Photo by Wild Don Lewis

Retired athletes in the four major sports go into coaching, the front office or broadcasting if they wish to remain in the game, but what happens to a champion in the no less popular, but surely less visible, world of the martial arts? Kickboxer Harold Diamond, a ponytailed enigma known for wearing two different foot guards because he won an early fight that way (though he notes, “It’s for fun, not superstition”), gives lessons.

While the 1983 Muay Thai champion charges some $120 per hour to the well-heeled who wish to use their heels (and elbows and hands and feet) to defend themselves, he runs free classes open to the public in a North Hollywood park, right across a parking lot from the Gold’s Gym, Tuesday afternoons at 3 p.m. “There are a lot of guys out there learning bad technique, and I’ll train someone for free the right way if they can’t afford it, if they’re down on their luck. It’s my way of giving back what I have gotten.”

He began giving lessons as soon as he started fighting professionally, at 15, in Miami and has always done community teaching. “My technique is like a cross between wrestling and kickboxing,” says Diamond, who moved to L.A. from Hawaii after a friend convinced him that it was a good career move — he choreographed the fight scene in Rambo III. “Grappling without pinning, using the whole body against the joints, the neck, gaining an advantage.” And its name? “Oh, it is ‘kongo-do,’” he says, laughing. “The ‘Diamond way.’”

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