Coach Thom Harinck is part of Dutch kickboxing’s rich history. Chakuriki, his gym in Amsterdam, the Netherlands has produced several kickboxing and Thaiboxing champions. Founded in 1972, it is one of the oldest kickboxing gyms in the Netherlands. Harinck was the man behind the successful careers of many kickboxing and Muay Thai fighters including but not limited to Branko Cikatic, Peter Aerts and Gilbet Ballantine.
In the previous part of this interview, Thom Harinck talked about his student Branko Cikatić (4 October 1955 – 22 March 2020). Click here to watch.
In this second and final part, coach Harinck elaborates on various topics that provide valuable information on the development of Muay Thai in the Netherlands and the career of 3-time K-1 Grand Prix champion and one of the greatest kickboxers of all time, Peter Aerts.
Here are some transcribed highlights of the interview:
The creation of Chakuriki and the development of Muay Thai in Holland.
Thom Harinck: My background was Judo. I did first Judo when I was a young kid. I had a fight in the school with a bigger boy and he punched me. I think I was crying and I went to my mama and said, “Somebody punched me”. My mother said, “OK, you have to learn self-defense”. See put me in Judo. I was, after a couple of years, a brown belt. I had quite good talent but the teacher told me, at that time you could only go to brown belt because it was 12 years to get the black belt. So then I went to a boxing gym and I liked that a lot. In the army I did 22 boxing matches. I was doing English boxing and then I was out of the army, I was a doorman, I started a little bit my own gym and I went to a Kyokushin gym run by Jon Bluming. After a couple of months they gave me the orange belt and then I had to go to a tournament to fight in the north of Holland with five people, five against another five, and there was no weight categories. I fought a long big boy and I knocked him out because I punched to the face and it was not allowed. I knew that, but because of my boxing background sometimes I forgot. I was disqualified and then I thought that this is not for me, I like to have real fight where you can box and kick together. That is why I started in 1972 my own gym and called it Chakuriki. There we started with red gis (the Kyokushinkai had white gis). I painted them red, I tried something different and it was great to see that all my gyms had red gis and boxing gloves, and we kicked using the kyokushin kicks, the karate kicks. Of course that started the development of Muay Thai and kickboxing.
Then we had many fights in 1973, 1974. We won a lot of fights, we became famous and then I was invited to go with the team to Thailand, Bangkok in the Lumpinee Stadium. I went there with my five best fighters, featherweights and lightweights and there we got the hell beat out of us. Everybody from Chakuriki was knocked out. I didn’t know that, it was unbelievable. There was no internet back then so we didn’t know what would happen there. When I went there it was a full stadium, it was on television and boys who fought in the ring and had 300 fights, 250 fights and my boys had 25-26 fights . The elbows and the knees destroyed the Chakuriki team.
I sent my boys back and I was ashamed for myself and I think I stayed there for three months. I trained in three camps and I learned everything about Muay Thai and then I started training in Amsterdam with my boys. We became very good Muay Thai fighters. I started the Muay Thai Association of Holland. I was the chairman. I started the European Muay Thai Association with 45 countries. That was the development of Muay Thai in Holland. I went back and we beat some Thai boys.
The Thais are still the best fighters in the featherweights and lightweights but now in the middleweights and especially heavyweights we did even better than the Thai boys. The Muay Thai in Chakuriki made my style really good. We learned through shame, we learned the hard way but the people in Holland they learned from us. We did a lot of good things in the past to get a better level with the fighters now.
The legendary fights between Gilbert Ballantine and Ramon Dekkers.
Thom Harinck: They were both different fighters. Ballantine was a real fighter, not really the Chakuriki style of fighting of just go, he was a fighter who would move around, of course he had a lot of background in Karate, he was first Karate champion, also had very good in boxing. Ramon Dekkers was a real Muay Thai fighter. He stood there and kicked hard and punched hard and was fantastic. When he was a young kid he trained a couple of times in my gym as I had a good connection with Cor Hemmers, his coach and father.
Later on. they had to fight. I promoted the fight myself and they fought three times. Two times Ballantine won, one time Ramon Dekker won but I think it would be better if it were one draw, one win for Ballantine and one for Dekkers. One time they gave Ballantine the win but I think not, it would be better if it were a draw for the fighters. Of course they were fantastic fighters and Ramon was famous because he was one of the first to really beat the Thai fighters in Thailand. But Ballantine also fought Samart Payakaroon, Sangtiennoi, he beat many good fighters. The Thais always had problems with Ballantine because he moved a lot in the ring. He was too quick for them. Also Ramon had problem with that kind of style from Ballantine. But (Ramon) was a great fighter.
Training 3-time K-1 World Grand Prix Champion Peter Aerts.
Thom Harinck: “Peter is special. He came from a little village, about two hours drive form Amsterdam. He was 18 years old, he was training in a boxing gym, the trainer was Eddy Smulders. He was a European champion in English boxing but not kickboxing. Peter was 18 years old and was B-class and also came to my gym and asked me to be his trainer. Every day he had to drive two hours to train in my gym for many years.
He was a fantastic guy but also a strange fighter. Everything he did was hard, his kicks were hard, his punched were hard and he always had to wake up. Peter always had problems in the first round, he would always get punched. But the punches would wake him up and then he would get mad. Because, Peter inside was always laughing and joking and did not take life so seriously. Of course he took the training very seriously but when he started fighting, after the first round he became very dangerous. If Peter didn’t go down he would get you and knock you out with a low kick or a high kick , he would push you away and launch his crazy high kick…he was a very difficult fighter for many boys.
I like the K-1 system a lot because then you can really see the real fighter who is able to get to the final. In the first fight you had some pain, in the second fight you had more pain and still you had to fight in the final.
After a training for two hours for many years, Peter was fed up and he stopped coming to the gym and I understand. He trained by himself and at some other gyms but after he fought in Japan and lost the fight with Badr Hari (K-1 World GP 2008 Final, Quarter Finals). He was knocked down. After that fight he came back to my gym and he asked me to train him again. I did and I was really wondering when he came to my gym because his balance and his kicks were terrible. I didn’t understand why, even though he won many fights during that time. So, I had to work very hard with him. I remember that after he trained a couple of months he had to go to Japan again, he fought Gökhan Saki, he beat him, he beat Errol Zimmerman, he fought Semmy Schilt in the semifinal (K-1 World Grand Prix 2010 Final). At first he beat an American (Mighty Mo), he knocked him out and had to fight Semmy Schilt but that was (like) a fight for the finals. The people were crazy about it. Peter fought Schilt, very hard fight, both fought very well but Peter won and the people went crazy, it was like the final. The other fight was of course Alistair Overeem. Peter went to the dressing room and I put him to lie down. Peter went to the toilet to take a pee, but there was blood in his pee, so he had some problems with kicks to his stomach. He was feeling pain. I said, “Peter, If you can’t fight we won’t fight” and he said, “No, I will go fight”. After ten minutes he felt better and went to the ring and of course he fought Alistair but the fight before was too much for him. Peter was not a young boy anymore and with Semmy Schilt being 140 kg for three rounds it was very hard so he lost the fight.
But during that fight, during his older days, Peter was very good again even though he lost in the final, the people said he won the tournament because he beat Semmy Schilt.
Semmy Schilt was so big, he didn’t look like a good fighter but he was a good fighter, he is a Goliath, unbelievably big and Peter knows how to fight him. I told him, “Peter you have to go in with him, you cannot fight him from a distance because he is too long and uses the front kick, the “mae geri”. I said, “You have to destroy him, you have to go in and punch and low kick and everything” and that is why Peter won in the semi-final against him.
Please listen to the full interview as Thom Harinck talks about many other coaching-related topics including proper training mentality, the importance of training with good fighters and having a good trainer in the corner.