ONE Championship’s Qiu Jianliang: “Follow your own reasons”
One of the most important aspects of athletics is also most often overlooked. The psychology of competition is always there by nature and will never go away. At one end of the spectrum there are athletes who are not only good at dealing with fear and pressure, but who also benefit from it. On the other hand, there are athletes who literally allow themselves to be killed by the psychological aspects of competition.
Chinese kickboxing superstar Qiu Jianliang has been involved in martial arts for a long time, so he understands the need to deal with pressure. At the age of only 31 he holds a professional kickboxing record of 51-8 with 23 wins by knockout. And with previous winning streaks of 14 and 18 straight wins, it’s no surprise that he has held many titles over the course of his career. Jianliang is not just a kickboxer, however. He is a highly educated man who trains other fighters as well, which makes sense since he is a lifelong student of the game.
“I started training with my father when I was 10 years old because my father is a traditional martial artist,” Jianliang told Combat Press. “I studied at a traditional martial arts school in China when I was 13. After five years, I also went to my university. At that time I was still practicing martial arts until I graduated in 2012. During my studies I noticed that I was very interested in kickboxing, muay thai, sanda and the like. I went to Thailand to study muay thai after graduating from university. When I returned from Thailand in 2013, I just signed a contract with Wu Lin Feng. Then I just jumped into my professional kickboxing career to this day. “
Jianliang is originally from Anhui Province in China, where he currently lives, and began playing as an amateur in Muay Thai in July 2011. In less than two years he had set a 10-2 record and won bronze, silver and gold medals in the Chinese Muay Thai championship. He made his professional debut in January 2013 and the rest is history.
“I think kickboxing is a very special sport for me,” said Jianliang. “For me it’s both mental and physical. That’s why I’ve been kickboxing for many years. I’ve learned so much from it. I benefit a lot from that in life. I can kick someone’s ass in the ring and I can pay for something.
“I like that. I like to fight. That’s the point. I like the feeling of being in the ring. You are there with an opponent who is trying to destroy you and you are trying to destroy him too. It don’t lie when you’re in the ring. You have to be honest because your opponent will be honest with you too. They won’t lie to you and say, ‘I’ll be nice to you.’ They will try to destroy you as soon as possible. I think this is the purest feeling in the whole world for me. “
The feeling of being in the ring has determined most of Jianliang’s career, but it’s also nice to make some money out of it. He didn’t grow up in a wealthy family, so he enjoys making some money for himself and his family. However, the most important thing about his career is to be a role model for his country.
“I would like to represent Chinese martial arts,” said Jianliang. “If you hear from a Japanese man, you will hear about karate or something. When you hear about a Thai fighter you will know it is a Thai style. When you hear about American or Brazil you know it’s Jiu-Jitsu. But have you heard of traditional Chinese martial arts? Not really, that is the third point that I would like to emphasize here. “
Jianliang has two brothers. The older one has interests outside of the martial arts. His younger brother, on the other hand, is an amateur kickboxer. Jianliang and his younger brother run a business together in Bengbu City, not far from where they were born.
“Me and my brother are in a kickboxing business together,” Jianliang said. “We opened a camp a few years ago. And now he’s running the camp for his career. It’s an effective way of working together. “
Jianliang’s most recent winning streak – 18 in a row – lasted until December 2019 when he defeated Ivan Naccari on Glory of Heroes 44. Under the Glory of Heroes banner, he won the title of Featherweight Organization in 2017 and the ISKA Welterweight Intercontinental Belt in May 2019. However, during the Naccari fight, he injured his right knee quite badly and had to spend the whole of 2020 and most of the Expire in 2021.
“When I couldn’t fully devote myself to training, I shifted some of my energy to other things,” Jianliang said. “For example, I got my MA from Loughborough University in the UK last year. I think this is another way to showcase myself as a martial artist in China. I can teach other people. I can teach my students. I can share some of my experiences with the younger generation – with the young fighters – and help them understand some of the strategies and skills as quickly as possible. And I would also dedicate myself fully to training if I felt that my knee was okay and my injuries were being treated well. I have only diverted part of my attention to other things that I would like to pursue. This is my way of balancing. “
Balance is something that Jianliang takes very seriously and something that, in his opinion, not enough Chinese fighters do. He understands that fighters around the world don’t always put their physical health above their will to fight. It’s a global thing. However, he believes that Chinese fighters do not put their sanity before the fight, and that is a bigger problem.
“Physically, I would agree with you [that Chinese fighters are doing well]”Said Jianliang. “Everyone learns and trains very hard and improves pretty quickly. You mainly learn from Japanese and Thai styles. But the most important thing is that the weakest part of the Chinese fighters are the mental things.
“The Chinese coaches – most of them in my opinion – always tell their fighters to train hard, but not to think hard. I would say if there was a way to teach my students I would say read a book. Do some reflective essays or listen to music. Or just sit down, put your phone away, and just be with yourself to calm down before a fight. Because before a fight there will be so many voices around you. Put all these voices out of your head and focus. It’s very, very important. When I was studying at university, I wrote an essay about the fear and pressure that top athletes have in China. Ten fighters I interviewed were all stressed and afraid before their fights. “
Jianliang also practices what he preaches. He’s obviously an educated and intelligent man, both in and out of the ring. However, the wisdom he wants to pass on to Chinese fighters is not just words he says or reads. He also practices this in his own everyday life.
“I write reflective essays and read a lot of books,” says the university graduate. “Especially the books that calm me down. I think reading books, listening to music, and doing outdoor activities can do better. I just want to let other Chinese fighters know that they don’t have to suffer. You can have fun measuring yourself. “
In 2021, after healing from his knee injury, Jianliang signed a contract to join the ONE Championship stacked kickboxing squad. At ONE Championship: Winter Warriors, he made his advertising debut on December 3rd against Hiroki Akimoto, who was fourth at the time. After three rounds, Akimoto took the victory by unanimous decision and ended Jianliang’s five-year winning streak. While this was not the result Jianliang had hoped for, he took the loss calmly.
“I did my best and my opponent obviously did a better job than me,” said Jianliang. “That’s my opinion. To be honest, I’m happy with my performance because I haven’t fought in more than two years. I’ve struggled with my injuries, my rehabilitation, my operations and I think I recovered pretty quickly . These are my thoughts on my last fight.
“I would like to say one thing, do not rush into fighting. Especially when your basic physical conditioning isn’t ready. Do not follow the reasons of society or business. Follow your own reasons. You have to get into the ring when you are ready. I thought I was ready, but I was definitely ignoring some of my physical conditions. And I could have done better if my physical condition had been treated better. From the last fight I also noticed that I don’t really care what others say about me. I care more about myself and the people who are important to me. This is very important for my mental control. “
After the fight, Jianliang was told by ONE’s doctor that he would have to take a month off and have his knee checked after he returned to China. While mostly training at his own camp at home, he has reached out to ONE to train at Evolve MMA in Singapore and is hoping to be invited to train there. Evolve is packed with some of the best kickboxers and MMA fighters in the world, including current ONE champions Nong-O Gaiyanghadao, Sam-A Gaiyanghadao and Angela Lee.
“I think ONE Championship is a great platform,” said the Chinese fighter. “It’s a global battle platform that I trust. It’s also a platform that many serious fighters respect. So I thought that maybe this is my chance to really make my name known all over the world. Because of this, I wanted to try it out even though I’m that age. I would like to introduce more people to this style of traditional Chinese martial arts. “
Jianliang has had a long and successful career, and although he has many years to go, he has started thinking about life after the fight.
“Getting married is on my list,” said Jianliang. “It’s pretty urgent because my parents keep telling me to get married. I’m single now. The point is, I don’t think I have enough energy to balance my personal relationship with my career. So, I want to have my career first because I know that at my age I don’t have much time left for my career. I could not continue my career until ten years later – or even three years later. So I want to fully dedicate myself to my career and then think about marriage.
“I’m thinking about becoming a teacher at a university. After my professional career, my goal is to become a teacher at a university. Also, I’ll be building my own camp in a very, very unique way – the way I want to pass my techniques on to young fighters. “
Jianliang is a very successful and highly intelligent young man. Many fighters in history had their most successful years in their early 30s. The fact that he will only turn 32 in February leads many to believe that his prime is still to come. However, he takes his physical and mental health very seriously and urges other fighters, especially Chinese fighters, to do the same. It will be exciting to see what the future holds for one of the greatest Chinese kickboxers after every step in the ring.