A wise man once said ‘Not everything in life is about Muay Thai, but everything in Muay Thai is about life.’
This rings true for both Logan Yancey, 15, and Liam Orr, 14 who recently represented Canada at the 2023 WBC Muay Thai Junior Nationals in Calgary, Alberta on April 9.
“It meant a lot to me to compete,” said Yancey. “It was really exciting, and super nerve racking, but I definitely had a lot of fun, and learned a lot.”
Both boys journeys have just begun, as Yancey just started training four months ago, while Orr as been training nearly six.
“Martial Arts prepares young people for the adversity of life and builds their character,”said co-owner of Duncan’s World Class Muay Thai gym Artur Nowacki. “Muay Thai is not an easy path. Having these young guys ready for competition on a national level after a short amount of time means we’re doing our part correctly. We put in the work, learned along the way, and grew stronger.”
Orr will continue to flex his strength as he advances to the 2023 World Boxing Council’s Muay Thai World Junior Championships held in Venice, Italy from June 23 to 25. Nowacki said the growth he’s shown since his training began less than a year ago is nothing short of remarkable.
“The courage he’s exhibited under difficult circumstances is impressive,” said Nowacki. “Whenever he passed through an obstacle his eyes would shine with enthusiasm, joy, and fulfillment. It means a lot to have Liam competing on the World stage, It’s inspiring and encouraging for everyone, and confirms we’re all capable of elevating our physicality, mental faculties and building our character. Paving his path to the world stage is tremendous pressure and realization for teens like him.”
Nowacki began training Muay Thai students in Duncan in 2010, but good fortune, and talented students led to taking two Canadian champions simultaneously, among other international titles. This stretch of success took Nowacki to Thailand, and other spots across the globe. He returned to the Cowichan Valley in 2021 with his partner and world class athlete Jessica Gladstone who aside from being co-owner and co-coach has also accrued 42 fights over her 20-year Muay Thai career.
“Throughout my professional career I’ve been blessed with many opportunities that took me to Mexico, Thailand, Australia, Sweden, and Germany to name a few,” said Gladstone. “I battled it out and shared the ring with many world class female fighters.”
One bout that stands out for Gladstone was a last minute opportunity to fight in a four-girl tournament for the first ever female Glory World Bantamweight Title. Gladstone was the first female from Canada to participate at this level.
“This was one of my best fights, and one I will never forget,” said Gladstone. “The energy, and feeling of everything coming together, and that something bigger was at work. I felt so focused and calm in a state of surrender and flow. I took the win by unanimous decision against seasoned German opponent, Daniela Graf, and advanced to the finals in Germany. This fight taught me what it meant to be capable of anything you put your mind to. It showed me, all of this wasn’t just about me, but for everyone who believed in me.”
What was once a path of fighting and taking titles across the world, has now become one of giving back to the community.
“The most important thing that Artur and the framework of Muay Thai has taught me is about giving and sharing,” said Gladstone. “Whatever you give, comes back to you three fold. If you hesitate or are less than generous and honest with what the art has created within you, and your body, then you will miss out on the available rewards.”
The couple has also been offering the sport to autistic youth, and they’ve seen it build team skills, balance and confidence.
“Kids with autism are fascinating to work with,” said Nowacki. “The most rewarding part is the smile and enthusiasm, and the change I see in parents. They definitely light up with enthusiasm as the process unfolds. They seem more at ease, and also show a sense of pride in their kid’s efforts. It’s amazing how sport can provide an incredible platform to accelerate one’s personal development, respect for others, emotional control and positivity.”
“This next chapter to me, is the fruit of it all,” said Gladstone. “With the mindset of trusting the process, observing, holding and taking care of the things and people who kept me on this path, I can make a positive impact in a student’s life to learn to do the same. The changes that transpired in me since I began at 15 are immeasurable. I am truly blessed by my life’s path and look forward to learning more, while inspiring youngsters to raise themselves up like I did. Being able to now give back to the community means everything to me.”