Shaun Thankachen took some bites, then went to a fight, and had a glorious summer doing overall.
The Langdon-raised kickboxer managed to return with some bling courtesy of the latter, a world K1 Kickboxing title he picked up in Orlando, Fla., in July.
That was after working as a decoy during a dog-training competition in Massachusetts a month earlier, and he puts his body on the line for each occupation.
There was a huge reward from his stop at the IKF World Classic Championship. He won his light middleweight match in the open division and brought home a title belt that he will get to keep for eternity, a constant reminder of the work he’s put in growing up training at his mother’s dojo, Oku Damashi Martial Arts.
“I went down and you don’t know how many times you are fighting,” Thankachen said. “You could be fighting three to five times.
“By luck of the draw, I fought once for the title. It was against a skilled fighter who had a little more experience than me. It was a good fight for sure. This has been a huge goal of mine to win one and this is my first world title. I’ve won national titles before but never a world one.”
Thankachen, 23, has built his life around his parent’s business. By training at his mother Tammy’s martial arts studio he’s become a world champion kickboxer.
Growing up with his father’s dog-training business has led him to become a trainer himself. He works at Ultimate K9 Bodyguards, which is just north of Langdon, and he’s found a calling working with security dogs.
As a decoy, he puts himself into the action wearing a protective suit while pretending to be a perpetrator. So far, he says he’s the only certified trainer in Alberta and has gone to security dog competitions as a decoy.
“It’s all about controlled aggression when it comes to these types of dogs,” said Thankachen, noting the similarities between fighting and biting. “It takes a lot of the same training.
“The suit I wear is approximately around 35 pounds. When I train anywhere from three to four hours running around carrying anywhere from 50- to 150-pound dogs, it’s a lot of work. Usually when people ask what I do, they find it pretty interesting for sure.
“The most interesting man of Rocky View,” he added with a laugh.
Ultimate K9 Bodyguards are hosting a testing event for dogs at their facility on Sept. 23 and 24, and it’s free for the public to bring their dogs or just watch.
Thankachen is in the process of training his own puppy, a 9-month-old Belgian Malinois, which means two sessions a day for six days of the week.
“It will probably take until he’s seven until he’s in his prime. He’s a superstar for sure,” said Thankachen, who feels his profession is quite safe, especially compared to what he does on weekends.
“There is a risk that comes with dog training. However, we try to keep it pretty controlled in the environment. The dogs aren’t biting out of fear or threats. They are biting out of prey, which makes it an enjoyable experience for them. It’s a game.”
There are no kickboxing matches on the horizon for Thankachen but he hopes that will change. Like dog training, he has lofty aspirations in that area as well.
“There’s a few local fights and I would love to get on a card here soon,” Thankachen said. “I would like to fight for the highest Canadian title. It’s my next goal to get on board for that.”