Muay Thai Training Lifestyles: an Interview with Katy Farrell

I sat down with Katy Farrell, one of Master Toddy’s upcoming fighters, to have a few words about Muay Thai training in the heart of Thailand… and what it’s like to be a white, female Muay Thai fighter in Bangkok:

You’ve recently had your first fight here in Bangkok (congratulations on the spectacular win BTW!).  Can you describe the thoughts and emotions you were going through in the time leading up to the fight?

My first fight was an incredible experience. I was, of course, pretty nervous. Being able to have a fight in Thailand has been the stuff of dreams for me. I think I was putting a lot of pressure on myself because the experience meant so much to me. But I also had complete faith in my training and physically I was feeling stronger and better than I’ve ever felt before. That helped me to keep the nerves from getting the better of me and to stay positive.

Katy's first fight - being declared winner by Technical Knock-Out

Katy’s first fight – being declared winner by Technical Knock-Out

“Don’t fight to fight. Fight to win.” – Katy on Muay Thai training

How did it feel when you were declared winner by TKO?

Winning that fight was probably the happiest I’ve ever been, and winning by TKO made it that much better. As you can probably imagine, it’s not just the win that feels great. You flash back to your hours of preparation, and your win makes all that hard work worth something. For me, personally, it also meant that I’m on the right track. It was confirmation that this is something I can do; something I’m good at.

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What advice did you get from Master Toddy that helped you win your first fight?

The most important thing I learned was how to stop blocking myself from learning, if that makes sense. I have a tendency to let impatience and frustration with myself get in the way of my progression as a martial artist. Master Toddy taught me how to get out of my own head, out of my own way, and just train. And once that happened, I was able to get better so much faster. I started to have a lot more fun at the gym, too!

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What can you say about Master Toddy’s Muay Thai training system?

I think more than anything, it’s that Master Toddy actually has a system. Every strike, counter, or movement has a specific purpose.  We spar often and effectively, so we can constantly develop and integrate things into our arsenal more effectively. Then, we can see our progress better, so our confidence goes up and we get mentally stronger.

“Master Toddy taught me that learning is an uphill climb… frustration and second-guessing are the rocks you pick up along the way… [they] slow your progress and weigh you down mentally.” – Katy on Muay Thai training with Master Toddy

Other gyms, in my experience, usually struggle with finding a balance between teaching new techniques and being able to structure sparring and drills that let students apply those techniques independently.

Getting a hand-drawn tattoo from a monk

Getting a hand-drawn tattoo from a monk

I couldn’t help but notice you’re sporting a new tattoo… what is its meaning? Why did you decide to get it? How was the experience of getting a tattoo in Thailand?

I love my new tattoo!! It’s a Sak Yant, a traditional form of tattoo that are particularly special among Nak Muay here in Thailand, and usually done by monks. My experience was amazing. I went to the house of Ajarn Lek and Ajarn Garr, where they have a  beautiful shrine and made an offering. Ajarn Garr did it freehand. It took less than two hours, and it’s so intricate and beautiful. I couldn’t be happier with it.

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How do Thai people – men and women – respond to your being a white, female fighter?

Thai people are wonderful, and they really embrace community living, at least in my neighborhood. So… Everyone knows I’m a Thai boxer – from the employees at my condo to my regular massage ladies. Everyone treats me respectfully and with great enthusiasm, and the same as any male fighter I know. We get cheered on our morning runs, and we get special treatment from food vendors. Thais seem to have a better understanding and appreciation for fight culture than people in Canada. It’s so cool being able to train in an environment like this.

“You learn best when you’re enjoying yourself, and you enjoy yourself when you feel free and unburdened. That’s been my most important lesson.” – Katy on Muay Thai trainingfighter-toddy-9-1

“We get cheered on our morning runs… we get special treatment from food vendors.” Enjoying a fresh coconut after a morning Muay Thai training session

What keeps you motivated to keep up the rigorous Muay Thai training?

I stay motivated by being in the gym every day. It’s like a circle. The more I train, the more I want to. It helps that there’s so much to learn and that I have work to balance out my Muay Thai training. Working makes me look forward to the gym more.

What kind of reactions do you get from friends and family back home about your Muay Thai training?

My support back home has been great from old Muay Thai training partners and friends. My parents are completely bewildered by my life choices in regards to Muay Thai but once they got over their surprise that I had gotten in the ring, they rallied and have been more enthusiastic than I could have hoped for.

“Every strike, counter, or movement has a specific purpose. We spar often and effectively… Then, we can see our progress better, so our confidence goes up and we get mentally stronger.” – Katy on Muay Thai training

How is life for you in Bangkok outside the gym? How do you balance your social life with your Muay Thai training?

I’m lucky enough that I have great Muay Thai training partners who are also good friends, so eating breakfast after training and watching movies on rest days are a big part of my social life.

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A lot of my friends here don’t fight, though, and sometimes it can be a bummer when I have to miss a girl’s night or leave a birthday party early because I have Muay Thai training the next morning. That being said, they’re really supportive of my passion, and they never make me feel guilty or that I’m missing out. In the evenings when I’m in training mode we try to hang out by being healthy; we do cardio or weights classes at least once a week. They also threw a pretty awesome post-fight party for me to celebrate my win!

Are you looking forward to your next fight?

I can’t wait for my next fight! I’m proud of the fact that I didn’t binge-eat or take any time off training after the fight. I stayed in shape and I’m still consistently bringing my weight down so I feel better than ever. I’m really excited for the next challenge.

“Master Toddy taught me how to get out of my own head, out of my own way, and just train…” – Katy on Muay Thai training

Did you pick up any philosophy from your time spent with Master Toddy?

Two things:

1. Don’t fight to fight. Fight to win. This one was such a game-changer for me. I don’t know why but it just got my wheels turning about the way I should be training.

2. Master Toddy taught me that learning is an uphill climb, and that frustration and second-guessing are the rocks you pick up along the way and carry with you. Those feelings, those rocks, slow your progress and weigh you down mentally. You learn best when you’re enjoying yourself, and you enjoy yourself when you feel free and unburdened. That’s been my most important lesson.

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Learning new techniques and enjoying Muay Thai training with Grand Master Toddy