It takes only a few minutes in the presence of former four-time world welterweight kick boxing champion Tom Laroche to begin to appreciate the passion that he has for his chosen craft, and the deep abiding commitment he possesses to helping others.
Laroche, who resides in Kamloops, currently makes the trip to Merritt once a week to run introductory classes in kickboxing, Chinese gung-fu, muay thai and san shou.
He also teaches classes in Kamloops, Clearwater and Barriere six days a week. Asked why he fills up his already hectic schedule, Laroche responds, “Everybody in a community has a responsibility to invest in that community and its youth. Sometimes, young people just need that extra person to come up beside them, to let them know that it’s alright to make mistakes. I use this training platform to help youths develop a healthy lifestyle. By doing it at a young age, it will probably stay with them throughout their lives.”
Laroche goes on to add, “We’re teaching various things about self-defense, but we’re also teaching the correct attitude to go with it. The fact that we’re always accountable for our actions, and that any of these skills and techniques should only be used as a last resort. It’s also about setting goals, working hard, not giving up, and investing time in order to get better.”
Laroche reflects on his own childhood, “I grew up in Princeton. I know what it’s like in smaller communities. My goal is to provide a quality activity that helps the kids with their lives, and complements what they’re doing at school and at home.”
“For the first couple of weeks,” explains Laroche, “we focus on establishing a good foundation, with lots of stretching, strength training, and all-round conditioning. That’s followed by specific instruction in the many skills and techniques associated with the different forms of self-defense. Only later will we begin to spar, and possibly compete.”
One of the youths on hand is 17-year-old Damon Chase, a Grade 11 student at Merritt Secondary School. Chase, who formerly lived in Clearwater, had originally signed up for classes with Laroche in Kamloops and was making the trip each Saturday to the tournament capital city. He’s thrilled that sessions are now being held right in his own town.
“I’ve always been a fan of fight sports such as boxing and mixed martial arts,” he says. “Now I’m actually able to practice them myself.”
Chase really enjoys the strenuous workouts that Laroche puts them through on Friday nights.
“It’s great for your cardio, flexibility, arm and leg strength, and co-ordination,” states Chase.
Asked if he could see himself competing in the sport somewhere down the road, Chase doesn’t hesitate to respond. “Absolutely! I’d love to compete. I’d like to make it my official sport.”
Anyone wishing more information can contact Laroche at his school in Kamloops (1-250-572-4485).