Fighter and coach Daria Albers now calls Physical Culture Collective in Brooklyn her home gym, but the universal athlete has long spent her time traveling and training around the world. As a 19-year-old in Germany, Albers used the sport of Muay Thai to overcome the judgments of others as well as her own fears.
“I struggled a lot with being an outsider and also because of being overweight,” Albers says. “I was always a spiritual person and also interested in philosophy and science. That’s was not exactly what the people liked, but I just stood up for myself and passions and moved on once I was old enough. Muay Thai as a sport taught me to look deep inside myself, to face my fears and to build step-by-step the woman I want to be. The person I see in the mirror now learned to be dedicated, disciplined and resilient, with a clear vision of herself and her future, and with a clear vision how she wants to accomplish things. I want to show people that we can shape our lives the way we want to.”
Her journey’s origins was filled with adversity. As one of the few female fighters in her gym in Europe, she had to stay strong against men and women who would go out of their way to either be very aggressive with her during training or who would simply refuse to train with her at all. This treatment lasted several years, but Albers kept her head high and focused on the goal: being the best that she could be.
“My road to Muay Thai started a bit bumpy,” Daria says with a laugh. “I met a guy who I really liked, but he told me I am fat, so he couldn’t date me. At that time, he was a professional fighter. I was so hurt, but also felt challenged to do something about that. I didn’t want to lie down and cry. I wanted to do something about my feelings and my body. So finally, after being to scared to enter the gym for a month, I took the first class. My treatment got even worse because the team I trained with were ignorant, very close-minded, and a bunch of bullies. In the first 3 years of my journey, I fought many challenges and overcame them all because I learned one very important thing: Nobody can tell you what you are capable of or not. It’s all about yourself, how real you are to yourself, and how much you want it. And if you keep going, you will find talents and skills inside yourself that you never have even dreamed of.
My path in Muay Thai taught me that obstacles and overcoming them makes us who we are. Obstacles are an inevitable part of our life’s. Obstacles are shaping our path, they are shaping our character for the better and open new dimensions in us. We need to understand them as challenges and approach them open-mindedly.”
Albers has fought, trained, and taught all over the world, including most of Europe, South Africa, China, and Russia.
She says, “As a coach you need to understand the diversity of characters, the different cultural backgrounds and the social environments where people come from. You need to read them and adapt as a coach how you communicate, how you instruct, and what you instruct. As a physical therapist and mind coach I do read people’s body language, I analyze their movement patterns and their minds, so I can adapt my training in a way, that everybody gets the best out of their training. I am the second pair of eyes in the ring and on the mat for my students.
As a coach and fighter, I have had many great moments in some of the biggest arenas and events all over the world. I have been in the ring as a coach with many champions, but one of the best moments for my soul was coaching my best friend Naomi Cookson for her fight in NYC. It was a very important fight for her development as a person, for her belief in our sport and in having a coach she could trust. When she won the fight I saw the spirit in her eyes, that she overcame many things in this fight, and I saw pure joy.”
At the end of the day, Albers is just looking to inspire as many people as possible.
“Two people who shaped me as a fighter are Germaine de Randamie and Andy Souwer,” she says, recalling a time when de Randamie gave her personal advice and coaching. “With that, I want to inspire people to face and help them overcome their fears. Fears and doubts about ourself and our capabilities are just in our minds. They restrict us and limit us and hold us small in our self-built cages. I’d like to bring my expertise in Muay Thai, psychology, and movement together to built a program for people, so they can be also the best version of themselves in all aspects. The sport is so multidimensional. I use Muay Thai as a tool to work on myself and my students every day. It shows us our weaknesses and strengths. With this sport, you can approach all aspects in life. Physical aspects like fitness, strength, coordination, explosiveness–as well as mental aspects like discipline, dedication, resilience, and facing your fears!”
As a role model for women, Albers finds it critical to not only boost others’ self-esteems, but to maintain a healthy one for herself. Confidence and perseverance is key for her to accomplish her goals and she encourages others to find the power within themselves to make their own life.
“I want to inspire people to overcome the limitations of their minds, to be the best they can be,” she says. “I want people to look into the mirror and to see themselves for who they really are. The beautiful, strong, powerful human beings. I want people to understand that we have it in our hands to shape our path, that we can change things, that we aren’t victims of our surroundings and that there are many great people out there who have similar dreams. We are one!”
All photos courtesy of Daria Albers