A look inside Warriors Gym with Head Coach Cian Cowley
Warriors Gym Thai Boxing/K1 is one of the most respected Muay Thai gyms in Ireland. It was originally founded by Mike Dockery in 2002 who had been an accomplished fighter but found his calling as a coach. He instilled an attitude of discipline and sportsmanship in his fighters. Mike handed the gym over to Cian Cowley, current ISKA Irish K1 Champion and the Golden Belt 4 Nations Muay Thai Champion, when he was only 20 years old. In the years since that takeover, Warriors have went from strength to strength and now boast 17 champions across all age groups.
Cian has been involved with Warriors for the past ten years. In that time he became one of the best Thai boxing fighters in Ireland and recently decided to pursue a career in MMA. He told FightStore what the gym means to him, “I was always involved in martial arts because my dad got me into boxing and kickboxing in other gyms but Warriors was my first home when I started. It was my club and who I represented, I never mixed and matched with any other clubs. For the last ten years it’s been my club. The longest I’ve ever been away is when I’ve gone to Thailand to train. I’m always in and out of the gym, it’s like a religion to me. My whole life revolves around Warriors gym and Thai boxing. People say that the gym is their second home but this genuinely is my second home because it’s all I’ve known for the last ten years. I dropped everything for Warriors gym and always put it first before everything else.”
This level of dedication is clear when he admits that he’s ‘turned down endless amounts of opportunities because I put this gym first.’ “I’ve had offers of full-time work running gyms in America and Australia but that thought wouldn’t even come into my mind. That’s how much Warriors means to me,” he admitted.
Many had questioned whether Cian would be able to run the gym when he was handed the keys by his trainer, Mike Dockery, but now the two men look back and ‘laugh about it’. “I never expected it. I never had a plan that in a few years I’d take over Warriors; that was never mentioned by anyone,” he said. Mike took a chance on Cian but he had ‘faith’ in him. “Back then most people did knock it because they probably said Mike was mad giving the gym to a nineteen year old. Everyone asked questions about him giving it to a young lad, they didn’t think I’d know how to run it and organise fighters but Mike had faith in me and now when we talk about it we laugh about it. He was the only one the actually believed that I could do it but know all those doubters have been proved wrong. The gym has gone from strength to strength,” says Cian.
Since the takeover Warriors has grown under Cian’s tutelage and he has been happy with the progress achieved. “When Mike had the gym he had a full time job and a wife and kids at home so it was very hard for him to juggle all that together while trying to push all his fighters to the top and bring in new people to the gym. When I took over I had no job or responsibilities so I could put all my work into this project. I was able to coach all the classes and organise the fights so within the first year I was organising all the trips away and I also had the time to go away with fighters to England and abroad,” admits Cowley.
Looking around the gym it’s not hard to see how far they’ve come in a small amount of time. Cian points towards a wall full of belts which is testament to his dedication in coaching. “We’ve 17 champions now and that’s gone from just me and Karl McCallig as Mike’s champions. We were his first two champions but the work he put into us to get the belts was huge dedication, he put years of work into us to get them and since then we’ve drove this club forwards. Now we have champion after champion coming through and I would consider Warriors gym the best stand-up gym in the country at the moment in terms of fighters. All the other gyms are great in their own way but I think for stand-up, K1 and Muay Thai, Warriors is one of the highest level gyms in the country,” said Cian proudly.
Speaking of champions there are a few fighters in Warriors that we need to look out for in future. Cian mention’s Daryl Flood, a sixteen year old with a bright future ahead of him. Cian explains that Daryl started out as a junior but now he’s gone pro. “He’s fighting at a high level and he’s already been around the block at such a young age. You can’t compare that experience he has to anyone else at sixteen. He’s without a doubt one to watch out for in the future. Daryl will go all the way to the top. Another fighter, Conor Keogh, who trains with Daryl is also very handy on the mat.”
But they aren’t the only talent in the gym according to Cian. “Obviously we also have Karl Mccallig who’s another big name. I know he had a bad loss at Cage Kings but that’s nothing to go by, look at all his other fights before that and you’ll see why he’s such a big name. We also have loads of very dangerous juniors and it’s sickening to see just how good they are at that age. It’s scary to think about what they’ll be like in five to six year’s time. There’s loads of good talent in the gym,” said Cowley.
As one of the biggest Muay Thai gyms in the country, Warriors has a lot of aspects which separates it from the rest. Cian believes that it’s down to the way they train and their attitude to training. “I think it has a lot to do with me being younger. I know I might have less experience and people think you need to be more mature to run a gym. I’m in a position where I’m still an active fighter and it’s been making the gym better. I’m coaching and still actively fighting at a high level so I’m not teaching my fighters any old techniques. Each day I get new ideas to add different techniques to training. Anyone that has trained here knows we train different to other gyms. I also have the atmosphere down here very family orientated; we’re all mates and everyone gets along. Our attitude towards training is unique; most gyms are ignorant to the fact of learning and evolving with times whereas I’m not and we are always looking to learn so that’s why I think we’re so successful,” said Cian.
Cowley has not thought too much about the future but he would like a ‘bigger gym’ at some stage. He says, “Two years ago I never thought the gym would have as many champions as we do now. I want to keep training the lads day to day, keep the classes consistent and bring lots more kids through our doors. We’re mad about the kids here and I dedicate a lot of time to the juniors because they’re the future at the end of the day. I would like to get a bigger gym; I like our current one and I think it’s perfect but it would be nice to get a proper facility with more space for the lads. As a coach that’s what I’d love to be able to do for everyone at the gym.”
If you are thinking about joining Warriors you should get on to their website – www.warriorsthaiboxing.com – and then give them a call so you can get started. Cian admits that he knows the ‘hardest part is getting started’. “I think at Warriors our beginners classes are a great way to get going; it’s laid back and I teach the beginners classes which is good. I try to keep them to a max of 15-20 people but that’s on a busy day, normally we’d get an average of 5-10 people and I try to keep it like that so everyone gets a chance,” he said.
He also added that, “Some people might be turned off by the fact that I’m the coach because of the way I fight and might think they’ll have to jump in and spar with me but that’s not the case. We don’t have egos here and I would never tolerate anyone having an ego in my gym. I don’t care how good a fighter is, I won’t tolerate any egos. The only person that has an ego in this gym is me and that’s because I’m the coach. I need to have it to keep everyone in check. That’s why I believe this is a great gym for people to join.” So if you think you’d like to join get down and get involved!