By Howard Koplowitz
Mixed-martial artist and Ultimate Fighting Championship fighter Nick Pace instructed star-struck kids in grappling and kick-boxing techniques Sunday at the Tiger Schulmann’s Mixed Martial Arts studio in Ridgewood.
“First thing is, I want you guys to try hard. I want you guys to have some fun,” Pace told the children before the instruction began. “I want to see you sweating, I want to see you smiling.”
Pace, who recently made his UFC debut and won his match with what commentators dubbed the “Pace choke” because they have not seen the move before, also taught the kids to stay tough if they fall down.
“Instead of crying, I want you to take a second, breathe and act like a champ,” he said.
Pace taught the kids the art of pummeling — or getting their arms under their opponents while grappling to gain leverage before watching their technique and correcting their form.
He also instructed the kids on how to perform and defend the double-leg takedown.
“When someone’s trying to take you down by the wall, the wall is your friend,” Pace said as he instructed the kids on a move he called “the wall walk.”
Chris Iavarone, sensei of the Ridgewood Tiger Schulmann’s, said the $75 seminar with Pace, who like Iavarone started at Tiger Schulmann’s at 10 years old, quickly sold out and will help his students.
“This opportunity for the kids is so exciting, which inspires them to train hard,” Iavarone said. “This is not just another activity. These kids come here eight to 12 times a week.”
Pace also taught the children to keep their opponents on their toes by kicking their right leg three times and then switching to their left.
“You get the fake out,” he said. “Sneaky low kick. Have fun with it.”
After grappling, the group then learned kick-boxing techniques.
“When you kick box, you want to land more moves than you’re opponent … so you need to find ways to be sneaky,” Pace said.
The kids then competed against each other to see who could connect the most round kicks in five seconds.
“I want to see speed and I don’t want to see this — like Flipper,” Pace said as he kicked rapidly without putting his leg all the way back.
As the children sparred, one boy hurt his arm but Pace said he appreciated that the child did not complain.
“You know what that shows me? That he’s going to be a black belt. That he’s going to be a champion, if he wants to be,” the fighter said. “When I see somebody cry and get hurt and they don’t give up, I know that person’s going to be a winner. You can’t give up because stuff is hard.”
C.J. Taiano, a 10-year-old Howard Beach resident, said he enjoyed the two-hour session with Pace.
“I thought it was a fun experience because I never met anyone from UFC before,” C.J. said. “It was like training for the UFC.”
James Ricciardi, 9, of Glendale, said he enjoyed the grappling instruction.
“I really liked this and I never thought I would meet anyone so famous,” he said.
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4573.