Some may say fighting is a young man’s game, but one New Bedford man is proving otherwise.

By day, David Eaton runs a martial arts school with his wife April on Ashley Boulevard, works for the Department of Mental Health at Taunton Hospital, and is a father to his two kids.

The rest of his time is spent at the gym training Muay Thai kickboxing, and on June 19th, he’ll step into the ring for a national tournament in Iowa at the age of 47.

For Eaton, it’s not just about fitness. It’s about striving for greatness and adding valuable years to his life.

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Meet Dave Eaton, Owner of SouthCoast Self-Defense

Eaton knew he wasn’t ready for college, so he decided to join the Navy in 1994. After serving for three years, he made the transition to school, and by 28, he was working for the DMH in Boston.

“I was going to some facilities that were not the best areas of the city and I started thinking about my personal safety. I had no idea how to defend myself,” said Eaton.

A friend of Eaton's introduced him to Krav Maga, an Israeli martial art derived from a combination of techniques used in Aikido, Boxing, Judo, Karate, and Wrestling. It’s known for its focus on real-world situations, and through his journey, Eaton’s desire to share the world of martial arts grew.

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“I never expected to own and operate a gym, I just enjoyed training,” he said. “I had a bunch of people asking me about my training and I saw an opportunity to share, and I also felt like (self-defense) was something everyone should know.”

He opened his first school on Orchard Street in 2013, and as Eaton’s journey in martial arts grew, so did his teaching scope. In 2019, he closed down Orchard Street and opened a new location on Ashley Boulevard called SouthCoast Self Defense, teaching Krav Maga, Kickboxing, and Jiu Jitsu for all ages.

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The Teacher Becomes the Fighter

Much like his journey into business, Eaton never expected to be a fighter, but with a little encouragement, he changed his tune.

“I was around some amazing teammates who sort of helped with the confidence that this was something I could actually do,” he said. “As a coach, I ask my students to go outside their comfort zone, and I wanted to make sure I did that, too.”

His team expands outside of his gym, at another gym in Hyde Park called Hard Knocks Muay Thai. This is where the the opportunity to fight became a reality for Eaton, and now he is preparing for his upcoming tournament in Iowa.

New Bedford Fighter to Compete in TBA’s

The Thai Boxing Association Muay Thai World Expo is the largest Muay Thai tournament in the country. Over 1,000 competitors will compete from June 19th to the 23rd in Iowa, and one of those competitors is a 47-year-old from Freetown.

Under the guidance of Jake Manini, Eaton will compete in the Masters Bracket and look to bring home the gold.

“It’s Okay to Fail, It’s Not Okay to Quit”

Eaton looks to get into the ring not only for the love of competition but also to be as active and as healthy as possible for the sake of his family.

“The biggest thing I realized is if I want to be active in my 50s and 60s and enjoy my kids and grandkids, it needs to start now,” he said. “If I wait until I’m not busy with work or responsibilities, the time that I have left won’t be as enjoyable.”

David Eaton
David Eaton

When people hear that a 47-year-old is training alongside twenty-year-olds, it’s typically met with shock and awe, but Eaton’s unwavering belief in himself is the driving force behind his will to do what others his age won’t do.

“Don’t be afraid to take chances and don’t be afraid of doing the things that you think you can’t do,” he said. “It’s a message that I try to share with my students. It’s okay to fail, it’s okay to make mistakes. It’s not okay to quit.”

New Bedford will be well represented in the country’s biggest Muay Thai tournament next month.

Go, Dave, go!

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