Steve Manley, joint managing director of Universal Office Products in Wakefield, on his passion for kickboxing.
I GOT into K1 kickboxing by chance and it was something I had never even thought about until five years ago.
I had been playing football all my life at local level and that was the only sport that had ever interested me. But when I reached the age of 32, playing football twice a week wasn’t really good for my knee which I had had some problems with.
I realised I needed to maintain a more consistent level of fitness to strengthen my legs so I stopped playing and joined a local gym.
That gym happened to be Powers Martial Arts in Stannington, Sheffield, which specialises in kickboxing and is owned and run by Paul Powers, who is a third Dan Black Belt and has represented England at international level.
My other trainers include Joe McGoven, who is the World K1 British Freestyle Karate & Kickboxing Organisation (BFKKO) kick boxing champion and Alex McKenzie who is intercontinental (BFKKO) champion.
There was no pressure to get involved in the sport, but Paul just asked if I was interested in trying it out, so I did and I really enjoyed it.
That was five years ago and I’ve been doing it ever since. I think the reasons why I loved it so much were due to me having quite a demanding job and also getting to grips with something I had never done before.
It’s a great stress relief and extremely physical so I found it a fantastic way to release tension at the end of the day. Two years ago I decided to step up a notch and started my grading to achieve my kickboxing belts.
Paul mentioned about moving on to the sport’s grading system as it gives you a clear target of what you want to achieve and you’re able to measure personal progression much more accurately. Coming from a business background I’ve always liked setting myself targets and so I said to myself that in five years’ time I wanted to be a black belt.
At the moment I am on target to reach that goal. Out of the nine kickboxing belts I have just completed the exam for the fourth green belt, which I passed.
To be awarded a belt is extremely difficult. You need to train extremely hard and have to go five rounds with a qualified instructor – and believe me they don’t take it easy on you!
The gradings last an hour and 20 minutes and you are marked on your kicking and punching technique, physical ability and sparring.
The last grading was tough and they get harder but I’m really enjoying the process. After I’ve reached my black belt I may get into amateur fighting – but I will be nearly 40 by then so I may just stick to sparring as my opponents will be about 20 years younger than me!
But I feel fitter now than I did ten years ago so you never know!