nickname the "Gladiateur"
Last week I had an interview with one of Hollands living legends in martial arts scene, Fred Royers. He is an example for any rising sport athlete and a well know figure even beyond the Dutch border.
I had made the appointment at his gym “Kickboxing Arnhem” located in Arnhem (East of the Netherlands). I was perfect in time and was able to see Fred teaching. It was very nice to see the energy and dedication Fred was putting into his lesson.
At the end when all the students were lined up facing Fred. He told them: “he was not happy how they trained today. They really had to train more focussed the next time to improve their skills”.
Suddenly I felt weak and I had sweaty hands as I was the one next to do the interview.
Muaythaitv.com : At what age did you first came in contact with martial arts?
I was 17 years old and around that time I looked at my first Kung Fu movie with Bruce Lee. I was blown away, it was fantastic!!
I was instantly hooked and knew that I wanted to learn this stuff. For me it was really love at first sight. Short after this I started Karate.
At that time I was playing “korfball”(some kind of basketball). I know it must sound funny, but I learned a lot from it in terms of acceleration speed. While running you need to avoid your opponent without touching him or her. The other qualities you need is being defensive and being aggressive/threatening, being mobile and fast. That activeness/flexibility has really helped me with my Karate.
I was never a super talent, but I had stamina and I was a smart fighter. I was a quick analyzer of weakness of opponents and I knew how to make use of this.
What kind of sports did you practice?
I practiced the 3 K's: Karate, Kickboxing and Korfball.
What about Savate and Muay Thai then?
Karate is Savate and Kickboxing is Muay Thai, for me it is just adding a rule or taking a rule out. I've done them all with a lot of enthusiasm. It is not that difficult, the base is always the use of arms, legs and knees and than one fills in the rules.
How did you do it? As you practiced various martial arts forms (Karate, Savate, Kickboxing, Muay Thai) at competitive level. You never had trouble with that?
No never. Why? Because I prepared myself always very well before going into the ring. The whole preparation was in the spirit of the coming event. This meant training according to those rules as you cannot mix it up.
You are not alone of course there is a whole team behind you: the gym, trainers and sparring-partners. They have one mission and that is preparing you for the next fight. I would never have come so far as a fighter if I did not have the right people around me. I own them a lot.
Which of the 3 K's did you find the most fun practicing?
The most fun was Kickboxing. Muay Thai is a lot of clinching, hanging onto an opponent was really not my thing. I wanted to use my arms and legs which is a more dynamic way of fighting, for me personal it was more fun than clinching. Nevertheless, clinching is very important. Once you get someone who can properly clinch you, you will have a very tuff night.
You have many Karate titles
Yes, I have been Dutch Karate champion many times in a row. I also have European and World titles. I've been successful not only as an individual athlete but also with the Dutch Karate team.
During this period I started Kickboxing and participating in fight-events. The Dutch Karate Federation was firmly against this. Their opinion was that I was not able to combine this with the Dutch Karate team. They were afraid that my karate would suffer. Karate was a light touch (skin touch) and Kickboxing was of course full contact.
At the time the Kickboxing had a lousy name, many criminals were active in the sport. In time this has changed a lot. Now I have kids of doctors and lawyers training in my classes.
How did you support your life-style at the beginning?
At the beginning I taught Karate and Kickboxing, this was a good start. Pretty quick after this I became an “A class” fighter (Kickboxing) this, helped a lot because as soon as you start doing events you earn money.
How did you get your nickname the "Gladiateur"
This is because of a friend of mine, Jean-Paul Maillet. He worked for one of the largest martial arts magazine of France "Karate Bushido", he was the one who gave me this nickname.
At the time I fought several fighting styles. I met Jean-Paul at a Savate event, as we spoke he remembered that he had also seen me participating in a Karate tournament. I told him that within one month I had a Muay Thai fight. He frowned, looked at me and said: "you are a "Gladiateur", you fight all styles". From that time on my nickname was "Gladiateur".
Jean-Paul and I have been friends ever since and we see each other a few times a year.
You did a lot of fights, but what is the most memorable and gratified one
Well this was a full-contact fight, everything above the belt (no Kickboxing), against a guy from Rotterdam, I still remember his name Kooi. This guy hit so hard and he broke through my defense a few times and that was not a very good feeling.
I was totally out of my "comfort zone". According to the rules of the fight I was not allowed to give any knees or low-kicks: only high kicks were allowed. The match was 5 rounds and I really needed to “dig deep” against this hard hitter. In the end I won and that really gave me a boost of satisfaction.
I always had a very good physical condition. One thing I knew for sure: when I'm tired, your dead ... I knew for a fact I would last longer, that was the way I trained.
Could you tell me something about the period when K1 was immense popular and fighters like Ernesto Hoost, Peter Aerts were super stars
Kickboxing was on the rise and along with K1 we suddenly got so much international media attention. Because of the enormous popularity, TV channels wanted to follow this success.
Channels like Veronica and Eurosport followed Kickboxing events. As I was an established name in this sport I became a commentator for the channels. This was a lot of fun because it was my world and most of the guys I knew personally.
The number of martial arts participants has grown but the TV coverage is lacking
I understand this of course. For a lot of people “Martial Arts” is an unknown territory. As we live in a society where it is not normal to hit each other. By the way this is not normal in any society. But when we mold it into a sport-form adding rules it becomes an amazing sport.
Yet, it still remains a sport where people will frown their eyebrows. When you will ask the average Dutch person what they think about this sport you will most probably get the answer that only criminals participate.
They are partly right, because at the beginning it was in a kind of shady era. But times have changed. The son of a doctor and the children of a local councillor are in my classes. Kickboxing has evolved and so have its participants.
If we talk about the lacking TV coverage we have to be honest. It is “the law of the large numbers”. Kickboxing is a sport which is only appealing to a small minority. You cannot compare it for example with football which is followed by millions of people world-wide. It is sad for our sport but understandable.
Will better times come again for "martial arts" as in K1 time?
I do not know. We had high expectation that the UFC would be able to do this for MMA. But in the Netherlands the popularity is not what we would have expected it to be.
Luckily there is one channel where one is able to follow the sport a little bit and this is EuroSport. I am still a commentator at this channel covering Martial Arts.
How do you see the future of “martial arts” in the comming next 10 years?
I think it will only grow. The sport has become known to the general public and one has forgotten the lousy criminal image of the sport.
Tell me about your gym?
I was aware of this new construction project. I liked the location and the space so I registered for it. I was very pleased to get this location, this was about 2 years ago. Look at the location, it is about 1,5 times bigger than before with a real seize boxing ring. We have about 500 members of all ages and all levels. We are still growing every year.
I thanked Fred for his time and promised him I would come by and train one of these days. I was really looking forward in a training session with Fred.