John Stanley is already well-known in Canada’s combat sports circle, so much so that last June he was named one of four individuals who make up the coaching staff for Canada’s national team program in the World Association of Kickboxing Organizations (WAKO).

The co-owner of Stanley Boxing and Fitness in Yellowknife just wrapped up his first in-person camp as a member of the coaching staff in Burlington, Ont., last weekend, prior to a big event later this year.

Stanley and his three coaching colleagues were on hand to help select the Canadian team that will be heading to Ireland in September for the WAKO Junior World Championships. A total of 59 hopefuls from around the country descended upon Burlington for the two-day camp, with 31 of the contenders making the final cut.

“We put everyone through a mixture of athletic and sport-specific training, 10 to 12 hours per day,” he said. “We were very clear on what we expected from everyone and there were some cases where a little more of a push would have gotten someone onto the team.”

This was the first in-person camp for Stanley and the coaching staff. He was part of two virtual training sessions prior to the camp in Ontario.

The event in Ireland will feature such disciplines as light contact (no low-kicks to the leg) and point-fighting, something seen more in karate, where it’s a stop-action form of sparring. Stanley’s focus will be on K1, the full-contact version of kickboxing, which he describes as similar to Muay Thai without the elbows.

He said he liked what he saw from those in K1.

“We weren’t expecting everyone to make the team but everyone performed really well and everyone had a great attitude all weekend,” he said. “As I said, the testing was very rigid and everyone worked their butts off.”

There will be forms and weapons demonstrations included in Ireland but Stanley won’t have any part in that.

“I’m ring sports only,” he said.

The 31 fighters will be divided into their various disciplines among eight different weight classes for Ireland, and Stanley said the team members are expected be working on what they’ve been told to do until the next camp, which is scheduled for July.

“They’re back at their own gyms working with their coaches and they all have the curriculum we’ve given them,” he said. “After the camp in July, it’s off to Ireland in September.”

Being a part of the K1 discipline is a big deal to Stanley because it’s the form recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The IOC has also recognized WAKO as the official governing body of kickboxing, meaning it’s been granted official status as an international sport federation and is the first step on the way to becoming a part of the Olympic program in the future.

“It’s really cool to be a part of something that is on the way to becoming an Olympic sport,” said Stanley. “For this team, I’m hoping we can go over there, do our best and get some good results.”

His tenure as a coach with the national program will run until 2024.

James McCarthy

I've been hanging around the office as the sports editor for the better part of the last 16 years. In August 2022, NNSL Media decided to promote me to the managing editor's position, which I accepted after...

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