Niamh Griffin talks to John Walsh about the Kids Muay Thai Championships that took place in Waterford earlier in the month. Pretty exciting to see the next new wave of Muay Thai fighters in Ireland. The kids are lethal!
Just five years ago the junior Muay Thai scene in Ireland didn’t exist, but now John Walsh from Waterford Muay Thai jokes the problem is finding a month without junior events.But he is only joking as it would be hard to find someone more passionate about developing juniors and making them ready for senior competition. Muay Eireann spoke to him after another successful tournament in Waterford on November 6th. He said 80 juniors competed, 38 of them girls and all ranging in age from five to sixteen.
“It was a great turn-out. I remember about five years ago myself and Sean Dillon in Carlow used to hold inter-clubs for the kids in our clubs. That was all there was then really. There are so many more contests now, and I’ve no problem with that at all. We run an Open Tournament, everyone is welcome so there’s no politics about it. They’re just kids,” John said.
He said now parents can pick and choose – going to tournaments closer to home instead of driving across the country as they had to do when he started running national-level events.
The first national event he ran was in 2014.
John said the key thing about getting parents to bring their kids along is safety. He said: ‘We had paramedics there to check everything, thankfully there were no serious injuries, no real injuries at all really.
The rules are modified – so no head-kicks. They all had head-gear, and the body-armour and shin-guards on their legs. The referees were very watchful, they’d warn anyone who was punching too high; boxers would get a point off.’
He added: ‘Kids who clearly won two years ago had to really dig deep this year. Some won and some lost; it’s because the standard is getting higher and higher every year. It’s brilliant for the kids, it’s all about experience for them.’
John and his team learned the hard way that competition can be fierce at junior level during a trip to England three years ago.
‘I took a handful of kids to a Sandee event. It was a real eye-opener, everyone was wiped out in the first round. Now we are winning things when we travel. In our gym in Waterford, I modified the training – I thought we were training hard until we went over to England,’ he said.
The experience Irish kids are getting on tournaments like the Waterford Championships, and other shows in Dublin and Cork for example is upping the level, John thinks.
Referring to the Unified World Championships last month http://www.unifiedworldchampionships.com/ he said: ‘It’s working great. We took a team to Italy and three of the Waterford kids won – that’s just from one gym. There were other Irish over there too, it’s great to see.’
John is bringing Iman Barlow for a seminar in January, something he’s very excited about – saying he often has more girls than boys down at training sessions.
We’re thanking John Walsh for his time and big well done to all the kids who participated!