Enriko “The Hurricane” Kehl’s biggest motivation in life is the pursuit of his martial arts dreams. But there’s another important reason for the German superstar to get out of bed in the morning.
Along with competing against the best strikers in the world – like in his upcoming ONE Featherweight World Grand Prix quarterfinal bout against Davit Kiria at ONE: FIRST STRIKE on Friday, 15 October – Kehl puts himself in harm’s way as part of Germany’s special forces riot unit.
He joined the police force (known as the Bundespolizei) when he left college at the age of 18 and wasn’t sure what direction his life would take. And even with his successful career as a Kickboxing World Champion, he doesn’t plan to leave his post.
“I had to get a job which was safe for me, for my future, and also a job where there’s a little bit of action. So my choice fell on being a police officer,” the 29-year-old says.
“I also chose the way of the police officer because I wanted to help people. That’s a big reason. I like this job, and I would never change it.”
After two years of training, Kehl officially hit the streets with his unit, but he was also coming into his own as a world-class martial artist. He claimed his first World Championship in 2013 and then won the illustrious K-1 World Max Tournament in 2014.
Combining both of these endeavors wasn’t – and still isn’t – a simple task, but it’s worth the effort for “The Hurricane.”
“Fighting is my life for sure, but I never stopped working at the police,” he says. “It’s hard, I have no free time, but I choose this way, and I think this is the way of the champion.”
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Kehl puts his well-being on the line every time he dons riot gear, which would be a daunting prospect for most people. Yet he believes it’s worthwhile if he can keep others safe.
“I’ve seen a lot of crazy things, where thousands of people are throwing stones or bottles on me,” the Tran4mer Mainz representative says.
“My goal is to finish my job and come home healthy and make sure that the people there are also safe. I can say I protect them with my life.”
It would be fair to assume that facing the brunt of a mob’s anger on a regular basis has left the Wetzlar native jaded and cynical.
However, he takes the opposite approach when dealing with the public, and he credits his combat sports training for helping him along this path.
“Martial arts is a very, very important thing for me in the police. I started martial arts when I was 6, and in that training, you don’t only learn the skills, you also learn the mentality, respect, and discipline,” Kehl says.
“This is also what you need to handle the job. When I’m standing in front of someone, I’m a very humble person. They can attack me and, every time, I try to speak with them. Because I know what I can do.
“When it [comes to it], I have to handle myself and also use my martial arts skills. But I try to be safe and not too aggressive – I would say I am the least aggressive guy in the riot police.”
Dealing with craziness in the streets might also explain why “The Hurricane” never looks fazed inside the Circle.
He believes that both facets of his life help each other, and he aims to bring the positives from his martial arts career into his police work.
“I think that the discipline helped me more in my [special forces] job than the other way around because my character was formed [by martial arts] from being 6 years old, not by the police education. But in the police, you have to respect other people, so it also helps,” he says.
Meanwhile, Kehl’s second time entering the ONE Featherweight Kickboxing World Grand Prix will once again establish him as one of the greatest strikers in the world. Winning the prestigious tournament and going on to claim ONE World Title gold would be the crowning moment of his career – but he will never leave behind his will to help others.
Instead, he sees himself continuing to juggle both careers at the same time, so he can operate at the highest level of martial arts while also protecting those around him.
It’s not always easy, but it’s his duty.
“In real life, there are some people who say the police are bad. Then, when the people need you, you are their hero, so it’s not easy to handle it,” Kehl adds.
“But after the years, you don’t think too much about what people think about you. Because when the time comes when they need you, they’re very thankful that you helped them.”
Read more: How To Watch ONE: FIRST STRIKE On 15 October