In the local ranks of New York, one such up-and-coming fighter is making a heavy name for herself–even though nearly everything about her goes against what is expected of women. Despite being petite, soft-spoken, and competing at 105 lbs (nearly 90 pounds less than the international representative of fighting, Muhammad Ali), Muay Thai fighter Raquel Harris carries the nickname of the most famous fictitious fighter of all time–”Rocky”. While Harris is ten inches shorter than the “Italian Stallion”, her heart is evident in every fight she has competed in.
As the timers blare and the sounds of gloves hitting pads slam in the background, Pina looks at home sitting next to a heavy punching bag as he drapes himself on the edge of a boxing ring at Ardon’s. Tall and dressed in black, from far away he could appear menacing. As one gets closer to him, the small smile lines around his face become more apparent and it’s clear that he is relaxed in this space. He says it’s because he’s “completely obsessed and engulfed by this sport.” It’d be a hard reach to find anyone who loves Muay Thai and training more than John Pina.
“I love what it I do,” Jimenez says with a laugh. “I love my work and I love training. Muay Thai was my first sport–I never played sports as a kid. I didn’t have time for it or the money. But I grew up watching boxing and always wanted to do it. I didn’t hear about Muay Thai until my twenties and I fell into it because I had my own time, my own car, and wanted to be productive outside of the lab. I fell in love with the sport and fighting came naturally to me. I feel like I’m always thinking, always analyzing–from one lab to the next. Here I am now, seven years later, still not expecting everything that continues to come my way.”
Sylvie is an American Muay Thai journalist who at this time of publishing, recently won her 171st fight in Thailand. She originally moved to the country with the intent of training for a year and accumulating about 50 bouts. Several years later, she is still training, writing, and focusing on obtaining 200 fights.
Melissa Ray has by no means lived a conventional life. A Muay Thai fighter that has traveled the world, fought on televised bouts, and now currently resides in Thailand, it's safe to assume that she follows her gut and knows what's best for herself.
An activist. A motivator. A coach. An athlete. A friend. A humanitarian. A mentor. A fighter. Anne Lieberman wears many hats. A Muay Thai fighter and coach at Renzo Gracie Academy, she spends her evenings training to fight other women. A program officer on the Sexual Health and Rights team for the American Jewish World Service, she spends her days trying to help them.
While female Muay Thai practitioners are not unusual, they are growing rapidly in population. With journalists and fighters prominently increasing awareness and education about the sport, it has become easier for interested parties to access information about it.
The voice of Erin Fairbanks can be heard all over New York City. The Michigan-born Executive Director of Heritage Radio Network hosts and moderates numerous shows on the channel. When she's not working on Brooklyn's famous food radio, she can be found making delicious meals herself. In between talking and cooking, Erin trains Muay Thai at Renzo Gracie Academy in both Midtown, Manhattan and Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Tamuira would show up with a swollen ankle, a wrapped wrist, on 4 hours of sleep, and her son Ollie in tow--who would run and do calisthenics off the mat with us during our warm-ups. To me and many others, Tamuira illustrated what it means to be a strong woman, a hard-working athlete, and an amazing mother.
The Brazilian native has had an exciting adventure thus far. She has worked envious events such as the 2014 World Cup and is now currently residing in New York City. In between English classes, Marina simultaneously trains Muay Thai and Brazilian JiuJitsu. She now finds herself on the other side of the microphone: as a dedicated athlete.
What about those who actually like running? Who do it for a benefit beyond their respective sport, for reasons like having time to think, a way to relax...or even, for fun?