Training a champion in martial arts can have it’s advantages as well as disadvantages. You can put all your hard work and dedication into training a potential champion, only to be cast aside. Or that hard work and dedication can reap rewards as you stand with your protege, side by side bathed in glorious sunshine…
Nathan Kitchen has been teaching martial arts for over 20 years. His time as a trainer of champions stared in 2002 when he opened the now world renowed ‘Touchgloves Gym’ based in Cornwall. He has coached the likes of Julie Kitchen (14 Times World Muay Thai Champion) and countless other world champions…He gives an account of his coaching journey and obstacles that have hindered both his students and himself, a trainer of champions.
‘I have created, schooled and promoted over forty champions, some have become household names within the sports of Muay Thai and Kickboxing. There is a huge difference between a champion of any descriptions and a world ranged athlete. In respect, the training, doesn’t differ at all as you really do get out what you put into a club that continues to train champions. In my opinion a champion of a real club is someone who others can look up to for support/help whilst between competition and not just someone who competes and then disappears for months until their next opportunity. This helps create a positive aura that surrounds a champion and in turn sheds elements of ego that can ruin their existence in the gym.’
‘Being a true champion in not about have a belt, it’s about your existence as a personality to those around you. Training the best female fighter in the existence of the sport was a constant strain on my life, a true roller coaster experience which lead to my downfall as a person. I say ‘female fighter’ with a sense of sadness as despite living in an equal opportunity world, the inner sanctum of Muay Thai (especially in the UK) still remains to be exposed as a shameful, neanderthal barrier which cannot be overcome with hard work. It doesn’t matter how you conduct a career, how many fights you win or how many supporters you have, if you are female, you will always take second place in the U.K.
Julie Kitchen (14 times World Muay Thai Champion) was not just trained by myself, a caring husband that put 100 percent into making Julie an indestructable being, a being that in 60 fights never received a concussive blow, was never winded or hurt despite sharing the square ring with the elite, but a husband and wife team that changed the outlook on women in Muay Thai. We threw ourselves into last minute fight opportunities, competing for free and even funding our own expenses in travel and accommodation, in order to gain recognition and make females viable for main events.
Due to politics and my quest for fairness, we started to train harder, 3-4 times a day which put our marriage under stress, leaving our children nearly every month to continue our work in foreign countries. We became iconic and Julie was the ultimate product, a machine in training/competing yet humble and quiet in person. Everything went huge for us, we literally conquered America at the Muay Thai Premier League, brainchild of world champion Clifton brown. Julie was hailed as the ‘Queen of Muay Thai’ I witness an open gym session in Los Angeles where people traveled 100’s of miles just to watch and wipe sweat off her.
My two twin daughters are also British Champions. they won the British Open 4 years in succession. Again, because of politics, the ‘inner circle’ kept us out of the U.K. Muay Thai scene.
Lucy Payne had the benefit of a slipstream created by Julie, at just 16 years old in comparison to Julie’s 27 years old, she started competing with more than obvious potential. I can spot a champion as easily as I can spot a flaw in a fighter, whilst cornering at a top level, I myself never made it as a fighter, but I do have the ability to access people’s thinking, capitalize on mistakes and read into game play set by other coaches.
I am a believer in having principles. I never approach other instructors pupils and I’m always honest in respect to my fighters as I need to be trusted by them as its me who tells them to carry on when they think they can’t. A fighter cannot always spot an opponents body language, panic in an oppositions corner between rounds etc, so I become the trusted visual in the team. All they have to do is fight.
If it could be as it should be, beat the best in your area. Ranked at no. 1, this should be your ticket to fight abroad and represent your country, with the whole country behind you. Hurdling fighters that long to be active and are willing to prove it just doesn’t seem fair but that’s just my rainbow coloured perception of how things should be in reality. I am of an understanding why we are not accepted due to living so far away from the big city events, with regards to city sales etc, but if a fighter chooses to hide behind that promotion, to reject challenges or if higher ranked athletes are blatantly ignored to make way for lesser ranked fighters, to be promoted as the best in the country, then how can the ranking system be effective for everyone? What if ‘the dream’ comes true and Muay Thai’ is included as an Olympic sport? Food for thought…
David is yet another fine example of what Touchgloves brings to the community, many athletes have benefited career wise by an elite training programme, to get a placement in the services, or to follow a sports specific path and compete globally, but we can cater for personal goals. These goals can be anything from weight loss, confidence building, mental health issues or anger management. It’s these subjects of success that cannot be advertised or usually warrant a paper story, but we have successfully changed the course of local peoples lives for 20 years in the Penwith district. The ethos and friendliness within the walls of the Touchgloves is what helps make David and others in similar situations, feel part of something positive as well as providing a great social path.
I have had highs and lows with coaching and a plethora of emotions all mixed in. I have accomplished what many coaches have experienced both professionally and personally. However one thing still remains intact, the core fundamentals of what I believe in, honestly, integrity and the belief in my students abilities. Despite the unjust political aspects of Muay Thai, I will still continue to fight my corner in the only way I know how, the just way…
Thanks to Nathan Kitchen from Touchgloves Gym in Cornwall: http://www.touchgloves.co.uk/
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