I get a lot of people asking me about how the concept for AG Combat Sports and Fitness came about, or how we even came up with the name. "AG" stands for Air Gadfly. Now for years, people have been trying to figure out what Air Gadfly stands for. Well, I'd love to be able to tell people that it is some really clever acronym for something really cool or interesting, but truth be told, the story is much less clever. The word "Gadfly" is actually a philosophical term that means, "a provocative stimulus, a nemesis. One that brings out the best in another." It is also the name given to the flies that pester farm animals. We prefer the first definition that, but I guess the second could be a funny alternative.
When I was in High School, I had a teacher that, for whatever reason, couldn't pronounce "Gaffar". He always called me "Gadfly". After months of trying, I grew tired of correcting him, so I let it go for the remainder of my High School career. Well, the name stuck, and being that I grew up during the "Air Jordan" era, the Air was soon added to my nickname because of my uncanny ability to jump and kick a basketball net.
Now following High School, I made the move to teaching on my own, while pursuing my dreams of becoming a graphic designer. The Air Gadfly name had grown from bad joke into a comic book series and a clothing line. I had come up with this brilliant idea that I could continue pursuing both of my favorite hobbies, creating a line of clothing for martial artists that wasn't either boring or "cookie cutter". The comic books were just a way for me to use my strange sense of humor to poke fun at my life and my acquired nickname.
I was able to dabble in both during my first two years of college, creating Air Gadfly Sportswear, and Gaffar Adam's Karate Academy. Entering my third year of school, I was still teaching part-time (at three different facilities), working odd jobs to pay the bills, and trying to earn a graphic design degree. Well, a few of my students convinced me to try teaching full-time. So after a lot of coaxing, I finally made the decision to drop out of my third year of school, empty my bank account, and sign a six month lease on a small 2000 sq ft facility. Coming from a Traditional Japanese Okinowan Karate background, I had been teaching for the past couple years following those guidelines. Being fortunate enough to have been able to travel around the world competing, I was exposed to a large number "other' styles that were not taught in my small hometown in Western New York. Also, being born in Cambodia, I was raised in a very traditional Asian culture that was still very pure in thought compared to America. But, being first generation in America, I began trying to assimilate a new world approach to traditional values, both in my personal life as well as my martial arts. I had this epiphany one night that if we incorporated things from a variety of different styles and philosophies, it would make for a more effective training system. I decided to become an "American Freestyle" school so that we could teach multiple disciplines in one location. It was the concept of mixed martial arts. Well, needless to say, the area just wasn't ready for that kind of thinking yet. I was ridiculed by all the other studios and instructors in the area for being too radical (well, we can see where the martial arts industry is now). I also decided to put my martial arts sportswear idea on hold since it wasn't a mainstream idea yet either (just look at where that industry is today).
Over the next few years, I kept teaching with my clientele base growing from around 40 to nearly 100 students who embraced my "eccentric" approach to training. I kept saying that if things didn't work out, I could always close the studio and go back to my art degree. Well, it wasn't working, but it was paying the bills, so I was able to quit my other odd jobs and concentrate on just running the studio "full-time" (you know, 3 days a week). What more could a single guy ask for, workout all day, teach people a few days a week, and compete every weekend. Well, as we neared the mid 90's, I put together a competition team from the studio. We had a meeting to decide on a name. Well after going through all the possible names that began with either a "G" or an "A", we realized that all the cool names were already taken. Finally, one of my junior instructors at the time piped up and said, " Why can't we use your nickname? Nobody would have that name and you already have a cool logo from the sportswear company." Well, after taking a vote, they all agreed it was a great idea. So, reluctantly, I agreed to it, and Team Air Gadfly was born. Soon enough, the team, and the name began to gain notoriety.
After the typical life stresses, I sat back to assess my life and where it was going. During the late 90's, I met the love of my life and decided I wanted to settle down and get married. This decision led me to the realization that I was going to have to take the plunge into actually running a true full-time martial arts facility or go back to finish my degree and switch to teaching part time. Well, you guessed it, I decided to teach full-time. I guess at 29 the thought of going back to doing homework wasn't overly appealing.
In 1999, I decided to take on a partner, take out a huge loan, and expand my facility from a small "karate" studio to a mixed martial arts facility, complete with an full-sized gym. I decided it was time to chase my dream of more than one discipline under one roof, with a state of the art training facility (even if no one else thought it was a good idea). Well, I began a huge venture, remodeling a large 12,000 sq ft warehouse so that I could transplant my 125 students to a better facility. In the middle of the project, I found out I was going to be a father, so my dreams were all falling into place. Well, as life would have it, nothing worked out as planned. The studio took off going from 125 members to over 500 in less than two years, but I soon realized that I had bit off a little more than I could chew at that point in life. Around my mid 30's, I reassessed my life again (maybe it was the mid life crisis) and settled on achieving my original goals of running a quality martial arts facility without compromising my principles, but also balancing my other dreams. Now as I near my 40's, I have a beautiful 10,000 sq ft facility, a great son (who has been aptly dubbed "mini-me"), a dedicated base of 250 students, and a growing sportswear business. Has it all been worth it, OF COURSE!!! Thanks to all the people that stood by me through thick and thin, good and bad (and I had a lot of bad). We don't believe that we are the best or only place to train, but we do believe that we have been time-tested and have a lot to offer you. Thank you for taking the time to check out our website, and we hope you enjoy the virtual tour of the facility. Just remember, the first step is the hardest, walking through the doors!