|Claire's pre-fight wai khru ram muay
Claire, how and where did you start your journey in martial arts?
My brother was a karate champion and introduced me to martial arts in high school. However, I became attracted to muay Thai later on for its full-contact nature and proven effectiveness as a fight style. As a 20-year-old woman, I thought it was important for me to have some basic self-defence skills should the need arise. That was in the beginning; now I have gotten so much more from the sport than I would have ever predicted. For example, I never thought I would have the confidence to fight, but here I am!
What do you like most about muay Thai?
Muay Thai is a complex sport that requires a fighter to be powerful, fit and aggressive but also highly technical and tactical. The values that traditional muay Thai promotes are values that I personally aspire to both inside and outside the gym. It has developed me into much more of a well-rounded athlete, physically and mentally, than any other sport.
Can you tell us about your gym and your trainers?
My gym and trainers take training very seriously but don’t take themselves too seriously. Guys that walk in full of ego and vanity get ripped down pretty quickly!
Tao Jaiphet is an extremely experienced trainer and has been involved in muay Thai for over 20 years. Tao is a Queenslander and his muay Thai journey began there. In the late 1990s he trained extensively in Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Tao is a natural teacher and has a deep understanding and respect for the sport.
Jared Grigor is also a highly accomplished fighter and great trainer. He knows how to motivate people to get the best out of them. My strength and conditioning trainer, Ross Newland, is of the same calibre. Previously a fighter himself, he knows exactly what I need in my S-and-C program to be as powerful as possible in the ring.
The Sor.Jaiphet Muay Thai Team are lucky to train out of Combat MMA and Fitness in Richmond. The owner, Andy Elliott, has set up a five-star fight facility, including a fully equipped functional strength gym. So here we have access to a full range of Crossfit-style workout gear needed to get me fight-ready.
We all train hard, especially the fighters, but it’s a fun gym with an awesome bunch of people who train to support each other’s goals, not just their own. We strive to bring the best out in one another and it shows in our fight results.
Describe your weekly training regime. How does this change as you get close to a fight?
Unless I’m sick or injured, I’m always training! I train for two or three hours each evening after work and on Saturday mornings.
Training sessions are made up of pad sessions with Tao, Tabata-style bag work, partnered technique drills followed by boxing or sparring, and then Thai clinching. We finish with a typical Thai-style warm-down, which involves hundreds of knees and kicks repetitively on the heavy bag, plus neck weights.
I do two strength and conditioning sessions a week, and Pilates to improve my mobility and reduce the chance of injury.
The intensity of training increases leading up to a fight; we spar harder, clinch longer and smash more rounds on pads. We study our opponents and start to tailor our sessions specifically to beat their style.
How would you describe your own style of fighting?
I am not aggressive by nature, until competition comes into it! I love striking hard and being the attacker.
I like K-1 style fighting, favouring flowing combinations that finish with big kicks. I also like to walk in and fire knees from a boxing combo. I like the clinch as well, and have won many of my fights via this aspect of the game. That being said, I love to strike so I prefer to work the fight from my mid- and long-range weapons, but I’m comfortable anywhere, really.
Fighting is also entertainment. The crowd come to watch a fight. You only have to attend one fight show to know the crowd like to see striking, not the clinching so much. While clinching scores well in the Thai tradition, striking is what people want to see. I like to give the crowd a good fight to watch.
You recently won a title at Rebellion Muay Thai against Tali Silberman. Tell us a bit about that fight.
This was my hardest fight to date for sure; it was my first five-rounder, a Victorian title fight, and against a girl with over three times the fight experience I had. There was lots of pressure on me, but being the underdog is a very motivating position to be in.
Tali is quite talented, but has a very different style to me. I knew I had to be smart in my fight, otherwise she would use her experience to pick me off. I also had to be as fit as possible to keep up a high work rate and aggressive attacks. I broke her nose in the first round and I think this put her on the defensive for the next two rounds, allowing me to maintain a long-range striking game. In the later rounds, Tali wanted to close the gap and work her clinch, but even though she was quite strong, the scoring knees tipped it in my favour.
I always leave fights thinking I could have done better, used more techniques, etc; however, I was still ecstatic after the win. It’s really important to me that I represent my gym, my trainers and my supporters to the best of my ability.
Who is your dream opponent?
I am aiming for the top — in the coming years I want to aim for an Australian WMC [World Muay Thai Council] title — so whoever I have to fight on my way there is part of my dream.
I don’t really have any dream match-ups at this stage, I’m just happy to keep moving forward. Some have asked me if I’d rematch this girl or that girl, and I’m not at all interested in rematching any of them for now. My eyes are set on interstate fights now, so I can gauge how my skills match up on a national level.
You’re a vegetarian. Is it difficult to be a fighter with this kind of diet? Does it affect your training or fight preparation at all?
Being ‘vego’ isn’t a hindrance; I believe it’s a strength of mine. I could cite so many top athletes that are vegetarians, it surprises me that the stereotype of the weak, frail vegetarian still exists!
I think peak physical performance can be reached from vegetarian/vegan and meat-inclusive diets, as long as the diets are based around fresh, natural and whole foods.
I became vegetarian in response to the horrific conditions animals endure from factory farming, and for environmental sustainability reasons, but it has also been really beneficial for my fitness and health. It also means I don’t really blow out between fights and, more importantly, I don’t have to diet severely to make my fight weight.
I understand being vegetarian is not for everyone, though; the most important thing is to be consciously aware of what you’re putting in your body and where it comes from. Stay away from the processed crap!
What are the main challenges, if any, that females face in the male- dominated combat sports like muay Thai?
To be taken seriously as an athlete and a fighter. Some trainers won’t even train girls, and others don’t train them as hard as the guys. This means there are a lot of girls out there not fulfilling their athletic potential, which is disappointing.
While this is true in many sports, I think that fight sports are a bit behind the times. It’s 2013, people! Many of us want to see fewer girls in bikinis holding round cards and more girls in gloves throwing the punches.
Please give us your thoughts on the current state of muay Thai in Australia. What changes do you think need to be made, if any?
I think we have some serious talent in Australia — there are so many exciting and skilful fighters around, as well as world-class trainers. In saying that, though, I would like to see more integrity in the scene. There are still a lot of mismatched fights in Melbourne, with gyms still handpicking opponents to make their fighter seem like a superstar. There are far too many titles out there, too! Some sanctioning bodies are pumping them out like candy. Furthermore, many of these titles are very rarely being defended.
Finally, I’d like to see more female fights. Sy from Rebellion Promotions is doing a great job matching the girls of Vic, but of course there could be more if promoters could get behind the girls and make it a priority to include more females on their shows. I know of many girls around Australia who continually miss out.
What else do you hope to achieve in your career?
Of course, WMC titles are what I’d love to achieve. Beyond that, I hope to be a contributor to the growth of the female fight scene here and maybe even around the world.
There are so many girls, like Caley [Reece], Angie [Parr], Tiana [Caverley], Theresa [Carter], etc. who have paved the way for what I’m able to do today and I’d like to continue their work by building the female fight scene into a powerful area of women’s sport.
So my future is not just based on my goals but around the sport’s future also.
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