Chris Kwiatkowski came into the martial arts world rather later than many other fighters, but he had a leg up on athleticism when he began. Running track (primarily 200 and 400 meter sprints) at New York University certainly had the concept of interval training well ingrained into his mindset, his muscles, and his cardiovascular system. In fact, it was in looking for an outlet for his highly athletic nature after his track career at NYU was over that led him to Muay Thai via a friend of a friend.
Chris jumped around with a few trainers at first, notably Coban “The Cruncher” Lookchaomaesaitong in 2000. He ended up with Jason Strout of Church Street Boxing Gym in New York City, where he has been training for the last eight years. Though primarily a boxing gym, evident in its name, Church Street has a separate area for Thai boxing in the back and a number of reputable Thai fighters working under Strout.
When asked how he got into competition, Chris says that when he was with Coban, he had an opportunity to try fighting out in an interschool smoker. The controlled atmosphere, explains Chris, was a good way to start out and get a feel for it. Winning his first three fights and also winning his first two smokers, he realized that he had some talent. Though his form was not that good at the time, he realized that his natural athleticism and ability to outmove his opponents worked to his advantage, and from that point on, he began to build up a decent fight record. After recovery from a torn ACL in 2007, he realized “that I wasn’t getting any younger” and began to take on as many fights as he could (fourteen since that time). His form improved and he was able to win many titles.
As the most recent WKA World Champion in men’s Thai Boxing (-65 kg), Chris looks to the future. This world tournament provided medals for its winners, but Chris wants to supplement his gold medal with a world champion’s belt. This opportunity may come on a Friday Night Fights card in New York in February or March of 2010 (preferably March, chuckles Chris, as he wants to eat over the holidays). After that, Chris looks to make his professional debut that spring and see how far he can go as a pro Thai boxer.
Chris’s training regimen is a strenuous one. On his lunch breaks from his real estate development day job, he trains padwork and drills with Renzo Gracie’s Joe Sampieri. Each evening, he works out with his teammates and Jason Strout for about two and a half hours, doing padwork, drills, and sparring. His sparring is not confined to his own teammates—New York’s Thai boxing community is a large one, and Chris invites friends from other gyms to come in to work sparring with him to expand his experience and strategy. In addition to all this, Chris gets in plyometrics for explosiveness and kettelbell workouts. As to roadwork, Chris says that he’s given up his old early-morning distance running routine, as it “really only works to burn fat.” He feels much stronger without this aspect of training, putting the extra energy and focus into his padwork and drills. He does, however, get in a track workout on weekends, returning to his 200 meter (roughly 30 second) sprints, in order to get in his interval training and keep up his explosiveness.
As for Chris’s style, he says that though form has improved, he still lacks some finesse—thus, he works the power angle. He says that though his stance is orthodox, he has a unique aspect to his game in that he fights more like a leftie. Southpaws, he says, “generally throw a lot of power shots—hooks, crosses, and power kicks”—which Chris, despite this non-Southpaw stance, throws as well.
Sounding much like the t-shirts worn by fellow US Team members from this year’s World from Lloyd Irvin, Chris believes very much in hard work. He says that it doesn’t matter how good someone is, it must be backed up by hard training. He is a stickler for not cutting workouts, almost to the point of overtraining, and he cautions new fighters against laziness. “The best defense is a good offense—he can’t hit you if you’re hitting him.” The worst thing, according to Chris, is to gas out during a fight, which he has experienced a couple times, so he encourages up and coming competitors to work, work, work, no matter what sacrifices they have to make.