Reiner “The Dutch Knight” De Ridder’s 24 years as a martial artist have given him the ability to become a world-class athlete, but he believes the values he has picked have shaped his life more than anything else.
The undefeated star has used his world-class skills to enter a top contender’s bout for the ONE Middleweight World Championship against Leandro “Wolf” Ataides at ONE: WARRIOR’S CODE, but he would not have done it without traits like discipline and respect.
Now, as the co-owner and coach at the Combat Brothers gym in Breda, Netherlands, De Ridder believes it is crucial to emphasize these things as he molds the next generation of athletes.
“It is important that a student can learn the sport itself, but also the martial arts values, and I try to concentrate on that in my own teaching,” he explains.
De Ridder believes whoever is in charge of the gym is the most important person in the building because the students should follow their lead.
For that reason, he runs a tight ship that ensures everyone trains in the perfect environment. “The Dutch Knight” and his coaching team are very clear on what they expect from their students, and this applies across the board – from children to adults, newcomers to professional athletes.
“It’s very important to show people what the right way to conduct yourself is and what we expect, no matter if they’re young or 20 years older than me,” he explains.
“Like if people arrive late. If you miss the start time once, okay, it happens. If you miss the second time, you’re not welcome in that class. That’s just the way we do it.
“Everybody who steps on the mat has had a busy day, everybody has been working or gone to school, everybody had to get there. You can be on time, you just have to make it a priority. That’s discipline, that’s respect for your training partners, and that’s respect for your teacher.”
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De Ridder wants to build champions in martial arts but, more than anything else, he wants to nurture champions in life. Respect for people and humility in the gym should translate to the outside world, too.
“The way you treat your fellow training partners is very important, too, and we are very on top of it,” he adds.
“We have people coming from all over the place nowadays because our [the athletes’] names have grown, and some of them are not used to these values or the discipline we ask of them, so we stay on top of all of them.
“The way you treat your training partners is more important than your skills. I want you to be nice to everyone. I don’t want you to hurt anyone, I don’t want you to be bitchy to anyone. If you are, you are not welcome, no matter who you are or what level you’re at.”
Every individual is treated the same way. Whether they are martial arts novices, or expert veterans like “The Dutch Knight” and ONE lightweight Pieter “The Archangel” Buist, who defeated Eduard Folayang last week at ONE: FIRE & FURY.
That philosophy is clearly working. The top professionals on the team are enjoying success on the global stage, it is nurturing more stars of the future, and new faces are always arriving to begin their martial arts journeys.
Leading by example, De Ridder hopes he can spread the positivity of martial arts to a wider audience, and help his students to feel the same benefits that he has over the years.
“The camaraderie, the workout, the mental state it puts you in during training to go all out, only focusing on the task at hand – so a very tranquil or zen state — I’ve always had that from the beginning,” he adds.
“But also the state straight afterwards. There’s no more violence left in you, there’s no more stress left in you. It’s a very healing thing for your mind, it has always been that way for me.”