Matt Freetage is the Muay Thai instructor at Columbus Kickboxing Academy in Columbus, OH. He serves his community as a police officer by day and martial arts instructor by night. His 20 years of martial arts experience include Filipino martial arts, kickboxing and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. For more information or to schedule a trial class at the Columbus Kickboxing Academy, Matt can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My IMB Family
My journey began almost 20 year ago. I have been an active member of the IMB family since 1995. I was fortunate to have learned from several very great instructors that allowed me to train with them and go to seminars all over the nation with them. Eventually, I was able to work my way up and become the Full Instructor I am today, under Sigung Bustillo. Making friends along the way, from the far reaches of the world, is one of the most exciting things about our fighting family.
Training with the people I have trained with has changed my life. As a police officer of 13 years, I have encountered life and death experiences more times than I care to count. Training the way I do has allowed me to find my way through each and every one of those experiences and has allowed me to go home to my family each night. For that I am eternally grateful.
The influence Sigung has had on me and my family is immeasurable. The first time I went to a seminar, I had no idea what I was doing or where it would lead. I’m sure we all remember being there at one point or another. I now pass on the knowledge and teachings I have picked up along my journey to my students, friends and colleagues.
One aspect that cannot be taught however is that family feel. The warmth and love that is felt when it is needed the most. After I attended the Instructors Clinic in Torrance at the end of August, 2013, I returned home to my normal life. I went back to work and taking care of my wife who was 7 months pregnant.
On September 6th, 2013 I took my wife, Danielle, to a check-up to hear our sons’ heartbeat and talk to the Doctor about the upcoming delivery. The doctor noticed something was not right and sent us to the hospital as a precaution. The hospital ran a bunch of tests and ultrasounds. It was determined that our beloved baby boy was sick and had to be delivered right away.
In what seemed like a whirlwind couple of hours, we had tests ran and were in surgery before either of us had time to understand what was happening. At 5:17PM our son was born. He was very sick and needed a lot of care. The doctors had him on medicine and machines to keep his little heart going. They worked very hard. After some time in the hospital, they realized there was nothing else they could do to make our little man healthy.
Try as they did, we lost our baby boy, Wyatt James Freetage, in our arms. He was taken to heaven to train hard with all those who have trained before us.
In the days and weeks to follow, the loss has not gotten any easier. I don’t expect it to. What did lift our spirits up was that on a regular basis; people I have trained with at seminars or met through our IMB Family were there to offer support. From my friends in Poland to England; South America to Thailand; The Philippines to Mexico and all over the United States; we received phone calls, letters, emails and text messages of support and love. All because of the family we have built through the IMB program.
Danielle and I are forever indebted to the IMB family and all that each and every one of you has offered. We had some bring dinners over, just to take that little bit of burden off of us. We had some that offered to babysit our 3 year old son to give us a night out. We had some that simply leant an ear or shoulder that was much needed. During the service, many attended and took time out of their busy schedules to show support that day.
We had people reach out to us that I have not seen or spoke to in years. Some of the biggest help and support came from the ones I least suspected. Some of my friends that I truly expected to be there, I was astonished to find they did not even call. None of them are in the IMB family. We had our spirits lifted by Sigung Bustillo when he reached out on behalf of the IMB Academy and as a personal friend. I have always admired him as a man and mentor, but to have him call to check on us was one of the most touching moments during this time. Sigung was very happy to hear of how the family is taking care of each other. I would never expect anyone to go out of their way but knowing you all did it on your own and meant all the love from it, has been a big help to my family.
I have learned many things in all the years. I have learned to punch, kick, grapple and use a stick. I have learned many ways of accomplishing a goal and how to win a situation. I tell my students all the time, being a smarter fighter is always better than being the most aggressive or biggest guy out there; but when you have to fight, do it well and harder than the next guy. One thing I was taught out of this was something I never expected: to cry.
A person does not cry with strangers, they cry with family. A person does not cry with their buddies in the locker room, they cry with family. A person does not cry with colleagues, they cry with family. Out of all of this a lot of tears were shed and still are. When tears are shed, they are shed with family. We take comfort in knowing that the IMB Academy has provided us that amount of support that most people never get to experience.
I thank each and every IMB member worldwide for their love, support and hospitality. While a simple message or call from you may have only meant a couple of minutes of your day, it will live on in eternity with us and our Wyatt. I believe he is training hard with Sijo Bruce and many others. The loss of a child is completely unimaginable and is the hardest thing a parent will ever face. The IMB Academy and it’s far reaching family helped make life a little easier throughout our time of need. We don’t ask for much from anyone, all we want is for everyone to know how wonderful you have been and if anyone else is ever in desperate times, I hope we can return the favor in some little way. Pay it forward…you never know how a simple gesture on your part will touch and affect others. We love our IMB family and are forever loyal to all that you have offered my family.
Sifu Matt Freetage – Columbus, Ohio