As a karate kid turned kickboxer Jonathan Rickard’s used to taking the odd belt, but there’s nothing to match the giant one he’s come away with from the World Kickboxing Association-sanctioned New Zealand champs in Auckland.
The 37-year-old Raglan Area School teacher is now a New Zealand kickboxing champion after knocking out his opponent in the final of the light heavyweight division at the nationals, held recently at the Orewa Arts & Events Centre.
Jonathan – who has also won New Zealand karate titles in two weight classes in the past – proudly showed off to the Chronicle the winner’s belt, trophy and gold medal as he relaxed at home in Raglan West last Sunday.
“I was pretty happy with myself,” he says of his victory over Auckland opponent Daniel Chang. “He was young, he was fit, he was throwing lots of combinations … but I managed to score a fifth-round knockout.”
With 30-odd years’ experience in karate behind him – achieving a 3rd dan black belt – and now also more than a decade of kickboxing, Jonathan reckons he doesn’t get too nervous before a fight. “You develop the skills, you grow with that, you learn,” he says philosophically of the discipline.
His father Pablo has taught karate locally in the town hall since 1988 and Jonathan admits that’s had a strong influence on him. “I took a big lead from my dad.”
A lot of the martial arts teachings are transferrable life skills, he adds, referring to the respect and perseverance that come with the training.
Jonathan says he was a diminutive kid way back who got picked on, but that karate skills gave him reassurance and confidence in himself. And because of it he believes he’s better able to meet the needs of his young protégés at the area school, where he teaches a small unit of year 9 and 10 boys in an alternative education programme, Te Mana o te Rangatahi.
Combining teaching with his passion for kickboxing are closely related, he insists; it’s simply about working with people in different ways to get the best results from their own abilities.
In all Jonathan’s had 76 karate and “18 or 19” kickboxing fights. And though he’s keen to continue training at the House of Pain gym in Hamilton five times a week with multiple world kickboxing champ Ethan Shepp, he’s considering not fighting competitively too much longer as it’s hard on the body and as he gets older his recovery from injuries is slower.
“I might hang up my gloves for good at the end of the year,” he says.
But not before one last fight – at the ‘Knees of Fury’ show – at the YMCA in Hamilton this October.
“I’ll see what happens [after that].”