We ask a local personality a set of probing questions …
Craig Powell is a local singer who also runs a mixed martial arts gym. We caught up with him during a quiet moment in the gym …
What inspired you to open a gym?
It’s always been a goal of mine to have a place where people can train in King’s Lynn. A proper mix-match gym that does every aspect – ground work, stand up and just putting it all together. So not just judo, not just karate, but everything all together. There are not many places in the country let alone a town like King’s Lynn that have the facilities.
Are you a gym fanatic yourself?
Yes, but it’s more with the martial arts. Martial arts has played such a big part of my life from being a child. I’m 27 now, so that’s 20 years of martial arts from karate and jujitsu and kick boxing. I’ve done so many martial arts. I know how much it helped me as a child. I think it’s something everybody should give a go to see how it helps them confidence and self-discipline wise.
Self confidence and self discipline plays a large part then?
Some young teens come in, where their parents can’t control them. They bring them down here and then they are surprised when I treat them very normal the same as anybody else. It’s a team thing. We all help each other training, and I like the fact that it does help people and you can see it helps people.
Do you cater for all ages?
Yes, we start with six year olds up to… well I’ve got someone who is 53 training – you are never too old. I like training six year olds because I like them to understand a little bit about what they are doing. You can start teaching them the etiquette – just bowing, the respect for me as an instructor. I give them lots of praise when they do things right, and hopefully that will transfer into school as well, when the teachers speak to them. I’m not here to shout at them I’m here to have fun and have a laugh with them as well.
So what can people actually do at the gym?
Jujitsu, which is ground work – arm locks, submisssions, chokes, leg locks. Pinning people to the floor is known as ground fighting, then there are stand up only sessions where we do things like kick-boxing and Thai boxing, which involves the knees and elbows. Then you’ve got wrestling which is how to take someone down on the floor.
Have you found a lot of extra interest since the Olympics?
Yes, new people are literally walking through the door every week. The lads and ladies that we’ve already got have said it’s nice to see so many new people.
With it being such a very friendly club, as soon as somebody new walks in I say to my lot “come on, shake hands and introduce yourselves!” Everybody introduces themselves, everybody has a laugh. When people are grappling each other they tend to have a chat and get to know each other.
How many people have you got coming to the gym?
We have 30-40 members. We have a maximum of 8 people training in one session, because they will learn quicker than having a class of say 20 because it’s easier to spot the mistakes. The aim for me is just to the get the gym packed.
You are a bit tucked out of the way here, so do people often have problems finding you?
I do find People need to contact me before coming down, and I’ll give them instructions on how to get down here for a free session. It’s a small members only gym. We don’t have bullies – we keep the bullies out.
So if anyone wants to come down what should they do?
Just pop along to the website at www.thedenfightcentre.com to find my contact details, and we will welcome you along.
One of your claims to fame is an appearance on Top of the Pops. How did that come about?
I joined the group Uniting Nations in 2004. I was at Searles Leisure Resort in Hunstanton as their resident singer. Towards the end of my first season a friend of mine from Manchester said he knew someone who was looking for a singer. So I sent them my info and they immediately wanted me. I started recording vocals and they released it as Uniting Nations. The next thing I made a video and we were being played on Radio 1 and all the local stations too.
Then suddenly we get a phone call saying we are going on Top of the Pops. We met Andy Peters who was running it a that time. It was like a dream come true. It was just me singing live – two of the producers stood behind me pretending to play the drums and guitar!
Was that a one-hit wonder?
Well we did have an album of dance music released. Uniting Nations had three top twenty tracks, although I was only singing on one of them. There was a remix of Ai No Corrida and then there was Out of Touch. Although we were big in the UK we were even bigger in Germany, Poland and right the way across Europe.
We still all work and write together. At some point we will probably all get together and release something under the Uniting Nations name again. It’s just waiting for the right time. At the moment with the credit crunch, record labels are not taking on so much music.
I’m signed to Notting Hill Publishing who take the songs that I write, and shop them around to the big record labels like Sony.
I treat the gym as my hobby and my music as my job. I’ve been a professional singer since I left school. “Another day in the office” for me would be doing gigs and travelling all over the country. Coming in to the gym is like catching up with friends, and having a laugh. I don’t see this as work at all.
Where have you been to perform your gigs?
Literally all over. Locally I do the holiday parks in Great Yarmouth, Caister and Hemsby. Also down in Clacton and into Kent and up north too. I did a gig the other week at the Deers Leap in King’s Lynn, which made a nice change from all the travelling!
How do you see things going for the future?
I want to keep singing and really push my song writing. I want the gym to be known as the best place in King’s Lynn to learn mixed martial arts.
As told to John Beck.
And here’s a more recent video of Craig – singing in King’s Lynn town centre!