Back in 1993, inspired by the first MMA competitions and his own love of and belief in cross training in martial arts, Mike Valentine opened the doors of Practical Martial Arts (and then Marin Karate Kids as well) with the mission of providing a high quality martial arts experience to students of all ages with an emphasis on functional use of skills. Practical Martial Arts was the first in Marin County to teach mixed martial arts skills and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Living out of the dojo, training 24/7 and attending Cal Berkeley, Mike refined the curriculum of PMA. His mission was based on his own personal experience while earning his black belt in Kenpo as a teenager. He was taught that the forms he was learning were for ‘self defense’. He believed this until the day he saw his instructor teaching his own son some boxing techniques. When Mike asked what they were doing, the teacher replied “My son is being beat up at school so I am teaching him self defense.” Naturally that struck a chord and Mike was compelled to explore the concept of effective self defense more deeply. He began training and competing in boxing and then Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Prior to the early 1990’s, martial arts were very divided and specialized. Each discipline showcased their unique specialized skill. Tae Kwon Do focused on kicking, Boxing on punching, wresting on takedowns. Kung Fu and Karate polished their forms and kata. If you were a Karate practitioner, a Kung Fu practitioner, or a kick-boxer, your skills were totally oriented towards striking. If you were a Judo practitioner, or wrestler, your skills were totally oriented toward grappling. Martial artists, by in large, did not cross train.

In the late part of the 1990’s a new martial artists emerged – a hybrid athlete equally adept in striking and grappling. These martial artists no longer resemble traditional Karate people or even Judo practitioners. Thus these martial artists no longer wanted to be bound by the term Karate, Kung Fu, Judo, or wrestling because the art has evolved into something else. For that reason, the term Mixed Martial Arts is the name used to describe this unique hybrid combination of kickboxing, wrestling and Jiu Jitsu.

By 1998, Mike had created his first round of PMA black belts that included Mikyo Riggs, who eventually went on to open his own well-respected school, Marin MMA in San Anselmo.

Also in 1998, Mike married Karen and within a year she joined the PMA team full time. Her background as an elementary school teacher and in teaching sexual abuse prevention to kids was a natural match for them as a couple and for the business. Together they grew the school to double its size, then opened a satellite location but later moved it to open a second mat in the original location as it stands today.

In 2009, the Valentines opened a second location in Terra Linda with their two star black belts Tryfon Stathopoulos and John Lavin. By 2012 John Lavin purchased the Terra Linda location to open the popular Lavin Mixed Martial Arts & Fitness and focus on his brand of MMA. And by 2014, Tryfon was ready to open his very successful North Bay Jiu Jitsu in Novato. The Valentines are very proud of their long term students and their successes on their own. They will always be a part of the PMA family.

Currently the PMA dojo has 275 students ranging in age from 3 to 63. The school has two mat spaces with a total of 4,500 square feet and has served thousands of Marin County kids, teens and adults for more than 20 years.