Interview with NZ fighting legend Lollo Heimuli - (Part 1)
Lollo Heimuli is a well known figure in the New Zealand fighting arena.. Trained by Sifu Phillip Lam, Lollo is considered a pioneer of the sport in this country. He was one of NZ’s greatest fighters and is now one of our most successful coaches, having trained some of the nation’s top fighters (Shane Cameron, Doug Viney, Ray Sefo, Jayson Vemoa, Jason Suttie, John Conway) and is the current trainer of some up and coming champions such as superheavyweight Junior Fa.
Lollo has recently reopened his gym, Balmoral Lee Gar, thanks to his good friend and sponsor, Bryce Lehndorf; owner of On Target Directional Drilling. Bryce has given him space for his gym at the back of their factory which has allowed Lollo to do what he does best; focussing all his energy on his fighters and students.
New Zealand Fighter got up close and personal with Lollo to get his take on fighting and training in New Zealand. This is the first part of the interview. The following section discussed Lollo’s entry into the sport and his advice for new fighters. Part 2 contains Lollo’s insight and perspective on fighting and training techniques and discipline.
This is how it went:
NZF: Hi Lollo, can you start by telling us a bit about yourself.
LH: I grew up in a boxing family and my father was a boxing coach and a champion boxer at school, at the time when boxing was a part of the options for sport.
I came here back in 1974. My mum didn’t really like us to box but my grandfather was boxing mad. He’d find any chance to put us on the bag. Rugby was my main game as every other kid. My heroes were guys like Brian Williams until I broke my collarbone from playing rugby back in 1978. A while after that happened I went to a movie with my mates and saw the Lee Gar sign, which used to be in Albert Street. I remember walking in with my bell-bottom jeans (laughing) and seeing everyone else training with Philip Lam. I had $25 on me and that was the joining fee. I paid every penny to Sifu Lam and jumped in and trained and I’m still a part of Lee Gar now.
NZF: So what age did you start fighting?
LH: 18. I just happend to train for two months with Sifu Lam and then was put into a Kickboxing tournament run by a guy named Karl Sargent from the Budo Kan gym in Upper Queen St. I did OK. I fought a Taekwondo black belt. He jump-kicked me and I turned around and dislocated his shoulder. At the time everyone wanted to be a Black-Belt. This guy was supposed to be a Second Dan Black Belt, and I said to myself “hey after two months training, I can beat a Black Belt”. So I entered into more tournaments, and I think in the next fight a Green or Blue Belt kicked my butt and I realised that it’s not about the Belt. It’s a lot about mind training. I learnt about the fight game as we used to be very judgemental. We were lucky that Philip Lam was open-minded. At the time everything was all traditional. It was only Philip Lam and Karl Sargent that ran tournament that allowed you to do things differently than the traditional way.
NZF: What’s you fight record?
LH: It’s hard to say as Sifu Lam used to run these open tournaments where we hop in the ring with boxing gloves. There were no sanctioned bodies at the time so every fight was just a fight and not recored. This was unsanctioned and open to all fights. I think I have had roughly 16 – 17 Kickboxing fights which was a lot at the time. Young guys now can have a lot more fights in one year. This wasn’t possible back then.
NZF: What was your highlight of you 11 year fighting career.
LH: Most probably beating Pathai. I never trained so hard for a fight as I had never been so scared. One of my heroes in Thailand was called Somsong. He was a very strong Thai fighter. I was supposed to fight someone else, and he got injured. So I had to fight Pathai. When he first came to New Zealand his name was Petch Nam Neung. We used to watch videos of all the Thai Boxers and Somsong always stood out. He was a powerful fighter with strong high and low kicks. But before Christmas, Pathai beat Somsong. I packed my bag, went up North to camp for three weeks so I could train with no distraction. You know I have a lot of mates who would come over in the weekends with a box of beers. I didn’t want that, I just wanted to focus. I was super light. I went down to 70kg which Sifu Lam said was too light and I had to put on weight. To cut a long story short, I beat Pathai.
NZF: Anything you want to discuss about the fight scene in New Zealand?
LH: I think the sport looks healthy. In Kickboxing we have a lot of good trainers. Look at ETK, Aaron Boyes (Strike Force), Lee Gar will always be strong and all the break-offs will be strong too. If I had a message for the young guys, it would be to try to find a trainer that will put time into you and spend time with you. I try to spend time with the young guys.
NZF: Any advice for the young guys who want to step into a ring?
LH: If you are a new guy just starting, you have to set yourself a goal and let your trainer know you want to fight. I often found my fighters by fluke, as I never knew that they wanted to fight. It is only a small minority who want to fight. If your coach doesn’t know, they won’t put time into you. Even if you just started, let your trainer know. That’s my only message.