Thanh Le had the perfect role model when he was growing up.
The 33-year-old Vietnamese-American featherweight – who will return to action at ONE: DREAMS OF GOLD against Kotetsu “No Face” Boku this Friday, 16 August – was taught martial arts by his father – a lifelong practitioner of taekwondo.
When Le’s father migrated from Vietnam to the United States, he also brought his family’s love of martial arts with him, which he eventually used to open a school in Louisiana.
It was there Le first stepped onto the mats to follow in his father’s footsteps by learning the family business, so to speak.
“I was 4 maybe 5 years old, so I don’t remember a ton specifically, but memories pop back in your head when you look back at pictures,” Le says.
“We have those up at my dad’s taekwondo school, so you pass by those every day, and those memories pop back up in your head – my dad teaching and running classes.
“He was setting me up for success, and I didn’t even know it. I was doing it for fun and because it was a family thing because I enjoyed doing taekwondo.”
At the time, Le obviously had no idea that he would become an athlete in the world’s largest martial arts organization, but his father’s influence on his future career was undeniable – he gave him the foundations to become a world-class mixed martial artist.
Le is still very close to his father, who is still teaching taekwondo to this day at their family’s gym.
While he is not his head coach, Le says his father will give him valuable advice thanks to his years of martial arts experience.
“I go up to the gym multiple times a week to train, and my dad will sit in and give his input, ask questions, and be as involved as possible, but not in an overbearing way,” the 50/50 and MidCity MMA representative explains.
“He understands his role as a dad and as a coach, and he understands what his main disciplines are and how he can contribute.”
Perhaps more importantly, however, was what he learned from his dad away from the mats. He was taught values that would make him a better person in his personal and professional life.
“If it was class, if it was taking out the trash after dinner – dad was dad no matter what. His morals carried over, his discipline carried over, the hard work carried over,” Le explains.
“I could see that as a child with him having his long days and then going at night to teach. Those are the real things that made an impact on me. Yes, he taught me how to throw a great kick, but those aren’t the biggest things that he put into me.
“It’s really important that I see that, and I try to do the same thing with my son. Yes, I want you to be skilled and use your talent, but what’s important is carrying over what it takes to be a good man, and what it takes to be an athlete at a high level.
“Those are pretty much the same things. Hard work, dedication, respect, honor – those are super important to my dad.”
Though his whole family and other people had a big influence on his life, Le credits his father for so much of his success.
Without him, the LFA Featherweight Champion knows he would not be on the rise toward a World Title in The Home Of Martial Arts, and he would not have had the perfect blueprint for raising his own son.
For all of that, he will be eternally grateful.
“I owe it all to him and my family. Without that, there’s no way I would have been set up to have the best tools to be the kind of fighter I want to be, the kind of man I want to be, or the kind of father I want to be to my son,” he says.