Fight Like a Girl: The Role of Women in Muay Thai Boxing
By Natalie Jesionka
Anne Lieberman has always been interested in how gender and culture intersect—she studied African American Studies and Women’s Studies in college, and now works for a human rights organization on issues of gender and sexuality in Thailand. She’s also always been interested in martial arts, which she has studied since she was 7.
And in 2010, she got the opportunity to combine those interests, after being awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to research the role of women in Muay Thai boxing, Thailand’s national sport (and train in it, too!).
I first met Anne at a reception at the U.S. Consulate in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and was fascinated by her work. Her practice of Muay Thai and her research on how women practice it challenged so many traditional notions of gender in Thailand and around the world, and I had to learn more. I recently caught up with Anne to discuss what she’s learned from the sport and her research—and what you can learn, too.
How did you get started in Muay Thai fighting? What made you stick with it over the years?
I grew up doing martial arts. My mom tried to get me to do ballet starting from age 5, but she realized very quickly I only made it through class because I wanted the candy we were given at the end.
I started doing Tang So Doo—a Korean martial art similar to Tae Kwon Do and Karate—when I was 7 or so. I only started doing Muay Thai when I was awarded the Fulbright, but I continue to practice because I fell in love with it. It’s beautiful and expressive. The community is fantastic. And it’s so much fun.
Can you give us some Muay Thai basics? How is a winner determined, and what techniques are used? What makes this martial art unique?
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