Mark Preader didn’t get into mixed martial arts (MMA) for sheer competition—he started tae kwon do at age 14 because he was being bullied. After a couple of years practicing martial arts, the bullying subsided.
“I was picked on a lot,” said Preader, who was raised in Morgan Hill, graduated from Live Oak High in 1995 and is the owner of Enterprise Academy of Martial Arts in Hollister. “I had friends taking martial arts at the time, and I didn’t know anything about it at all, no clue. I just went in and signed up without watching a class and instantly fell in love with it. I was never an active kid, so martial arts was the first time I did anything active of note.
“The fact I got a lot more confident resulted in being bullied a lot less. They tend to pick on people who are not confident. I didn’t get in fights, which is a good thing and one of the reasons why I’m so huge in (the) anti-bullying (movement). I feel it’s an epidemic and hopefully kids can understand if they do stand up for themselves, they can get past it.”
Preader’s response underscores his essential mindset when it comes to practicing MMA in that he doesn’t do it just for himself—he does it for all of his students—to show them what is possible through hard work, discipline and focus. Preader, who was a member of Team USA competing in the World All-Styles Championship Martial Arts Tournament in Portugal last month, earned a gold and three bronze medals in his first competition in 19 years.
The long layoff from competition wasn’t a coincidence. The 41-year-old Preader never got into MMA to win medals or victories; rather, he developed a passion for the sport to inspire and give hope to himself and then spread that hope and joy to others.
“Competing has never been my main focus,” he said. “I don’t compete for personal honor or glory—I compete for my students. I’m all about them. I’m a teacher first and they are what matters to me. If I can inspire them, that means more than anything else.”
Preader’s effort and performance certainly proved to be an inspiration. Preader, who competed in the 40-plus male age division, took gold in the traditional Kobudo forms and bronze in traditional empty hands forms, Sino Vietnamese weapons forms (brown/black belt), and weapons forms hard (brown/black belt).
“I didn’t expect to go to Portugal and win a world championship,” he said. “That was the last thing that was on my mind. Even though I didn’t have expectations to win, I still had the mindset to do the best I could.”
Preader acknowledged there was great satisfaction and pride in him being able to bring home four medals, but he said the relationships that were built and the camaraderie of Team USA was the most meaningful thing to come out of the competition.
“The friendships I made with people, and the team bonding like family almost instantly meant more for me on a personal level (than winning),” he said. “Martial arts is about family and friendships. My school is not a karate school—it’s a martial arts community. When people get involved, it drives you to do your best. I will always cherish the time in Portugal as a memorable experience.”
Preader’s primary disciplines include Jeet Kune Do and Kali martial arts. There are dozens of different disciplines in MMA, most of which the general public are unfamiliar with. Kubodo refers to traditional Japanese weapons like nunchucks and the bo staff. In Portugal, Preader used a weapon called a Kama, a traditional farming implement similar to a sickle that is used for reaping crops.
“Kubodo Japanese farm tools were made into weapons many years ago, and over time those evolved to be used in competitions,” Preader said.
The Hard style category is more karate based, while soft is more kung fu style. Competing in four events displayed Preader’s versatility; however, he was most proud of his performance in the traditional Kobudo forms division because he didn’t have a chance to train for it.
“In the other divisions I trained a lot longer because I had an idea what I had to do,” he said. “But in the Kubodo weapon, you essentially get over there and find out what you’ll be doing. With the help of (Team USA assistant coach) Greg (Garcia), I had to piece together the form and had a week to prepare for it.”
Garcia was the one who invited Preader to be on the team in February 2018, which gave Preader ample time to prepare himself mentally and physically for the competition. Garcia and Preader are longtime friends, but Preader had no idea the invitation was coming.
“It came out of the blue,” he said. “I hadn’t competed since 2000, but I was given this opportunity and figured why not go for it.”
Preader, who teaches classes Monday through Friday, credited Russ Rocchi as being instrumental in his development over the years.
“Russ was my main instructor,” he said. “I have a lot of teachers to thank because through their teaching they gave me a strong enough base to go to Portugal and adapt. … I felt honored to be a part of Team USA.”
Preader’s Enterprise Academy of Martial Arts teaches Tae Kwon Do, kickboxing, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Eskrima, Arnis and Kali. The academy also teaches Jeet Kune Do, which is the only martial arts studio on the Central Coast that is authorized to teach Bruce Lee’s form of martial arts.