MMA black belt dominates ring

Junior Eowyn Madden balances school, marching band & fighting career


Nicolas Ospina

Discipline AND DEFENSE: Junior Eowyn Madden practices sparring with her sensei. Madden is preparing for her senior black belt tests in April.

Ben Tillisch, Sports Editor

Having spent countless hours refining her skills and fitness in the dojo for this moment, junior Eowyn Madden bows to her opponent in preparation for the ensuing fight. 

 A seasoned junior black belt, Madden breathes deep, visualizing movements and techniques her sensei has drilled into her mind since first grade.

The shrill note of the ref’s whistle cuts through Madden’s thoughts and echoes in her ears. As the fight begins, she hones her attention on her opponent that nervously dances around the ring.

Allowing muscle-memory and adrenaline to take control, Madden strikes like a snake, dragging her opponent to the mat. Triumphant, Madden respectfully helps her opponent regain her feet, once again bowing to her. 

The feelings of victory are not unfamiliar to the championed junior black belt. Having been a part of many intense and competitions, Madden describes the differentiating emotions and responses that are triggered by winning and losing. 

“When you lose, it’s kind of like you worked so hard for and you didn’t get what you wanted but that’s okay,” Madden said. “I usually use that feeling of losing for motivation the next time I come into the dojo and use it to work harder. And then when I win it’s a good feeling. It’s like ‘yes, I did it’. But you also have to remember to be kind and courteous to the other opponents.”

However, Madden believes that the fighting goes beyond the simplicity of winning, as respect is a major facet of Mixed Martial Arts. Because of this, Madden attributes the sport to her improved humility. 

“I’ve definitely become more humble because of fighting,” Madden said. “Like I always want to win and get that point but I’ve learned that it’s okay to lose because you are learning a lot. There’s a huge respect between one another. I mean, yes, we get competitive but there’s always respect, especially with the judges and the opponent.”

CATCHING HER BREATH: Madden takes a break during a practice. She’s competed in MMA for eight years. (Nicolas Ospina)

A student-athlete, Madden is required to balance her fighting schedule with school and other activities. As a trumpet player in the marching band, Madden details the conflicting schedules of her involvement in multiple extra-curriculars.

“I try to go to the dojo four times a week,” Madden said. “I’m also in marching band though, so I have to balance those two. During marching season, I couldn’t go to my martial art practice, except for on Wednesdays, because we didn’t have anything for band. But I know that if I had a test the next day, I would prioritize studying for that test. I definitely put school before anything else.” 

Madden’s skill and dominance has stemmed from her immense dedication to perfecting her abilities. Guided by her sensei, John Roberson, over the years, Roberson details Madden’s will to get better.

“Eowyn has an amazing work ethic,” Roberson said. “She has consistently attended for years and is among the hardest working students at the dojo.” 

A junior black belt, Madden is currently preparing for her senior black belt test next April. Sensei Roberson describes the rigorous process Madden is being put through to get ready for her initiation as a senior black belt. 

“Preparing for a black belt test is far more intense than regular training,” Roberson said. “She must focus heavily on conditioning, striking, and ground sparring with partners. She will be responsible for everything she has learned over the past eight years. She must prove herself worthy of being a senior black belt, in front of a panel of high ranking black belts from a variety of dojos.”

Despite being put through rigorous preparation by Sensei Roberson for her senior black belt trials, the mutual respect shared between Madden and her sensei motivates her. The relationship between Madden and Sensei Roberson goes beyond MMA though, as the sensei has helped in shaping a positive lifestyle for Madden.

“He’s like family to me,” Madden said. “We like to have ‘fight nights’ we call them. Basically, we go hang out at someone’s house, and we watch UFC fights with other families from the dojo, and it’s really good bonding and fun. I think we’ve known each other for more than five years, and all he wants to do is help me grow, not just as a black belt but as a person.”

Similarly, Luke Roberson, an MMA fighter at the same dojo as Madden depicts its friendly environment. Luke suggests that Madden is a major contributor in making sure everyone is involved, which makes the dojo feel more like a family.

“The fighters in the dojo feel like family because it’s a very comfortable environment and everyone is respected,” Luke said. “Eowyn is really nice to everyone and is very respectful, so she definitely contributes to that feeling.”

An underclassmen, Luke looks up to Madden. Given that Madden is a black belt, Luke describes the way Madden exemplifies the needed characteristics to receive such a title and honor.

“She always tries her best and is very skilled,” Luke said. “She is a role model for all students because she practices very hard and really has the black belt attitude. She puts in a lot of work and it shows in competition.” 

Along with Madden’s respectful nature and leadership characteristics, the junior black belt believes that MMA has not only improved her physical and athletic attributes, but her overall personality as well. 

“It’s helped me grow as a person and become more patient with myself, and it’s just fun,” Madden said. “It’s a good stress reliever, and it definitely keeps my exercise up. And, it kind of helps me stay in shape for marching band, so it really just helps me overall in being a healthy person.”