AN INTERVIEW WITH
JAN / 2012
My name is Eddie Morales and welcome to Martialforce.com Online Martial Arts Magazine. The person I’m introducing in this interview has had a dedicated career in the Martial Arts. Training was a ritual, which he consistently engaged in, and it showed when he stepped into the fighting arena. He now continues to make his mark in a different arena. An arena that is filled with improving children's lives. He helps, teaches and motivates with the intention of improving the lives of all that come in contact with him. From our conversation I got the sense that Martial Arts is not something that he does but instead who he is. This is a man of honor and strength that is true to the way of life as a warrior. We here at Martialforce.com hope you enjoy this look at a true warrior and compassionate human being.
Interview by Eddie Morales
Online Martial arts Magazine
Martialforce.com: Where are you originally from and where did you grow up?
OLANDO RIVERA: I am originally from New York City but I grew up in Staten Island. I then moved to Tampa with my family in 2000.
Martialforce.com: What is your current or former occupation?
OLANDO RIVERA: I was always a carpenter by trade but I have been a Kickboxing Instructor for 20 yrs now.
Martialforce.com: What or who got you interested in studying Martial Arts?
OLANDO RIVERA: My Mother signed me up for Tae Kwon Do classes when I was 9 yrs old because I would get picked on and bullied in school a lot. She felt it would help me build my confidence and teach me how to protect myself. I continued to study off and on throughout the years receiving my black belt in Tae Kwon Do, at age 18. I got more interested in full contact fighting from a dear friend named Henry” The Hitman" Nieves who sparred with me and gave me a most humbling experience by hitting me with a full contact body shot that dropped me to my knees. I loved it! That surge of energy and adrenaline, I stood up and said Wow can I do that, he said yes of course this is full contact. So I began to train with his instructor Master Joe Mercado.
Martialforce.com: What are your thoughts on the importance of Tradition in combative arts?
OLANDO RIVERA: I think the discipline and respect that is taught when you are learning traditional Martial Arts is very important, especially for the youth of today. They need help developing a positive mindset that will last a lifetime.
Martialforce.com: Did the Martial Arts play an important role in who you are today?
OLANDO RIVERA: Absolutely! As I mentioned the structure you are taught in traditional martial arts helped make me become a disciplined person throughout my life growing up for the most part without my father. The training I learned from martial arts helped keep me get and stay on the right path. I am very grateful to the wonderful teachers that have passed their knowledge on to me over the years.
Martialforce.com: Who was your greatest influence growing up?
OLANDO RIVERA: Bruce Lee of course! He was the icon of the time and since I had been taking martial arts since my childhood it was only natural. As the years went by so many more martial artists influenced be, Chuck Norris, Joe Lewis and Bill Wallace to name a few.
Martialforce.com: What are your thoughts on Mixed Martial Arts?
OLANDO RIVERA: It's a great way to show off the diversity of fighting styles both stand up and on the ground. You can see that there is no one fighting style better than another. I have always thought there was a better way to get the job done in the ring. MMA is a perfect example of how you can be dominant in one style and in a split second lose the fight to an opponent who has a different style they can switch up on you and take you by surprise, changing the game just like that! I wish MMA had been around back when I was fighting professionally I would have loved to have been able to have competed in an MMA setting. I truly believe that no matter what, it will always come down to who wants it more, that determines who will win the fight in the end. The best style is the man who is using his art to the best of his ability.
Martialforce.com: What would you say is your greatest personal achievement to date?
OLANDO RIVERA: My greatest personal achievement to date is being a father to my four beautiful children (2 boys, 2 girls). Nothing is more important than my wife and family. Secondly it would be winning 5 world titles after a devastating motorcycle accident in which I was told I would walk with a limp and never fight again. It is because of my strong heart and my discipline that I overcame the odds and fulfilled my dream. Being a mentor to my students right now is something I am also very proud of. I believe everyone should have a mentor in their life to help show them the way. I am honored by the students who have chosen to have me be that mentor for them.
Martialforce.com: You mentioned motorcycle accident. What were the circumstances?
Martialforce.com: Tell us more about Warriors for Autism?
Martialforce.com: Do you have any plans to make a video instructional series or books?
OLANDO RIVERA: Yes I am in the process of creating two workout videos which will be released in 2012, stay tuned to my website for an actual release date.
Martialforce.com: What advice can you give someone that wants to study the combative arts but doesn’t know where to begin?
OLANDO RIVERA: I would suggest they look up a listing of local training centers in their area determine what style interests them most and then most importantly, research the instructors. In these days of the Internet it should be very easy to verify the credentials of the instructors and be sure they are qualified to give the instruction in the style they are teaching. There are a lot of great teachers out there whether it be in stand up or ground fighting styles. The perfect gym will have a bit of both to offer their students.
Martialforce.com: Who was your instructor/s?
OLANDO RIVERA: Grandmaster Yung Kim was my Tae Kwon Do instructor in Staten Island for many years. I also studied with a Goju Instructor by the name of Shihan Glenn Nieves. My Shindo Ryu instructor and dear friend Shihan Jonas Nunez Jr. He also traveled around the world with me as I competed and I earned my black belt with him as well. Champion kickboxers Larry Thunderfoot Cureton and Henry The Hitman Nieves helped me realize my love and potential in the kickboxing circuit and gave me lots of sparring when I needed it. I had my head kickboxing trainer Virgil Meyers and my boxing trainer Vincent Vazquez who helped me realize another dream in obtaining two boxing titles. When I moved to Tampa there were no kickboxing shows at all going on and so I delved into boxing for a while as well. I have always been a stand up fighter though!
Martialforce.com: You competed in kickboxing; can you explain to our readers your mindset when you were engaged in the match?
OLANDO RIVERA: In a fight I would always keep in mind that I was a champion at heart, I had to train like a champion to fight like a champion if I wanted to stay a champion. I cannot lose, I will not lose and that was because I always trained to fight not for a fight. I always fought with all my heart, every time. With those thoughts in my head I would feel invincible.
Martialforce.com: Have any of your students competed and won any titles?
Martialforce.com: Who was your toughest opponents?
OLANDO RIVERA: The toughest opponents that come to mind are firstly, Louis Bad Boy Ruiz because he had such tenacity, he was a tough competitor. We fought a total of three times over the course of my professional career and although I won each of the three bouts he fought with the heart of a champion each time, I give him much respect for that. There was Ed Butcher who I remember because he had the ability to psychologically beat you up before the fight even began. He knew how to get inside his opponents head and make you doubt yourself. Once I got passed that facade it was much easier to beat him. Lastly there was Conrad Ply a Canadian champion whom I fought early on in my career, that was a battle. He clearly outclassed me in technique at that time and was very ring savvy but he fell short on heart. I lost the fight that night in a decision but won the respect of the Canadian crowd that night for sure!
Martialforce.com: It sounds like you have had a good career and I salute you for the work that you continue to do. Thank you for accepting this interview the staff and I at Martialforce.com wish you continued success.