I was lucky enough to be featured in the June 2013 issue of the Spanish Grazia magazine.
This is something that came about entirely by chance, as journalist Javier Casado originally wanted to interview Master Toddy for an article on women in Muay Thai. During his interview, he asked if the gym had any current female fighters, at which point my name cropped up. After that, Javier decided to do a photoshoot and interview with me, during which we discussed the issues surrounding living, training and fighting in Thailand as a woman, and this went on to be published. The article also features another female fighter, Jade Marrisa Luktupfah.
The article was published in Spanish, but you can scroll down to read the translation below. I’m happy to be a part of something that promotes female Muay Thai, and encourages other women to think about embarking on a similar journey to mine.
If you love danger, you’re in luck. The new craze in the fitness world is called Muay Thai. The Thai martial has been gaining popularity in the West, thanks to word of mouth and social networks such as Facebook, where someone always knows someone who has tried it or has seen a training video from a friend. As a result, in recent years the amount of foreigners traveling to Thailand to learn has exploded. This includes not only fans of boxing or karate, but also people who had never hit a bag or even been interested in sports before. These people are attracted by the mystique of this discipline. Among them are many young people who don’t fit the typical fighter stereotype. They’re academic and attractive women with an interest in this discipline and a desire to test, challenge and strengthen both their bodies and minds.
There are now more and more gyms around the world teaching Muay Thai, although nothing compares to the experience of learning in Thailand. But beware, not just any gym — Before choosing, students must learn about the quality of training and ability to work with foreigners, because the experience, be it a few days out of curiosity, a week or a few months to specialize, can be either a dream or a nightmare.
Muay Thai is known as “the art of the eight limbs” because it uses more parts the body as weapons than any other form of martial art: from the fists to the feet, through the elbows and knees. It involves punches, kicks, elbows and knees mercilessly. The good news is that there is no obligation to start fighting if you don’t want to, but you can choose to train alone or with another companion for protection and fitness. “If you do train alone, nobody is going to punch you in the face,” says Jade Marrisa Sirisompan, a Thai 20-year old student of communication, who this summer is to participate in ‘The Beauties of Muay Thai (Sud Suay Muay Thai)’, a reality TV show in which 16 girls from around the world compete for a prize of 130,000 Euros. In March, Sirisompan won the silver medal at the World Championships Amateur, which was attended by almost 600 fighters from over 50 countries, “and I was not the typical athlete when I started”, she confesses.
Neither was Emma Thomas, a British 24-year old and outstanding student of Industrial Design and Business. She became interested in Muay Thai at 18 years old during a vacation in Thailand, and decided return to learn “as a form of fitness, with little interest in fighting”. After trying out the sport in Chiang Mai, North of the country, and going through some unpleasant experiences during that time (such as not being taken seriously by the trainers), she arrived in Bangkok at the place she says is one of the best to practice this art, Master Toddy’s Bangkok gym. She has lived there for almost two years, and now, after ten bouts, is set to fight for a British title in Manchester on June 30th.
To Emma and Jade, Muay Thai is much more than a sport. Anyone attending a fight for the first time may be uncomfortable with the violence of the sport, but also fascinated by the ritual: the hypnotic music that accompanies the fights, the dance fighters engage in before the first assault, the psychological game that is established between opponents and the mutual respect at all times. This only can be seen in Thailand. Here, it’s real Muay Thai. In Europe, it’s a simpler practice, say both women. They recommended the sport because it’s an incredible workout and much more fun than just going to a general fitness gym. They also say that you never get bored because you’re always learning new moves and techniques.
Jade, the daughter of Master Woody, one of the biggest drivers of Amateur Muay Thai, admits that is an extreme sport, but that’s why it’s challenging. “It has generated a lot of confidence in myself and has made me stronger, not just physically.” She says it’s also has ‘flattened’ her nose a little, but she’s not worried. In fact, since she’s started fighting, she says that “boys think it’s cool that I do Muay Thai”. However, “when the relationship gets serious, they don’t want it to continue”.
Emma explains that “if you want to fight, you can’t socialize much, or even at all”. Each camp has their own schedule, but the first session, two or three hours, usually starts at 6 or 7am. Then, fighters eat and rest until 4 or 5pm, before going to the second training session for a further two or three hours.
There are idyllic holidays in Thailand, but as the saying goes, ‘there’s no inspiration without perspiration!’
The teacher of the stars Thohsaphon Sitiwatjana or Grand Master Toddy, is the expert in Muay Thai’s most successful world, and one that has contributed to his fame. He taught Gina Carano, while he was training champions in Las Vegas, and she starred in his documentary Ring Girls (2005) and the reality Fight Girls (2006). After that, Steven Soderbergh launched her to further international fame with his film Indomable (2011). Master Toddy himself discovered the potential success of Muay Thai thanks to cinema, when in 1974 he was signed to choreograph the fights for the 007 movie The Man with the Golden Gun. After that, he decided try his luck in England, where in 1997, he opened the first Muay Thai gym outside of Thailand. Since then, Master Toddy has been known for his ability to make Muay Thai both fun and understandable for Westerners. Even celebrities are now training in Muay Thai and other contact sports, with names such as Uma Thurman, Angelina Jolie, Madonna, Ryan Gosling and Fernando Verdasco getting involved. Master Toddy is often described as not just a Muay Thai coach, but also a life coach.
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