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Draper Journal

Training in Thailand: Locals Learn the Meaning of ‘I can’

Nov 06, 2015 08:38AM ● By Erin Dixon

By Erin Dixon

Draper - Nineteen-year-old Nickolas Lokeni trembled head to toe as he approached the same Muay Thai instructor he had seen beat up world-famous, professional fighters. As the Utah resident faced the man and swung a strike, he was knocked to the ground. He stood, kicked and was again thwarted and slammed into the ground. Over and over he stood ready to take another blow. 

As opposed to the latest Hollywood martial arts movie, this was a scene played out by an instructor at Draper’s Ultimate Combat Training Center (UCTC), who recently traveled to Thailand to increase his own skill and knowledge of martial arts.  Lokeni, a recent graduate from Alta High School, spent three weeks of his summer with his family in Thailand, getting kicked, punched, and bruised by instructors at the Tiger Muay Thai Training Camp in Phuket, Thailand. 

Nickolas’ dad, Mike Stidham, owns and operates two UCTC in the Salt Lake Valley. His background is mainly karate, but he has branched out as the gym has grown and developed. The center in Draper has classes for Muay Thai, Jui Jitsu, boxing, wrestling and kickboxing. Mike spends most of his time in the Sugar House gym, while his wife AJ and their son Nickolas manage the Draper center. The entire family went to Thailand to train together. 

“I didn’t know I could stand up after getting hit that hard. I didn’t know I could keep going after getting kicked that hard in the leg. I didn’t know I would be able to walk, but I was able to. Your mind will push so far past what your body can. You have to give in to what your mind wants you to do, not your body,” Nickolas said.

Fitness kickboxing is the most popular class in Draper, but that doesn’t mean that when you arrive you simply learn the moves to gain a little muscle. His training in Thailand solidified Nickolas’ mentality that one little word, “can’t”, will prevent you from attaining whatever it is you want in life. 

 “In fitness, I have people all the time say that ‘I can’t do it’. Every time someone says ‘can’t’, I make them do push ups,” he said. “Mentally, if I say I can’t do something,  I won’t do it, and I won’t be able to do it. But, if I keep saying ‘I can, I will’, one day you’re going to be able to do it. It’s all in your head.” 

In Thailand, the training is more strict. If your butt is too high when you are in plank position, you might get hit with a stick and told to lower it. The instructors will push you beyond what you think your limits are, simply to test your resolve. Respect is gained by demonstrating willpower and dedication.

Nickolas wants to encourage this type of mentality for everyone who walks into the door. The Tiger Muay Thai Training Camp opens its doors to all skill levels, but most notably to professional fighters from around the globe. Fighters go to hone their skills and to learn from each other. While Mike was there, Mark Hunt, a fighter for the UFC, was also training. Mike, AJ and Nickolas were all put through the same training the professional fighters receive. 

“For a son to go down to Thailand and see your dad, who has had multiple injuries and multiple knee surgeries, and train is pretty amazing, and then watch your mom who is just tiny, go out and do the same is pretty awesome,” Nickolas said.

Anyone who walks through the doors of UCTC will get a taste of Brazilian, American and Thai martial arts styles. And with every style, Nickolas and his family will show that you can achieve anything, as long as you stop saying, “can’t”.

For more information about the Ultimate Combat Training Center in Draper, visit: