World titles competitor's dream come true teaching kids
SEEING the smiles on kids' faces is worth more than standing on any podium for Brazilian jiujitsu athlete Dave Thomas.
The Yeppoon 32-year-old, who placed third in the world titles for the sport in the US earlier this year, said his goal was always to open a club for the youth with no fees attached.
"My grandparents put me into martial arts when I was about seven," Dave said this week.
"I came from a pretty rough part of New Zealand, and the training was free, so there was no way I could've done it if we had to pay for it, like a lot of kids in that neighbourhood. I don't think I'd be where I am now without it."
As of about three months ago, Dave was able to realise his dream and open Alpha Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in Yeppoon, with the help of the community and Keppel Coast Gymnastics, who donated its space to Dave.
"I wanted to compete first to build a little bit of credibility up before I started the club so people knew I was legitimate, and since then, just through word of mouth, we've now got about 70 kids coming each week," Dave said.
"It's blowing me away."
Running classes four days a week, Dave trains kids aged from five to 19, and is happy to be able to give back to the community.
"Everyone helped me out when I was fundraising for the world titles, but for me it's not about the money," Dave said.
"Because my focus had always been on myself in either footy, boxing or martial arts to better myself, it's now allowed me to put all of that into my students and that's way more gratifying than winning a championship."
The father of two said as the club grew, he would like to expand while also building up a team of coaches, with his main priority making sure no child would ever have to pay to train with him.
Where: Keppel Coast Gymnastics, Yeppoon Showgrounds.
When: Mondays and Thursdays from 4pm to 5pm is the fundamentals class, and 5.30pm to 6.30pm is the advanced class.
Tuesdays and Fridays from 3.30pm to 4.30pm is the Alpha Cubs class.
Contact Dave on 0499 084 057 for more information.