About Us

About Us

Core Combat Sports is the vision of Tommy Woodruff and represents the evolution of one of Rockford’s most storied martial arts academies. Formerly known as Rockford Kickboxing and Jiu-Jitsu Academy, Core Combat Sports is constantly evolving to stay current in its instruction, facilities, and training methods. The popularity of combat sports continues to grow at a fast pace with Mixed Martial Arts and Gracie (Brazilian) Jiu-Jitsu at the forefront. Although the school is constantly changing to stay current with best practices, one thing has never changed: Core Combat Sports’ deep roots in the traditional practice and study of Gracie(Brazilian) Jiu Jitsu. CCS exists to advance the art of Jiu- Jitsu while also offering top level instruction in Kick Boxing, MMA, and other various combat sport skill sets. This school is owned and operated by local Rockford residents that care about the community in which they live and work. Students drive from all over to be a part of the Core Combat Sports Team. CCS is the ideal marriage of the new and the old; cutting edge instruction in the richest traditions of Gracie (Brazilian)Jiu- Jitsu. Simply put, there is no other training center in the area like CCS; a modern, traditional martial arts community.”


Tommy Woodruff is a native of the Rockford area and has been involved in combat sports for much of his life. Tommy has been practicing Gracie jiu-jitsu seriously for close to ten years. Tommy’s jiu-jitsu lineage can be traced through his current instructor, Second degree Blackbelt and MMA superstar Jeff Curran, back to Pedro Sauer and Rickson and Helio Gracie. Tommy’s is currently a brown belt under Jeff “Big Frog Curran”. Tommy has competed in and won at numerous top level tournaments and has received accolades for his jiu- jitsu accomplishments. Tommy has been providing technically sound and superior instruction in Gracie jiu jitsu and Kickboxing for several years has had many students succeed and compete at top level competitions. Additionally, Tommy has been a practitioner of various striking arts, especially kickboxing and and boxing, since his youth. Tommy has coached Mixed Martial Artists at various levels and has had fighters compete in numerous promotions, including the WEC, Art of WAR, King of the Cage.

Boxing/MMA Striking

Although Coach William “Bad Boy”
Sockwell has always been a valuable resource to Core Combat and its students, Coach Sockwell brings 32 years of boxing experience with him to CCS. Coach Sockwell is a local sports icon that started boxing at age 12. Coach Sockwell’s competitive career spans from 1978 to 2002 and includes several success stories ranging from winning local shows and state championships to being a two time Golden Glove Champ in 1987 and 1989. Almost more impressive than his competitive successes are Coach Sockwell’s coaching accolades. Simply known as “Coach”, he has trained both amateurs and professionals. Training amateurs, Coach Sockwell has produced a two-time female national champion, numerous state Silver Glove champions, three Regional Silver Glove champions, two National Silver Glove Champions, and numerous other champions in their respective promotions. Professionally, Coach Sockwell has trained two professional boxers, one NABF Welter Weight Champion, and one World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) MMA fighter. Coach Sockwell has trained numerous Mixed Martial Artists competing in all levels of promotions, most notably the WEC, Art of War, and King of the Cage. MMA fighters seek out Coach Sockwell for his unique ability to marry the strking techniques of boxing and MMA. . Clearly the best stand up coach in the area, Core Combat Sports excitedly welcomes Coach Sockwell to the staff. When asked what his definition of boxing is, Coach states, “Boxing is an art…it’s grace! It’s style! Patience! Balance…it’s about the form and technique!” Coach Sockwell is excited to teach Core’s students the importance of hard work, respect for others, dedication, motivation, and the sport of boxing!

Assistant Instructor

One of the area’s original Mixed Martial Arts pioneers, Jim McKenzie brings a myriad of martial arts experience and several other intangible skill sets to Core Combat Sports to share with its student body. Jim holds a 5th degree black belt in Kajukembo and a 2nd degree black belt in Goju-Ryu Karate. Coach McKenzie’s attention to detail that earned him black belt status in two separate disciplines transcended into Jiu-Jitsu where he earned a purple belt. Jim was the Heavyweight Champion at “Chicago Challenge 4″ and is inducted into the United States Federation of Pankration Athlima Hall of Fame. With over 26 years of Martial Arts experience, Jim McKenzie has been “Cage fighting since before there was cage fighting.” Jim’s calm even tempered approach to martial arts is evident in his teaching and Core’s students benefit greatly from his presence on the team. Jim McKenzie helps round out the most decorated martial arts instructional staff in the greater Rockford area.

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