As we have all been left to mourn the loss of ‘The Coach’ Shawn Tompkins, I am personally being faced with the difficult decision to make a change. The change I speak of is by personally changing my way to keep the pace that was set by our Coach. What Shawn was able to accomplish as a young man was nothing short of remarkable. The amount of lives he touched and altered are in the thousands, but what means more to me is how he changed my life.
I first met Coach back, back, waaaay back in the day when Mark Hominick was beginning his kickboxing with Shawn. I immediately was the guy that followed him around looking to learn and absorb all that he offered. Everything from his martial arts skills, his passion for the sport, his outlook on life and his eagerness to share his knowledge to those who wanted to learn it was quickly becoming the way I knew I wanted to be. In return, I assisted with his classes and was his sparring partner….and man did we spar. We always sparred, the whole team, sparred hard. My wrestling background was something that was a portion of my offering to the team, but wrestling practice was never as intense as this. We were punching, kicking, submission fighting all to push ourselves and better yet, pushing our team mates to reach their potential. I knew I was in the right place, with the right group of guys.
Now, I wasn’t accepted into the team until I showed my dedication. That took a very long time to do that. I believe I was 15 fights deep, 3 years, multiple jobs, multiple relationships, countless sacrifice when Shawn mentioned to me about the final acceptance, or ‘Holy Grail’ of Team Tompkins, the Tattoo! (For those of you who do not know, martial arts has had a grading/belt system in place for thousands of years. The longer you work at learning the style, art, balance, finesse and techniques of a martial art form you are awarded the appropriate coloured belt. Most systems work their way up to the highly regarded ‘Black Belt’. The tattoo that Shawn gave is the ‘Black Belt’ of Team Tompkins.) He mentioned the tattoo to me in between the 3rd and 4th round of my first professional kickboxing fight. “One more round to go Pecker, you win this fight you get the tattoo!” I was elated, but I had one more round to go and a tough one at that. I did win the fight, and I did get the tattoo and I was finally part of the group and family that is Team Tompkins.
I have taken the gift from Shawn very seriously and will continue to live my life along the code that the tattoo represents. “Fight, Spirit, Pride.”
Shawn shared with us what Team Tompkins is, and we in turn, shared it with him. For that, I am forever thankful for the family that I have now.
The pace of what Shawn was accomplishing and what he was striving to do is something that no regular human being is capable of. His drive and passion carries on in the lives of those that knew him and those that were affected by him. It is up to those of us that want to continue the drive, to do so as a collective effort and push forward and carry on the legacy that is, Team Tompkins. It just may be that we will fall, but we will not fail. United we stand, we have each other, we have this family, the massive International family that is Team Tompkins. Change is upon us. I will change for the better and aspire to be the man that Shawn saw in me. I encourage you all to make the effort of challenging the status quo and moving forward in your own life and also making the MMA and Kickboxing world a better playground. Stand up, be heard, be progressive, be proactive and continue the fight!
May you rest peacefully Shawn Regan Tompkins, you will forever be an asset to my reality and I ‘Thank You’ for assisting in making me the man I am today.
“Stay feisty my friends”
Alex ‘Pecker’ Gasson