I had never met Mark Schultz before, but when he ambled up to the outdoor café he suggested we meet he was easy to spot, thick arms and a lack of a neck, the kind of wide stance shuffle long time wrestlers have and as he got closer the cauliflower ears denoting a grappler. He might a bit more anonymous in his hometown, to the people walking down the street, but along with his brother he was recently inducted into the San Jose Sports Hall of Fame.
As a reader of this site you should know that the brothers Schultz are as about as decorated as a pair of siblings in sports come and are certainly icons in the annals of wrestlers, with a career highlighted by Mark and Dave winning gold medals in their respective weight classes at the 1984 Olympics, with numerous NCAA and world titles to their credit. Tragically Dave, perhaps the greatest wrestler of his generation was taken from this world far too soon, in a senseless act 15 years to the day.
Clearly inspired by his brother, Mark continued to evolve and learn, and discovered Jiu Jitsu as early as 1993 and wholeheartedly embraced the idea of submissions. Mark was kind enough to sit down with me and talk candidly about his beginnings, his career, his training methods and much, much more.
Gumby: What got you into wrestling?
Mark Schultz: I was a gymnast before I got into wrestling. I was the Northern California State Gymnastics champion in the All Around. I didn’t have much confidence as a kid and my brother, I was always a better athlete than him, but he was the greatest high school wrestler in history. When he was in high school he beat two-time NCAA champion Chuck Yagla, pinning him in the finals of the Great Plains. He took a silver medal in the Russian National Championships. He came back here and missed all of the state qualifying championships because he was over in Russia so the coaches petitioned him into the state tournament and he walked through without even a close match. His closest match was like 12-1 and that was a weight above his normal weight. He then won the National Greco Roman Championships and got the most falls in the least amount of time –all while he was still in High School!
I didn’t know anything about martial arts. As a gymnast I was so miserable with my lack of self-confidence; the only thing I knew about martial arts is what I saw in movies, like with Bruce Lee in Fists of Fury and Enter the Dragon. He was beating up 20 guys at a time and I figured if he could beat up 20 guys at a time, then I could beat up my older brother Dave. There were no Jet Kun Do school’s around, so I went to Bob Barrow’s Tang So Do school in Medford Oregon when I was living up there, which was a Chuck Norris style. I took that for about four months and then I got into a fight with my brother and he just beat the crap out of me. He took me down, got the mount and punched me in the head until I was a bloody mess. I said to myself “that’s it, I’m done with Tang Sol Do, I’m going out for the wrestling team!” So that was the start of my wrestling career.
I had a rough start, I didn’t start until my junior year of high school and my record was four wins and six losses. I think I got pinned in my first four matches. I couldn’t figure out why my brother so good when I was a better athlete and couldn’t win in wrestling. Finally I realized I had to put power behind my techniques. In addition to learning which techniques were the best I had to learn how to put power behind them. By the end of my senior year, I hadn’t won a local tournament all year long, but by the very end of the end I had won the league, the region and the state. My brother had just got home and he had finished third in the NCAA and was named Freshman of the Year and we went to work out he would just take me down 50 times every single practice. He’d turn me and pin me and just hurt me. I couldn’t figure out why he was so much better than me because I was the same weight as him, I was better built than him and stronger than him. He just had this really strange internal strength. I finally got sick of getting beat 50-0 every day, but I figure out why he was scoring on me so much was because I kept over extending myself on my shots. So I thought to myself what if I just spent one day not trying anything and just trying to block his stuff? He was frustrated and yelling at me and telling me I was stalling, but there’s no referee in practice so I didn’t care what he was complaining about, I mean this is my life. So instead of me being beat 50 to nothing I was beat 4 or 5 to nothing. That was how my style developed; I developed my defense first and then I starting coming out of my defensive shell and taking my offensive shots and when that didn’t work go back on my defense.
Gumby: How did Dave get so good?
Mark Schultz: Dave had dyslexia really bad as a kid. He couldn’t read or write very well so they put him in the remedial classes. The kids made fun of him because but he was this giant kid, like 5’8 160 pound in the third grade and never grew again. This one kid made fun of him and he took the kid and slammed his head into the concrete and broke his head open and they had to take him to the hospital. After that no one messed with Dave anymore, as a matter of fact kids wouldn’t even mess with me because they were afraid of retaliation by Dave. Dave was not a great athlete but he would fight anyone. I remember him fighting this kid named John Brosher who a great athlete in his grade, but Dave was just on top of him beating him. He had a lot of guts. When kids started catching up to him, he didn’t like that or losing his reputation as the toughest kid in school so he went out for wrestling for a couple of reasons. One, it was helping him overcome his dyslexia. Two it was giving him a way to stay dominant over his peers and over me too, which was probably just as important to him. That’s how his style developed.
He taught me how to take notes too. Everything he learned, he’d write it down so when I started wrestling I did the same thing and I had my technique notebook.
Gumby: You’d take notes from training or competitions?
Mark Schultz: Anytime I learned anything, I’d write it down. I made my technique notebook and I divided my techniques by tie up. I’d make a page like front head lock on the top of the page and write down all of the different technique I could finish with. I’d have all the counters to the front headlock on the back page. I’d have another page and write high crotch and write all of the finishes from there, lift, trip, spin, go behind, run the pipe, switch to another move, backing down to hip, go out the back door, etc. The next page I’d have underhook, the next page whizzer, the next page wrist tie in, next page single leg, next page double leg and just put all the finishes below each page, and all of the counters on the back of the page of the same page. Nobody taught me how to do that, it just came in my juvenile 16 year old head one day, and that’s how I started my technique book. I’d go to camps, for example Joe Say’s Bakersfield Camp one time and I learned a lot there, he had a lot of good wrestlers.
The main thing was that I learned by just watching and copying. I didn’t really like it when people would try to explain technique to me, I just wanted them to do it in front of me and that was good enough for me. In gymnastics you have to be able to see something and copy it. When I was doing gymnastic we didn’t have spotting belts and things like that, we just had to be able to look at something and copy that. Kind of like how a dancer would be able to see a move and copy that, I imagine it’s the same sort of thing. As a matter of fact my brother would teach me a move and I’d get irritated he was talking so much. I’d be like just do it and I would figure it out.
Gumby: In 1984 when you and your brother were going out for Olympics did you ever get to a point where you were more even with your brother and were you able to push each other?
Mark Schultz: In 84 Dave and I were starting to even out, he was still a little bit better than I was, but in 85 I think I became a little bit better than him. But in 84 I think Dave was the top wrestler in the world at any weight class, he was basically the Dan Gable of his era, and he could beat anyone at any weight. I knew he was going to win the Olympics and I didn’t even care who was in it. As a matter of fact his weight class was the toughest in the Olympics, he had to beat a three time world champion Lee Kim just to make the team, then he had to beat Martin Knosp to win the gold, plus Dave was the world champion in 83, so every single world championship from 1978 to 1983 was represented in the 84 Olympics at his weight. Dave just cruised right through it and I knew he was going to do it; he was just so good at that time. I didn’t know if I would do it, this was only my seventh year in wrestling. Even though I was a three-time NCAA champion I had wrestled in the World Championships in 83 and took seventh, I didn’t know if I could win the gold in 84. Once you get to the top level everyone is so close, the difference is almost luck. I don’t know, a combination of luck and desire I guess.
Gumby: I’ve seen a number of brothers train together and you have to watch out because they always seem to want to kill each other. When your levels started evening out how did you work with each other and do you have any advice for the brothers out there who are pushing each other?
Mark Schultz: (Broad smile). Yeah it’s a sibling rivalry thing and you never want to lose to your brother. It’s what drove me! I didn’t want my brother going out and conquering the world while I sat home watching TV eating potato chips. I figured if he could do it then I could do it. Whenever we would wrestle with each other it got really intense. You don’t ever want to lose to your brother. We never wrestled each other in competition but in training a couple of time we got pretty bloody. Right before the Olympics the coach at Stanford told Dave he was going to get a raise for the next year, but he didn’t tell me that I was getting a raise. I got pissed off at Dave and we had this battle on this mat and there was so much blood we were slipping all over the place with blood all over us. A Sports Illustrated guy was covering for the Olympics and he comes in and see this bloody scene and thinks that this happens every day!
Gumby: When did you get into Submissions?
Mark Schultz: I was the head coach of BYU [Brigham Young University] and I got a call from a guy who a student of Gracie Jiu Jitsu. He was responsible for bringing Pedro Sauer to Utah. He gives me a call and says that the greatest Jiu Jitsu Fighter in the world is in town and do you want to fight him? I had heard of Jiu Jitsu but I didn’t know what it was. I asked him what were the rules and he said, “there are no rules!” (Which was a lie of course). I thought that if there were no rules than basically we were talking about committing a homicide. So I said, “Okay, I’ll meet him,” what am I going to do, back down? A week from Thursday I show up and there’s Rickson Gracie in the room and he’s scooting on his butt, trying to hook the head coach’s ankles. His head was shaved all the way back and he had this ponytail like they had in that movie “Kumite”. He had these big thick ears and I was like “this is a tough guy”. He goes “are you the guy?” and I replied, “yeah, I’m the guy” and then I asked “are you the guy?” and he’s like “yeah, I’m the guy.” He goes “what I do is elbow and knee and head-butt and kick, but we’re not going to do that today we’re going to do submission grappling until one of us taps out.” So I’m like oh good, there’s no homicide, that’s good, so I was pretty happy about that. He just stood there and said, “Come on”. No stance or anything like that. So I took him down and I had him in a cradle for maybe twenty minutes. I didn’t know any submissions so I was making stuff up. I was trying to keep my chine down and elbows in which I learned from judo, but that’s about all I knew because it was all against wrestling rules. He got me in a triangle so I tapped out and I asked if we could again. So went for about another twenty minutes and I held him in a cradle for another twenty minutes and finally grip just gave out and I was so frustrated I was on top of him for so long and nothing was happening so I though I’ll let him get on top of me. I let him reverse me but as a wrestler I brainwashed myself to go belly down so I wouldn’t get pinned so he just immediately pulled my chin up and did a rear naked choke and tapped me out again.
I really like Rickson a lot. He’s a really good guy. He was really complimentary towards me and said I was the toughest guy he had ever gone against and if I was to learn Jiu Jitsu. I was really surprised that I had spent all these years training and wrestling and had never learned the submission holds that he knew and I wanted to learn everything that he knew. So I became a student of his student, Pedro Sauer, he was one of two Gracie Black Belts not a member of the Gracie family. Pedro was under Rickson’s association and Pedro now has one of the biggest associations in the world. Pedro was really cool to me; he let me work out with him for three years, and was really a great technician and a great coach. He was really smart and really fluid and his technique he was the perfect coach for me.
Gumby: Coming in from a wrestling background what felt natural coming into Jiu Jitsu and what did you have to retrain your brain for?
Mark Schultz: I had to retrain to stay off my stomach. In wrestling you brainwash yourself that as soon as someone takes you down you go belly down and I had to break that habit and go belly up. Of course I didn’t spend that much time on my back because I’m so good at takedowns compared to everyone in Jiu Jitsu that I was pretty much on top all the time. Of course you start rolling around on the ground you’re going to end up on the bottom you just don’t want to end up belly down. That was the biggest thing I had to learn. The other thing is that in wrestling at the collegiate level you can’t lock your hands –you can in freestyle- but in Jiu Jitsu of course you can lock your hands any time you want.
Other than that getting used to that gi was a real pain, I’m still not that great at it. I know how to do it, I know the moves they do but I would much rather be without a gi. That was the biggest bad habit I had though was going belly down. I think that was the only thing I had to change, other than that all of the techniques you learn in Jiu Jitsu, they’re just the same as the techniques you learn in wrestling, it’s just that this technique happens to choke you out or armlock you or ankle lock you as opposed to a switch or a standup which allows you to escape or get a reversal or a takedown or something. Learning technique is all the same. The biggest advantage that wrestlers had is their conditioning, they could just go and go and go. I was always more of an anaerobic guy than an aerobic guy so the shorter the match was the better it was for me because I was a sprinter, not a long distance runner. At least in MMA there is no ref calling you for stalling and giving points to the other guy just haphazardly or arbitrarily, which was really frustrating in wrestling.
Gumby: What year did you encounter Submission in?
Mark Schultz: 1993
Gumby: Legend has it you made your MMA debut with one day notice.
Mark Schultz: One day notice, that’s right. Pedro called me and I was training Dave Benateau the Heavyweight National Champion from Canada. He came down and trained with me for about two weeks. In one of our workouts I slammed him on his hand and broke it. He went to the hospital and the doctor said we can put a plate in your hand and you can probably fight or we can put it in a cast, and of course you can’t fight in a cast. So he said put the plate in it and I said I would go to Detroit and be your corner man in case I had to throw the towel in and make sure he didn’t get hurt. So we got to Detroit and the doctor there said he couldn’t fight. Everyone kind of looked at me so I went over to the promoters and asked if I could take Dave’s place. So we started negotiating a contract right there and finalizing it the next day at 10:00 AM. 8 hours later I was in the Octagon fighting!
Gumby: Previous to that did you have any aspirations of fighting MMA?
Mark Schultz: Yeah I thought about it a lot when it first came on the scene, I thought man I could do that. And then when I had the opportunity –I probably would have done it at some point had it not been the way it was, but it’s fine the way it worked out.
Gumby: Do you follow MMA, Jiu Jitsu or Wrestling at all now days?
Mark Schultz: Yeah I do. Chael Sonnen just fought for the world title and was one of my wrestlers. Brandon Ruiz is the Superheavyweight NAGA black belt champion at Grappler’s Edge in Colorado, Sheldon Marr is the coach out there. Sheldon Marr and I with Keith Hackney were all on the World Pankration Team coaching together. I brought Justin Ellison with me and he won the World Pankration Championships and was the outstanding fighter.
Brandon wasn’t really that good of a wrestler, but I would make the guys at BYU submission grapple at least once a week every week. After he got done with wrestling he got into grappling and now he’s the world champion.
Gumby: Do you watch any MMA? Up on the current UFC’s for example?
Mark Schultz: I watched Chael, he was my wrestler over at BYU and I watched him fight Anderson Silva. Man, I thought he was going to win, he just got caught in the end.
Gumby: Me too, I was at that fight and knew people who were ready to go home before Anderson pulled off that triangle. When Matt Hughes recently fought Ricardo Almedia and caught him with that front headlock, I believe he gave credit to your brother.
Mark Schultz: Yeah, the Schultz front headlock. I just showed that down in Gilroy. It’s great that a sport has come along that allows you to do it the way we do it. When we were doing it in the Olympics they were stopping us because they felt it was giving us too much of an advantage because you can choke a guy even though his arm is included.
Gumby: Would you say that’s your favorite technique?
Mark Schultz: It’s one of them. It’s definitely one of the top five. Arm drags are probably my favorite setup to leg attacks. I do a lot of high crotches, I do a lot of moves from over under tie up. I do a lot of everything but stuff that really works well is off the front headlock, arm drag, and the high crotch. When the chips were down the front headlock and the arm drag, but I don’t want to get too concerned… You know technique is important but it’s not nearly as important as conditioning. It’s doesn’t matter what technique you know, if you’re not in shape to execute it doesn’t matter. Conditioning is everything.
Gumby: In regards to the transition to you being a coach, what do you think it takes for an elite athlete to be an elite coach?
Mark Schultz: That’s a good question. I don’t know if I know the answer to that question. You know there were a lot of guys who were good coaches who weren’t good athletes. Dave, my brother was considered the greatest technician the United States ever produced. I would say that if you want to coach you should turn the sport into an academic subject. You want to study it, take notes, and learn all the techniques and training methods available. That’s kind of a no brainer isn’t it? Wouldn’t anyone answer the question the same way?
Gumby: If everyone knew that, than every great athlete would be a great coach, and that’s not the case, is it?
Mark Schultz: Pedro was a really good coach for me. He just let me do me thing and didn’t try to interfere. I think coaches have a tendency to interfere with really elite athlete's progress. I don’t know though man, I don’t know. What’s another question?
Gumby: So you actually made your wrestlers train in submission while you were coaching at BYU? Did you think that actually helped them on wrestling circuit or was something else you were trying to do?
Mark Schultz: I think it made them better in wrestling. My purpose in wrestling was never to win medals. The reason I went out to wrestling was because I thought it was the ultimate martial art. My brother used to pound that into me all the time. So when I found Jiu Jitsu I thought if we take the conditioning and takedowns of wrestling and combine it with Jiu Jitsu, now we’ve got the ultimate Martial Art! Combine with the kicks of Muay Thai and the punches of boxing with the submissions of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu so…
Gumby: And you came to this conclusion in 93?
Mark Schultz: Yeah, right around then. So I started setting up my wrestling room, I put it in a heavy bag and I’d make Chael and the other wrestlers hit it. Once a week we’d work submissions and we brought Tank Abbot in and Paul Herrera and they lived out there for about two months training with us. It was really fun in there for a while. I made my heavyweight Mike Bolster put on the gloves and go full contact with me in preparation not really in preparation for UFC 9 but preceding UFC 9 not knowing I was going to compete in that.
It just pissed me off that I had spent all this time in training in a sport that had outlawed the best submission holds when I got into wrestling for its martial value. As soon as I found Jiu Jitsu I immediately made everyone do it.
Gumby: What do you think Jiu Jitsu athletes need to do to improve?
Mark Schultz: They need to all go out for the wrestling team! (Broad Smile) Plus they can take boxing and Muay Thai.
Gumby: You’re doing a seminar over at my school (Heroes Martial Arts in San Jose) February 12 and 12 which we’re looking forward to, are you interested in any more seminars and how would people get in contact with you?
Gumby: Thanks Mark and I appreciate you sitting down with me!
Mark Schultz: You bet!
If I was in awe of the man before I actually got to meet him, I came away with a far deeper appreciation of Mark after talking to him. The sheer amount of knowledge and experience the guy has, and his embracing of new techniques and arts was a real revelation to me. In this world where Grappling and Mixed Martial Arts have exploded and wrestling is being recognized as world-class martial art, I think what Mark has to offer is truly special. I had planned on this interview to help me promote the seminar that Mark is holding at my school, but after talking to him I think the most excited person for this has got to be me. Hope to see you there.
Heroes Martial Arts, in conjunction with OntheMat.com and Dollamur Sports Surfaces is proud to bring in Olympic, World and UFC Champion Mark Schultz to San Jose for one of a kind clinic February 12-13!
Mark Schultz is a legend in the grappling community and has 3 NCAA titles, 2 World Titles, and an Olympic Gold as well as a victory in the UFC. A Bay area native and recent inductee into the San Jose Sports Hall of fame, Mark was with his brother Dave the first American brothers to capture Gold in the same Olympics.
In addition to Schultz’s wrestling accolades, he has been a students of submission for a long time and comments on his styles as “combination of the best Takedowns of Wrestling, the best submission holds of Jiu-Jitsu and Shootfighting, the best punches of Boxing, and the best kicks of Muay Thai.”
Mark Schultz will be holding three 2 hour sessions:
Saturday February 12 1:00 PM Introduction to Schultz’s Wrestling
Sunday February 13 10:00 AM Schultz’s Submission Wrestling
Sunday February 13 1:00 PM Advanced Clinic
The price will be $40 per session
Get all three sessions for $100 and receive a commemorative t-shirt!
Spaces are limited, so reserve your spot now.
For more information on Mark Schultz visit his website at www.MarkSchultz.com
Heroes Martial Arts, bringing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Judo and Wrestling to downtown San Jose. Located at 460 South Market Street San Jose CA 95113 408-288-8857 www.HeroesMartialArts.com