Katie is a young female from New Jersey trying to be the best she can be at everything that she does. She spoke to me about her experience with the art of Muay Thai.
Mike: Tell us how you got into this sport
Katie: I grew up, with 3 older brothers, wanting to play football, baseball and even box but my dad said I couldn’t because I was a girl. I always had this in the back of my mind and I didn’t get an opportunity to try combat sports until I found a gym after college.
Mike: And for those who don’t know, what is Muay Thai?
Katie: Muay Thai is a combat sport from Thailand, it’s called “The art of eight limbs” because you use your elbows, knees hands and legs. What makes Muay Thai special is the clinch: This is when you are tied up in close quarters and you can elbow, knee and sweep.
Mike: How was the training for your first fight?
Katie: Training was pretty intense, you have to cut weight (15 lbs.) which is a huge mental piece of the game when your friends want to go out and eat/ drink. What got intense was the sparring: my gym does this thing called shark tank where you are in the ring with a fresh new partner each round, for 5-10 rounds.
Mike: Was it exhausting training and working at the same time?
Katie: It was fun because you see how far you could push yourself but kind of stressful because I was going to school and working 2 jobs. Training kept me busy because I could get my mind off of the other things I was doing. It’s nice to have goals outside of school and work—something for myself.
Mike: Walk us through that first fight
Katie: Waking up that day, I was excited to get into the ring. I wasn’t nervous until I got to the venue and weighed-in. They had me do pictures and then it felt serious. I thought “What if I don’t put on a good show, what if I mess up and get stage fright?” Once I stepped in the ring, something turned on and I was so focused, nothing else really mattered. After the fight, I was still so excited that I asked my trainer when the next one was. Haha, he told me to relax!
Mike: Do you have any weird pre-fight rituals?
Katie: If my weight is good the weekend before a fight, I go out with my friends and drink lots of whisky. It helps me kick all the stress out and remind myself that I’m doing this for fun.
Girls in Combat Sports
Mike: If you walk into an average muay thai, mma or boxing gym it’s about 15-20% women and sometimes even 90% men. Did it ever feel strange to be in such a male dominated sport?
Katie: I grew up in a male dominated environment so I was quite used to the dynamic. However, it still bothers me and other girls when people think that they have to go easy on girls in the gym because if you hit them “they might cry” or something absurd like that.
Mike: I’ve also heard that the training between girls can get crazy
Katie: Unfortunately you don’t see many girls in this sport and society seems to always be pitting us against one another. I’ve encountered girls in the gym who will just go all out on me during sparring to try and prove a point to themselves or the other guys in the gym. It can start a vicious circle so I don’t engage in that type of thing.
Katie: This was from my last fight (5th). This picture is powerful because it shows this balance between focus and nervous energy. My boyfriend is on the right and my coach is on the left. It shows my support system and community helping me during that moment.
Mike: On that note, tell us about your Muay Thai Community
Katie: It’s a small gym called weapons 9. My Coach’s name is Christian Tran—he teaches strictly Muay Thai. Everyone is supportive, we go to each other’s fights, party together and of course go to the hospital together if anyone is sick or injured. As a whole the Muay Thai community around the world is quite small and tight knit. People are very friendly, you can message someone in another country and tell them that you are coming to visit and then you can go check it out.
Mike: Role models?
Katie: The people that inspire me most are the ones that I’ve fought or people I know in the Muay Thai community. Amateur fighters are working, going to school and balancing their lives while training and fighting.
Mike: Future goals in this sport?
Katie: I want to have a few more tournaments under my belt, do golden gloves boxing at some point and also go to Thailand—it’s a right of passage for a lot of fighters. I would love to train and even fight there.
Mike: Is there anything you wish that the general public would know about Muay Thai?
Katie: Muay Thai and combat sports in general are more than just violence. Fighters are super disciplined. It is hard to get hit and stay composed to keep playing a mental game. It is difficult to force yourself to run miles in the morning and then go through a hard training session afterwards. For those who are interested in trying it out, you never have to spar. Most of the time training is working the pads with a partner. Go into it with an open mind and don’t be intimidated. Gyms are very welcoming, mine is a second family to me.
Photos used with written permission from: FridayNightFights, Joe LoBianco and Joshua Brandenburg
Katie is a 26 year old living in New Jersey who is currently pursuing a career in Law Enforcement. She is a muay thai enthusiast and has trained for about 7 years now and competes on an amateur level. In her free time she enjoys traveling, movies, and hiking with her puppy.