When Frank Mullis opened Milledgeville Academy of Mixed Martial Arts, or MAMMA, in August 2007, he did so in a modest location in a strip mall, hoping to share his love of martial arts with others in the community. Eleven years later, in April 2018, his business moved to a bigger location north of town and his programs have grown right along with his facility.
“We’ve grown since the move from about 40 [students],” said Mullis. “We’re pushing at right about 100 students now. We went from a retail space to a standalone building. We had about 3,000 square feet, and now we’re double the size at 6,000 square feet.”
With the increased space also came upgrades to the gym’s facilities. The newer location has men’s and women’s locker rooms with showers, office space, a reception and waiting area, increased mat space and a bag rack with 12 kickboxing bags.
Today, MAMMA offers classes in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Monday through Friday, Muay Thai (kickboxing) on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and children’s martial arts on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
In addition to offering more classes than before, Mullis takes pride in the experience and credentials of his instructors, Amun Cosme, Quintavios Marshall, Kurt Reinhard and Will Burdett, as well as his own daughter, Catherine Mullis. Cosme is currently one of the top fighters in his weight class in various organizations throughout Georgia and the Southeast, and Marshall has championships from several grappling organizations. Reinhard is a former professional Muay Thai fighter. Catherine Mullis has been training at her father’s gym since she was a young child, and as an 11th-grader at Baldwin High School, already has titles to her name both in the martial arts world and in the high school wrestling circuit.
As for Mullis himself, he began training in karate more than 30 years ago and attained his first and second degree black belts in the sport. It was a few years later in the mid-1990s that he first discovered Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
“At that point I realized that martial arts was more than just a standing defense art, and so I began a quest to learn Jiu Jitsu,” said Mullis.
Mullis earned his Jiu Jitsu black belt in 2014 after training for several years with a variety of instructors and mentors. As Mullis explains, this was no small feat.
“The average time to get a karate black belt is about three to five years. Jiu Jitsu is anywhere from eight to 12 or 15 years, depending on how much you train. It’s just a very difficult art to get a black belt in.”
Now MAMMA can boast their first two black belt students as well in Oliver Wilcher and Chris Gates. Both Wilcher and Gates help out with instructional duties at the gym as well.
When describing what sets Brazilian Jiu Jitsu apart from other martial arts forms, Mullis points to the sport’s gentle nature.
“Jiu Jitsu is a grappling art that is a mixture of judo and wrestling. It is a gentle art that uses joint locks and chokeholds to restrain a person,” said Mullis. “You only have to apply as much force as necessary to stop the other person.”
To emphasize his point, Mullis added that he has regularly watched his daughter Catherine submit male college students and adult women who are much bigger than her.
It is this gentle aspect of Jiu Jitsu that Mullis credits with having a positive influence over countless students who have come through the doors of his gym. In addition to watching college students learn from him and then go on to continue practicing martial arts after graduating and moving away from Milledgeville, Mullis has seen many area youth learn crucial lessons from their Jiu Jitsu training.
“There are multiple examples where kids are no longer bullied because they’re in our program. We have multiple examples where kids are no longer bullies because they’re in our program. Jiu Jitsu stops bullying on both ends.”
Mullis feels like this positive influence is an important part of his business.
“We teach them that you don’t have to punch or kick someone to defend yourself. You can do it through Jiu Jitsu without hurting the other person,” said Mullis. “That’s the best part.”