Reflections Magazine: How did you get into kickboxing?
Edwin Stephens: It’s a funny story. A couple of my high school friends wanted to see who was the toughest and best fighter, so we held a mini tournament. My best friend and I ended up in the final round. We decided to box each other, and the fight ended in a draw. We both took it from there, and we trained each other for years in boxing, kickboxing and mixed martial arts.
RM: How has kickboxing improved your life?
ES: I learned how to properly protect myself in hand-to-hand combat. Also, it really helped me to get out of my shell and meet new people.
RM: What are your biggest accomplishments in kickboxing?
ES: One of them is my title kumite belt. It felt like everything paid off—all my time spent training and working out, getting mentally and physically ready. It felt good. Also, fighting in front of Demetrious Johnson. It was crazy to realize that a UFC [Ultimate Fighting Championship] champ was cage-side watching me fight.
RM: What have you learned about yourself through martial arts?
ES: It’s all in the mind. We can talk ourselves out of doing things we feel are important. It’s all a state of mind. I learned how to take it slow and figure it out for me. Everyone is not the same; we all learn a bit different no matter how simple the task may be. Take your time to learn, and enjoy your progress.
RM: What are some of the greatest challenges you’ve faced in the sport?
ES: Believe it or not, it was convincing my mom to let me fight. One of my biggest supporters really really did not want me to get into this sport, and I understand why. Apart from that, learning how to train smart. Just because you’re in the gym all the time does not mean you are training correctly or using your time wisely.
RM: What advice do you have for people who are hesitant to try it?
ES: It’s a fun sport and will get you in great shape. It’s a non-contact program. The only contact is kicking the pads. It’s a great way to work on yourself and, at the same time, have a good time.
RM: What are the greatest health benefits someone can expect from taking up this sport?
ES: It’s a full-body workout, so you can expect to see yourself getting a bit leaner from the movements that we use. Aside from possible weight loss, your muscle mass will increase as well, and your cardiovascular fitness will improve tremendously.