We will be doing a SPOTLIGHT series every month or so featuring one of the KOMBAT instructors or valued members!
For our first installment, check out our in-depth interview with Coach Socrates.
It’s a typical Wednesday evening at KOMBAT ARTS – the resounding thwack of Thai pads, Kru Joey shouting instructions in his booming voice, the impeccable collision of skin and bone as body parts rattle and clash.
Amidst the din, I look for Socrates Celestial, or Coach Soc, as he is known. We search for a quiet place to speak, but it’s clear we’ll have to occasionally shout if we’re to hear each other during the interview. Though Coach Socrates appears friendly and easy to talk to, it quickly becomes apparent that he emanates an acute fire and intensity when speaking about his background and foray into his ultimate passion – coaching.
Coach Socrates started his martial arts career in karate, as many kids do, but found it lacked the challenge he needed and moved on to full contact kickboxing. However, the school lacked structure and he found himself at another boxing club in order to improve his hands. It was there that he fell in love with the sport of boxing right away. But it was actually due to an injury from football that led him to the vocation of coaching.
Finding it was a natural fit for his skills and personality, Coach Socrates instantly gravitated towards training and motivating athletes to meet their goals. “It’s challenging and thought-provoking” he says. “It’s like a game of chess.” Not surprising, Soc is also an avid chess player, a game which forces the player to constantly think several moves ahead and where chess masters are inherently “methodical people”.
Even his name seems to indicate the type of coach he is – the moniker ‘Socrates’ evokes the image of the famed Greek philosopher and it could be said that Coach Soc himself has a modern-day philosophical approach to coaching. “I believe in the soulful athlete,” he explains. “My approach has a more holistic outlook. It’s like ‘Chicken Soup’ for the TRAINING soul.” He goes on to explain that an athlete with solely physical abilities and skills will never be world-class without mental toughness. “Trainers who just train the body are a dime a dozen,” Socrates says. “But the ability to understand the spiritual side and to be able to connect with my clients on both an emotional and physical level is priceless.” He prides himself in understanding his clients and being honest with them. “If I know I am not the right coach for a particular fighter or client, I have no problem recommending someone else.”
But Coach Socrates has no shortage of elite athletes and fitness clients under his tutelage, including pro fighter Marc Pagcaliwangan, who made his debut in 2012 and currently holds a 6-0-1 record. He also trains high profile amateur female fighter, Natasha Szlapetis.“My proudest moment isn’t from all the flash or accolades of my fighters or athletes,” he says, “but from knowing I’ve helped someone to reach their goals. Whether that’s helping a fitness client lost 50 lbs or getting my fighters to the Provincials, the Nationals or the Pros – that is what keeps me going.”
He coaches both male and female fighters alike; Coach Socrates does not discriminate. “I always say, I don’t train women. I train boxers.” Though admittedly this comment has garnered him some raised eyebrows in the past, but the truth is Socrates truly loves fighting. He wonders perhaps if there had been a coach like him when he was growing up, maybe his path might have been different and he could’ve been a dominant fighter too. “But then I fell into coaching,” he realizes, “and I feel that is my true calling, my gift.”
And he takes his vocation seriously. Not content with just yelling at you to do 100 burpees or chastising you for eating those 10 chocolate covered almonds, Coach Socrates is a nationally certified NCCP Level 3 Boxing Coach, along with a SSSC Sport, Strength, Speed and Conditioning designation and he has goals to be an Olympic level coach. He is very goal-oriented and believes he should set a good example for his clients by consistently setting goals for himself. “I want to be the one strategizing on how to move the chess piece (AKA, the fighter), not being the chess piece myself.”
It’s also clear how much he enjoys his profession, the career he fell into serendipitously, but one that has brought him so much fulfillment. “I don’t make much money,” he admits, “but I come to work every day loving what I do.”
And for that, he is truly rich.
Article by: ALICE SOON @alicesoon1
You can reach Socrates Celestial at [email protected].