Rene Catalan and his brothers got their martial arts grounding from their father, and now the ONE Championship strawweight contender is looking to give a similar foundation to his own children.
The former wushu world champion and current ONE strawweight star has already persuaded his children to follow his path into martial arts.
“First and foremost, [martial arts] is self-defence,” Catalan explains.
“It also teaches discipline, humility, how to maintain good health, and fitness. It is the one thing that I can leave them that no one can take away from them.”
While his eldest daughter opted for a different pastime, his son and youngest daughter have thrown themselves into martial arts training with gusto.
And Rene Jr, Catalan’s 13-year-old son, is already helping teach others at the Catalan Fighting Systems gym.
Nicknamed ‘Neboy’, Rene Jr has become an additional member of staff at the gym, helping pass on advice and instruction during kids’ classes.
“During summer breaks, I ask him to work at the gym to teach the young kids who enrol, and I incentivise him for it so that he will have something to save for himself,” the proud father says.
Catalan is currently getting set for his return to action against Stefer Rahardian at ONE: REIGN OF KINGS on July 27, but he admits it might not be long before his son follows him into the cage.
“When I was still on the [Philippine National] Wushu Team, he would always see my matches on TV,” Catalan explains.
“I did not need to push him to learn wushu sanda because he got really interested in what I did.”
“He started competing when he was four years old, and then he went into boxing, and later Muay Thai. When I left wushu, I served as a director for Muay Thai in Region VI, so he picked up the sport, and when I went into mixed martial arts, he also followed suit.”
Catalan wanted to make sure his son received the best coaching, so he took on the job himself and while he has been building his gym brand in Manila, Rene Jr and his sister are studying in Santa Barbara, Iloilo, where they live with Catalan’s brother Jose Ronnie, who coaches at Catalan Fighting Systems in that area.
“I am planning to move him here with me once everything is stabilised so that I can watch his progress,” Catalan adds.
“It is an opportunity when we have training camps, and he cannot join in because he is far away.”
One thing that will not be happening with Neboy is preferential treatment in training. Catalan says he wants to instil the right values of respect, hard work and commitment and will not make any special conditions for his young son.
“I do not want to treat him differently because I know that it is not the way to reach his goals,” Catalan says.
“Discipline, respect, and pushing oneself to the limit are the main teachings I am instilling in him.”
Catalan believes his son could be ready to turn pro when he reaches the age of 16, but he won’t let him loose in the pro ranks until he knows he is ready.
“I will make sure he knows how to defend himself and how to initiate his offence just so I am confident when he steps into the cage,” Catalan says.
“For me, win or lose, I just want to make sure that he is well-prepared when he steps into the cage.
“He is an intelligent kid, he is disciplined, and even if he finds it difficult at times, I always explain why I push him to his limit.”
As well as the training itself, Catalan also acts as a hero and inspiration to his son, and he will look to give his boy even more reason to be proud and motivated by claiming his fifth straight win in ONE Championship when he faces undefeated Indonesian star Stefer Rahardian at ONE: REIGN OF KINGS on Friday, 27 July.
Rahardian will pose a stiff test of Catalan’s skills, and the Filipino veteran is relishing the chance to match his Catalan Fighting Systems skillset with Rahardian’s Bali MMA-trained weapons.
“I know that their BJJ skills are on another level compared to us,” he admits.
“However, in striking – and I do not mean to sound like I am bragging here – I believe that my experience speaks for itself. I have been in that game for a long time already.”
Catalan will be hoping to make that stand-up superiority pay and move one step closer to a shot at the ONE Strawweight World Title.
And on every step of his journey, he will be cheered on by Rene Jr.