Trojans “fight on” in martial arts programs

A fight club meeting. A guy pins another guy down on a red mat. Others sit around and watch.
USC students looking to engage in on-campus fight culture can turn to both sanctioned and unconventional methods to meet their needs, whether through organized street fights or official clubs like jiu-jitsu or wrestling. (Zack Lara | Daily Trojan)

At USC, there are two kinds of fight clubs: those you talk about, and those you don’t. The Daily Trojan visited fighting clubs around campus to learn more about fighting culture at USC.

Over Halloweekend, students gathered around Parkside Residential Hall to witness a friendly street fight transpire between two freshmen girls. The informal brawl, while not officially sanctioned by the school, offered a peek into the unique combat culture around campus.

Isaiah Alwin, a freshman majoring in journalism, was a close friend of the two contenders and helped organize the match. According to Alwin, the girls agreed to a boxing match to settle a friendly feud and were not seeking blood.

“Of course, it was a joke; they didn’t actually want to beat each other up,” Alwin said. “It was purely for entertainment purposes.”

Around fifty students attended the skirmish, Alwin said, circling around the competitors as they traded punches. The two girls fought for three 90-second rounds before one eventually surrendered.

“The hits were flying,” Alwin said. “[But] it was mostly theatrical. There was more going into the build-up and presentation than the actual fight … no one was seriously hurt.”

Alwin supports friendly fights as a means of recreation or competition, so long as it is safe and consensual. He said fighting should be treated no differently than competing in a game of pickup basketball.

“I think people should be allowed to host a boxing match if they’re so inclined, and everyone is willing to participate,” Alwin said.

While the street scene offers an unconventional outlet for combat sports, USC hosts several University-sanctioned fighting sports clubs that students can also participate in.

USC recognizes several fighting groups and teams on campus, including Wrestling, Jiu-Jitsu, Taekwondo and Boxing. The Mixed Martial Arts club recently joined the recognized lineup as well, earning official recognition from the Recreational Club Council on Nov. 2.

James Kang, a senior majoring in film production, is a coach and co-founder of the MMA club. He described the unique challenges and vigor of fighting sports compared to other athletics.

“Combat sports are interesting in that to compete, it requires a bigger commitment than any other sport,” Kang said. “In basketball or soccer, you’re not gonna get punched in the head if you miss a goal.”

USC also offers martial arts programs that are more regulated and beginner-friendly. Scott Palmer, a Dornsife alumnus and coach of the Jiu-Jitsu team, encourages interested students to attend a practice and learn more about the art of hand-to-hand combat.

“I was under the impression that a Jiu-Jitsu club wouldn’t be allowed at USC when I was a student here,” Palmer said. “But I think there’s now an understanding and awareness of the value of [combat sports].”

Palmer also attested to the sport building defensive skills, confidence and improving fitness for any student willing to step in the ring.

“Coaching for us is about bringing people into Jiu-Jitsu for the first time. The majority of our students come in without knowing what Jiu-Jitsu is,” Palmer said. “They come in for self-defense, if they want to do a martial art or they’re looking for something that’s health and fitness-focused.”

Fighting clubs welcome a variety of members of different skill levels and interests. As USC continues to open up towards combat sports, Palmer encourages anyone who’s curious to try their hand at martial arts.

“Most of the clubs here are very welcoming to new members. It’s something you can scout out, see if it’s for you and ask questions,” Palmer said. “This is an opportunity for people to go and try something out and see if it’s for them without much risk in terms of time or commitment.”