Any casual observer of the training room at the King’s Sports Centre would have enjoyed the sight of local mixed martial artists working out on Saturday.
A group of young enthusiasts from a range of combat sports were given thorough workouts and technique training by two of Cayman’s most experienced martial arts; Sensei Bob Daigle and Master Steve Graham.
Both have risen to the pinnacle in martial arts through many years of dedication and are regular judges at the popular Proving Ground mixed martial arts shows. Fighters in attendance included Jon McLean, Troy O’Neil and Perry Anglin.
Graham is the president of the Cayman Islands Taekwondo Federation and Daigle was a karate instructor for ever until calling it quits a few years back. But his love for combat sports has been rekindled and between the two they gave a three-hour master class to keen mma exponents.
‘It was an excellent today,’ Daigle said. ‘Everyone loved it. People on the outside of the glass were looking in, fascinated. The fighters are looking forward to more training.
‘Some of these guys are boxers, others wrestlers, karate, submission and jiu-jitsu. They all needed improvement in flexibility so we did a section on increasing their knowledge on stretching techniques. That will make their kicks faster, stronger and higher.
‘We also refined their kicking techniques. Steve and I are both striking experts so what we did was help them to improve their kicking technique.’
Daigle ran the very successful Cayman Karate Academy in Smith Road for exactly 14 years from 14 May 1987. Exhausted and lacking enthusiasm, he shut the club down in 2001 and went into sales and then real estate for seven years.
His passion for martial arts was reignited when the first Proving Ground show, promoted by Chris Dinan, ran a year ago. There have been two since and Proving Ground IV is scheduled for May.
‘To be out of martial arts for this long and returning in a different way, not teaching full-time in a commercial school, but to actually to assist by teaching seminars and helping all these fighters to increase their knowledge and to improve their striking skills and to be part of the fastest growing sport in the world right now, I just feel really, really excited to be a part of it and to pass on my almost 30 years of knowledge onto these young guys who have a really good attitude.
‘Some of them are bankers and attorneys and come from all walks of life.’
Daigle reached the pinnacle when he won the Krane world karate championship in 1997 at the age of 37. After decades of hard work he had finally made it, which is probably why he lost some passion after that.
‘I was a little bit light to fight heavyweight and fought some big guys. I fought some different weight classes over the years and found that when fighting bigger guys I was a little bit quicker.
‘Pretty much, above my personal goals, my highlights was seeing these young students training and competing here in Cayman in front of their home crowd fighting competitors from all around the world and all their hard work coming together to make everyone in Cayman extremely proud. It was always more the success of my students.