By Ned Bekavac
Jay Bathija is a lot of things.
He’s a Muay Thai champion and instructor, a Guelph police officer, a father and a fiancé.
But one thing he apparently is not is a big sleeper.
Not for lack of trying, though.
“As many as I can,” Bathija laughs, when asked how many hours of sleep he typically gets in a night.
He gets as few as three hours of shuteye a night and rarely anywhere near six or seven, he says.
And, no, it’s not a dozen cups of coffee that keep him moving each day.
“It’s just motivation. You get up and you get it done,” says Bathija.
What Bathija recently got done was a Muay Thai title victory, as he claimed the World Amateur Muay Thai Association of Canada’s middleweight title in Brantford. Muay Thai is a combat sport from Thailand that uses stand-up striking and various other techniques.
“It was a big deal for me,” he says of the win, while seated at Victory Muay Thai in downtown Guelph, where he is chief instructor.
Bathija’s opponent in the title bout was the same one he lost to earlier in the year. This time, things turned out quite differently as Bathija cranked up his training schedule and got a different trainer, Kru Gerald of Mississauga. (“Kru” means “instructor” in Thai.)
With his fiancée’s blessing, Bathija was putting in a whopping four to six hours of training a day.
“I wanted to show the real me this time, I don’t think the last one was an indication of my capabilities and skills,” says Bathija.
Bathija, a Toronto native who has been in Guelph for almost a decade, first got into the sport because he wanted to lose some weight.
“I was a very sloppy 220 pounds at the time,” he says.
Today, he fights at 160 pounds and, in his mid-30s, says he’s in the best shape of his life.
While the sport has done wonders for his fitness, it also helps him in his job as a local police officer.
“It’s great because this teaches me discipline,” says Bathija.
“And I learn skills to keep myself safe and it helps me in situations on the road, where you actually have to have the confidence to talk your way out of situations.
“I’ve rarely ever had to use any kind of physical skills on the road, because I have the confidence,” he says.
The recent championship win is a huge highlight of his decade-long career, but he says it’s not necessarily the crowning achievement.
“I think in Muay Thai the biggest accomplishment is becoming a leader and instructor, somebody that students look up to.
“The proof is when your students come up to you and they tell you that you’ve given them a passion,” he says.
Bathija himself is taking a bit of a break from bouts, and he’s not sure what is in store down the road.
“I’m not getting any younger but the opponents keep getting younger. I have a lot of students who are up and coming fighters, so I can sort of live vicariously through them. It’s less painful for me,” he says with a laugh.
“When they get in the ring and they do well, I’m just as happy as when I do it myself. I’m not going to say it’s done for good. I’m not that old yet,” says Bathija.
“And there is nothing more motivating than having a competition lined up, to push you.”
On the heels of his title win, Bathija tackled some questions for a Tribune Q&A. See below.
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Q&A With Jay Bathija
Q: Tell us something neat about your first ever Muay Thai fight.
A: My first Muay Thai bout was in 2002 in Marquette, Michigan. I remember it being a 12-hour drive and I really had no idea what I was getting into. I prepared very well and just trusted my trainer, Ajahn Suchart at Siam #1 in Toronto. It was a small event that was held in a high school gym and I fought the hometown boy in the main event. Thanks to the adrenaline dump, I really don’t remember the fight at all other than winning the decision and being really sore afterwards! (Laughs).
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Q: Your training regimen sounds pretty hardcore. How often do you allow yourself a “slack” day and what might you do that day?
A: I definitely have more slack days when I’m not preparing for an event, but when a fight is lined up I’m pretty much training as much as time will allow. For this last bout I trained two or three times a day, five or six days a week, for about four weeks. That’s on top of working my regular 10-hour shifts and running classes and training my fighters. But on a slack day I’m usually working my regular 10-hour shifts and running classes and training my fighters, or getting caught up on work around the house. So to answer your question, what’s a slack day?! (Laughs).
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Q: Being a Guelph police officer, you probably see some pretty wild things. Can you share a story?
A: A few years ago I responded to a call about a car intentionally ramming and trying to run a van off the road. I was heading into downtown on Macdonell from Wellington/Woolwich when I saw both vehicles barreling down the road, flying directly towards my cruiser. I could see the car ram the van and both vehicles were out of control and fishtailing. The van missed hitting me head-on literally by inches. They crashed right behind me and the driver of the car was arrested but my life definitely flashed before my eyes that time!
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Q: What are the three most-played songs on your iPod?
A: Closer To The Edge by 30 Seconds To Mars; Utopia by Within Temptation; Lazarus by Porcupine Tree.
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Q: What is one thing you really like about Guelph? And one you don’t?
A: One thing I like – some of the amazing local restaurants! Diana’s, Greek Garden, Borealis. Quite a few others I’d still love to try!
One thing I don’t like – never-ending road construction on Speedvale Avenue East at Victoria Road North, and down on Victoria Road South.
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Q: There has to be a buzz competing in a combat sport. How does one “come down” from that afterwards?
A: More often than not, “coming down” involves a large pizza for one from Pizza Trokadero! (Laughs).
For me, “coming down” always means a few minutes of celebration with family and friends, followed by a few minutes of time alone to go over the fight in my head: What went right, where I can improve, etc. After that it’s usually a shower and a return to reality: Parenting and family duties and work duties.
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Bathija tidbits: Says music is his first love and drums his instrument of choice . . . studied music production and sound engineering at Fanshawe College . . . prior to policing, worked in the film industry, editing movies, TV shows, documentaries and commercials . . . also has worked as a stock boy, bank teller, janitor and on a production line in a factory . . . his favourite books are Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Way of the Peaceful Warrior, The Princess Bride, Life of Pi and Namesake.