YOU may recognise Germaine Yeap Liew Li as that nerdy girl who kicked the butts of several Muay Thai coaches in a documented prank that went viral in recent months. Or the woman who took down a pair of snatch thieves in a popular crime awareness video two years ago.
For the uninitiated, Yeap is a professional Muay Thai fighter with almost seven years of training under her belt. She first encountered the martial art in her final year at the University of Warwick in England, when she was looking to get fit.
“Running on the treadmill wasn’t doing it for me. But for Muay Thai, there’s a class to follow. You have to keep up with everyone and you make new friends. The exercises are so dynamic that you don’t realise that you just did an hour of exercise. That’s why I like it more. Also the sense of empowerment you get from doing pad work feels really good,” shared the 30-year-old.
Yeap started competing professionally two years ago, subsequently winning the DBKL Mayor’s Cup title, the Langkawi and Kedah Z1 International Cup tournaments, as well as snagging a bronze medal for Malaysia at the 2014 Asian Beach Games. Coming from a predominantly athletic family, the youngest of six sisters played all sorts of sports in school including touch rugby, and represented her native state of Penang in dragon boat rowing and tennis.
“People don’t realise the amount of commitment full-time fighters take on. They don’t realise that athletes sacrifice a lot in terms of not just their diet but their time and the activities they can and cannot do that we end up isolating ourselves a bit,” said the former bank manager.
What does your family think about your Muay Thai fights?
They don’t like it. Whenever they see contact, they’d freak out. I don’t feel pain because it’s not even a proper shot; it just feels like somebody’s whacking me with a pillow. They came to watch me fight once and I told them not to come back because it makes me nervous and I won’t be able to focus!
So you don’t get injuries?
Touch wood, I haven’t gotten any badones. I get bruises mostly. Sprains canbe quite common during training. And it depends on who your opponent is too; I had one who tried to elbow me throughout the fight – that’s how you get cut. It’s not like weverbally agree before the fight not toelbow but most of the time female fighters respect each other.
What’s the toughest thing you have to overcome so far?
orking on my career and passion at the same time and keeping them balanced. My schedule when I started working was about a minimum of 12 hours up to 16 hours. I was really gung-ho so for four times a week I would clock in at 9am, leave at 8.30pm to train, and go back to the office after 11pm to work until 1am.
For the World Muay Thai Championships last year, I was allowed to take 2.5 days out of the week to train but because I couldn’t take time off to train for the 2014 Asian Beach Games, I brought in my coach to the office gym so he could train me during lunchtime and at night.
How do you take care of yourself?
I try to get more than eight hours of sleep to let my muscles recover but sometimes it’s not possible. My physical recovery mostly comes from taking supplements and protein shakes.
Who do you look up to?
I respect mums who work because these women really know how to balance and organise their time for their families and careers. And 14-time world champion Julie Kitchen. She also started Muay Thai for fitness reasons, after having twins.
What would a dream come true be for a professional Muay Thai fighter?
To be able to help communities through sports, not necessarily Muay Thai. I think Malaysia needs more emphasis placed on sports. We do have talents but the finances aren’t there that’s why people don’t end up being world class.