Interview By: Lance Edwards
The last few years has seen a rise in the number of quality combative sports instructors in Houston. One of the latest additions is an example of how the Houston scene is attracting high level coaches. Babak Nourzad is not someone you have probably heard of, unless you are from Iran and follow freestyle wrestling, in which case you know exactly who he is. Babaks list of accomplishments is lengthy to say the least, having made the adult National Wrestling Team at fifteen years of age, winning the youth world championship and placing second in the adult world championships. Not only has Babak competed all over the world in the US, Canada, Russia, Europe and the Middle East, but in 2004 competed in the Olympics in Athens.
Babak and his wife recently moved to the US and he has taken up residence at Gracie Barra Westchase where he is starting a wrestling program.
Babak: I didn’t like wrestling, but my father insisted. He wanted me to do a physical activity and thought it would be a good way for me to make friends. My father and Uncle were boxers, I actually liked to box as well, but my father told me wrestling was better to do.
TCD: Is wrestling similar in Iran, you do it at school?
Babak: In Iran you can’t do any sports at school, everyone does sport at a club, it’s very different, in the US people tend to wrestle at school.
TCD: How often did you train?
Babak: At twelve years I wrestled three days a week, when I was better I trained two times a day. The sessions would vary, sometimes it would be running, sometimes drill, sometimes weights. We would even play soccer indoors sometimes to work on our endurance. Each session was about three hours long including warm up and drills.
Babak: I don’t know there were a lot of top moments. The highest event was me going to the Olympics, but I had better moments when I was winning though. Whenever you win a big championship that is the top for you.
TCD: You were still winning when you stopped competing, why did you stop?
Babak: I was hoping when I moved to the states to find a club and get sponsorship to return to compete in the Olympics this year. The way things are set up here is different, and it was not as easy as I had hoped. I thought about it and maybe I’m too old to compete, and I decided to share my knowledge and teach.
TCD: What would you like to achieve teaching?
TCD: What’s the key to succeeding at a high level in wrestling?
Babak: There’s a lot of things; speed, endurance, passion. You have to have drive and passion; a coach can only do so much, and get you so far, you have to take yourself the rest of the way. You have to do the rest, I can give you the techniques, but you have to have it in your heart. You have to be coming to train every day and you have to have the drive to be the best.
TCD: From watching you teach, you are very technical and have a great understanding of technique, how important is that?
Babak: Yes that’s important; you can win against people who aren’t skilled with just power, but power isn’t enough. A high level wrestler combines speed, endurance and technical skill. It’s not any one thing that makes a wrestler good, you have to work on all those things, you can’t be good with one of those things missing.
TCD: You are teaching at Gracie Barra Westchase, how did that come about?
Babak: It is a good opportunity for me. The reason I chose this school is because it is a very friendly environment. I went to other schools first and the way they approached me was as if I was a threat to them, they were not very welcoming. When I came to this school, Professor Ulpiano was very welcoming and open, that mattered to me.
I’ll be teaching kids classes and adults classes. You saw tonight there were some students who have been wrestling for four years, but they could not do a high crotch single leg takedown properly. There’s no point teaching someone and moving on before they have a good understanding of the basics, so I am starting the students at the basics and building from there.
It’s very important that people understand that wrestling is repetition. You can’t train for a month, go off for a few weeks, and then come back, you won’t get good. You need to be consistent, it’s all repetition.
TCD: Anything you’d like to add?
Babak: I’m happy to be here and help people; I came to the US to wrestle.