Every good parent wishes the best for their children; mine encouraged me to take extra academic and sporting classes, with an emphasis on the importance of creating options for my future.
Although my father introduced me to karate at an early age, he had not envisioned a career path for me in Martial Arts. As the first child from both sides of the family to graduate from university, my parents had hoped for an academic career path, regularly ‘suggesting' that I go into teaching.
When I left the UK to travel and compete, they wanted me to return home, following my gap year. In the early days of my fighting career, my dad admitted that a small part of him hoped, I would get hurt just a little to ward me off. Although, knowing my stubbornness, he worried this would only further incite my desire to continue. In fact, my mother would call me ‘matigas at ulo' in Tagalog or ‘duro Cabeza' in Chavacano which translates to hard headed.
They were right; injured, broke and losing, I was still in it.
These days my parents can see how much I have sacrificed for my dream and they truly want me to be successful. It was evident that my passion had found a new home and I noticed a turning point in their attitude towards my chosen career after my trip to New Mexico.
My father gave me the green light to go for it. A cautious man that has always preferred the safe option, he surprised me by saying ‘you need to go for bust'. For me to feel like I had tried everything, I needed to get back to Jackson's and prepare for my next fight with One Championship. In the hopes of getting back on the winning track before my contract was up.
My dad believed that I would win again but tried to comfort me by saying that even if I lost every fight left on my contract. I've done more than most will ever do and could be happy knowing I gave it my all. This didn't satisfy me. I knew, I was better than my record and wanted to prove it.
So how did I go for bust? Well quite literally. I quit a good job, put my belongings in storage and took all the money from my business to book my flights and next training camp. If this big move didn't work out, I would have to start all over again but I was ready to burn the boats and nothing else mattered.
Michael Edwards AKA 'Eddie the Eagle'
Eddie Edwards is a British Ski-Jumper from my home town of Cheltenham. The story of his struggle to the Winter Olympics at Calgary in 1988 (the year I was born) is nothing short of inspirational.
*‘With a bank overdraft of $1,700 and no prospect of sponsorship on the horizon, the chances did not look too good, although I expected something to turn up, so more in hope than expectation I drew up plans for my Olympic training'.
Eddie worked as a plasterer to save money for his training camps. He decided that *‘Fitness not finance was the first goal' so he trained around his work hours until he had enough to go to Finland and train with their national squad to improve his technique; in particular his take-off. He was willing to do any work for board or lodgings if it enabled him to train while abroad.
Eddie's hard times, humbled him by eating out of dustbins, sleeping in his car and even a mental hospital. He was scoffed at by the European elite he competed against and was largely self-trained, competing without guidance from a coach or team support. His equipment was second hand and broken to the extreme that at one point, he was tying on his helmet with a shoestring. Edwards didn't let injuries stop him, once strapping his broken jaw up with a pillowcase. Nor prejudice from the British Ski Federation who ‘forgot' to enter him in the jumping competition in St Moritz. Although he failed to jump the 71-meter qualifying mark in Switzerland and at Oberstdorf, Germany. He stuck it at Innsbruck, Austria, during the infamous Four Hills Tournament. The Olympic Association, lack of finances and resources were unable to stop him; The Eagle made it to the Winter Olympics.
Eddie was helped along the way by those who admired his determination. He traveled the world, competing and followed his passion all the way to the top. To this day, his courage in the face of adversity has endeared him to fans all over the world. This opened the door to a variety of weird and wonderful opportunities from featuring on foreign music tracks, breaking world records to being elected as minister for a fringe political party. On the 7th Jan 2010, more akin to his skill set, he returned to Canada as an official torchbearer in Winnipeg; he remains a symbol of inextinguishable hope. His inspirational message to never give up on your dreams is what kept him an endorsed athlete despite failing to qualify repeatedly for later games.
I relate to Michael Edwards story for a number of reasons; the hardships I've encountered in no way outweigh my love for the sport and desire to go as far as I can. Mainly, I love Eddie's courage to hurl himself off a 90-meter jump, on narrow skis at lightning speed, blinded by **fogged up high strength spectacles with little to no chance of winning the coveted Gold at the Olympics but for the sheer thrill of it all.
He completed his mission with the biggest smile on his face. Almost as if he knew a secret and I like to believe this was to have faith in himself and have fun while proving everyone wrong.
*Chapter 7. Calgary or Bust - ‘Eddie the eagle. My story by Eddie Edwards'.