Joe Schilling – Kickboxer and MMA Fighter
What type of person becomes a fighter? With the intensity, pain and endurance required to fight, most of us couldn’t survive the training alone, much less a formal bout. What type of person becomes the best kickboxer in their weight class in the world? Joe Schilling does. He’s not in-your-face, like you might expect. If anything, other than his obvious fighter stature, Joe is down-to-earth, sociable and an overall calm dude. What’s even crazier is that you’ve likely never heard of him.
Kickboxing in the U.S. has taken a bit of a backseat to MMA, especially with the rise of the UFC over the past decade. The MMA world, however, has not forgotten this huge subsection of their own sport. For many of them, it’s their background. Though he has no qualms about taking on an MMA fight, Joe states very clearly, “kickboxing has always been my shit, my focus.” After committing 17 years of his life to the sport, he’s mastered more than just his time in the ring as a fighter—he’s honed his ability to train and coach others. Some of the biggest names in the sport call on him to coach and spar with them, specifically at high level MMA striker camps. “I’m kind of the biggest name in a sport that most people haven’t heard about,” Joe laughs.
Training superstars—and being one in his own right—didn’t come out of nowhere. He has trained in kickboxing since age 15, and by 18 was fighting Toughman Contests. A passion for the sport clearly hooked him early. At 20, he did what any headstrong and driven young fighter would: “I packed all my shit in the car, I had $400 in gas cards, and I moved to L.A.,” recalls Joe. “The main reason was, as far as I knew in magazines and whatever, the only place I knew about where [kickboxing] could be a real sport was in Los Angeles, and that’s where I went.” Settling in a new town at that age is tough for anyone, but Joe landed firmly on his feet by knocking other people off theirs.
Joe worked his way up the rungs as a fighter, but coaching became a regular side gig, as well as his little-discussed partnership in founding The Yard Muay Thai. “When we opened the gym, however many years ago, my coach, my [business] partner, Mark . . . he was always big on treating people right,” and so Joe and Mark created a different type of gym. “Not having enrollment fees, not having monthly memberships and giving people the right attention” separated them from the competition and helped build a community, Joe explains. Choosing to coach, though he may not have known it at the time, honed him into the animal he is today. Reflecting on his coaching tenure, Joe shares, “When you teach somebody the fundamentals, you’re repetitively looking at what mistakes they’re making, and that translates really well into yourself—making sure you do it correctly. When I’m sparring or when I’m fighting, I’m seeing the mistakes they’re making. I think training and coaching is a huge part of my success.”
Cannabis and Martial Arts
The other part of his success? “There’s a whole other culture of cannabis and martial arts,” reveals Joe. In fact, it’s a daily part of his training regimen. No, he’s not just taking fat rips and hopping in the ring—well, most days, anyway. Jokes aside, getting high in his younger years is a lot different than using cannabis as a supplemental tool. “As I’ve gotten older, the reasons behind [using cannabis] and the more I’ve learned about it have changed quite a bit,” Joe says. “My coach today, before I hit pads with him, asked me if I had any cannabis cream. I put some FlavRx roll-on gel on him and I was knocking the shit out of him—and he’s 65 years old!”
Beyond the obvious physical ailments of getting the shit beat out of you daily, the work is stressful. “This is a blood sport we’re in, and in eight weeks this guy is gonna try and kill you and everyone is worried about it . . . It’s a lot of stress, it’s hard to sleep—it’s nice to have a break throughout the day and turn off that stuff.”
Watching Joe fight, you wouldn’t know he was feeling an ounce of stress. He exudes pure focus in the ring. Even looking back at his earlier fights, his ring presence is that of a jungle cat stalking its prey. No dancing around, no bullshit. He comes straight for you, eyes locked. It seems he’s tackled his entire life this way, and his family and friends have supported him because of it. How else do you become the best in your division in the world?
Instagram: @joe_schilling | Snapchat: @joe-schilling | Twitter: @joeschilling187
Read More Articles from the October DOPE “Active Issue”