Interview with NZ fighting legend Lollo Heimuli - (Part 2)
This is part 2 of the interview with fighting legend Lollo Heimuli. It focusses on his training and fighting advice based on his many years of experience in the NZ Boxing/Kickboxing scene.
NZF: Before a fight, do you think mental preparation is important?
LH: Well I think things have changed over the years but it’s like everything else. The harder you train the more relaxed you are. This hasn’t changed over the years. Think of a big circle that is divided into sections such as
your weight, fitness, sleeping, eating, training etc. If you cancelled out as many things on the chart as you can, such as training as you know you have trained really well, the more you cancel out the faster your brain will react and the more relaxed you will be for a fight. Some like to use music now, I still believe that if you train hard, you eat well and rest well, then you will have less to worry about. The less you have to worry about the more confident you will be.
NZF: What about diet?
LH: If I know someone who has weight problems I send them to a dietician. I know the basic stuff but everyone is different so I really try to send them to someone with experience as what works for some doesn’t work for others.
NZF: What would a typical fight training day look like for your fighters?
LH: You’re going to have your maintenance program for fighters. For heavyweights, this means a full body workout, maybe three times a week, nothing vigorous. They have to do their running in between. A lot has changed over the years. Me, Wayne and Alex Tui and Terry Hill we’d try all sorts of crazy stuff. Especially after watching all the Bruce Lee movies. I think we probably over trained as we didn’t really know what we were doing. Just to put it plainly, eat well, sleep well and have plenty of rest and heaps of water. Make sure you jog two or three times a week and go and do your pad-work. In the peak pre fight training period, about five or six weeks before a fight, you have to spar three times a week for the first two weeks then pick it up to four-five times. You have to do your skill work in the morning and try to fit in bag work in between. You should always hang around 3 – 4 kgs over your normal weight so that when you fight train you naturally drop your weight rather than starving before a fight.
NZF: How high do you rate sparring as a training technique?
LH: Sparring is really important but not everything. Most fighters will say that they would rather spar than do bag work. One of my favourite programmes I have for the young guys is that they spar for three rounds with the same partner, one round you get your partner to be the counter fighter while the other one is on offence. Then you change it around. And on the third round they do their preferred style. That way they can cover both areas as there is always someone better than you and they get to practice both sides. This is so they can discipline themselves so that they become good at both styles otherwise they may get good or better at one and poor at the other.
NZF: What about shadow boxing?
LH: Of course. A lot of people hate shadow boxing. But I rate shadow boxing as important as sparring. Because shadow boxing is where you are working on particular drills that you lack, or want to improve. You shadow box to a point where you no longer think of the drills you are going through. Trainers understand that if their fighters are lacking in their shadowboxing, they may go into a fight and hit a mental block where the stick to one or two drills. By bringing everything into shadow boxing you will find that it will all come automatically in your fighting or sparring as you have no time to think of what you are going to do so it must come naturally. If you go in thinking too much about what you are going to do you, it usually doesn’t work as you are too tense or want to take it slower.
NZF: Do you have any pre fight changing room routine for your fighters?
LH: I try to reassure the fighter. Be there for them as a lot of them have a million questions running through their heads and they self-doubt. Not putting anyone down, because I used to do this as well, but trainers can also have self-doubt about their fighters. When you do your warm-up in the corner, it is supposed to be a rehearsal. I used to, and many trainers still do, give their fighters a full workout before the fight. They don’t realise it, but before they do realise it they have just done four or five rounds on the pads. What I do, is get the fighter to do their fight plan for just 30 – 45 seconds and then stop. Have two or three minutes break then do it again. A lot of trainers get nervous and start coaching. There is no coaching here, even if I see a mistake, I don’t coach because this is over coaching. I keep it to a strict time frame. I don’t mind my fighters training lightly in the last three days but you have to watch out for the nervous fighters because training is not going to do anything for them and they over train because of self doubt. Reassuring your fighter that they are ready is good, not too much but just enough. I try to know my fighters. I’ve gone through hundreds of fighters. Trainers need to know their fighters inside out. Warming up is just a rehearsal. If we are at the same level of fitness and you do five rounds on the pads before the fight and I just do one minute, guess who is going to win.
NZF: What advice do you have for fighting a taller fighter?
LH: Range is a funny thing. Put it this way, if I’m a 5ft tall fighter, the range that I regard as safe is only safe if I am fighting someone 5ft tall. I can’t take this mind set when I go up against someone taller. If I get a 6ft partner, I extent my arm to his extended arm and look at the foot range, this is my safe distance. I would try to be more explosive when I am inside and use a lot of diversion or feinting. Defensive wise you will get hit a lot less. And if you get the tall guys to bring the fight to you it will be an even fight. It comes down to distance and range, focus and discipline. You have to take a few shots before you get in, and when you get in, in Muay Thai, they just rip you up. You need to get your range correct and use a lot of diversions. This doesn’t guarantee you will win, but you will get hit less.
NZF: Thanks Lollo, this was a great interview.