The day has finally come when Raglan’s champion martial artist Jonathan Rickard has hung up his gloves.

As the World Kickboxing Association’s New Zealand light heavyweight kickboxing champion, Jonathan had his last fight over the weekend at a Knees of Fury event in Hamilton.

The 37-year-old won the fight after his Tahitian opponent had received several hits to the back of his head by the third round and officials decided to disqualify him.

“Unfortunately it’s not the way I wanted to go out, but a win’s a win,” says Jonathan, who is also known as Johnny.   

After 25 years of martial arts and 20 years of competitive fighting, Johnny felt it was time to retire from kickboxing and karate, the latter of which also gave him two New Zealand titles.

Although still at the top of his game, most of his opponents were in their mid to late 20s and age eventually became a factor for him.

Lots of competitors could keep going too long, he says. But he wanted to quit while he could still enjoy life and have a body that’s “still functioning”.

Johnny is lucky to have never sustained any major injuries or a knockout from his fights, just minor injuries such as broken fingers and ribs.

But the competition demanded a heavy training schedule, with five or six times a week, twice a day at the gym: “So rest is the number one priority for now,” he says.

Johnny plans to keep going to the gym and to train others however.

“Definitely the competitive side is the icing on the cake [but] for me, martial arts is more of a lifestyle,” he explains.

His teaching work at Raglan Area School, where he runs Te Mana o te Rangatahi alternative education unit for Year 9 and 10 boys, is important to him and he uses many of the skills there that he developed as a martial artist.

“I try to explain [to the boys] about discipline, respect and the responsibility that goes with being a martial artist and a fighter, because it’s important.”

All these skills, along with perseverance and trust, are things that Johnny has gained through his karate and kickboxing and will continue to be useful to him throughout his life.

Rachel Benn