MARTIAL ARTS: Cage fighting helping to keep kids off the streets
THE popular image of cage fighting is two men in a no-holds-barred bout inside a metal cage with plenty of blood and violence involved.
Jamie Goulding is keen to dispel much of that because he believes that cage fighting – or mixed martial arts to give it its proper name – is highly technical and skilled.
His opinion is certainly worth noting because Jamie, now 35, has undoubtedly been one of the best kickboxers this country has ever produced.
He has held 16 British titles, two European and two world championships.
These days, he passes on his skills to martial arts’ enthusiasts of all ages at the busy gym in Brackley Street, Farnworth that bears his name.
But his understanding of martial arts generally is one honed over a 30-year love affair with the sport.
Jamie was just five when his dad insisted he and his brother and sister get involved in martial arts.
“He wanted to keep us off the streets and, in any case, I had a bit of a temper,” recalls Jamie.
“Martial arts sorted that out. I started learning with Joe Tierney and he now instructs here.”
The Farnworth lad took to martial arts like a duck to water and years of training and competition followed.
He also studied the grappling arts like Ju-Jitsu, but it was kickboxing in which he shone.
Mixed martial arts was a natural addition to the skills on offer at his gym.
Cage fighting had already really taken off in 2000 when an American TV company spotted the potential.
“It’s become very hyped but, actually, it’s very technical, like chess,” explains Jamie.
“You have to think two moves ahead. If you’re down, what will your opponent do next to win? You have to think about it.”
Jamie and his instructors teach youngsters from the age of five. “But the kids never compete in cage fighting,” he said.
When they train, they have to have special protective clothing on their shins, instep and groin, wear gum shields and special grappling strike gloves.
For adults, it’s just the gum shield, gloves and groin protector that’s used.
Jamie – whose gym has produced 38 British, 14 European and 12 world champions – is very careful about where members fight competitively.
“I’ll only let them go into well-established competitions,” he insists. “The problem with cage fighting is that there’s no governing body.”
Because it is a mixture of martial arts, cage fighting looks like anything goes. There may be blood and the risk of injury, and a fighter can win on a knockout, but he can also win on a “tap out”, which is when one fighter caught in a hold taps the other fighter three times to submit.
“They can also win on points, though, as they have to achieve certain moves,” adds Jamie.
What all the martial arts there – and probably cage fighting in particular – give to youngsters is discipline and confidence.
“We teach them life skills and it’s really rewarding to see youngsters, especially those who have been bullied, becoming more confident,” he says.
The gym has around 160 members ranging from doctors and teachers to mechanics and lorry drivers. “We get a lot of bankers coming here as well,” smiles Jamie. “Must be the stress!”
As for Jamie himself, while he loves teaching others, he’s not lost his competitive edge since retiring four years ago.
“I’m thinking of returning to kickboxing competition,” he said.
“I see other guys at my weight (66k or lightweight) and think ‘I can take them’, so we’ll just see what happens.”