Future Warriors In Canberra Defying Age To Start Cage Fighting
This post was originally posted in The Canberra Times
Russell Heaton’s definition of “celebration” changed somewhere along the way to his 60th birthday, which is why he spent the day breaking inch-thick wooden boards instead of eating cake.
But the oldest person in the world competing in a “wimp to warrior” program says 20-week training for a cage fight has transformed his life and his body.
Heaton, nicknamed “Junior” by his younger training partners, and Joanne Tilbrook have embraced their role as the oldest two competitors taking part in the worldwide program.
The mixed martial arts training is designed to take people with no fighting experience and give them to the tools to compete in a six-minute cage fight in September.
The fight is optional at the end and, although Heaton says he’s always been more of a lover than a fighter, the Queanbeyan forklift dealer says jumping in the cage is a “celebration”.
“I’ve never been in a fight in my life and my body ached for two weeks after the first training session,” Heaton said.
“But to get to the end and to get in the cage, that really is a celebration.
“I got a bit bored of running on a treadmill or doing weights at the gym, so I started Googling different gyms in Canberra and I found the Synergy Self Defence and Fitness gym in Hume.
“I’ve lost 11.5 kilograms, my body fat is down and my cholesterol is down from 7.2 to 4.7. My fitness has improved out of this world. I couldn’t do three push-ups when I started.
And when they brought the wooden board out for my birthday, I thought there was no way I could do it.
“I’d seen it on television, but I’d never attempted it. I nearly fell over when I broke it.”
The Synergy team have made Heaton and Tilbrook team captains for the training challenge before they choose whether to let fists fly in the cage.
The program is run by Craig and Bronnie Bath, who own the gym, and Heaton and Tilbrook, 57, are unfazed by the challenge.
“I hurt, I’m sore, and I’m probably a little bit slower at some of the movements but the young guys give me inspiration. I’m not going to be shown up by a whippersnapper,” Heaton said.
That kind of attitude is truly exemplified by their reasoning behind wanting to start this program.
For Tilbrook it was about getting out of her comfort zone and managing her anxiety.
It appears as though Tilbrook has both conquered her fears and successfully kicked her way out of comfort zone.
“Jo was always worried she was too timid but when you watch her spar the other girls now, she’s backing them up,” Craig Bath said.
“You talk to the other girls and shes gives them more trouble than anyone.”
With MMA fighting having a rough and violent stigma behind it, you would expect some push-back from family members. Instead, they were supportive of their decision.
“I’ve brought my son and wife along to a couple of training sessions, they really appreciate what we go through,” Heaton explained.
Tilbrook has never been hit before in her life, so the expectation of being hit or pinned in an awkward position is a daunting one.
“It’s pretty confronting but then you don’t, at the time, have any time to think about it because you are so focused. Just take it and run with it, you get desensitized,” Tilbrook said.
The sessions are held in the early mornings five days a week and Tilbrook and Heaton have missed just one session.
“One thing that I can take out of this is that nothing at work is confronting anymore. It’s the same as on the mat, if you get held down you work your way around,” Heaton said.
“You don’t go in there to hurt the other guy, there is so much mutual respect.”
If you want to join the next wimp to warrior program, learn more here: https://landing.wimp2warrior.com/canberra-5