Sunday, Nov. 10, at the Markham Pan Am Centre in Markham Ontario was a huge day for Cranbrook’s Rocky Mountain Martial Arts Family Centre.
This date marks the third year local fighter Tyson Hirscher flew to Ontario to face multiple opponents and fight for glory for his gym, his community and himself.
This year Tyson had to fight three full-contact amateur fights before he could come back home with the bragging rights of winning gold in the 91kg Men’s B class Muay Thai Canada National Championships, and that is exactly what Tyson Hirscher did — his third national gold medal in a row.
This is a very impressive accomplishment for any fighter, and as his coach I am overwhelmed with pride in this young man.
I am also proud to have been part of Tyson’s journey to achieve so much.
This was a very emotional weekend for me. I sat two time zones away and watched Tyson work his way through his opponents on screen at home. Yelling at the TV with my blood pressure making my face a light shade of crimson, I managed to make it through the weekend without having a stroke, although I am sure my girlfriend was worried I might not survive.
Unfortunately I could not afford to fly out to corner my fighter, but that is all right because I am not the best corner any way; I can be a bit of a mother hen who is too worried about fighter’s well-being to put my emotions aside and be a coach. Tyson’s dad Klaus does a much better job cornering than I probably would have over the last three years. I can get these fighters ready but at the fights I am a bag of nerves and that can be contagious and affect a fighter’s performance.
I do a better job in the gym working with fighters than I do in the stress of a fight cornering.
Tyson’s performance at nationals was nothing less than amazing. Tyson’s first opponent stepped in the ring on Saturday Nov. 9 at 3 p.m.; Josh Bell was a game southpaw who came out strong and had me biting my nails in the first round. Tyson struggled a bit in the first round, working hard to get his timing on this awkward and unorthodox fighter (note that I said awkward, not unskilled — Bell is a very skilled Nak Muay (Thai boxer) and I have a ton of respect for his abilities and skills; he is a tough and very skilled fighter).
After Hirscher landed a vicious hard jab, the next two rounds though were definitely Tyson’s. He owned that ring and proved to be the better fighter that day.
During the fight I was yelling instructions at my television screen as if Tyson could hear me. I certainly made a spectacle of myself in front of my family, yelling fighting instruction to a fighter a few thousand kilometres away.
It is an emotional thing watching a fighter you trained risking his body and reputation in the ring. Fighting is a lonely sport for both the fighter and the coach, when you are in the ring you are by yourself, in front of many people, squaring off against someone who is doing everything they can to cause you harm.
When you are a coach watching your fighter nothing seems to matter but your fighter’s well being, for me it is totally nerve wracking.
Tyson’s next fight was the following day. The first opponent he had to get through was Cory Issacs. Issacs was tough, but Tyson worked through him fairly decisively. Watching from my living room, I gave all three rounds to Tyson.
His first fight seemed to have warmed him up and the Tyson Hirscher that lives only in the ring was in full control. Tyson like many fighters is a true gentleman, a funny guy and incredibly patient and playful with children. The Tyson Hirscher that steps in the ring is a warrior and he was in full warrior mode when he fought Issacs. As I said, all three rounds I gave to Tyson and apparently the judges agreed with me.
This victory meant that Tyson had to step up one more time to fight for gold. I literally spent the day clock watching, pacing and trying to distract myself with other things. Just before 5:00 Tyson was stepping into the ring again. This time I had to watch the fight on my phone, as I had a very important birthday party to attend that I could not miss. On the way to the party I was oblivious to everything going on around me as I watched Tyson face his hardest opponent at Nationals this year.
His opponent; Victor Nikolajev-Webster was a very aggressive and skilled fighter.
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It was a tight fight with Tyson and Nikolajev-Webster going back and forth. Each fighter was not giving an inch and it was a gruelling fight in every round. Nikolajev-Webster landed a couple of nice high kicks in the first round and Tyson forced the clinch on him and answered with many devastating knees to the body. Both fighters gave everything they had and let it all out in the ring. In the end the judges gave Tyson two out of three rounds. This was one of Tyson’s best fights ever, it was exciting and action packed and pretty much everything combat sports fans would be looking to see.
I was overcome with emotion, I must have looked like a lunatic in the passenger seat of my girlfriend’s mini van screaming my head off and cheering. I blinked tears out of my eyes as I tried to fathom what my young fighter and friend had just accomplished; Tyson had proved himself the third year in a row to be a world class amateur fighter, in spite of coming from a small gym with only a small stable of fighters and a “beer league” Muay Thai kru (coach). I am so proud of all this young man has accomplished and I am happy I have provided a spring board for him to jump from to achieve greatness. Tyson Hirscher is a true example of what focus, diligence and hard work can do for anyone who is willing to sacrifice to make their dreams goals and their goals successes. I am very fortunate to have hard working fighters like Tyson and the small stable of fighters that make my gym their home.
As I sit here pressing key strokes I wonder how this all happened. I was not going to be a fight coach when I first started my journey in Muay Thai a few decades ago. I was happy using it as a base to teach people how to protect themselves, get fit and feel confident. My Ajarn (Master) suggested I teach competitive Muay Thai and told me the rewards would be great, his words were simple and honest… “you do” was all he said about ten years ago and the gods must have been smiling on me because even though I was a rusty Muay Thai coach, our gym has had a lot of success in the ring ever since then.
However the success of Tyson Hirscher has been something that fills me with a sense of accomplishment. Those who know Tyson know the incredible hurdles he faced in his first national kickboxing tournament he did so many years ago. Now he works full time plus trains with the diligence any elite athlete must. He is one of the most dedicated and hard working people I know. I look up to him (not just because he is a giant) and I am very grateful he has placed his trust in me as his coach. I am thankful my Ajarn: Songlith Singthong pushed me to coach fighters; it is a great honour to hold pads and coach brave young athletes like Tyson Hirscher.
Pictured above: Cranbrook’s Tyson Hirscher has made the emphatic case that he is the top Muay Thai fighter in Canada. This month Hirscher won gold in the 91kg Men’s B class Muay Thai Canada National Championships for the third year in a row. He’s pictured here with his three gold medals. Photo courtesy Joel Huncar