Danny Kingad is a rising star in ONE Championship, but things could easily have turned out vastly differently.
The Baguio City native fell into the wrong crowd as a youngster, skipping school and getting into trouble.
“I had lost my way back in my elementary school days. I fell into a bad crowd,” he told ONE Championship.
“Me and my friends back then would skip school. I dropped out of school twice. I would not come home, and my parents would come looking for me. Sometimes, they would find me sleeping on the streets.
“I did not have anything then,” he continues. “I did not even have martial arts.”
Back then, Kingad’s family struggled to make ends meet, and things got even worse when Kingad’s father passed away when Danny was just eight years old. It sent him into a downward spiral that threatened to lead his life down the wrong path.
“After I lost my father, I fell into a lot of vices,” he admitted.
“I would resort to selling bootleg items on the streets. I am surprised I even got through high school.”
Thankfully, he found a way out during his school days. During high school, he was introduced to the sport of wushu by his cousin Roldan Sangcha-an who was already a member of the renowned Team Lakay.
Wushu gave Kingad direction and purpose, and soon he started to achieve success in the discipline.
“My family never gave up on me. They kept pushing me even though I resisted. I did not want to let them down,” he said.
“In my junior year of high school, I discovered martial arts. From that point on, my life changed. I realised I had been sort of tanking in my life, and suddenly, there was all this positivity coming from martial arts.
“I gradually distanced myself from all my vices, and got rid of my bad habits. It was not easy, but I had my family’s support.”
Kingad’s proficiency for wushu saw him progress to the University Of The Cordilleras, where he became an integral member of the school’s wushu team. Led by coach Mark Sangiao, he won a regional title in 2015.
He then transitioned to Team Lakay, led by Sangiao, and became a part of the most respected martial arts team in the Philippines. It completed a remarkable turnaround from tearaway kid to bona-fide martial artist.
“I had finally found something to be passionate about, and it kept me stabilised and grounded,” he explained.
“I wanted to be like them, [my teammates]. We helped each other. I did not want to go back to my old life, so I also distanced myself from the bad crowd. I was determined never to go back to that life.”
Kingad later joined the ranks of ONE Championship, where he’s quickly built a reputation as one of the organisation’s most exciting rising stars.
His next appearance inside the cage will see Kingad take on Bulgaria’s Sotir “The Trouble” Kichokov at ONE: VISIONS OF VICTORY on Friday, 9 March in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
It’s the next step of Kingad’s remarkable martial arts journey that he hopes will culminate in a reign as the ONE Flyweight World Champion.
For now, he’s just grateful to have found martial arts in a time when his life could easily have taken a different, more destructive, path.
“To the next generation, I just want to say: find something you are passionate about, and pursue it. It will save your life, just as martial arts saved mine. Martial arts changed everything.”