A year ago today, I not only didn’t know about Covid-19, but I also didn’t know what Muay Thai was. That was until I looked up types of karate on Google last September. I used to practise kickboxing when I was much younger and, although I only have a vague recollection (except for me kicking very lightly at a very very slow pace), I knew that I enjoyed it at the time. My plan was to find something that I can use as self-defense, as I am looking to join the police/military in my gap year (see my recent article on my police night shift). I know I’m not the most intimidating looking person, but in some respects I guess that could be a good thing. However, if I feel stronger then I look, I think that could be life changing. I mean , if you saw a 5’3 girl waddling the streets of London, I don’t think you’d be particularly frightened. I really wanted to change other people’s first impressions of me and Muay Thai could be that change.
So I did some research and within a week, I had arranged to have a taster session with this Muay Thai Trainer by the name of Femi. I wanted an instructor with experience and Femi not only had over 15 years of experience, but he had been a National Muay Thai champion. Now I do not want to get your hopes up, after watching Cobra Kai and The Karate Kid , you’d think that within a few months I would be entering tournaments and fighting like a professional. Unfortunately I am not Daniel LaRusso or Miguel Diaz and my trainer is not anything like Mr Miyagi. Muay Thai is a process but I had time to improve and time to get better.
After a couple months of training with Femi, I was getting better. I had almost mastered the perfect roundhouse kick (which you often see on Cobra Kai) and my fitness had also improved. The first couple of sessions made me realise how unfit I was, but Femi intervened and we started doing strength and conditioning in the last 15 minutes of every session. In 6 months, I went from not being able to do a plank for 25 seconds to a full 1 minute and 15 seconds. My fitness had not only improved, but so had my mindset. Instead of doing what cliche teenagers do in the evening, watch Netflix and comfort eat, I started going for runs in the evenings (followed by Netflix and comfort eating!). My parents knew I had changed when at Christmas, instead of asking for Urban Outfitters clothes, I asked for a boxing bag. Boy, were they shocked! Since then I’ve been practicing nearly every evening and it’s addictive. Once you imagine the boxing bag is someone you absolutely despise, it starts to feel a little lighter and your punches get a little harder! I practised just outside my house, in our small patio area. Delivery men would walk past, watching me practise, and when I looked up at them, they seemed surprised that I was a girl because boxing is perceived as such a masculine sport.
Growing up, I never really properly learnt about self-defence. As young girls we are taught in school to be careful walking home alone at night alone and to always walk with someone else. We often have less freedom than boys do when going out because of this. I know this is all for our own safety, but it somehow feels unfair . Why do we live in a society where girls are constantly afraid of what could happen to them anywhere at any time? I understand that this can be the case for some boys too. However, it feels like self-defence sports like Muay Thai, Kung Fu and Jiu Jitsu are all advertised towards men or we just never see enough women taking part. So I encourage you to take up some sort of self-defence before it’s too late. You never know when it will come in handy and, I for one feel hugely more confident knowing that I can not only protect myself, but my friends and family.
By Asha Persaud, student