Overcoming adversity outside the ring has helped Carlo Schippers, 29, become the fighter he is inside the ring...
The memory of having the belt strapped around his waist, the crowd chanting his name and the flood of emotions pouring through him are still fresh for the newly crowned Pro Fitness Club (PFC) welterweight K-1 kickboxing champion, who has gone from one success to the next in 2014 and sees this as just the start of great things to come.
Peerless Park’s Carlo Schippers, 29, who trains out of Tricore Martials Arts, in Brackenfell, was crowned SA champion in May this year and earlier this month went on to snatch the PFC belt from former champion Michael Johnson. But this has been a long, arduous road for him, one on which he lost his greatest role model, his mother. He now fights in her memory.
SA champ gives Scottsdene youngsters a fighting chance
My mother was the one who got me into martial arts in the first place. She had a work colleague, Ian Arendse, who taught karate and later kickboxing. She wanted me to learn to defend myself and always told me I’d be good at it. I was 10 years old when I started, said Schippers.
“When I was 17 I switched over to muay thai training and my coach said I had good potential and should consider competing. At age 20 my mother passed away after she was hospitalised with an intercranial haemorrhage.
“By the time I arrived at the hospital the doctors told me there was no real chance of saving her or her ever being the same again. That was the most difficult part for me, knowing that we couldn’t do anything to help.
“She was always my role model. As a single parent she always inspired me. I definitely got my work ethic from her and apply that in my training. Looking back on our relationship I can say that I was really blessed to have her in my life,” he said.
Last year Schippers entered his first provincial trials, made the final cut and travelled to Oudtshoorn to compete as part of team Western Province. His ventures, then, were unsuccessful but this year, travelling to Pretoria, he went on to claim the top spot in SA and brought home gold as part of WP’s successful haul. He cites his team mates, coach, family and God as his persevering strengths. “Through all the years that I’ve been doing this, I was asking when my hard work would pay off. Through prayer and patience I have learned that things don’t happen in the time you need, but in the time the Lord provides. “My sensei, Ruhan Louw, has been key to my improvement. He is more than just a coach. He is my friend and my mentor and I am grateful for all he does for me. My gran, who I live with now, is also one of my biggest supporters. She has always believed in me and she brings out the best in everything I do. I must say that I do stress a lot before a fight but she has taught me that if I go out and do my best, winning and losing is just part of competing.
His teammates joke that his perfect weekend consists of sleeping from Friday to Monday, but as he has progressed, so has his outreach and his schedule seems to be tightening up – no more sleeping for the SA champ. “At the moment I work during the day and spend most nights training but we have also just set up a new gym in Scottsdene. This is my little way of giving back. I don’t charge the kids that train with me.
This is really a great way to build character and the students are so passionate and talented.
“They see combat sports on TV and just want to be like those guys. It is so fulfilling and just the best feeling to see them taking on the challenges and the appreciation they show is really all the payment I need.
“My goal, in the new year, is to look at going pro. I want to fight as much as I can, for as long as I can and push myself to the limit. Once I’ve done that and can’t fight anymore, I will put all my efforts into being a great instructor. “Being a fighter, having a mental understanding of what’s required and having pushed physically, that can only help me in my efforts to help others. “For anyone wanting to start in this sport, my advice is to focus on the basics and whether you want to do this for fitness or self-defense or if you feel you want to compete, all I can say is go for it – there’s no one who can stop you. Apply whatever skills you learn and always remember that saying that steel sharpens steel,” he said.