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Kickboxing student proves point

Sean Spiddle's gold medal in the USA Muay Thai Kickboxing Championships showed his coach that a student of one discipline could do well in another.

By ANTONYA ENGLISH

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 29, 2000


CRYSTAL RIVER -- When Stefan N. Butin Bik, owner of the Muay Thai kickboxing gym in Crystal River, approached Duane Keller earlier this year about organizing a national kickboxing tournament, Keller jumped at the chance.

The owner of Jeet Kune Do School of Martial Arts, Keller was eager to prove a theory originated by legendary martial arts expert Bruce Lee and to see how his students would do in a different discipline.

Keller's school specializes in Jun Fan kickboxing. Butin Bik teaches Muay Thai.

"I had experience in promoting events, so we decided to do it together," Keller said. He also was curious to see how his students would fare.

One of his students did extremely well. Crystal River junior Sean Spiddle earned a gold medal in the USA Muay Thai Kickboxing Championships. Spiddle, 16, defeated an opponent three years older and 14 pounds heavier.

"It's a fairly new art," Keller said. "I decided to do it because I wanted to know how we could do and we prevailed. I didn't know what was going to happen to be quite truthful because I knew we would be playing by Muay Thai rules. We went to their (type) event and won."

Under Muay Thai amateur rules, combatants use shin kicks, knee strikes and takedowns in addition to hands and feet. Jun Fan, the sporting part of Lee's Jeet Kune Do street art, is similar to Muay Thai except for what Keller said are wide differences in technique.

Spiddle is a four-year student of martial arts. He became interested in the sport after watching Bruce Lee films.

"I got started because I like the sport and I like to fight," Spiddle said. "Fighting is the way I express myself."

Martial arts schools from Jacksonville, Orlando, Daytona Beach, St. Petersburg and Louisville, Ky., were among the nine schools entered in the competition.

"It was a pretty huge success," Keller said. "All of the schools were Muay Thai schools. We were the only Jeet Kune Do school."

The event was a caged combat fight consisting of three 2-minute rounds.

Spiddle underwent extensive training in Jun Fan.

"I trained for five straight weeks," he said. "I would train every day after school for four hours, then on Saturdays I trained for about six hours."

The training, conducted by Keller, focused primarily on positioning and what Keller termed sensitivity energy drills -- individual techniques to help with the understanding of where the opponent is to be positioned.

"What Sean did was come out with the ABD style, attack by drawing," Keller said. "Sean is a strategist so we had strategy. He came out not with a mechnical style, but used his energies to draw them into different areas. He's been learning Jeet Kune Do for four years, but he had just five weeks to train in Jun Fan. He did very well."

Spiddle was the only winner from Citrus County in the event. Keller said the contest represented a chance to see one art form against another.

Jun Fan kickboxing is a style derived from Jeet Kune Do, a system of the legendary Lee.

"Sean worked hard for his gold medal, but not just the medal but the actual opportunity to win against the system -- to go an art against an art," Keller said. "It was a good opportunity to see Muy Thai against Jun Fan. Even if we didn't win, it would have been a great opportunity. It was technique that won, not by luck."

Spiddle said he enjoyed the kickboxing competition. "I was happy I won," he said. "I want to try it again."

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