11 year old Chantelle Tee is starting to make waves and winning division titles in kickboxing. She trains out of Choas Muay Thai in Fitness in Okehampton, England with Muay Thai champ Christi Brereton.
Wombat Sports: What got you interested in getting involved in combat sport?
Chantelle Tee: Well it all started two and a half years ago when I was at Primary School aged 9. I received a flyer about ‘Thai Fit’, a club that was being run in the small Village hall where I lived. It was a form of ‘keep fit’ using the principles of Muay Thai. My Mum and I started going on a Friday night. The coaches saw something they liked and invited me to join a more advanced class in the town. Here I learnt self defense and eventually sparring to become part of the ‘Junior Fight Team’.
Wombat: What do you enjoy about it?
Tee: I enjoy making new friends when people join the gym and it is good to keep fit and increase my stamina. It helps me to stay in shape as I used to be chubbier but I have recently lost approximately 4 kilos thanks to training. I train at least 4-5 times a week for one to one and a half hours a night. Thanks to this I have also been picked for school sporting events too. It is also good for taking out your anger on a punch bag or pad. I enjoy seeing different places as we have to travel anything up to 4-5 hours to fight venues. The furthest I have been so far is Latvia. We would never have gone there if I didn’t compete.
W.S.: How have your friends and classmates reacted to it?
C.T.: Well close friends have seen me train but never seen me fight in the ring. I am hoping they can come to watch at our home show in Okehampton, Devon on 27th July. They often ask ‘Where are you going this weekend?’ as a joke as we are always travelling. One said I am lucky as I ‘get to see the world!’ They say that I am brave and say they could never get in the ring.
W.S.: How about your family?
C.T.: My family are very supportive in watching and asking how I’m doing and my Auntie, Uncle and cousins are always asking if I have had fights recently. My two older brothers Jamie (25) and Jordan (22) were worried about me to begin with. They were afraid I would get hurt but they have both seen me fight and are incredibly proud and probably show off about my achievements more than I do. Mum used to be afraid to watch me fight but has now calmed down and is just as excited. Dad is almost like a third coach.
W.S.: Who do you look up to in fighting?
C.T.: That is an easy question! My coach Christi Brereton, World Champion. She is a very technical and powerful fighter but she also puts on a good show. I would love to be as good as she is one day. She has even had a baby and within a couple of months she was back training, even better than before. I am looking forward to her comeback fight at the O2 in London 29th June. I also admire my coach Steve Pender as we wouldn’t be where we are without his training, encouragement and support.
W.S.: How do you feel about the future of females in Muay Thai?
C.T.: A lot more women are getting into Muay Thai for self-defence and fitness and really enjoy it. Many go on to full contact and start competing without planning to. I would like to see more females in the sport as I would have more chance of being matched for fights. Also my main ambition is to see Muay Thai in the Olympics but that won’t .happen if more women don’t compete.
W.S.: What comes naturally to you in fighting?
C.T.: Once you are hit, you automatically hit back. I see fighting as a game, you have a target and you try to hit it, while defending your own targets. I think my low kicks are strong but I am also learning the importance of combinations and quick hands.
W.S.: What have you found difficult?
C.T.: When I first started I was timid and shy. I found the breathing and looking aggressive difficult. Mum always said I had to put on a ‘fight face’ but I would often laugh in training and ask silly questions. Thankfully I have changed with experience. Also I enjoy training so much it is hard to just go out and play. My coaches encourage me to take time out each week to ‘Just be a child and have fun’. I also have the agreement with my parents that if my school levels/grades drop then I have to cut down on training. So far so good but it is parents evening next week!
W.S.: What are your aspirations in fighting?
C.T.: In the future I would like to become a top female fighter, full Thai rules. I would like people to know my name in fighting but for now will work my way up. I am also working hard at my grades and aim to be fully qualified to teach younger children alongside my coach by the time I am sixteen. I already help out at an after school club with him and enjoy watching young children progress.
W.S.: Anyone you’d like to thank and add?
C.T.: I would like to thank my coaches Steve Pender and Christi Brereton for spotting me, training me, supporting me and getting me this far. I would like to thank Pete Spensley one of the biggest promoters in the UK for having faith in me and giving me a chance. Also my parents for driving me everywhere as without them it would not have been possible.
Remember eat healthy, train hard, fight easy, dedication pays off!