• Learning from the ‘super fighters’ of Kazakhstan

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    Foronda (left) and Pavel Timofivich test grappling techniques.

    Foronda (left) and Pavel Timofivich test grappling techniques.

    Kazakhstan is the world’s largest land locked country by land area, and the ninth largest country in the world, located in Central Asia. Lying on its borders are Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan adjoining a large part of the Caspian Sea. This country is considered to have a huge population, but because of its land size, there are only four to five people per square kilometer when you think about population density.

    Kazakhstan was the last of the Soviet Republics (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics or USSR) to declare independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. But the spirits of the old Soviet sportsmen remained, and up to this day continued to dominate the world of sports with their first class athletes. Aside from pure talent and exceptional athleticism, Kazakh athletes are motivated by the government to pursue perfection. And for every athlete who can bring home a gold medal from the Olympics, they are rewarded 10 million United States dollars. Something that cannot be offered easily by any country.

    In my almost nine years of breathing the air of Russia and other post Soviet countries, three consecutive years were spent visiting the country of Kazakhstan. Spending quality moments with long time Kazakh friends who happen to be former world-class champions of different martial arts. One of my old friends was a former Freestyle-Greco Roman Wrestling champion from the Soviet Union. In between endless bottles of vodkas and a table full of shashlik [a form of Shish kebab popular in Russia], I took the chance to turn the topics toward martial arts and temporarily rest the usual business talks, arguments on alcohol brands, trashing political idiots, admiring powerful vehicles, gambling over sports, and criticizing sexy women.

    Pavel Kim Timofivich carried the flag of the Soviet Union as a Freestyle and Greco Roman wrestler from 1976 to 1989. He was not a regular athlete. He climbed the steps from regional champion, to national champion toward being one of the former USSR’s top athletes, and then finally, the position of a Master Sportsman of the USSR in 1986. His dedication to wrestling did not end after he retired in 1989 under the 57-kilogram weight class (he started competing first class at 45 kilogram weight 13 years before). Pavel continued to become the President of the Freestyle-Greco Roman Wrestling Association of Kazakhstan, and represents his stable of athletes in the city of Kizilorda. No athlete in this city doesn’t know his name. He has become an icon and a great supporter of young and upcoming athletes.

    What made Kazakhstan wrestlers dominate the mats? They have a national wrestling system called Kazksha Kures and this is their main base. When Kazakhstan was still a part of the Soviet Union, the Russians and the Kazakh people train harder than anybody else. Russians cross the border to train with the Kazakhs, and they all work together for the glory of the motherland Russia. To this day, the coaches do not encounter any character problems with their wrestlers. Each athlete who wins a gold medal automatically becomes a national hero. Recruits, in the early age of 10 years old, come from different cities.

    The only problem being encountered by the coaches in recruiting young athletes is their tendency to change their minds and play another sport later on.

    For instance, in the sport of boxing, the government raised the monthly stipend for every boxer thus becoming a temptation for other athletes to jump boats. Boxing is one of the four sports that Kazakhs are known for. Powerlifting, weightlifting, and wrestling are the other three.

    The super athletes of Kazakhstan made their presence felt during the Tokyo Olympics in 1964 where Kazakh athletes took home 12 gold medals. From then on, Kazakh athletes were considered a threat by other countries. Their diet is taken cared of by their government and athletic supplements are given for free. The Sports Commission established their own doping committee that conducts series of tests regularly.

    Kazakhstan wrestlers have had proven their dominance against Korea, Iran, Japan, Russia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Cuba, Turkey, Belarus, and America. In Asia, Iran is the most difficult opponent. In Europe, it’s Russia and Belarus.

    There is no other way for all these super athletes but to go up and improve more on their already superb training methods. Recently, a confederation was established to put together Kazakhstan’s sports associations of tae kwon do, wrestling, boxing, judo, and powerlifting. This unification will further strengthen the sports of power and fighting. Kazakhstan once again is ready to reap gold medals in the upcoming winter Olympics in Russia this year, and in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

    “Mumbakki” Daniel Foronda is a mixed martial arts champion and a Filipino martial arts expert. He is currently based in Russia where he is a combat tactical trainer to the country’s Military Special Forces.

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