Dave Newbrook combines a successful kickboxing career with passing on his skills to the next generation of fighters in Chester. Reporter RICHARD FLETCHER stepped into the ring with him to find out more about the sport
'REMEMBER to keep your guard up,' says Dave Newbrook, as yet another blow swings towards my red, panting face.
Had there been any intent behind it, the punch would have probably knocked me out. Going out on the town the night before suddenly seems like a very bad idea.
Luckily, we are only sparring, aiming gentle taps towards each other and practising blocking using the legs and arms. I am slowly learning to put together the combinations that the former world champion has been teaching me, following up kicks with punches and remembering to come back to my starting position after each move.
Having both watched Dave in action and written about his fights for The Chronicle, I had decided to try out kickboxing for myself. But it is clear that flinching like a schoolgirl is a habit I will have to iron out if I am to have any success at this sport.
I lift my gloved hands up again to protect my face, waiting for the ex-world champ to make a move. My wild flailings must have lost their amusement value for him by now, giving him a new definition to 'going through the motions'.
As we circle each other, it is glaringly obvious that he is an in-form kickboxing star and I am an out-of-shape reporter who drinks too much coffee. Even my untrained eyes can see the differences between the two of us as we spar. He is lean and breathing normally; he moves with a fluid ease; and, more importantly, he has not turned up to training with a hangover.
We had met up at Gymnasium One in Saltney and he had entered accompanied by John Henry Mc-Namara and Danny 'Boy' Parker, the cream of the training sessions that Dave runs in Chester and Ellesmere Port.
The session begins with a gentle warm-up, jogging back and forth, then side-to-side and backwards. Then we move on to stretching, with John Henry taking us through the well-drilled motions as Dave gets the pads and gloves out.
'It's important to emphasise the fitness side of kickboxing,' says Dave. 'It's not just about fighting. It's really good exercise and a lot of people come for the workout.'
After stretching muscles in places I didn't know I had places, we climb into the ring and the gloves go on. Cometh the hour, cometh the reporter, and as the combinations become more complicated I get a rhythm going, taking it in turns with Danny to land kicks that thump satisfyingly into the middle of the pads that John Henry is patiently holding. John Henry and Danny's fighting records are testament to the two or three hours training they put in most days. Both have competed in major competitions in Chester and Wolverhampton, as well as training with Dave in Thailand.
Dave himself has already reached the highest level, winning the world kickboxing title when he was 22. After a five-year absence he is on his way to a world title fight under Thai rules, which involves more grappling than kickboxing as well as using knees and elbows.
After going into full-time teaching, he has built up a solid group of fighters who are representing Chester at competition level, and it is easy to see why it is popular.
As we warm up, I feel far more confident, stronger and, unbelievably, more co-ordinated. I have been looking for a regular sport to get fit again and I may well have found it.
And, what's more, I've found a cure for a hangover.