John Shaddock ends most of his emails and website messages, before he signs his name, with "Keep your hands up."
It's a phrase that should serve Shaddock well in the near future - the Sykesville resident and owner of his own mixed martial arts academy is set to join the cast of an MMA reality show called "Warrior Island," where he'll be up against 15 other competitors in a test of training and skills.
"I am hoping to show that a 45-year-old can hang with young bucks," Shaddock said through Facebook on Thursday evening.
Shaddock, who goes by the nickname "Bones," said he doesn't know much about where he's headed come September, when the show is scheduled to be taped. The hunch is somewhere in the Pacific, where he'll try to outlast 15 other fighters from around the world. They're all vying for a $500,000 prize by training with masters of various martial arts, and the show's fans will determine who stays on the island.
It's "Enter The Dragon" meets "Survivor" meets "American Idol," said show creator James Jefferson.
"We wanted to go back to the roots, the history, take the old school and bring it to the new school," said Jefferson, who is the CEO of Global Proving Ground.
Jefferson's company promotes the fighters competing to be on "Warrior Island," and MMA fans voted on their favorites to create a cast. Shaddock said he recently found out he was the top vote-getter among American fighters, but he's taking a realistic approach.
"I am starting to realize at 45 that my will may want to, but my body may only be able to keep this up for a little longer," he said via Facebook. "But I will always be teaching."
Most days, he can be found at the Shaddock MMA Academy in Eldersburg, which has been open since 2008. Shaddock's dojo was filled for a session July 19 that had a handful of men dressed in traditional martial arts attire, called gi, and sweating profusely while working on self-defense technique and skills.
Fighting to protect yourself, rather than taking on all comers, is what Shaddock said he wants the youth in his academy to showcase.
"People are starting to know that we're here," he said before the practice. "Not to bash other schools, but we're not about just breaking boards and giving out belts. These kids are actually working, running around fighting. It's really like a great anti-bully program."
If a bully throws you on the ground, Shaddock said, one of the best defenses to use is jiu jitsu. Shaddock turned to the martial art in recent years after growing up as a boxer and wrestler, and the variety has made him well-round as an MMA fighter.
Shaddock said he remembers getting a call from a friend, Greg Day, who had heard something about a reality show centered around mixed martial arts.
Day, an avid MMA fan and former wrestling state champion at Westminster High, was intrigued by the show's concept but decided he was too busy to try out. But he thought Shaddock was suited for it.
"We're both longtime MMA fans. We both go way back," Day said. "We love the sport. It's just right down our alley. And it's probably like his last shot.
"He's constantly working out, training ... I just thought, John would be great for this."
At 45, Shaddock said he considers himself the underdog heading into the show's taping. But people tend to get behind the underdog, Day said.
"He's well rounded, he's got the knowledge, he's got the experience," Day said. "I know his passion for this, and it's a lot like mine."
Jefferson said the show is still searching for a network but he's confident it will air in the spring. Viewers will get an interactive experience, he said, by being able to vote for their favorite fighters while the contestants train and learn from masters.
"Everything is going to be done traditionally," Shaddock said. "It's going to be more of a martial arts show. The fights are not going to be in a cage; we'll be fighting in the dirt and the sand. It's kind of like Mortal Kombat."
Shaddock's MMA journey started when he was a salesman in the health club business, frustrated from not being able to stay in shape while on the road. He soon found out a local gym was offering jiu jitsu, and the owner agreed to let Shaddock join for free provided he taught the members boxing.
When the gym owner moved to Columbia, Shaddock said, his day job quickly changed.
Now he's getting ready to embark on an MMA quest as a potential underdog.
"John was one of the voted on fighters," Jefferson said. "He's one of those original tough-guys."