Two Alberni Valley martial arts instructors are focusing on fitness, fun and self-confidence in their teachings.
West Coast Combat Sports is a martial arts and fitness facility that specializes in kickboxing, run by partners Shay Hebert and Matt Goodwin. They met at the former Alberni District Secondary School, and although they moved to Victoria for school and work experience, they returned to their roots in Port Alberni three years ago.
“We needed to get out of the city,” Hebert joked.
They opened West Coast Combat Sports in 2016, with the recognition that there was no kickboxing gym in the Valley. The school has now been nominated for a chamber of commerce community excellence award for 2018.
“We’ve both been doing [martial arts] from a young age,” said Hebert. She learned taekwondo, while Goodwin focused on karate, but they both eventually got into kickboxing. They each took some time off from the competition, but a trip to Thailand in 2011 sparked their interest again.
“We thought we knew what we were doing, but we found out really quickly that we were out of shape,” said Goodwin.
The Muay Thai camps in Thailand feature two practices a day with hours of running and training at the gym, six days a week.
“You basically have time to go home, eat and have a nap, then come back and do the same thing all over again,” said Goodwin.
“That was all we did,” laughed Hebert.
The couple has gone to Thailand twice now for a combined learning and fighting tour. This is where Goodwin took on his first fight.
“It was really intense,” he said.
Goodwin was scheduled to fight for the Battlefield Fight League kickboxing title in Vancouver in January, but this was cancelled when the title holder decided to retire from fighting.
“I trained really hard for that one, but it never happened,” he said.
Hebert explained that it’s not unusual for fights to be cancelled, either due to an injury or because an opponent has some kind of mental block.
Goodwin was able to recently take on a competitive fight in Victoria on Friday, April 7. Goodwin lost the match in a decision, but said he learned a lot from the experience and will make the necessary adjustments in his next competition.
He likes kickboxing because it is a hybrid martial art. In the sport, fighters can use the styles of taekwondo, karate, muay thai or western boxing. Competitors use hand strikes or foot/leg strikes to score points.
“You can use all those different forms of martial arts within kickboxing, as long as you’re following the rulesets,” explained Goodwin.
He described it as “strategic.”
“It’s like a chess match,” added Hebert.
West Coast Combat Sports also has students that compete: Leslie Lauer recently won a pair of gold medals in the Tiger Blam tournament in Vancouver. She won both of her matches in the novice division, then moved up to the advanced division, winning after taking on an opponent with seven years’ experience on her.
“That was really cool,” said Goodwin. “It was her first time taking a gold medal home.”
Some students are looking to take on an amateur fight, while others are simply there for the exercise or a confidence boost. Most of their students are fitness-oriented individuals, looking to have some fun, Goodwin explained.
Hebert said that some younger fighters approach them because they are being bullied. “Just getting confident in anything can help with that,” she said.
It’s amazing, said Goodwin, to see the change in people over time after picking up martial arts.
“We had a lot of friends who needed this growing up,” said Goodwin. “If I had this outlet as a teenager, I might not have gotten into some of the trouble I did. We want to be there for the youth here.”
Kickboxing has a number of benefits, from exercise to confidence-building—and some people find it more engaging than a gym, said Goodwin.
“It’s one of the few things that puts me in the moment,” said Goodwin. “You’ve got to be right here, right now.”
“Or you get punched in the face,” Hebert added with a laugh.