Part two: Interview with Jasmine, Angela Parr and John Wayne Parr.
‘One-on-one session’ with John Wayne Parr’s family
Mr. Parr – you said “it is not a violent sport, it’s an art”. We all know that in general, sport is an activity which is competitive, organized and entertaining. It’s governed by rules and customs and defined by result or specific criteria. Please, tell my readers why Muay Thai, which some call a combat sport, is not a violent sport and even art.
Muay Thai is not just a ring where people beat each other up. It is a sport, which is regulated by the World Muaythai Council – the Official World Governing Body for Professional Muaythai in Thailand and around the world, since 1995 and they work closely with (IFMA). They regulate competitions, organize seminars, teaching referees and judges. Muay Thai is not just a popular ring sport. It has fascinating traditions and ceremonies and is regarded as a cultural art-form, as well as a form of self-defense, because attacking somebody is easy –not getting hit is very difficult.
It is a highly technical sport which has high safety standards and high ethical standards. It teaches you high personal discipline and respect to the teachers. This is a sport for health, body fitness and self-confidence and is has deep spiritual teaching and understanding of life. For example, one of the traditions of Muay Thai is “Wai Khru” and it is a ritual that fighters perform in the ring before the fight. It’s like a dance where you are asking permission from the gods, from the water, from the wind and the fire to give you strengths for your mind and body. You move around the ring, showing respect to and thanking your teacher, your mentor, your parents, your brothers and sisters and your opponent. It helps you to get your mind and body to that crucial point when you are physically and mentally ready for competition.
That is what Muay Thai represents and that is what we are teaching here. I can show you everything that I know but I cannot teach you experience. That is also what Jess (Jasmine) is learning from us. That was our conscious decision based on our understanding that she was ready for that competition. We believed that she was ready and we let her go in the ring and she did very well in demonstrating her techniques and scored good points for it.
Some people were quite concerned, some confused and some didn’t know enough to understand the real level of aggression between the opponents.
Any so called aggression in the ring is very controlled in such particular competitions and that is the part they are learning in the ring through real experience. Because, if you do not control your aggression you lose your focus on defense and that is so important for our students to experience and to learn in real competitions.
For example, if you get hit on the face you just learn to take it but not get angry because you will lose control. They are trained not to get angry but they are trained and taught to channel they energy. Once in the ring you will get hits, it doesn’t matter and that is because the sport is based on actual contacts from eight striking points all together. But it is important to stay in control and get the job done even if you feel some pain. You want to demonstrate your skill and techniques to score. It is all about experience.
As, I had learned before our interview – Muay Thai is the “Art of Eight Limbs” which basically means it includes eight “points of contact”. To make sure that any individual nak muay (practitioner) is protected of possible injury in the best possible way – what specific safety regulations apply to your organisation? Simply, how are practitioners protected when they train or when they fight to reduce the risk of getting injured?
As I mentioned before, we have strong regulations for Muay Thai and we follow them accordingly. For example, the amateurs must wear: a form-fitted gum shield (mouthguard) and they cannot remove it during sparring in the ring; cup protectors must be worn, including a jock–strap; shin guards and elbow guards must be also worn; the individually fitted head-guard must be worn and gloves must be worn all the time. Then it all gradually changes dependent on your level of skill, techniques and experience.Some protective gear will be removed, the gloves will become smaller and the rounds will become longer.
If you become successful – then people will start to support you and that will be the time when you will get paid. The more successful you become by using your skills, charisma and personality – the more people will follow you and the more you will get paid. It is important to not just be a good fighter but also an entertainer.
I remember in Japan we had crowd of 40,000 people and there was a television crew. We were watched by 20 million people and it indicates how popular Muay Thai is. As an entertainer you must consider your appearance. Some might have flashy shorts or something else interesting but many like to watch the fighters dance in the ring. The kids love it too and you can see them copying you, and it is like a compliment when you see it; or seeing people repeating your moves. It is like a pat on the back because you do something that others appreciate. It’s very cool.
Mr. Parr, you are 8 times World Champion and runner up in The Contender Asia. 2004 Fighter of the Year by IronLife Magazine; 2004 Fighter of the year by International Kickboxer Magazine; being voted in 1997 Best Farang Fighter in Thailand. That means you are not just a sport legend in your own rights but a very experienced fighter. You understand, better than the majority of us, what possible danger of injuries can occur during a bout, as you had personal experience in 2008. However, you recently organised a bout between young eight and seven years-old girls which sparked national controversy in Australia. Why did you make this decision and what was your decision based on?
I have been lucky enough to have 110 fights with no serious injuries, whatsoever. I had many bruises but bruises are just bruises. I learned a lot through my experiences and I have grown through the years as a human being, gaining more wisdom in life and in sport. I firmly believe that based on my personal experience, I can say that Muay Thai is a very safe sport compared to other popular sports.
I can honestly tell you that we were giving Jessie full freedom of choice. We took her to gymnastics and we introduced her to dancing but she kept coming back to Muay Thai and she kept saying to me, “Dad, I want to fight, I want to fight.” It took us a couple of years to realise that we cannot stop her but we can teach her and support her with all our experience and life wisdom.
The Muay Thai is safer than gymnastic, safer than cheer-leading, safer than bike riding and even safer than trampoline jumping in your own back yard. We also understood that with us she would have the right supervision. So, we let her train, we taught her defense, we guided her mentally and we showed her full support and encouragement.
Her appearance in the ring wasn’t an overnight decision or some sort of ‘try and see what will happen’. She was trained and prepared to go in the ring to face her opponent Georgina, who was actually younger than her. I was absolutely sure that not just her but all other kids who were competing that day were safe and professionally supervised. Regardless of the referee’s decision, if I would see any chance of her or someone else in real danger of being injured or seriously hurt I would stop it myself. I would throw the towel in and would stop any fight straight away. Sorry, but I have to go now because my training started and you are welcome to watch.
After the training session I approached Jasmine and confirmed permission to ask her a few questions and record her answers for my readers.
It is real pleasure to meet you, Jasmine and as you understand I would like to ask you a few questions – about you, your dad and your sport. Is that okay with you?
How was your training today? Did you enjoy it?
Yes, I did enjoy it very much. I like all of my training but I like sparing the best because I want to be like my mom and dad; and I want to be better than them. I want to be a world champion. Me and my brother, we are the only ones that have world champions in our family. My brother, Jessie said to me that he wants to be a fighter too, when he grows up. I like when people come to watch me and support me when I fight and I like trophies.
You like trophies? Oh, sweetie –who doesn’t? Which one do you like better?
The one that I like and want to win is the biggest one. My dad has two really, really big ones.
The one that is golden with blue – the tallest one?
That’s the one I really, really like. I can’t have it because it’s my dad’s but I can win one and that’s the one I want.
Oh, I like that one too. I think it’s my favorite. You can certainly win one in the future but I am really keen to understand when did you know that you wanted to do Muay Thai?
Ah… when I was like, I think four. I used to always dress up as a fighter; wearing my dad’s t-shirts and my dad’s belts and his gloves; and sometime, I would wear my mom’s high heel shoes. I loved taking pictures next to dad’s trophies, too.
That is very cute, Jasmine but may I ask you. Do you think you are clever?
Why do you think you clever?
Hmm.., because I came second in science, in my class, and I love science. You could choose to do different things but I chose to build a robot; they cancelled it twice and now they said we can start our project after the holidays. I can’t wait, I really love science.
Do you play different sport at school?
At school we do high jumps, running races and swimming and I am good at swimming because I won two competitions in swimming. I like swimming, but I love Muay Thai more.
What about Gymnastic? You dad told me that you went to gymnastic classes and then you dropped out. May I ask why?
I went there a few times and didn’t want to go there because they like totally hang upside down on monkey bars and they fall down and it looks like you can just break your head. And all you wear is just a very thin swim suit and when you fall it really hurts. I totally didn’t like it.
I was going to dancing too for one year, but after winning a few times I got bored, it just wasn’t challenging enough for me, but in Muay Thai I have to train hard and I really like it more. And I like my uniform. I have different color gloves: pink, white and red. Do you know they are different?
What do you mean?
Well, the pink ones are gentle, the white are second strongest and the red ones, they are the strongest. The pink ones don’t have much puff in them and that is why they are gentle. But when I was fighting I was wearing really big gloves and they have a lot of stuffing because they are the strongest. And when you wear them -the punches aren’t that hard.
Well, Jasmine, talking about punches. You and Georgina are still friends, aren’t you? No hard feeling because it’s just a sport, right?
When I saw her I thought she is really beautiful and she looks really cute. I think Georgina is a very nice girl, didn’t you see we hugged each other? And I like giving hugs, I have no hard feelings and we will continue to be friends with Georgina.
That is very nice to hear, Jasmine. Good on you and I would like to ask you something else. Do you have a favorite book that you love to read?
Yes, I really like the Bible.
Bible, are you serious?
Ah, the Bible is a serious book and I have a special version from school, it’s a kid’s Bible. There is a page where you read and then you turn the page over; and it will show you how to do a little prayer, so you have to say the prayer. I love doing the prayers. I read what it says and it’s all about hope, guiding somebody and helping others. I told Jessie and he is only three, how to pray.
Hey Jessie, (she called her brother and he was next to her at the blink of an eye, watching her concentrated face expression and repeating her every move and word with sheer fascination) Father ( touching his forehead), Son (touching his chest), the Holy ( touching shoulder) Spirit ( touching different shoulder and then giving us all big smile).
Jasmine, may I ask who do you pray for, more often?
For my granddad, Jimmy who died from cancer and for my grandmother. I miss them so much… (She started to cry and I felt awful to bring this on with my curious digging. Angela, who was sitting next to her immediately hugged her and comforted her: “That is okay, sweetie. It is good to talk about them. We don’t want to forget about them. We want to remember them because we love them.”)
You know Jasmine, your grandpa is very happy that you remember him and he may be right now watching you, saying – Oh, how nice that Jasmine remembers me and talks about me. He definitely wants you to smile and not cry. He wants you to be a happy girl. Don’t you think? (Jasmine, hugged by Angela was still sobbing but she nodded to me in agreement and I felt like a monster but I continue to ask her more questions).
Listen; let’s talk about something tasty, okay? Who is the person that cooks the most in your family?
Mommy is cooking all the time because daddy likes eating. I love cooking too, and I want to be on Junior Master Chef, it’s my favorite program. I love watching it.
Oh, who doesn’t? Well, when people who produce this program read about you they might consider inviting you. Would you like to be invited?
I‘d love to! (Now she is back happy and smiling).
Well, just in case they will read this interview let me ask you a few more questions and they will know more about you. For example, what is your favourite toy?
It’s a little lamb, but it’s a blanket. You can sleep on it, you can cover yourself or you can just sleep next to it. It has a lambs-head and lambs-legs and the body is a blanket. It’s a blanket-lamb and it’s a toy because you can play with it.
Do you like to watch different programs or movies on TV? Can you name two or three for me?
Can I name four?
Yes, you can because you are very special, girl.
Can I name more, like five?
You can name all of them. Whatever you like, Jasmine.
I like “Tom and Jerry”, “Hanna Montana”, “Wizards of Waverly Place”, “Phineas & Ferb”, “H2O” and “ I Carly” . And “I Carly” is about two girls who are the best friends and they are making their own show. It’s about friendship and you should look it up on Google. Its www.icarly.com.au and Jessie loves: “Scooby DOO”, “Tom and Jerry” and “Dora the explorer and her cousin Diego “
Well, thank you for that extra information. What about computer games? Do you like to play them?
I love computer games, I love playing them and I have a lot of games. I’ve got Xbox-360 but I love to play Poptropica, Moshi Monsters and Cool Maths Games on the computer.
You are definitely a very nice and clever girl, Jasmine and I would like to thank you for talking to me and answering my questions. I also hope that this is not just a one time and I will see you sometime in the future. Thank you very much, Jasmine, and I would like to ask you mommy, Angela, a few questions.
Angela, you are one of Australia’s best known female kick-boxers, known to your fans as “Angie” Rivera-Parr. I watched a few videos on YouTube yesterday, with you fighting against some big names. I am very impressed. However, I am on a personal mission today to meet your family and to understand why Karl Stefanovic told the Australian public that you and your husband, John Wayne Parr, as “the parents need counselling”. Therefore you, undoubtedly as the mother of Jasmine and as a woman, who has real knowledge, compared to Karl about Muay Thai and certainly about your daughter – are in a perfect position to help me. Could you please answer e a few questions for me?
When did you discover that your daughter had become very interested in Muay Thai? What was your reaction and what took Jasmine to convince you, as a mother, that this was a serious choice and not just a caprice or whim?
It is true that my daughter showed consistent interest in Muay Thai since she was around 4 years old. She was staying behind and training with my husband and his classes.
We have re-introduced children’s classes and she is a big part of it; and she is training even harder than she has before. For the last whole year, by watching her, I realise how much she really likes Muay Thai. She did dancing sometime ago and as soon as she got first place she said: “That’s it, I am done and I don’t want to do this anymore. I want to do kickboxing”.
For a whole year, she had shown impressive ability in learning very well the required techniques and we were holding her back by thinking we better wait till she is eight years old. We gave her the opportunity to choose. She went to try gymnastics and dancing but she was still dreaming about kickboxing.
What we realized was that nothing was able to keep her interest for long, besides the Muay Thai. She would always comeback to Muay Thai training and t I saw how she was always intrigued by this sport. Her interest in Muay Thai was only growing.
I think everything else wasn’t challenging enough for her. She was good at everything else very quickly, but Muay Thai is quite challenging for her. I think it is because Muay Thai is highly technical and it is hard to do, for an example, a perfect push up. She knows that she does better push ups than many around her but it is still not perfect, yet; and she keeps trying to perfect her techniques. It is a challenge and that is keeping her trying again and again.
As a mother, I must encourage her and share her interest, and luckily, my husband and I have experience and understand Muay Thai. We can guide her with wisdom and respect; and with all possible precautions relative to her health and well being. We never impose anything; it is not what we believe in. We believe in encouragement and support. We love our children.
Angela, if my research is correct you had 48 fights in the ring and therefore countless hits all over your body by your opponents. You know, through your experience, how that feels and what possible damage it can do to your body. When Jasmine fought against Georgina what did you feel?
Because both, my husband and I are very experience fighters and trainers we would never put our daughter, Jasmine, in uncharted waters and particularly where she could be possibly hurt. We worked for a very long time on her defense and we provide all our events with all necessary protective equipment: big shin pads, big gloves, head gear and so on. So, we knew that there would not be a hard contact and also, we had a professional referee who was monitoring the fight which was based on a minimal contact.
They weren’t allowed to proceed with leg kicks to the head area for example; and if any of them would act incorrectly, the referee would break the fight and stop it immediately. What people have to understand – this is not a street fight but a highly regulated sport where you demonstrate your techniques and charged accordingly.
Jasmine’s opponent Georgina is trained by her father who is also professional. The referee, Brad Vocale, has an absolutely impeccable reputation as a professional referee and that is why we left it up for the professional referee and not to an armature referee. We weren’t only taking care of our daughter, we were taking care of everyone because we have full responsibility for kid’s matches and certainly we have huge experience.
We organised and conducted more than a dozen events over the last 12 years and it was my promotion, not my husband promotion. And no, I wasn’t nervous for my daughter, but I am always nervous in any competition that my daughter is in: dancing, swimming or kickboxing. I want her to do her best and be proud of her achievements and I am always there for her to give her encouragement or even advice.
That last competition is a perfect example. I saw how she didn’t use a block for her legs and I told her, “Remember how to use your block” and she said: “Oh, yeah!” and she did. She listened, she recovered and she didn’t give up. So, I felt really proud of Jasmine, very proud.
Karl Stefanovic on the other hand “felt physically sick in the stomach watching that…”- he stated: “…there should be an inquiry,” What do you think Karl Stefanovic had misunderstood but you understand very well as an experience practitioner of Muay Thai?
Honestly, we looked up to Karl Stefanovic and we were really disappointed in his response to our daughter competing in Muay Thai. It is a Martial Art, she trained for it and this was a well organised event. This was a demonstration of what children learned prior to the actual competition.
As for Karl Stefanovic, I doubt that he has any knowledge of Muay Thai because if he would he wouldn’t say what he said. He definitely knows nothing about the rules and the regulations of our sport; but we do, we are professionals. I think they judged everything purely by just looking at the video without understanding how much training goes in, how much safety and precautions are involved, how highly regulated and disciplined our sport is and how much experience we have.
All they saw – two girls hitting each other; whereas in reality, Jasmine and Georgina were trying to demonstrate and score their learned techniques. The audience was cheering them up: “Go, Jessie!” and so on. I still can’t understand how such a well organised competition, similar to countless competitions that are organised in Australia and overseas was turned upside-down and vilified.
A positive promotion of one of the most regulated and statistically safest sport compared to football, basketball, gymnastics or even cheer-leading sports, was totally taken out of contest and compared to a street fight or a school yard fight. There is no comparison whatsoever. It is a sport, same as a karate or taekwondo or ice hockey or bike riding, and as other sports it has the events that we all love to watch. We call them competitions and it was a competition, a competition that I personally organised.
Well, I would definitely agree with you Angela, and I did some research in order to show my readers, along with our interview, the facts and only the facts that they can brief themselves with before they jump to unfounded conclusions like some did. Is there anything you would like to add as an organizer and promoter of this competition?
Yes, I would like to explain the issue with the money.
The people who were talking negatively about our daughter being given prize money had no knowledge about the real facts. I, as promoter, can assure you that the girls didn’t expect any prize money; they didn’t know that they would receive any money at the end of the competition.
The money was from sponsors, which are businessmen, and they are our sponsors from Quest Environmental company and they were planning to give the kids $50,00 each and it was meant as a reward money for doing well in their training sessions.
I want to really clear this issue – the money was given to the girls as a reward for doing well at the training and not for fighting in the ring. That issue was also totally misrepresented.
There is no promoter who would do that, certainly not a professional promoter. The only money involved is from sponsors, families and friends and they only meant it as a reward for kids who worked hard in training.
There is also the old custom where the audience will throw some money in the ring and it is a tradition which has existed for many years and is well known to those who are interested in Muay Thai. It has nothing to do with the actual fight rather it has the meaning of appreciation for the skills and the techniques that opponents in the ring are demonstrating.
The other thing I heard that must be explained is about their stomachs cannot take a punch. That is totally incorrect. Jasmine, for example, can easily do a hundred sit ups and during the actual training kids take supervised kicks after kicks after kicks. So, they are gradually trained to withhold the hit even harder during the training compared to actual competition where they wear stuffed up to the maximum special gloves. Their trained bodies are strong enough for even harder hits but because of the safety regulations they are totally protected in the ring which means they are receiving punches that are weaker than they are trained to withstand.
I was also very upset about Kerry Ann’s comments on sport tops that girls were wearing.
They are not for showing off any other parts of the body but only abs. If Kerry Ann or others, for that matter, would just watch for once any woman’s Muay Thai competition she and they would than realise that this is a standard uniform and not a fashion contest dressing up. And the first crop-top she was ever wearing was a standard gymnastics top which is totally the same and she was four years old. Why are people not commenting on that?
Again, it shows that people have no knowledge of something but are very quick to jump in with their unfounded judgment. And by the way, the actual crowd was full of families with kids and not some ugly men with beer. And after the competition many families with their kids came to Jasmine to take photos together with her.
We were also raising money for the Cancer Council Gold Coast and we continue to do so, we are supporting this cause because Wayne’s father died of cancer. I am very disappointed about the negativity that was totally unfounded but I am glad that I can tell people the real facts about our sport and us.
Thank you, Angela. I appreciate your time and wish you the best in helping your daughter to achieve her dreams, whatever they are or will be.
But I still had one more question to confirm with John Wayne Parr. So, I waited for him to come back to the office.
Mr Parr, I have one more question for you, if I may. You said that this event was properly organized with “20 police officers present and alcohol consumption limited to a supervised area”- can you confirm that again and do you feel like adding anything to your earlier statement about the overall organisation of the tournament at the Broadbeach Waters Police Citizens Youth Club?
It was absolutely well organised and we have done over 30 promotions all together over the last few years. Some of those events had 30 fights in one night from kids to 4,5 yo. It is a family martial arts day and we stay there until everyone has had their chance to compete so no one misses out.
We have used the Broadbeach Waters Police Citizen Youth Club as a venue, for the last five years. We have never had problem or any complaints from anyone. We have had boys and girls competing all this year many times. I think it’s because this time it was my own daughter on the promotion and somehow it has became a massive personal attack on me and Jasmine.
I called the Bulletin and told them that such an event is coming up and if they are interested they are welcome to attend. I thought what if her picture would be taken and it will be published in our local newspaper and later she could cut it out and proudly put it in her scrapbook and keep it forever as a first fight memory.
Every day there is some competition going on around the world in different types of Martial Art and the competitors are much younger, but this was such a shocking twisted misrepresenting of reality.
I started to train when I was 11 years old and if I could have my time again I would be starting much younger. If I would have started at 7 or 8 I believe I would be a better fighter today.
To come back to the event. I was very relaxed because police officers were organising the alcohol because they were raising money to put it back into the club and therefore back into community.
We rented the venue, organised all necessary equipment, invited a professional referee and conducted the competition. Everything else was in the police competence.
They always do an exemplary job and they always try to raise money for the good cause and so did we. But the Bulletin has manipulated the story and made it sensationalistic and controversial and we have no idea why they took everything out of contest and presented to the public such an unfounded, exaggerated one sided personal attack.
I can only guess that they needed the ‘wow’ factor and to attack me and my daughter was a good chance for them because of my well known name. I have never experienced any negative publicity before and I will take it on and will learn my lesson.
I have been running my club here on the Gold Coast for 12 years. It is always open to public during training sessions. I am a proud professional, lucky husband and loving dad of two children. As I said before, – anyone is welcome to come and see how my wife and I train kids and adults in our Boonchu Gym, in Burleigh.
My warmest regards,
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