre Spanish Filipinos were a tribal bunch with many varied languages and regional customs.  Some lived in the mountainous, pine covered, highlands while others lived in mangroves or on boats altogether.  There has been records kept by Chinese traders and also travelers from the Indonesia and Malaysia, but they spoke more of trade and not structured fighting systems.  So I will give you a quick breakdown of the Filipino Martial Arts (FMA for short) as it was taught to me in 1998, with some updates I have found in my own research.

What’s in a name?

The FMA can be broken down into 3 major groups: Arnis, Escrima, and Kali.  These names reflect the systems of Stick and Knife fighting, there are several empty hand arts in the FMA world, but we will not explore them at this point.


As was taught to me is a Spanish word for a ‘Harness’ or gauntlet.  Supposedly the Spanish saw the indigenous people training with sticks while wearing these leather gloves and dubbed their activity “Arnis.”  The systems that use the term Arnis are usually based in the Luzon area or the Northern Philippines.


This is a direct translation from Spanish, meaning to Fence, or fencing with a blunt object, like a stick.  The history I was taught said that the locals in the Visayan or Central Philippines were taught to sword fight by the Friars and Spanish Governors to defend the Spanish outposts from raiding Muslim Moros.  Styles and systems bearing the name Escrima are usually from the Visayan or Central Philippines.

Kali or Kalis:

This name is a point of argument from many in the Martial Arts world, it is not really documented as to where it originated.  Some claim it is the mother art of Arnis and Escrima, but that cannot be verified.  The systems named Kali are usually associated with Blade fighting and claim a Moro heritage from the southern islands of the Philippines near Mindinao.

So that may not be totally correct historically, but is was how I was taught by my primary instructor.  What I have seen from my 17 years in FMA is a lot of over lapping techniques that all seem to be based on using a stick and foot work in fencing like fashion.  There are many other techniques to be observed and some systems look nothing like others from the same region. The main point of connection is the use of weapons for personal defense.

Training in the FMA, why would I?

FMA has a wealth of training ranges.  Differing from say Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, FMA uses an extreme long range, long, middle, close, and even extreme close range fighting.  Kali groups like the Atlanta Kali Group also integrate grappling into the curriculum.  With self defense in mind, we teach our students to use not only common weapons like sticks, knives, knees, and elbows but also bandanas, rope, forearms and shoulders.  Within the training session a student will explore training with weapons and empty hands.  We also focus on Boxing and Muay Thai as primary supplements to our curriculum.  Knowing how to box is essential to modern self defense and we take Western Boxing to a whole new level with limb strikes, destructions and takedowns.  The training in FMA will also boost a student’s coordination to new levels.  All of our classes start with at least 10 minutes of footwork training. Then we practice with one or two sticks, weaving them in patterns that boost  the offense or defense of the student.  We also do a good bit of sparring.  Sparring helps the student learn to move and react to stressful situations without freezing up or just running away.  Kali is a great confidence booster and can help even skilled martial artist build new skill sets and strategies.

Our classes are taught at the Sandy Springs Location Thursday from 7:30 p.m and Sunday from 11:00 a.m.


Posted in Knuckleup Fitness News

Member Profile- Maryia Arlova

MaryiaArlova: Photot Credit Melanie Klaer

When Maryia Arlova came to KnuckleUp three years ago it was because she knew that KnuckleUp is the leader in Kickboxing training in Atlanta.

Before coming to KnuckleUp I was curious about fighting, but it was just an abstract idea. I didn’t know what specific steps to take or who to talk to about the best way to approach it. When I joined the KnuckleUp team I found people who were knowledgeable and genuinely interested in the sport. I crossed from “maybe giving it a try” to an IKF Lightweight Champion title and #1 pound-for-pound female Muay Thai fighter in GA in under 2 years after coming to the gym.

Maryia credits her success to the emotional support of her husband and the skillful coaching of KnuckleUp kickboxing instructor Ryan Raleigh.  Together Ryan and Maryia have developed a hyper aggressive fighting style that sets a fast pace her opponents can’t keep up with.

My fighting style is to charge forward and not let my opponent come back and keep them on the defensive, at a loss for what to do next.   

She is as dedicated about her training, as she is aggressive in the ring but Maryia says she still has some nerves before a fight.

It’s a mixed feeling of excitement and unease. To me it compares to getting ready for a test in my school days. I know I studied hard and feel well prepared. But there’s always that nagging voice in the back of your head “what if I am forgetting something”? “What if there will be a surprise question I did not think about”? I get anxious to see “the test” and to know what I am dealing with. That’s what time before the fight feels like to me.  

In addition to her successful career in the ring, Maryia believes that the benefits of training extend into her everyday life.

I think putting ourselves in uncomfortable situations from time to time helps us to grow and move forward. Whenever I run into a tough situation I can tell myself: “if you can step into a cage in front of hundreds of people than this should be a piece of cake” (“this”” is whatever the obstacle or task at hand I have to deal with). Training gives me a boost of confidence.

Also it is exciting! It’s an adrenaline rush, a roller coaster! The feeling of winning is definitely the best feeling ever. It’s work, work, work and then you feel like it has all paid off.  You hear the cheering of the crowd.  You get an adrenaline rush, its great.

Because she has to watch her diet closely to stay on weight Maryia has become something of an expert on healthy eating.

 Some fights I’ve had in the past required me to loose 15lb in 4-5 weeks. And I had to do it while maintaining strength and stamina. So, I can tell you a few things now about how to eat healthy.

Maryia works in the IT field as a Help Desk Manager in a finance company and she says her training re-energizes her after long day at work.

I’m on the phone all day answering questions and helping people. Sometimes you can get frustrated with things. So it’s good to have the release at the end of the day when you come and punch and kick this bag.

The gym is very honest and straightforward.  You put in work and you see results.   It’s like jumping out of a plane.  You feel “ Oh, I’m really scared, but then you actually do it and it this incredible rush.

Maryia will compete in Orlando, FL this upcoming weekend July 25th at the IKF World Championship. Her KnuckleUp family wishes her success.

MariyaRlova Training Montage credit M Klaer


Posted in Knuckleup Fitness News, Uncategorized

KnuckleUp Fitness Announces New Gym In Sandy Springs/Buckhead to Open Sept 1


KnuckleUp fitness, the premiere Atlanta martial arts and fitness training facility is pleased to announce the Grand Opening of a new flagship gym on Sept. 1st, 2015. This new 13,000 sq. ft. state-of-the-art facility will be located at

4540 Roswell Rd.
Sandy Springs, GA 30342

4540 Roswell

“We’re excited to be in this new location,” says CEO and owner CJ Wilson, “The new gym is inside the Perimeter, only half a mile from Chastain Park. It’s a prime location right in the middle of the action for one of the fastest growing areas in Atlanta. “ CJ also noted that the gym will be part of the new Sandy Springs Gateway Development project, which is designed to make the city more friendly for walkers and other health minded individuals. “It’s a natural fit since KnuclkleUp has been at the leading edge of health and fitness in the Atlanta  for over a decade.”

KnuckleUp Fitness, an institution in the Atlanta Fitness scene, will use the new facility to take their membership experience to new levels.

“With over 13,000 square feet of gym space we’ll have 50 heavy bags to accommodate the best kickboxing classes in the industry, 5,000 square feet of mats and 2,400 square feet of circuit training space.”

CJ  also says the new gym will feature  amenities and services never before offered at KnuckleUp such as CrossFit and others to be announced soon. “I’ve been with KnuckleUp for over a decade and all that time we’ve always defined excellence in Martial Arts and Fitness training in Atlanta. With this new facility we aim to raise the bar even higher,” he says.
KnuckleUp is the premiere martial arts and fitness training center in Atlanta. At KnuckleUp we use the power of world class martial arts instruction to make getting in shape exciting, fun, and effective. Find out how our classes can help you get in shape and stay motivated here.


Posted in Knuckleup Fitness News

Meeting Fedor Emelianenko in Moscow

Fedor and Priest

It was recently announced that Fedor Emelianenko, perhaps the greatest mixed martial artist in history, will be making a return to the sport of MMA after a brief retirement.  While it’s still not known which promotion Fedor will sign with or who his return match will be against, it’s certain that his comeback fight will be the biggest happening in the sport whenever it goes down.  Over his career Fedor has been infamously shy about the press and is the hardest interview to nail down in MMA. Once, a few years ago I got a chance speak with him and  the following is an article, which first appeared in Fight! magazine in 2011, describing what it was like to travel to Russia in search of the elusive fighting legend.


Lenin Luzhniki


A giant statue of Vladimir Lenin, the father of the Russ­ian Rev­o­lu­tion stands in the court­yard of the mas­sive Luzh­niki Sta­dium in Moscow. The statue gazes out across the black Moscova River and onto the city it names. The sta­dium, which was orig­i­nally dubbed the Cen­tral Lenin Sta­dium when it was built for the 1980 Moscow Olympics, is in the old Soviet tra­di­tion: util­i­tar­ian, colos­sal, unin­spired. The name was changed in the Nineties when the Com­mu­nists fell out of power after their 80 year choke hold on the nation and today the city is still in tran­si­tion between the chaotic ener­gies of the Russ­ian brand of “any­thing goes”capitalism and the bag­gage left to it from so many years strug­gling under the failed Com­mu­nist system.

On bill­boards all over the city, famil­iar west­ern brands stand out amidst the strange Cyril­lic writ­ing and ubiq­ui­tous Madi­son Avenue-inspired images of impos­si­bly rich and beau­ti­ful peo­ple liv­ing the good life. The bill­boards are every­where punc­tu­at­ing the oth­er­wise drab indus­trial build­ings that com­prise most of the city. Years ago, there might have been pro­pa­ganda posters espous­ing the dream of a worker’s par­adise, but today there are skate­board parks with posters tout­ing the lat­est NBA stars and Adi­das shoes.

Old Soviet era junkers pop­u­late the streets along­side expen­sive sports cars and the chauf­feured sedans of the country’s new elite. Oli­garchs and made rich by gov­ern­ment con­nec­tions and the country’s min­eral wealth, have made Moscow, a city where the aver­age per­son makes about $8,000 dol­lars a year, more expen­sive than New York, Lon­don or Paris to live in. As a cau­tious ges­ture of healthy respect to the pow­er­ful Russ­ian Mafia in the city, the real big­wigs cruise around in armored Mer­cedes flanked by SUVs filled with secu­rity teams of heav­ily armed men.

One of the few instances of archi­tec­tural beauty in the city is the old Red Square in the city’s cen­ter where for­eign tourists and the young peo­ple of the new Rus­sia, many of whom were born after the fall of the Soviet Union, enjoy one of Moscow’s few enjoy­able pub­lic places. Beau­ti­ful Russ­ian girls in biki­nis roller skate past grim-faced cit­i­zens from the ear­lier generation—who seem a bit puz­zled by it all—and cou­ples lazily while away the time strolling between foun­tains, park benches and hot dog stands as the stoic sol­diers with their wide-brimmed caps and assault rifles guard the gov­ern­ment build­ings in the square. One of the attrac­tions in Red Square is the mau­soleum con­tain­ing the body of Lenin, who died in 1924. Atten­dance is down since it is no longer an offi­cial state pol­icy to revere the man, but the crowds are still healthy. Four days a week from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., curi­ous spec­ta­tors somberly file past the body. Respect for the dead man is still insisted on. Pho­tog­ra­phy is pro­hib­ited, as is talk­ing, smok­ing, keep­ing one’s hands in pock­ets, the wear­ing of hats or any other dis­play deemed insub­or­di­nate in the pres­ence of the body of the man who pre­dicted the end of the cap­i­tal­ist sys­tem. Lenin’s body appears today exactly as it did on the day of his death 86 years ago and has been per­fectly pre­served by secret embalm­ing tech­niques and has already sur­vived the Com­mu­nist Rev­o­lu­tion by a generation. Read more ›

Posted in Uncategorized

KnuckleUp Fitness Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Promotion Ceremony July 2015

Master Ricardo Murgel awards his star student Quentin Rosenzweig a coveted Black Belt.

Master Ricardo Murgel, CJ Wilson and Kyle Propes recently presided over a promotion  ceremony for the KnuckleUp Fitness Brazilian Jiu Jitsu program in Alpharetta.



Posted in Atlanta BJJ, Knuckleup Fitness News

UFC 189 McGregor vs Mendes Staff Picks

UFC 189

 Tomorrow night at UFC 189 Connor McGregor takes on Chad Mendes for the UFC Interim Featherweight World Title. The match will face one of the most unique and gifted strikers in the game against one of the most balanced fighters in the division. Mendes is filling in for World Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo who was injured in sparring. But despite the short notice many people that know the fight game think he matches up better against McGregor than Aldo. I asked some of KnuckeUp’s top instructors who they thought would win the big fight.


Stephen Upchurch

“I’m a HUGE McGregor fan, less for his antics and more for his self-confidence and healthy respect for the psychological aspects of fighting. If I’m picking with my heart, McGregor all day. If I’m picking with my head, Mendes‘s wrestling neutralizes the striking and he takes the ‘W’.”


Jessica Duncan

McGregor! It will be interesting to see if McGregor can keep the fight standing so Mendes will not be able to implement his wrestling. Team Alpha Male produces well-rounded fighters, so if it does hit the ground I’m sure McGregor will have a game plan.”


Anna Cononge

“I think that although Mendes would be able to take him down, and maybe submit him, McGregor will win because he has a crazy style that has helped him in the past that will probably help him win this one.”


Peter Alexander

“It will probably be a harder fight for McGregor than Aldo. McGregor’s ground game may not be good enough so Mendes would most likely come on top. Mendes will be able to take him down.”


Anthony Cooper

“This will be a good fight. I pick McGregor. I know he’s a type of fighter you’re either going to love or hate but you cannot deny the fact that he’s plowed through his competition so far. I know he hasn’t fought many top-10 fighters but I believe he has the ability to. Mendes will be his toughest challenge yet, especially with Mendes’s ground game. I do believe Connor is not all hype and with a win against Mendes will prove he can hang with the best. If he stays on his feet and uses his unorthodox style of stand up, I think he can upset Mendes.”


Dave Vitkay

“I want Mendes to win…to shut Connor’s mouth…. but Connor has been on such a tear lately…. it’s a tough one to call…. Gonna say Mendes wins via decision.”


Gui Cury

“Yes! If I was to bet money it would be on Mendes, simply because I feel like he has more tools/ways to win the fight. That being said we all know how big Connor is and how heavy he hits. So I wouldn’t be shocked if he pulled off a TKO or something. But in my mind the odds are in Chad’s favor.”


Chazz Walton

“I honestly believe that Chad Mendes will be giving McGregor a run for his money. Reason being is because although McGregor has a winning record, he has never actually gone against a great wrestler as Chad Mendes. If Mendes manages to take McGregor to the ground repeatedly then Chad will win no doubt. The only possible way McGregor could win is if he manages to defend all takedowns and out-boxes Mendes.”


Quentin Rosenzweig

“My heart says McGregor, my brain says Mendes.”


Marc Davis

“Yikes! Tough one. I will go with McGregor by KO.”


Donovan Craig

“In MMA the more balanced fighter usually wins. In this case the more balanced fighter is definitely Chad Mendes. McGregor has one way to win the fight (with unorthodox striking from the standing position) and Mendes has several. I predict that Mendes will be able to eventually get the fight on the ground where he wants it and then grind out a decision win.”


So at Knuckle-Up it looks like the call is: Mendes 6, McGregor 4, with 1 no decisions.




 To find out about how KnuckleUp uses the power of world  class martial arts instruction to make our fitness classes fun, exciting, and effective contact us here.

Posted in Knuckleup Fitness News