January 28, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 65  

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Hardknocks hosts kickboxing

By Katy James

Gazette Staff

Matt Prince/Gazette
DENNIS THE MENACE AIN’T GOT NOTHIN’ ON ME. A future street tough gets ready to hone the skills that will be useful in his future as an armoire thief. Who said kids couldn’t be trained to kill anyways?

A clean, fair fight is for many people a contradiction. But for others, a query about the time and location of the match is the initial response. For the latter, this past Sunday at Hardknocks on Dundas St. — London’s only K1, kickboxing and Muay Thai gym — gave visitors just that opportunity, with some Thai culture mixed in.

Owner, trainer and North American kickboxing champion Shawn Tompkins held London’s first ever Muay Thai and K1 inter-club sparring exhibition, an exciting change of pace for an otherwise dreary Sunday afternoon. The turnout was large, with over 200 Londoners of all ages watching.

The specifics of the different fighting techniques: K1, Muay Thai and kickboxing can be confusing for the uninitiated. Muay Thai is an ancient Thai ceremony and tradition that focuses on the skill of clenching and kneeing. Kickboxing focuses on punching and kicking, and as of 1985, was made illegal in Ontario at the amateur level. K1 fighting has its origins in Japan and is similar to the other forms, but fighters can’t knee or elbow to the head.

The weekend exhibition had seven fights in total, with fighters from all over Ontario, including two local Canadian champions and two of Western’s own — Mckenry Charles and Lola Braimo from King’s College.

The fighters’ skills shone through with their agility and intricate techniques. Ten-year-old spectators (and twin sisters) Johnie and Carley voiced their opinion about the event: “It’s awesome and fun to watch.”

Matt Prince/Gazette
"HERE COME DA PAIN!" North American kickboxing champ Shawn Tompkins (left) grapples with his opponent last weekend during an exhibition at Hardknocks on Dundas St.

The young girls watched intently, later agreeing that despite its violent nature, the sport still held their interest. “It’s interesting because they fight each other but then they hug and they’re friends after,” the girls added. The innocence of their statement shouldn’t be so easily accredited to the naiveté of the girls; the violence and anger that one associates with fighting was overwhelmed on Sunday by the professionalism and good sportsmanship of the fighters.

Charles, a 2001 chemistry graduate from Western, has been training with Tompkins for seven months. Charles’ skill and commitment to the sport was evident in his response to questions about violence. “I just want to train,” he said. “I don’t believe in fighting, but you should be able to defend yourself.”

Training is an essential part of any sport, but the best training for martial arts comes from match experience and competition. Tompkins has been teaching for 12 years and fighting for most of his life. He promotes the idea of training through experience and is proud of his method. “My fighters are the best in Canada because I give them a venue to train in.”

Tompkins feels strongly about the sport and even more strongly about the people he trains; he refers to his trainees as his “family.” Tompkins is dedicated to his students and explains his commitment easily: “I love what I do.”

Last Sunday, the modest gym was filled with a sense of camaraderie, skill, culture and commitment, a restraint to any potential contempt for the sport and its violent nature. The next event will be held in March and anyone interested in more information can contact Tompkins at Hardknocks at 451-1211.



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