Training with ‘John’ Wayne Parr
International Kickboxer Magazine, Vol. 19, No.2
Everyone that does something exceptional does it their own way. This series of ‘Training with…’ articles seeks to find out the individual details that make Australia’s best fighters tick. Wayne Parr lets JARROD BOYLE in on a few of his secrets.
Many people believe the best way to learn to do anything is by example. This approach is probably common to many readers who learned to do their jobs as apprentices. If you want to learn to do something, get involved in the activity under the watchful eye of someone who knows.
At 34 years old, ‘John’ WayneParr has been involved in martial arts for 24 of those years. Beginning with Tae Kwon Do at eleven, he knew he was always going to be a martial artist. “As a kid, sitting at home and watching Monkey and The Karate Kid, I knew it was what I was going to do, whether it was Tae Kwon Do, Ninjitsu, whatever.” Parr was active in Tae Kwon Do and had begun competing before he found himself engaged by his great love, Muay Thai. And, like many great loves, it seemed to come about by co-incidence. “I was doing Tae Kwon Do in a church hall near home. It turns out that the people running the school couldn’t afford to keep paying the rent, so they had to move out, and Steve ‘Superkick’ Vick moved in.” Vick was the first of Parr’s significant mentors and the shadow of his influence still extends over what Wayne does.
“Steve was one of the best fighters in Australia in the late eighties, early nineties. He had a lot of flashy technique.” He also inspired Wayne’s first moniker, ‘Wonderkick’. “I needed a fight name, so I went with ‘Wonderkick’ Wayne Parr. When they used to call out my name at fights, I thought, ‘How good is this!”
Parr’s first Thai boxing match was at the tender age of fourteen. “It was in Sydney. After that, I was hooked.” One of the definitive aspects of Parr’s success is his single-minded pursuit of his passion. And, at an age when most people are experimenting with almost anything to find out what it is they want out of life, Parr was already pursuing his clearly-fixed goals with an objective certainty.
Parr’s parents, horse-trainers by trade, moved around Australiafor work, and while they made sure Wayne could always train, their move toVictoria frustrated his fighting ambitions for a while. “InVictoria, it was illegal to fight under the age of eighteen, so I was relieved when my parents moved back to Queensland.” Parr soon made the acquaintance of the biggest Muay Thai promoter in the land, Blair Moore. “I had thirteen fights for Blair. I won both an Australian and a South Pacific title.” Around this time, Parr made his first pilgrimage to Thailand.
“The first Thai camp I trained at was Sityodtong, in Pattaya. Richard Vell, a Queensland businessman, had me staying with his family. They fed me twice a day and put a roof over my head. The camp was a fifteen minute bike ride from their house. I trained for three months and then, at the end of that time, I had my first fight as part of the Songarn festival. I won by KO.” Parr was proving himself a solid investment to his benefactors; dedicated, driven, and a winner. The next significant chapter in his began after Blair Moore bought out Thai legend Sangtien Noi to fight on one of his promotions. “Richard asked Noi if he would take me on at his gym. I would become the first foreigner to train there. So, I moved to Bangkok for five years.”
“It was the biggest culture shock of my life,” Parr recounts. “In Bangkok, no one could speak English! I had to pick up Thai real quick. I started off with just the essential words, like ‘toilet’ and ‘food’, and after a few months, I was holding basic conversations. It was total immersion in the language; t.v., newspapers, everything. I also found that they stop ripping you off as badly if you can speak the lingo. That was an amazing period of my life. In that time I fought at Lumpini, on the television, and at the King’s Birthday celebrations.”
After that, Parr returned to Australia, fighting Chris Allen on a Tarik Solak promotion inMelbourne. He received fifty-four stitches for his trouble. “That was the first full Thai rules fight ever broadcast on Foxtel,” he remembers.
“I started Boonchu the year after, in ‘99. I had decided to stay in Australia. I fought Scott Bannan in 2000, winning my first world title. I then fought Orono at the King’s Birthday Celebrations in Thailand and won my second. It was a dream of mine as a young fighter to win a world title, but to beat a Thai at his own sport in his country of origin was the best it could get. When I beat Orono, I did it in front of over a hundred thousand Thais. He’d beaten me previously, in 1997, and given me 21 stitches.
“In 2001, I began training with Paul Briggs; I had decided I was going to become a pro boxer. I trained twice a day and then went back to Boonchu to teach Muay Thai at night,” Parr continues. “I enjoyed boxing; it was fun for a change. I had thirteen fights for ten wins, all ten of which came by way of KO. I also won a professional title.” Many kickboxers from traditional martial arts bases find that their hand skills hold them back; how does Parr feel professional boxing contributed to his style?
“I think it made me into more of a complete package. It was basically twelve months of head movement, footwork and punching power.” With so much success in such a short time, it seems odd that Wayne didn’t continue. “I missed Muay Thai. The crowds are much more into it; the boxing audience is generally older and a lot more passive.” Wayne also suffered a disappointing loss to Ian McCloud, a fighter from Jeff Fenech’s stable. “McCloud broke his hand in the first round and spent the rest of the fight hanging off me. At the end, he got the win. It seemed that the ref was scared of Fenech. It was a ridiculous decision; I was really disillusioned with the sport.”
More than perhaps any other Australian fighter, Parr has a diverse range of experience, hard-fought and won in the cauldrons of some of the world’s toughest gyms. His resume reads like a catalogue of the greatest training camps, trainers, and tournaments, many of whom opened their doors to him for the first time, whether as a foreigner or as an Australian. He also trained at some of the best MMA gyms in the US; American Top Team and Team Quest. When asked about the experience, Parr’s answers are surprising. “It didn’t help me at all,” he says. “[In MMA there is] no body kicking, and very few punches before you shoot in for a take down. When you’re grappling in Thai boxing you’re trying to get control of the neck and head, but with MMA, it’s all under-hooking. I didn’t get many new skills; MMA seemed to be everything in reverse.”
Given all this experience, Parr says that he won’t be doing things any differently in 2011; his regimen is set. “In the morning, I’ll run 12km. Once I get to the gym, I’ll do somewhere between five and seven rounds on the pads and finish the session with sit ups and push ups. In the afternoon, I’ll only run about five kilometres, but in the gym, there’s a higher work rate on the pads. I’ll aim for anywhere between five to nine rounds. There’s also bag work and drills with some of the other guys; grappling and then kicks and knees on bag. More abs to finish.
“If there’s one thing I hate doing, it’s probably grappling. I used to have to do about half an hour of it every afternoon in Thailand, and that went on for about four to five years. I’m over it.”
Parr may have discontinued his professional boxing aspirations, but he has continued to keep his hand in as far as training goes. “Twice a week, Les Sherrington, the Australian Super-middleweight champion, comes down to the gym. We’ll generally spar for five three-minute rounds at about eighty per cent, which is going pretty hard. I really enjoy it – it’s a great fitness reality check. If you can cruise for five rounds, then you’re ready to go. On top of that, 2 to 3 times a week, I’ll kickbox.”
“I don’t really have a trainer; I tend to make all the decisions myself,”Wayne says. “It’s good that there isn’t any middle-man, but if I stuff something up, then it’s all on me.” Parr prepares for each opponent by watching as much footage on the internet and videotapes as he can, and then incorporates the appropriate strategies into his training.
“I have Dip [from Dip’s Muay Thai] come down and hold for me three mornings a week, and I like him to be with me on fight night. It’s good to have him there. I like the Thai influence in the corner; also with massage and preparation. I also like to get his opinion on other fighters.
“As far as pads are concerned, I also have Daniel ‘Soulja’ Jones holding for me. He is brilliant – one of the best pad holders I’ve had. I tell him who I’m fighting and he’ll become that person. Every time we train, it’s five to nine rounds of war. He hits me hard and makes it just like a fight. He’s just catching, rather than calling; it’s like simulating the fight every afternoon.”
As far as strength and conditioning, Parr is the very essence of old-school – he takes a, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, attitude. “If you look at the Thai approach, it’s purely fight training, twice a day. The most basic gyms are often claiming the best titles; you don’t need much more equipment than a few bags, a good pad-holder and the desire. I don’t do a lot of weights; I don’t want to get bigger and have that bulky quality slowing me down. I picked up a lot of my conditioning from Rod Waterhouse [Les Sherrington’s trainer]. I do calisthenics like push ups, squats and burpees to get the most speed and power out of the muscles. When it comes fight time, I want to be ripped and lean.”
Wayne has declared 2011 to be his retirement year. He will be drawing on his vast pool of experience to bring the most significant career in Australian Muay Thai to a climax. “I’m looking for the big fights,” he says. “I want to fight the big names, so I can leave a real legacy and go out on a high.” Fans can rely on one thing as a certainty; if it’s Wayne Parr, it’s going to be spectacular.