There were punches, kicks, knees and elbows at New Zealand's inaugural New Zealand Muay Siam Cup Golden Elbows competition held in Napier recently.
Muay Siam Cup Golden Elbows is a national tournament for youth in the sport of Muay Thai where fighters do battle over three to five rounds. Jackals Martial Arts and Fitness hosted the event, which included two categories based on experience level — 'elite', anything over five fights and 'emerging', anything up to five fights.
Napier gym Velocity Kickboxing head coach David Jackson says it was a huge win for the local boys, with four out of five of his fighters who entered the 'emerging' division, winning their weight/age divisions "against tough opposition from around the country".
"All our fighters were making debut appearances on their very first fights. We knew we were most likely giving away experience advantage to our opponents. I told all the boys that all I expected from them was that they do their best, to have fun and no matter what not to give up. Man did they put on a show of skills and heart."
The winners were Jayden Jackson, 14yrs, 47kg; Braxton Bell, 15yrs, 58kg (tko victory in final); Cruize Ansley, 15yrs, 66kg (tko victory in final); Stefan Dixon, 23yrs, 69kg and also competing was Mark Zykowski, 16yrs, 69kg.
David and former IKBF and WKBF NZ title holder Nicole Kavanagh have been coaching the young men for the past six to nine months. David says their wins are huge for Velocity Kickboxing and for the boxers.
"It shows we are on a good path and teaching the right things in training to achieve amazing results. It has also shown the boys that hard work, dedication and good choices lead to success, to never give up in the face of adversity and that they can push through struggles. It shows they are strong and capable, that teamwork and friendship is instrumental in success, listening and being teachable will lead to improvement."
David also drums into the fighters that respect for others is important, valuable and admirable.
"These are life lessons — not just lessons for in the ring. I believe we are helping shape champions for life not just in sport."
He believes the future for these boys is big.
"It makes me smile to hear them talking about aspirations of holding title belts within New Zealand or one day representing New Zealand at the Olympics now that it looks like Muay Thai will become an Olympic sport. Some are keen to eventually fight professionally and one or two are showing interest towards one day coaching others."
David says people come into the gym for all sorts of reasons — weight loss and toning to look better, social interaction, to improve fitness and sporting goals.
"A big reason for joining is wanting to feel they can protect themselves if needed. Many are also looking for a team or club they can belong to and be a part of. Others want competition and to fight or achieve goals and dreams in sport."
Other people join the gym because they are stressed out and need a "good healthy outlet".
"Some train regularly for better mental health and wellbeing. Stefan, for example, walked into the gym just to lose weight. He is now 20kg lighter, 1000 times more confident and strong, and he just won a medal at the Golden Elbows NZ championship."
David believes some children who don't fit in so well at school or don't have many friends also go to the gym to find friendship, community and a team because they are working together with others towards common goals.
"It really is about giving to people so much more than just sport."
David is "super proud" of the hard work of his whole team and says they couldn't do this without the support of Napier Boxing's Rod Langdon. Velocity Kickboxing is also looking for support from businesses in Hawke's Bay for general club members' equipment and for fighters' clothing and equipment.
"We also have some options of packages for sponsors where we can use the achievements of our fighters and what's going on within the club, how they are helping us and the community to advertise their businesses support of our sports team/charitable trust through paid online advertising in social media."
■ For more information or to offer support contact the Velocity Kickboxing Facebook page or David Jackson on 027 446 2757.