Erik Paulson


By Dave Briggs, MSMA

June, 2000

D.B What spurred you to begin training in Martial Arts?

E.P I began in 1974, I guess. My mom started me in Judo when I was young. I was already playing a bunch of sports and I was really interested in martial arts. I didn’t want to at first, but I fought in a competition about a year later and I beat everybody, and I thought “hey maybe I’ll try this” and that’s what kicked it off.

D.B Many people, during the early part of their training, often believe that what they are doing is best, or is sufficient to enable survival in a real situation. Did you feel like that at first and how did your opinion change regarding this?

E.P No, because at the time, number one I wasn’t a high level Judo practitioner, I found I had all these ideas and thoughts, I tried this, I tried that, but until you really have to use it you think that some things work and a lot of times they don’t unless you try them, and try them. What happened was I tried to grab the guy and throw him, and I ended up on the ground wrestling, and I got my hair pulled, then I tried to kick him and punch him and I didn’t know what I was doing. I knew that I had to have some stand up skills.

D.B Was competing a natural progression for you or were you more guided towards it?

E.P I have competed since I was a child. All of the sports I did, in Judo we had to compete against each other, in Karate and Tae Kwon Do we competed all the time, it was always competition. Plus I had an older brother that I competed against all the time, he was a wrestler.

D.B What was your reason behind coming involved with the no-holds barred side of competing?

E.P I was actually doing it at the Inosanto academy. I was doing Thai boxing, I was doing Wrestling and take-downs and the Brazilian jiu-jitsu in 1988 full time. We were kind of ‘mixing it up’ and before I had fought in Kick Boxing and Judo competitions in the United States and I thought maybe it would be kind of cool to mix it up, I saw the fights and I thought “I can do that” because I still had the fight side of me, I always had it, probably instilled from my brother, who had been kicking my butt since I was a little kid.

D.B How do you drive yourself mentally when you are training, especially when you don’t feel your best or you are maybe carrying an injury?

E.P I train harder when I am injured because I know that I have to overcome and compensate for some of the pain. My mental drive, what I do is, its like when you are in college and you have a test, you start cramming, so you’re going to step your training up to like 3 times as much. Your whole thought process gets consumed by your upcoming competition. You know that the more you think about it, the more stress you have, so I figure the harder you train the less you think about it because when your body is weak it consumes you, so you compensate by training harder. You find that your confidence level grows, the more you get in shape, the harder you train, the fewer questions you’ll ask yourself.

D.B How do you feel when you are about to compete now, compared to how you did during your earlier bouts?


E.P Well, before we didn’t know how to train, we just used to train really hard, we trained really really hard, I think that we were almost over training. Now the training is a lot more scientific, you know what you need to do, you’ll maybe get a tape on the guy that you are fighting, so you find out where his strengths and weaknesses are so you can concentrate on your overall condition. Your cardiovascular is your top line, if you don’t have cardio you shouldn’t get in the ring. Cardio is your main ingredient. Also, during the first three weeks you concentrate on your general conditioning, your strength training and your wind. Then after that your technical form, isolation comes in, a lot of sparring, tons of timing drills. Just mostly drilling, drilling, drilling, not so much beating each other up, just drilling, just working at your technique.

D.B Being as experienced as you are, and taking into consideration your no-holds barred fights, do you see a difference between martial arts training, or competing and a person trying to deal with a real live situation?

E.P Definitely, because martial arts is a thought out fight, and you know you are going to battle so you don’t get surprised, although the nerves can be built up. The element of surprise and the adrenalin rush from a surprise attack, especially when you are just out having fun and you’re talking about just a normal day, then somebody decides that they want to take your head off, or insult you, or insulted your wife, suddenly things change, its extremely real. There is malicious intent, whereas the other is more of a sporting competition.