THE MAT LIFE STORY
WE ALWAYS JOKINGLY WARN OUR NEW MEMBERS THAT IF YOU MAKE THE CHOICE TO WALK THROUGH OUR DOORS, YOU SHOULD BE PREPARED TO FALL IN LOVE WITH TRAINING, AND OUR PEOPLE.
In the martial arts world, all of our stories begin a very long time ago. Possibly more than any other competitive athletic pursuit, knowledge and practice is transferred from teacher to student, carrying just as much character development as development in skill.
Our story in Gainesville begins in 1978, when a man named Alex Heyman decided to begin teaching the Japanese martial arts that would become the foundation of our academy.
OUR STORY ITSELF PROVES THAT PEOPLE CAN AND DO CHANGE FOR THE BETTER IF GIVEN THE OPPORTUNITY TO GROW (AND IN A SUPER RAD ENVIRONMENT).
It wasn’t until the 1990s that our head coach and now Professor Jason Dodd moved to Gainesville to attend the University of Florida, and walked into Heyman’s Martial Arts Academy for the first time. He puked his first class. Then he lost 40 pounds. Then he started competing and teaching as an instructor himself, and gained an opportunity to make a career investing in people just as his instructors had invested in him.
He purchased Heyman’s Martial Arts in 2006 and opened Global Mixed Martial Arts Academy, adding Gainesville’s first Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai, and MMA training programs to the school.
AND SOMETIMES THE PEOPLE YOU LEAST EXPECT TO BECOME PART OF YOUR COMMUNITY END UP SURPRISING YOU.
Ten years later, a young woman walked into the academy wearing a Rolling Stones t-shirt and red lipstick. Jason expected her to make it through one class only, and never come back again. Three months later, he married her on the same day he celebrated a decade of business ownership. Carly Dodd now runs the academy full time with her husband Jason. Together, they launched fitness, wellness and lifestyle change programs, and rebranded the facility.
Mat Life Training center is now the largest training facility and community of its kind in north Florida, and boasts an unlikely membership makeup of almost 50% female students, an almost unheard of statistic for martial arts-based programs.
BUT LET’S BE HONEST. THE REAL STORY IS NEVER THAT SIMPLE.
To know the full version of our transformation to what Mat Life is today, you’ll hear the back story of personal and professional failures. You’ll hear about divorce, death, chronic illness, gaining a little, losing it all, struggling, being taken advantage of, making poor choices, and just not hitting the mark.
But at the core of it all is this: we decided to (and will always decide to) keep trying to do and be better - for ourselves and those dependent on us - and that’s what Mat Life is about.
We believe that if you can practice something physically, you can learn the same lesson emotionally and spiritually. Training in our community translates to training for life, one step on the mat at a time.
IF YOU’RE LOOKING FOR PERFECTION, WE MUST WARN YOU THAT WE WILL DISAPPOINT.
But, if you’re looking for a likeminded community of people focused on authenticity, world-class quality of training, on consistently showing up and always striving for more, you’ve found your new favorite place - and home - at Mat Life.
We’d love to meet you on the mat.