For martial artists, hard work isn’t defined by just one night of action. There is an incredible amount of effort that goes into each victory. Hours of time spent in the gym, honing the skills that are necessary at the highest level is a gargantuan task.
While martial arts is certainly a one-on-one spectacle, the importance of teamwork cannot be overstated.
Honorio “The Rock” Banario of the famed Team Lakay in Baguio City, Philippines knows all too well how important the role his team has played in his career. At his lowest point, Banario found solace in teammates who never stopped believing in him.
“To have people you can rely on, teammates you know who have your back and will help you with becoming a better fighter, this has been extremely valuable to my career,” said Banario in an interview with ONE Championship (www.onefc.com).
“We support and pull each other up instead of bring each other down. As an athlete, especially as a martial artist, it’s very important to find a place you know where you belong.”
Led by Philippine martial arts pioneer, Team Lakay’s head coach Mark Sangiao has built a solid band of brothers who together form the most prolific martial arts team not just in the country, but in all of Asia. The team’s rise to martial arts powerhouse has been well-chronicled over the past few years.
For Banario, the immense success is due to the close personal relationships each team member has built with one another. From this supreme blend of talent and personality was born an unshakeable trust that exists far beyond the bond of blood.
“Everyone knows how close we are. We’re not just a team, we are brothers. I can say, as a martial artist, this is very important,” Banario explains.
“It goes past just sharing victories and defeats as a team. We truly grow together and learn from each others’ mistakes. We feed off the energy and are motivated to succeed.”
It isn’t rosy at all times however. There are instances when teammates lose. Earlier this year, female atomweight April Osenio lost to Jomary Torres in the first round, Gina Iniong dropped a unanimous decision to Istela Nunes, and Edward Kelly was stopped in the second round by former ONE Featherweight World Champion Narantungalag Jadambaa.
Banario himself is no stranger to losing. A well-documented five bout losing streak between 2013 and 2015 had “The Rock” nearly contemplating retirement. If it weren’t for his brothers at Team Lakay, Banario says he may have given up on a promising career.
“Some of us lose, of course, this is a sport. But instead of feeling down, we always take it as a challenge to improve. I’m a great example of that,” said Banario.
“My team could have given up on me, after losing five in a row. They could have stopped believing in me and told me to quit. But they kept pushing me and motivating me. You can only have that kind of support with a good team behind you.”
Banario returns to action on 8 September, when ONE Championship visits the Baoshan Arena in Shanghai, China for ONE: BEYOND THE HORIZON. He takes on top lightweight contender Amir Khan from Singapore in a three round contest. Banario is the first to admit his next bout will be the toughest test in his career.
“I will never stop believing though, because my team will never stop believing. My team stands right there beside me, literally drilling with me everyday. They push me harder even at my lowest, and their voice is constantly in my ear,” said Banario.
“They remind me everyday not to lose hope, that I’m lucky to be doing what I love. It helps me realize that I am capable of so much more than I think.”
After now winning five bouts in a row, Banario has successfully authored a career resurgence. He’s made a complete 180 degree turn for the better. Going for his sixth straight victory, “The Rock” is knocking on the door of the featherweight elite. A couple more solid performances, and he could find himself on the cusp of another title shot.
Banario, humble in both victory and defeat, says it’s all due to the support he has received from his team.
“I’m grateful to my team, especially coach Mark [Sangiao],” Banario concluded.
“He never lost faith in me even when I kept losing. My team gave me confidence when there was no reason to be confident. Because of that, I was able to rise above and conquer my situation.”