He had only been training for a month when local kickboxer, Brendan Ponman turned to his trainer Jason Harris and posed the question, “What do I have to do to become a kickboxing champion?” Remarkably, it was only 14 months later when Brendan won the NSW amateur light-heavyweight title. Focus spent some time recently getting to know this shy, but determined 20 year old.
> What made you decide to take up kickboxing?
I’ve always wanted to try it and one day a friend encouraged me to attend a class with him. I was hooked! I have now had six fights with four wins. My fourth fight was my title win. It all seemed to happen so fast, but it certainly was a lot of hard work. I’ve developed a solid working relationship with my trainer (Jason Harris) which is really important when preparing for a fight, not only physically, but mentally as well. I think it’s really important to have someone pushing you along who has been through the whole process of preparing for a fight themselves, so Jason was perfect for the job as he has won several championships himself. A mentally strong trainer will help you to see even your losses as a learning experience and move on from there. The bottom line is, if I feel my trainer isn’t focused, I find it more difficult to motivate myself to train.
> How important is your diet when training for a fight. Give us a snapshot of your eating plan in the lead up to a fight?
Given that I train around four hours per day, good eating is critical. If I don’t eat well, I don’t train well. My diet consists of low fat, high energy foods. Plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables and fish with tuna and salmon my favourites. I also use protein powders to support muscle growth and vitamin supplements to promote healthy ligaments and joints. I am constantly pushing myself that little bit harder every time I train, so it’s important to be consistent with my good eating habits. With all that in mind, I still find vegemite on toast and a cup of tea really picks me up after a hard training session. I also drink around three to four litres of water daily. With all that water flushing through my system it’s also important to keep a balance of minerals and electrolytes by drinking sports drinks or juice.
> How do you relax?
I don’t! But seriously, I like to surf and hang out with my mates. My social life is restricted, but it’s up to the individual fighter to recognise personal limitations when balancing training and socialising. If I don’t get adequate rest and recovery my stress levels go up and I start to lose focus. I also enjoy reading inspirational books such as ‘The Alchemist’ by Paulo Coelho or ‘Illusions’ by Richard Beach. Both books deal with the power of positive thinking and believing in your inner strength. They helped me replace my fear of failure with the strength of believing that I can do whatever I put my mind to! Positive thinking and positive self talk is a powerful tool for anyone to use and it’s a major part of my training.
> I’ve heard that some fighters will sleep in the ring on the night before a fight. Do you have any superstitions or rituals that you like to follow before a fight?
I always like to have a couple of days off before a fight, just to relax and prepare myself mentally. This used to concern Jason at first, but now he knows it’s just how I operate and he respects that. My personal mantra is “Don’t fear my opponent, it’s my choice to fight and because it’s my choice, I will give 100% commitment!” If the decision to step into the ring is not completely mine, then I shouldn’t be there and there’s a good chance I could lose. Any fighter will tell you that mental strength is a major part of success in the ring and if I don’t have that time to focus I struggle to get into the zone.
> Who is your favourite fighter and why?
A kickboxer named Simon Black. At the age of 24 he has won 3 titles and yet presents as a very humble person, a quality I respect. I like seeing people who are successful through their actions, but don’t have to tell everyone about it. People often say I don’t look like a fighter when they see me out of the ring and I’m glad, because fighting is just what I do as a sport to challenge myself and I like to leave all that aggression in the ring. Being a fighter is what I do, not what I am.
> How would you best describe your fighting style?
Calm and relaxed, looking for an opportunity to strike an effective blow! I’m becoming calmer in the ring with every fight, which is so different from my first couple of fights when I was so nervous that instead of staying with the fight plan, it was just a kicking and punching frenzy, hoping something would connect. I have learnt that self control is crucial. Anger or frustration only clouds my thinking and once that happens it’s all down hill.
> How have you been supported by the local community?
I’ve been lucky enough to gain support through the local council sporting fund and sponsorship from Port Macquarie’s Settlement City Shopping Centre. I even have people I don’t really know wishing me good luck, which is amazing. Just having my friends ringside to support me when I fight, especially outside of Port, really means a lot to me and keeps me going. There’s also so many people at the gym who put in extra time to support my training and I always feel they are with me whenever I step into the ring. It’s a real team effort.
> If you had the chance to excel in any other sport apart from kickboxing, what would it be and why?
Probably triathlon or Ironman because they are sports that really challenge personal fitness and I love the water. When I was a teenager I competed at state level for swimming and through my kickboxing training I have become quite a strong runner. A mate has been nagging me to have a go at triathlon and he even lent me a pushbike, which I have been riding everywhere. I really like the idea of doing something different between fights rather than just having time off. I can’t imagine that I would leave Kickboxing behind just yet though, because I’d love to challenge for an Australian title down the track. I would like to have three more fights before the end of this year before stepping up to that next level.
> So, what does the future hold for you outside the ring?
The discipline I have developed through training has transferred to my life outside the ring. I’ve found that I am more able to focus on achieving goals that I have set for myself. I also feel more confident in my ability to choose the better path when planning ahead. I would like to learn a trade, possibly start my own gym and definitely travel. At the moment I’m studying to be a personal trainer which I’m really enjoying. I’m able to challenge myself mentally while working in an industry I love, fitness!
> Good luck for the future Brendan and thank you for your time.