Piëtro (36 years old) and Rodney Doorjé are the driving forces behind the Doorjé gym in Amsterdam West. Both men have had successful careers in kickboxing. Although Rodney has retired for a while, Piëtro is going for one last trick and wants to win the world title at one of the well-known federations again. Does he have a preference? “I look more at where I can meet the most interesting opponents for me. And I don't mean the path of least resistance, but those opponents that I think could become fireworks if I fight them. We are currently considering and hope to be able to come out with some more news soon.”
But in addition to the trick that former Dutch, European and world champion Piëtro wants to repeat again, he and his brother are busy educating youth and giving personal training to people of all ages. Their goal? To prepare the next generation and pass along some wisdom along the way on how kickboxing can be a positive force for life, and instill in you all the confidence you need to be successful.
When Warrior Code speaks with Piëtro earlier this month, we immediately get a glimpse of how the gym manages to inspire students. That day Piëtro has just finished a whole round of telephone calls with parents of children who attend the local secondary school and in the last year of pre-university education. A few students who also train at the gym want to keep their profile paper on and about the gym and kickboxing. Their goal? To expose the unfair contradiction between the image of kickboxing as a violent and sometimes criminal sport and the connecting power it genuinely has.
Piëtro indicates that he is very open to such initiatives. He recognises himself in it because 20 years ago as a young boy he needed kickboxing as an outlet. The students would like to organise a kickboxing event, but because of licenses an open day will be held instead. “The goal is to start a conversation about what exactly you learn at such a gym. The perception is now much better than 10 years ago, but the sport is still too quickly associated with crime or as a stupid power sport that you don't need a brain for. If you have that view, I think you are missing out.”
There is clearly still a lot of work to be done, but can you indicate what has gone well in the past 10 years if, in your opinion, perception has improved?
“What has contributed is that organizations have started to pump more money into the sport through marketing. This has ensured that the average layman also gets involved and the sport has become less of a niche than it used to be. The sport is less in the shadows and more in the daylight.”
What do you think are the opportunities to raise the image of kickboxing further?
“There are few sports in the Netherlands that have consistently produced so many champions. Kickboxing should propagate that success much more. What also needs to be emphasised more is the fact that kickboxing is really a team sport and not an individual one as many people think. If parents are thinking about enrolling their child at the local football or hockey club, kickboxing should actually be mentioned in the same breath.”
Piëtro continues: “Personal training will also continue to play a major role. It contributes to the image that kickboxing is seen as a sport where you really invest in yourself. Kickboxing isn't just sparring, it's about bringing out the best version of yourself on both a physical and mental level. Corona contributed a lot to this as a lucky accident. People had nothing else to do.”
Can you tell us a little more about how you approach this aspect at your gym?
We teach people of all ages, but especially at ages between 5 and 14 years old, we focus very much on becoming aware of your own strengths, but also your own limits. The moment you are aware of your own strength, you are very different in life. You can be there as a person, it's important that you feel that and that gives those kids confidence whatever helps them outside of class. I would even go so far as to say that self-confidence is a fundamental life skill. At school we learn math and geography, but I've never heard of a self-confidence subject. Why not? There is certainly a piece of pedagogical work in it with us and I bet that many other kickboxing teachers and teachers approach this in a similar way. If this aspect gets more on parents' radar, I'm sure we can take kickboxing to the next level in a responsible way.
Yet you cannot deny that kickboxing still often shies away from violence and sometimes crosses that border. For example, look at that fight that got out of hand between Hari and Wroszek last year in March.
“That is absolutely true, but at the same time it is also a distorted picture. As if kickboxing is the only sport with bad apples. The moment you have a heavily loaded game, for example like this one, you will always have spoilers. It is unfair to take the bad apples of the sport as the standard. There is too much focus on the fanatics.”
Why does this come up so much in kickboxing?
“Because it fits with a certain narrative that still exists around the sport. 'You see' is then said and there is no longer any room for nuance. I do not want to play down what happened at that specific match, for example. That 'squabble' is of course intimidating for people who want to relax and watch a game every now and then. I do understand that this might turn them off.”
What other aspects do you think are still too underexposed that can play a fundamental positive role for kickboxing?
The mental path you take in kickboxing is unprecedented when you compare it to other sports. The moment you decide to fight a match you have to let go of so many other things. The sacrifice in kickboxing is like no other sport. From flight to fight mode. I haven't seen it in any other sport.