I often wonder how parents of young teenage Muay Thai Fighters handle things like the reactions people give them when they find out that their son or daughter is a fighter. I guess most of the teenage fighters still live at home so their parents would be a big part of what is happening when they are training hard for fights, cutting weight & the before and after emotional roller coaster ride all fighters have. Not to mention the nerves and anxiety they must feel watching their baby get into a ring with someone who is trained to punch, kick, knee and elbow them. I know my mother gets really nervous when she comes to watch me fight and im an adult, so i could imagine the nerves of some of the mum’s and dad’s with young kids or teens fighting. Maybe you are a parent of a fighter or maybe you have a child that wants to start training or fighting?, here are some questions answered by a few different parents with teenage sons and daughters who fight Muay Thai.
Parent Name: Jason and Moana Watkins, Parent of: Jayden “pretty boy” Watkins, Age of son: 16yrs
1. How long has your son been Fighting Muay Thai and how did you feel when he first told you he wanted to fight? Jaydens been fighting for just on 3.5 years. Actually Jayden didnt have a choice haha , he was getting into so much trouble at high school that they had all but wiped their hands of him. And home life was getting unbearable with his teen attitude and sense on entitlements , so we approached a fellow kiwi (Phil Renata) who owns and runs team Ngapuhi Muay thai gym here in Toowoomba , as either a way to settle him down and burn off his excess teen hormones or get knocked around a bit and get some humility to himself. The latter won in the end.
2. How do you find the reactions of people when you tell them your son is a fighter? How do you deal with them? A lot of people from outside the sport think of it more as thuggery than an actual sport. Our friends, that have since come on board with the gym, have a very different interpretation of Muay Thai now that they see it behind the scenes.
3. What are some of the things you worry about the most with your son fighting?There is always the injury aspect but at the end of the day you can get hurt playing rugby , so it is kind of non issue now. (Unless you ask the wife , Moana, who hides her face in her hands at every fight HAHA)
4. How do you think competing in Muay Thai has helped your son in everyday life?Jayden is alot more grounded, has more respect for people , and the sport has given him an avenue to burn off his frustrations without it affecting school and home life as much as it used to.
5. What advise would you give to parents who have a Son/Daughter wanting to become a fighter? Keep an open mind, it’s not just thuggery, it is a technical sport. Dont try to be the trainer ( that’s what you’re paying for) and lastly try to make it fun.
Parent Name:Jenny Spain, Parent of: Brandon Spain, Age of son: 15yr
1. How long has your son been Fighting Muay Thai and how did you feel when he first told you he wanted to fight? My son has been involved in the gym and Muay Thai since he could crawl. His dad is his trainer and has been involved in the sport for over 25 years. Father and son have a very special bond and Brandon has always been his dad’s shadow and we always knew that there was a good chance that being a fighter was in his future. For his christening some of the fighters from the gym all put in and bought him a small kick bag. We leant it in a corner of his room. He loved it and before he could even walk he would crawl over to it, pull himself up on it and try to knee the bag. It evolved from there with his first fight at age 7. I was not thrilled with the prospect of placing my son in the ring but he already loved the sport and really wanted to fight. What choice did I have. I thought if he gets hurt he won’t want to do it again but that first fight just fuelled his desire.
2. How do you find the reactions of people when you tell them your son is a fighter? How do you deal with them? I find most people are fine but there has been a few who feel the need to point out the dangers of being punched in the head etc and ask me “aren’t I worried about injury”. I’ve pointed out to people on a few occasions that any serious injuries that Brandon has had have all been from playing rugby league.
3. Please describe the feelings you get-
Before your son fights- I pray a lot mainly for the protection of my son and the other fighter. I try and so everything I can to support him with his diet and high demands on his time in the weeks leading up to a fight.
During the fight- during the fight I do have to look away at times but mainly I’m just hoping that both boys have a fair fight with minimal injuries and obviously I want my son to win and be proud of his achievements.
After the fight- I’m always glad it’s over and am always proud Brandon’s efforts regardless of the outcome because he has a huge heart, always gives it his all, shows the other fighters respect, is extremely talented and always makes me proud.
4. How do you think competing in Muay Thai has helped your son in everyday life? I think all children should participate in a team activity outside of school. The friendships made and life experiences he has learnt would not have happened if he was not involved in sport. He has learnt amazing skills in Muay Thai and more importantly learnt physical and mental discipline. He learnt how it feels to be successful and win and he’s learnt disappointment and loss… All valuable life lessons. He is fit and healthy and understands the effort required to succeed.
5. What advise would you give to parents who have a Son/Daughter wanting to become a fighter? Regardless of what your children decide to do you have to support them and allow them to experience different things. Muay Thai is not just about fighting it teaches them confidence, discipline, respect and gives them the skill and knowledge to choose if they would like to fight or if they would just like to train to be healthy and fit. Either way it is great to be apart of the Muay Thai community where everyone respects and recognises each other passion all over the world. This culture of respect and good will is most evident in the Thai people. They live and love Muay Thai and all at Sinbi gym welcomed a little red headed white boy from Australia and went above and beyond to develop Brandon’s skills and showed such care and hospitality. Another lesson for my son, kindness and compassion.
Parent Name: Nathan Kitchen Parent of: Amber and Allaya kitchen (twins) Age of Daughters: 15yrs
1. How long have your Daughters been Fighting Muay Thai and how did you feel when they first told you they wanted to fight? They had their first fights at the age of 8yrs. They had been training on and off for many years but it was an open tournament and they both lost to the same girl after getting to the semi final/final. The girl had had 6 fights and was from a gym that was renowned for schooling great junior fighters so it wasn’t a big shock for them to lose but I remember looking like lee Evans live on stage ,drenched with sweat and screaming every round.
2. What types of reactions do you get when people find out your Daughters are fighters? How do you deal with any negative ones? Mostly they are positive reactions although I can recall a mother of a girl who competed under karate rules taking time out of her obviously busy schedule to write to the school I was taking classes in and send videos of Thai children fighting and questioning the ethics of muaythai. I wrote back to her and the school and attached videos of 2 x 13 yr olds competing under amateur boxing rules championship,2 x 13 yr olds in a karate final and finally my daughter competing for a world title (junior rules) I pointed out the safety differences, rules, differences in attitude from the children competing and finally the difference in removing blinkers and seeing the culture behind the sport/Thailand and why they compete etc etc.
Needless to say that I heard nothing back.
3. Please describe the feelings you get-
Before fights- Before fights is the easy part. The training at touchgloves is very hard and the atmosphere/inspirational theme of club is heavily circled around female fighters so the girls have always had athletes to look up to at the gym. I train my fighters to not get hurt,I am passionate about the sport/female scene but I am also big hearted and don’t like seeing women hurt so I train them to the extreme to avoid injury and losses through being unconditioned. My only nightmares with the girls competing is separating being a dad when some “know it all” teenager goes online saying “hope she gets smashed” or something stupid as I have always been protective of the twins and I can’t see them ageing changing that as they will always be my little girls. The second hurdle is the typical “cheats” who roam from show to show that have huge unbeaten records because they can’t make weight!!! Suddenly they have their period, or their aged restricts them from sauna sessions (even though it’s obvious to see they have already boiled down to their minimum weight). You are immediately “put on the spot”and have to choose between your own daughters safety or wasting 8 weeks watching them run before school and not owning a typical teenage lifestyle. These same gyms are renowned for it but they sell a huge amount of tickets on events so promoters will throw aside any principles or rules for money/gain. Its a shame but it’s happening all the time in the uk. Sending teenagers home in an ambulance might be some coaches idea of a successful show but not mine.
During the fight- Aaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhh
After the fight- This is when the hard work begins. I am a firm believer in honesty within the sport. If my fighter gets a decision but I feel they lost, then it will say openly and/or offer a rematch if the opposing team are disgruntled in any way. I once had an instance when Amber lost a decision (not the fight) .it was so obvious by the footage (currently on YouTube) that the decision was wrong but I was one of the promoters of the event and felt it was wrong to take a belt/title/trophy from a teenager so instead of overturning the decision, I had the decision deemed as a no contest pending a rematch ASAP. A lot of promoters offered the fight to which I accepted,one was just a month after so it seemed perfect BUT the opposing teams coach said that he honoured his dead babies funeral with a memorial on that date,to which I obviously said “no worries”. I found out after that he had not attended the memorial for years. I’m a parent,I don’t need to say more. The rematch still hasn’t happened 3 years on. The joke of the matter is that they are trying to get the “no contest” taking from the girls record to this day rather than take the match.
4. How do you think competing in Muay Thai has helped your Daughters in everyday life? This is where the positivity kicks in. Muaythai is amazing for children, the whole cultural Buddhist style attitude and respect is passes down from inspirational role models that have had to struggle to make a living from fighting but still have the aura and respect of a true champion/professional to pass down the generations. John Wayne parr is a classic example of a non-arrogant hero of the sport. Unfortunately these sorts of people lack in other fighting sports. I took Amber and Allaya to Thailand from a young but impressionable age. It was important for me that they saw how other children lived and how thankful they were for everything,despite having nothing. I spoil my children the same as most parents but on a return trip,they took it upon themselves to take clothing and presents to some children they met in the back streets of BKK. They were 10 at the time, how many 10 yr olds would not only give up things they had but also think of it in the first place!!! This is muaythai, this is what I love.
5. What advise would you give to parents who have a Son/Daughter wanting to become a fighter? It sounds completely ridiculous but, firstly look at the options of your location,is there big events locally? Are there renowned gyms that put fighters out and promote them heavily? . Muaythai in the uk is about who you are and where you live. I have juniors that could set the muaythai world alight but unless they move to the city,their sacrifices will go unnoticed. The sport is where the good things lie as parents can be reassured that in the muaythai world,their son/daughter will be guided well and they will become a better person through muaythai regardless of whether or not they compete. If they do compete, then look to the stars of the sport, the humble fighters that have travelled and represented well for inspiration.
Please Check out Amber and Allaya Kitchen on the Awakening Site (HERE)
Parent Name: Angie Hackett, Parent of: Chels Hackett ( 2014 Australian and World Junior World Champion ) Age of Daughter: 16 years old.
1. How long has your Daughter been Fighting Muay Thai and how did you feel when she first told you she wanted to fight? Chelsea has been doing Muay Thai for 4 years after achieving a black belt in Tae Kwon Do for the five years previous.
When she said she would like to fight it felt like a general progression for her so I wasn’t that shocked. I left it to her trainers Wayne and Angie Parr to decide when she was ready to fight. She trained hard for it and had my full support.
2. What types of reactions do you get when people find out your Daughter is a fighter? How do you deal with any negative ones? I suppose now after all this time, I have come to expect the negative comments ( being female attracts more negativity) and I don’t try to explain to those that are ignorant about this sport. When I snap back sometimes it sounds like I am justifying my ” ill parenting” in that I allow my daughter to get hit and also hit people! I reserve my energies for those that do appreciate the fact Chels is a perfect female teenage role model. She inspires others.
3. What do you struggle with the most as a parent of a Muay Thai fighter? As a parent of a female teenage fighter the one thing I struggle with is cutting weight. It’s a vulnerable time for females at her age with their growing bodies and body issues. We are lucky in that Chels is very grounded and knows her body well enough to know what needs to be done. We have gotten better at it now she has had 10 fights but different conditions/climates/circumstances require adjustments for each fight. It’s just another aspect of this demanding sport. I don’t cope with this part of it all that well.
4. How do you think competing in Muay Thai has helped your Daughters in everyday life? It’s provided her with so much confidence in everyday life. The challenge to train and compete in the ring have made her driven and focused on setting goals and working hard to achieve what she wants. Muay Thai has given her these lifelong qualities that will see her develop into a fine young woman.
5. What advise would you give to parents who have a Son/Daughter wanting to become a fighter? The advice I would give parents of kids that want to be a fighter is to allow them to fulfil their dreams, have confidence in the training they are getting and put your trust in their trainer to call it when they believe they are ready. I am in awe of anyone that has the courage to step into the ring. And I am so in awe of my daughter, Chelsea Hammer Hackett.
Interviews By Natasha Sky Nov 2014, Photos Supplied
Please follow my fighting journey, blogs and interviews (HERE)