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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Another One Gone

It is an old cliche that no one is ever really prepared for the death of a friend. In the case of Phil Hughes, however, that really was true. It's been nearly a week since I learned of Phil's passing, and I'm still trying to process it.

I first met Phil at the inaugural Personal Defense Readiness Certification, where he was serving as an assistant instructor to Coach Blauer. He was also working on competing as a professional mixed martial artist; I honestly don't remember if he had a fight scheduled at the time. I do remember that I had the opportunity to do some physical drills with him, and was absolutely blown away.

Phil was one of the first people to really impress upon me the value of strength and conditioning. He was amazingly strong (I have very vivid memories of him countering a guillotine attempt by picking me up over his head. I am forever grateful that he did not slam me after that...he could have easily killed me, frankly.), had amazing endurance, and was just a fanatic about physical fitness.

He had a gift for analysis, and a truly open mind. I remember asking him about one transition he used, and he told me it had come from a George Dillman tape, of all things. When I told him I was surprised that he had spent money on products from someone of Dillman's questionable character, he smiled.

"Hey, I got one good move out of it," he said. "If that one move is the one that saves my life some day, then it was worth the money I spent."

I couldn't argue with that.

I saw Phil fairly regularly at PDR events over the next few years. Every time I saw him, he greeted me warmly, talked with me, and worked with me like we were long time training partners.

The thing that impressed me the most, I think, was Phil's attitude. Phil was, without question, one of the most positive people I've ever met. He just exuded happiness. I know that he went through some rough patches, and we commiserated over them on a couple of occasions, but somehow, even when talking about the bad times, Phil seemed to have a positive energy about him. It was amazing. Not just inspirational, but amazing. Even to the last.

I saw Phil fight professionally in Canada, twice. One fight, he won. The other he lost. Both times he fought with everything he had. The loss frustrated him, but he told me he had plenty of fights left in him.

My contact with Phil over the last few years was sporadic at best. We traded some emails. Spoke once on the phone. I told him I needed help repairing a grappling dummy he had made for me, but never followed up. I'll figure out myself now. Phil would probably tell me I could. He was a big do it yourself kind of guy.

The memories are all a big jumble now: chatting on AIM about running routines. Grappling in the dirt at the Mass Maritime Academy. Watching Jorge Rivera fighting Edwin Dewees and talking about women. About Loretta, and his kids, who he loved with all of his heart.

If you tallied the number of hours I actually spent in Phil's presence, it's probably pretty small, but he touched my life in a powerful way. I will miss him, and do what I can to honor his memory. My condolences go out to all of his family.

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