Joe Schilling Stitches ‘Em Up with the Science
By Mike LNg
Joe Schilling is a super middleweight Muay Thai fighter from Los Angeles, California. Schilling has been fighting steadily in the United States gaining more fans and public notice with each win. Schilling has now earned the recognition of WBC Muay Thai and is ranked as the #1 United States challenger for the WBC Muay Thai super midleweight championship. Joe has also fought internationally and along his passport stops has fought in Rajadmanern stadium in Thailand.
As with many United States fighters, Joe Schilling is also a teacher and gym owner but with something of a twist in the way Schilling’s gym The Yard takes their overall approach to training. I first became aware of Joe Schilling way back in 2005 at the Adrenaline 3 event in Irvine, California. Schilling was fighting Brandon Banda when unexpectedly he connected with a spinning backfist that dropped Banda. After some sustained action from Schilling he won in what was his first professional 5-round bout ever. Since then Schilling has been on my shortlist to pay attention to and I’m glad I did.
Question: Few people may actually know the reason your gym is called the Yard. Can you explain the origins of the name of the gym?
Answer: Originally, Mark Komuro and I used to train at LA Boxing Club where many boxing and Muay Thai champions have come from however that gym was shut down. Then we switched over to the Lincoln Heights Jail that had been renovated into a low income boxing gym. After a short while of dealing with the politics of a boxing gym ( the whole don’t kick our bags, this is my area crap), Mark and I decided to open our own gym but wanted to maintain a similar theme and feeling of toughness.
The Yard is unique in that you and co-founder Mark Komuro have a different arrangement than most gyms. What steps did you take to make it different?
We found that a majority of our members came from lower income families so we tried to accommodate them. We got rid of the things we didn’t like about other gyms like enrollment fees, contracts or classes and started our own hassle-free system. No professional or world-class fighter learns in a class, they learn from invaluable one-on-one attention from a trainer. It also builds relationships with our members which in turn builds our family.
Gladiator Magazine ranked your gym as the number one gym in downtown Los Angeles. What were some of the things about the Yard that you think got the rating?
Mostly, because there’s no nickel and diming. What you see is what you get and what you get is a phenomenal product delivered by phenomenal people.
Prior to the King’s Cup event in the United States you fought and trained in Thailand leading up to the fight. How was your experience in Thailand?
Absolutely amazing. I trained at Pop-thee-ratham gym with 4-time Lumpinee Champion and WBC title holder Samart Payakaroon. His staff includes an Olympic boxing trainer, another trainer who has trained 4 Lumpinee champions, a master in Thai clinch with over 250 fights and a rising star from Sityodtong who is competing internationally. I not only grew as a fighter but also as a person. Being in a different country surrounded by such humble people reminds you how lucky you are and how much we take for granted here in the States.
Is there any specific things which you learned in Thailand to improve you as a fighter?
We focused mostly on balance and technique. I increased my fighter IQ and learned how to be more efficient, using less energy.
There have been some time periods of inactivity for you between fights but you will now be in the main event for the Muay Thai Association of America (MTAA) fight card coming in March (Joe Schilling will be fighting Chase Green for the WBC Muay Thai national interim super middleweight title). Can you explain why there is such gaps in activity for you?
There was a lack of promoters and lots of people who wanted to fight. That means only a limited amount fights were available. Because of that I took fights on short notice and that were outside of my traditional set of rules. One fight in particular, I was totally unprepared for and tore apart both my knees. I had, had 2 surgeries and was out for a year as a result, but it was the best thing that ever happened to me. It helped me focus on my conditioning and I matured mentally as a fighter. It also helped me realize how important Muay Thai was to me because it was almost taken away from me.
I’ve noticed you are quite tall for the super middleweight limit. Is there some difficulties you’ve had to overcome to cut weight as a taller super middleweight?
When I was younger it was never a problem to cut weight because I didn’t eat well. It was easy to make 168 because I was just shedding fat. But now as an adult, I eat better and understand nutrition more so I have put on a lot more muscle which makes it harder to make weight. That being said, I will always make weight no matter what.
We discussed your start in Muay Thai and I was surprised to find out you moved from Dayton, Ohio to Los Angeles specifically for Muay Thai. What prompted that move?
At age 20 I decided my true passion in life was Muay Thai. Needless to say there wasn’t a lot of opportunity to do that in Ohio so if I was going to succeed, I had to move to California.
You are becoming well known for delivering fight ending elbows. Is this what has led to your nickname of Stitch ‘Em Up Joe?
Yes, I’ve cut almost every opponent I’ve ever fought since going pro. To this day I’ve handed out close to 90 stitches.
Some people think that your persona is that of an angry guy sort of image. After talking with you though I found you to be more articulate beyond what maybe the fight going public knows of you. In fact I found you to be quite a bit less than angry. Can you explain how the image came to be in public perception?
Generally when the public pays attention to me, I’m cutting weight or somebody’s trying to kill me. Every time I get in the ring I have everything on the line so I take it very seriously. I’m a very passionate person by nature so that may come across as very intense.
Coming up in March you have a main event bout against Chase Green (in the MTAA promoted event). What sort of things will you be focusing on leading up to the fight in
I will focus on physical conditioning, making weight, and balance. I want to make a statement to anyone who wants to get in the ring with me that it’s not a good idea.
You said in the past you actually got your start in fighting from tough men sort of contests in Ohio. What sort of things about Muay Thai attracted you to the sport?
I was an angry young kid that had a lot of confidence issues. I didn’t do well in school and people told me I was an idiot. When my mom forced me to find a hobby, I discovered Muay Thai and started getting respect from people I respected. I really liked that feeling and after time I became addicted to it. The more I competed and the more it helped people like me overcome their own issues and the better I felt about myself.
Muay Thai is beautiful. I love that you can use all parts of your body. It’s called the art of 8 limbs for a reason. I also love that it’s all on me. It’s not like team sports where you can blame others for not passing you the ball. If I do well, it’s because I did well. If I did bad, it’s because I did bad.
I know in order to keep busy in fights you sometimes do boxing and MMA bouts. How difficult is it to keep busy in professional Muay Thai?
For a long time it was very difficult to stay busy, but thanks to the MTAA it hasn’t been an issue. I’m looking forward to meeting and working with new promoters and sharing what I have with the world.
Would you be interested in fighting internationally in Muay Thai?
I can’t wait.
You also fought in Wu Lin Feng rules (roughly sanda rules). How was your experience fighting in these rules?
Horrible. I don’t particularly like that style. I took the fight on four days notice and in a ten lbs heavier weight class that I normally fight. I was completely unprepared. The entire situation was a mistake on my and the promoters part and it will never happen again.
Who internationally would you like most to fight?
I’m not really interested in calling out names, but I do want to fight anyone that will improve my career and will get me closer a world title. I want to be involved with fights that the fans want to see. I want memorable matches against tough opponents and I’m always looking for a challenge.
You also fought for The World Combat League (WCL). What was that experience like fighting mostly full contact in very compressed rounds?
Style wise, it wasn’t for me. Most of my weapons don’t translate well to WCL. However, it helped me get comfortable with all the media and competing on such a big stage. Overall it was a great experience but a horrible performance.
Who so far has been your toughest opponent in Muay Thai?
In any fight I’ve ever had I am my toughest opponent. It doesn’t take anything away from the people I have fought. I’ve never had an easy fight and I don’t want an easy fight. But ultimately it’s my mental preparation and whether or not I show up to fight that will always be my toughest opponent.
We both discussed some of the issues and challenges to USA Muay Thai growing. What do you think American Muay Thai needs most to grow?
Without a doubt, Muay Thai needs television to generate greater awareness. One way to get media attention is to create bigger match ups. Promoters from all over America need to work together to put East coast and West coast fighters against each other. The whole country needs to start kicking the shit out of each other in order for the entire sport to elevate. Our goal should not be for one fighter or one group of fighters or one promoter to excel, but for the sport as a whole to grow. In the long run, we will all benefit with that goal.
It seems like in America we’re beginning to see some break out names in Muay Thai such as Kevin Ross and now yourself. How do you feel now that all your hard work as a fighter is now beginning to be recognized?
It’s definitely a good feeling. I’ve worked really hard for a long time and feel that I deserve whatever comes my way. I’m so grateful to all my fans for supporting me along the way and I promise never to let them down. I always look to put on a good show and am hoping to maintain this momentum that I have going into this upcoming year.
What kind of things can we look forward to from Joe Schilling in your March fight? And what messages do you have to your old fans and new fans?
There will be lots of intensity in March’s fight. I don’t know a whole lot about Chase Green and I don’t want to take anything away from him, but I’m going to make a statement to him and anybody else that they have no business being in the ring with me.
Much thanks to Joe Schilling for granting this interview and all at the Yard for making it possible. Joe Schilling is set for a WBC National title fight on March 5th, 2011. You can keep up to date with news about Joe Schilling at the official The Yard web site.