Sandra Bastian started kick boxing when she was 28.
Her son wanted to do karate and she wanted to try martial arts, so she found a gym where they could do both. Kick boxing graduated to Muay Thai and next thing you know Bastian was fighting.
“There is more to it than just the sport, it is a very spiritual sport, if that makes sense,” she said. “Even though you step into the ring and you know the person across from you is going to try to knock you out and you’re going to try to knock them out, it is a very respectful sport. It teaches you and pushes you beyond any limit that you thought that you would go to both physically, mentally, emotionally.”
Now she trains a Muay Thai fight team at Pure Fitness in downtown Campbell River.
“I live and breathe this sport, it has brought so much for me that I just want to see it grow,” she said.
Bastian’s career skyrocketed in 2003 while representing Team Canada at the World Kickboxing Association’s North American Championships. She met Janice Johnson in the ring and knocked her out in the first round, winning the North American Lightweight Kickboxing title.
In 2004 she represented Canada at the International Federation of Martial Arts World Amateur Championships.
“My goal at that point, for myself anyways, I just wanted to win one fight,” she said. “I actually walked away with the silver.”
She came back to win the championship in 2006.
Two years later she was the WKA World Lightweight Muay Thai Champion and she won bronze at the IFMA World Amateur Championships.
In 2009 she was scheduled to represent Canada at the World Championships in Thailand once again.
“At that point in time they had an age limit, and one of the coaches reported me as being too old,” she said.
Though that door was slammed in her face, another door, a better door opened—the president of the International Federation of Muay Thai invited her to fight at the Kings Cup.
According to Bastian, the Kings Cup is the largest Muay Thai event in the world. It is held in Bangkok and over 300,000 people, including the royal family, attend.
“It is a huge honour to be invited to fight on the Kings Cup,” Bastian said.
Bastian won her fight, and went on to fight as a professional a few more times before retiring in 2013.
But her passion for Muay Thai hasn’t stopped there.
Bastian worked as an assistant coach in Calgary until moving to Campbell River two years ago. Now she has her own team at Pure Fitness, and it has grown from six to fourteen people in the last year or so.
“I kind of feel like I am the parent and they are the children,” she said.
They spend a lot of time together, growing physically, spiritually and emotionally, becoming like family.
“To listen to these guys cheer each other on during a drill when one of them is working so hard and they know that they have to cut weight or they have a fight coming up cause emotions run high at that time, they will be crying when they are hitting pads with me,” she said. “To hear everybody else stop in the gym and cheer them on and push them on, it’s quite something to see.”
Muay Thai is known as the art of eight limbs—hands elbows, knees and feet.
In Thailand the fighters wear headpieces blessed by monks and perform a ceremony to seal the ring from evil spirits before a fight, followed by a ceremonial dance type warm up that pays respects to their camp (club) and kru (coach).
And then the fight begins, but it is more like a chess match than an all-out brawl.
“I always tell my guys, you’ve got to be smarter than the guy in front of you,” Bastian said. “And fighting is, really it’s 75 per cent mental, 25 per cent physical, because if your mental game isn’t into it, it doesn’t matter how good a shape you are in you could lose.”
Members of the team are starting to participate in fights in and around the Island, and are preparing to go to the IKF World Championships in Florida in 2018.
“I’ve got guys on my team right now who I would like to see register for nationals,” Bastian said. “I think there is potential out here, she says, looking around the gym.”
Team Bastian is hosting a fundraiser on Monday, Nov. 27 at Acropolis Kuzina.
For tickets contact Amanda Rogers at firstname.lastname@example.org or reach out to the team on Facebook at Team Bastian Muay Thai.