Drimoleague native Ian Kingston enjoyed a superb career as a kickboxer, winning numerous national and international championship honours during his prestigious career, before reluctantly retiring from the sport he loves earlier this year due to a succession of injuries. Ian is now passing on all his sporting knowledge to his pupils at the West Cork Kickboxing Club. John Bohane finds out what’s in the cards now for this impressive champion and coach.
Ian Kingston has carved out a strong reputation as a very formidable coach with both the West Cork Club and the Ireland senior and junior teams. One of his brightest prospects, Lily de la Cour recently captured a World Championship title.
Ian opened up his first kickboxing club in Bantry some 28 years ago in 1988. Ever since then, kickboxing in West Cork has continued to develop, which Ian finds immensely satisfying. “While I loved to compete as a kickboxer, I also get great satisfaction from coaching and seeing my students doing well and bringing home medals after a national or world championship event. There is an awful amount of work that goes on behind the scenes.”
Ian initially took up boxing when he was 13-years-old, but when a kickboxing club opened up in Dunmanway soon after, he immediately joined. He hasn’t looked back since, as he fondly recalls. “I took up kickboxing for the challenge. It was a relatively new sport when I started and I loved the competitive edge and the environment. A kickboxing club opened up nearby, which didn’t last long unfortunately, but at that stage I had developed a real love for it. I travelled all over the country joining kickboxing clubs as far away as Dublin and Cork. That is why I really enjoy providing the coaching for kickboxing enthusiasts now in West Cork so they don’t have to travel far to meet their training requirements.
Ian enjoyed a successful career himself competing for Ireland, winning four national titles and taking home one silver and one bronze medal from the World Championships. “I tried to come back earlier this year,” he says “but unfortunately my joints are not working great.”
Ian initially stopped competing at the age of 28 but started again when he hit 40. “I missed it so much and it went well initially. Unfortunately this year I had to call it a day because a cartilage went in both my knees, I was preparing for the World Championships so it was a bit of a downer.”
With a plethora of highlights built up from his fighting and coaching career, Ian says, “I have been lucky that I have achieved so much success, as both a coach and kickboxer. Coaching the Irish team is also a great honour.” Ian has been coaching the Senior and Junior Ireland team since 2006.
“From a club perspective we have enjoyed great success also. We have won ten world titles, and nine European titles. They are all special memories to me. I suppose I have been blessed with so many talented kickboxers who I have enjoyed working with. They have stuck with it and got their rewards in the end, which is great to see. There have been so many highlights it would be hard to pick one out.”
One of Ian’s star students is Bantry heroine Lily de la Cour who recently captured the Senior WAKO World Championship title. Ian has hailed the fantastic heroics of the diminutive star.
“It was the highlight of her career to date. The World Championships are the biggest and the most prestigious events out there. It is the one everyone wants to win. It was a great achievement by her.”
Ian is convinced that his star pupil will continue to win many more titles both nationally and internationally under his careful coaching tutelage. “She is very young at 21 and is still developing technically, but Lily will only get better, which really is a frightening prospect, as she is so good at present. Although training since she was seven-years-old but she is still very young in terms of competing at senior level. All going well and assuming she stays injury free, she can still improve and dominate that division for years to come.”
When asked what makes the Bantry kickboxing champion stand out from the rest of the senior women competing for world championship honours, Ian is emphatic in his answer. “Her attitude is the one key factor which takes her to the top. It is her greatest asset. However she has so many great traits it is hard to define. Her approach to training is top class. She trains very hard and she displays great commitment. She loves a challenge and enjoys every part of the sport. From the day she joined us, we knew right from day one that we had something special on our hands.”
Lily was recognised for her world championship success when she was named West Cork Sports Star of the Year and Bantry Sports Star of the Year, two awards bestowed on a great ambassador for West Cork according to her proud coach. “It was a great honour for her to be crowned West Cork Sports Star and Bantry Sports Star recently. No matter how well you do on the national or international stage, it doesn’t matter really unless you get recognised at home. I know for a fact that Lily’s heart and soul is in West Cork and she is immensely proud to represent Bantry and West Cork.”
Ian is hopeful more parents will encourage their children to participate in kickboxing, as it offers many key advantages. “I love all sports but for me martial arts is a great sport to pursue, as it offers young people a great opportunity to learn how to deal with their emotions. They learn how to be respectful and disciplined.”
Ian has a busy and demanding upcoming schedule. As well as teaching classes all over West Cork, Ireland training will start again next month in June. “The seniors are in championship action in Greece later this summer, while the juniors will be in action in Ireland for the first time ever. It’s busy but I love it,” he says.