We recently featured an article about Joel Walsh gaining his Team GB chance via social media platform Instagram! It's an intriguing story so we wanted to find out more. We caught up with Joel this week to discuss his background in Kickboxing, the differences between Taekwondo and Kickboxing, and his Olympic dreams.
Taekwondo is a lot more technical and professionalised, however points fighting makes you remember that it’s a dog fight when you’re in there and I love that. - Joel Walsh
MAO - Firstly, congratulations on your selection to the world class GB Taekwondo performance programme, you must be thrilled?
Joel Walsh (JW) - Yes! I'm absolutely over the moon. It’s something I’ve strived for my whole life, to be a professional athlete, I couldn’t be happier.
MAO - Along with a few other successful taekwondo athletes, you have a background in kickboxing, what are the big differences between kickboxing and taekwondo?
JW - Firstly, taekwondo is a lot harder to spell!
Getting used to the electronic scoring system was probably the biggest difference, a lot of Kickboxers who transfer over are very talented but just cannot adapt to the sensors in their socks.
Personally, I really enjoy having the sensors score my points rather than an official awarding points by eye, this rules out any excuses and makes everything more fair.
MAO - Going back slightly, when did you start Kickboxing?
JW - I originally started at Spartans kickboxing in Cardiff in 2001 when I was 4 years old. I trained there for nearly 18 years under Jeff Copp, James Morgan and more recently watched Caie Copp turn the club into heart of the local community.
MAO - We know you had plenty of success, care to elaborate on some of your best moments?
JW - I'd love to. As a youngster I saw almost every title in Britain multiple times. I was the Welsh champion 10 times, English champion three times, British Open champion twice, and the British and KMA Grand Prix champion.
More recently, since becoming a senior I have been focusing on full contact shows in Wales and adding to my undefeated record! Holding both the WKU -65KG & -70KG Welsh champion titles for 2016 & 2017.
MAO - How about in Taekwondo?
JW - Since making the move to Taekwondo in the summer of 2017 and being selected for the Welsh National team, I became British National champion at -63KG last September and took a silver medal in Dublin at the Irish Championships at -68KG.
MAO - Do you think the standard of fighting is better in points fighting (kickboxing) or taekwondo?
JW - It’s hard to say, you have to have respect for anyone at the top of their game in both sports as they both require lots of skill and dedication.
MAO - Very diplomatic! No pressure to answer this, but what do you think is a more entertaining sport, taekwondo or point fighting?
JW - Both have their highs, taekwondo is a lot more technical and professionalised however points fighting makes you remember that it’s a dog fight when you’re in there and I love that.
MAO - How did your transition to Taekwondo come about, was it due to your ambition to compete at the Olympics?
JW - Yes, exactly that! To expose myself to the best in the world and to give myself the opportunity to be the best. As well as a bit of influence and inspiration from a few of my ex kickboxing pals including double European Taekwondo champion Lauren Williams and European Championships Medalist, Leif Thobroe.
MAO - Being a full time athlete must be a dream come true, talk us through a day in the life of Joel Walsh.
JW - It really is a dream come true, however it’s not as exciting as you’d think. I wake up and try to make sure I’m the first person to get to the gym. Check my weight then have a light breakfast.
From there we do a kicking session every morning then another one in the afternoon, I’m lucky enough to have what I believe is the best taekwondo coaching team in the world conducting these sessions.
Then I have my strength and conditioning routine to work around my kicking sessions with my personal trainer, this will make up 3 sessions a day most days.
In between sessions I have meetings with my performance analysis team, nutritionist, psychologist and lifestyle advisor to fill my time. I really am blessed enough to have such a great team of support behind me driving me forward!
MAO - Do you ever get out of the gym?
JW - Sometimes! If I ever do venture outside the gym it will be for a media appearance at a local school or charity, for example this week the team headed over to the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital to share stories with the children there.
MAO - It sounds like you're really focused on your success. As an international competitor, how do you prepare for competitions?
JW - I do a lot of work with my psychologist for composure and clear thinking. Music is my best friend when preparing!
MAO - And what are your long term goals in taekwondo?
JW - Just to be the best, nothing else will do. Britain has never produced a male world champion...
MAO - Finally, do you have any words of advice for any other martial artists out there who may be looking to transition to Taekwondo?
JW - as long as you enjoy it, do it!
MAO - Thanks Joel for talking to martialarts-online.co.uk