I love sports. I must get it from my father—sports medicine specialist and athlete. In the 70s, he was Germany’s champion javelin thrower. It seems only natural that sport would play a large part in my own life from early childhood.
I ran my first race when I was six years old. I finished the 600-metre distance in 2 minutes and 40 seconds. I will never forget the girl who ran past me just before the finish line and snatched away the bronze medal. I guess I don’t like to lose.
After an eventful decade of playing tennis professionally, enrolling in countless training camps, and taking part in a number of tournaments, I left Germany for a lot of reasons. In a roundabout way, I found Muay Thai (or Thai boxing), the martial art and national sport of Thailand. It is known as The Art of Eight Limbs.
I started Muay Thai while still in Germany, preparing for a year-long trip around the world in 2010. I wanted to travel with purpose rather than tour aimlessly, and a few months later, I was in Thailand and ready to train.
I remember walking to the very first gym I practiced at. It was early in the morning, but already hot. I was wearing my Muay Thai shorts and a tank top, and carrying my boxing gloves and hand wraps. I found myself with a group of people shadowboxing, doing burpees, and hitting the heavy bag. We were sweating and drinking copious amounts of water. This went on for three hours. Eat. Sleep. Back to training. Another three hours. Eat. Sleep. And repeat. I wanted purpose and I got it.
You do this for six days a week for several months. You share moments of exhaustion, desperation, and pain with a diverse group of people. Everyone is training for similar reasons: from fighting to fitness to philosophy. The people I met were dedicated, disciplined, and passionate.
I didn’t find out for many weeks what people did outside of the gym, back in their own countries, because at the time it didn’t matter. What mattered was our shared love for Muay Thai. There was the student from Sweden, the lawyer from New York, the construction worker from Scotland… and we all connected at the gym. We spoke the same language without saying anything.
I’ve never encountered such a strong community when playing other sports. Tennis, running… they don’t even come close. Here in Toronto, I train at Krudar Muay Thai, and my gym is my family. When I open the door, I’m home. I put on my gear, and it doesn’t matter what I do for a living or what happened that day. No judgment and no words needed.
Muay Thai is blood, sweat, and tears. But with the goal to always, always improve, you are your own reward.
Check out other travel adventures by this author!