Nino Severino: From fighter to coach, Gary Staff is a champion
PUBLISHED: 11:48 15 November 2017 | UPDATED: 11:54 15 November 2017
In his latest column, Nino Severino goes back to his roots and meets up with an inspirational former training partner in Ipswich.
I was in a meeting a few days ago discussing how confidence and mental skills can affect the performance levels of young athletes – I am a firm believer that life experiences are a big part of who you eventually will grow up to be.
I am very lucky to say that through my time in fighting I met some extraordinary individuals, who affected me in a dramatic way and moulded the way I dealt with all things in my life, good or bad.
One man I had the privilege of training with was Gary Staff. I was a young fighter at the time, around 17-years-old, Gary at this time was the British kickboxing champion, so this was a massive opportunity.
I bumped into Gary again a few days ago, we got chatting and he was telling me all about his Ipswich Kickboxing Academy and the coaching work he was carrying out with some of his young juniors and professional MMA and K1 fighters.
After the conversation I said I would love to visit the academy and once again experience the life of a fighter, it was an opportunity I did not want to miss – and what a fantastic evening it was.
When I arrived, Gary was there to greet me; he is an utter gentleman, a very courteous and respectful person, someone who is very easy to be around.
I think that some of the public may think that because fighters are in a brutal world, they become brutal and hard of character, from my experience this cannot be further from the truth and Gary is a perfect example of this.
Being a fighter and living a fighter’s life gives you the confidence to treat people with the respect, and this is a big part of what Gary teaches in his academy, the values of a fighter.
I asked Gary what he thinks children learn from attending his academy. He said: “They learn discipline, respect, it creates great strength in them and also gives them confidence in life”.
And this is exactly what I witnessed as I watched the fighters, some as young as four-years-old, all of them focused on their task of being the best fighter they can be.
Amongst them were some very skilled fighters, Gary proudly told me: “We have a lot of junior fighting talent, including a young girl called Emily Chapman, 10-years-old who has just been awarded her black belt. At the other end of the spectrum we also have a couple of professional MMA and K1 fighters”.
What I really liked about the academy was the atmosphere, it was harmonious, respectful, and everyone working as a unit to create a spirit that I think can only be felt in a fighting environment.
It creates a feeling of camaraderie, and there was lots of this spirit on display. It is clear that all the fighters have the upmost respect for Gary, their sensei, their teacher and he has earned this respect.
As a fighter, Gary has been there and done it, and was an awesome, brave warrior of the ring. He fought in many kickboxing bouts in shows across England.
This commitment paid off and he was placed amongst the top 10 kickboxers in Great Britain, which earned him the right to take on other contenders to the British title, which he did very successfully.
After a string of very tough fights Gary was matched against the number one contender for the right to fight for the British title, he was victorious and found himself in the ring with Arthur O’Loughlin, a fighter with a very big reputation.
This was the biggest fight of Gary’s life and one that would see him crowned a British champion and transform him into a fighter who was recognised on the tough European kickboxing circuit.
I looked at Gary and it reminded me of a fantastic saying that the great Muhammad Ali left us all with...
“Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.”
This is what I see Gary has in his life, something you cannot buy, it is priceless, it must be earned, and he has – through a sporting life which included many hours of committed and relentless training.
To me, his fighters and pupils clearly offer him respect, not only for being a champion of the kickboxing ring, but a champion and outstanding role model out of the ring.