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October 27, 2020

The Women of Muay Thai: Bailey Winters Interview

Morgan Shabani

The Women of Muay Thai: Bailey Winters Interview

Bailey Winters is the head Muay Thai coach at Easton Arvada.

Morgan: So let’s start with your journey, Bailey. When did you get into Muay Thai, and why did you stick around?

Bailey: So I started my martial arts training with boxing. It was one of those things where I had never been hit, I’d never punched anyone ever, so I wanted to know what it would feel like. So I thought, “Oh, I’ll try boxing!”  And I wanted to take one fight. That’s it. That was the goal. But I loved it, so I kept doing it!  That was seven years ago.

So I had a few fights in boxing, but the guy I was dating at the time was a professional Muay Thai fighter. He was always pushing me to try Muay Thai, and I was always saying, “No, I’m a boxer!” But I finally gave in and gave it a try. I started out in Thailand with him, and trained some Muay Thai out in Thailand.

Oh wow, the motherland!

Yeah! So that was really cool getting to actually begin my Muay Thai training in Thailand.  I remember my first class out there, they asked me to shadow box.  So I did my boxing style shadow boxing, probably threw some terrible kicks, and they laughed at me!  They were like, “Oh no no no, this is Muay Thai! This is how we do it.” And then changed every single thing I did. Every punch, stance, everything. That was the beginning. 

I trained out there for a month, and I came back to the states and I took my first Muay Thai fight. That was probably five or six years ago. And I started training with Easton a few years later. Now I’m coaching with Easton, and continuing to fight in the future. That’s kind of the journey so far.

What do you think have been your greatest hardships in the Muay Thai practice?

I think my greatest hardship has been believing in myself. I’ll be training for a while, and I’ll feel really confident and want to take a fight. Once I get the fight confirmed and hear that I have an actual opponent, all my confidence is suddenly gone. I’m thinking, “Why am I even doing this? This is terrible!  I’m so scared and I don’t want to do this!”

I go through this mental struggle between, “I know I’m good and I shouldn’t do this” and, “This is terrible!” And then the journey that follows where I have to build myself back up. So that’s always a struggle, and it always happens right around when I get my fight confirmed.

The mental side of it is the biggest thing for me. I’m a very emotional person. So when the emotions come, I swing from very confident to not at all. Then, I have to work to build it back up again.

It’s very comforting for me hearing about people like Eliot Marshall and how even he gets really nervous before a fight.

Yeah, you’re going to go get your head knocked off in front of hundreds–if not thousands–of people so yeah, it’s scary!

And really it’s the test to see if everything you’re doing is working!

I think that’s why so many people drop out of fights. Anyone can take a fight. Actually making it to the ring; that’s the hard part.

How do you think Muay Thai has changed your life for the better? 

So many ways. It teaches me big lessons that apply to every area of my life. The biggest one is the team aspect of things. 

It’s a one-person sport, right? But you can’t do it without a team. My Easton team, they beat me up every day, but they love me and support me. We help build each other up. So that’s a rare thing to find that I’ve never had in any other sport or any other place that I have trained. And it goes both ways, right? It’s my teammates building me up, but it’s also me helping other people prepare for their fights and helping build them up.

Everyday I show up and face my fears. Getting kicked in the head is scary. I know that’s going to happen, and I have to show up and do it anyway. This is the biggest one I can apply to my outside life. Just face your fears, one step at a time. Show up and do the work, and you’ll get through it.

I always see lots of women picking up this sport and having a blast doing it. What do you think it is about Muay Thai that women enjoy so much?

I think it’s the opportunity to feel empowered in such a big way. It is a pretty male dominated sport, and it’s pretty intimidating for people to walk into. Especially if you are smaller or are a female, whatever it may be. But then you get into the practice and you start feeling like a superhero. Look at what I can do with my body! I can beat this other person physically because I’ve worked hard. I think it’s just that feeling of empowerment that women don’t find anywhere else. 

Women aren’t taught to be big and strong, but Muay Thai gives them that feeling of being big and strong. And I think that’s why a lot of women appreciate what they learn in Muay Thai.

And here, at a martial arts gym, they actually get to learn self defence whereas you can’t get that at other kinds of gyms.

Yeah, here you get to learn how to actually defend yourself. How to fight. How to capitalize on your opponent’s mistakes.

What do you think it is about Easton that makes it such a special place to practice Muay Thai?

The community, for sure. That’s such a vague term and everyone who goes to a gym feels a special connection to the community. But Easton is such a special place because of how deep it goes. We have such a big school, but it still feels like it’s one community. We are all here to build each other up. 

The biggest thing I try to teach to my more advanced classes is that we are not here to win or lose on these mats. We are here to help each other get better. And I think approaching training and coaching with that in mind really helps build everyone up rather than just the few who rise to the top. 

I know a lot of people debate joining a martial art gym for various reasons. Either they believe they aren’t in good enough shape to step on the mats or they are afraid they will make a fool out of themselves. What advice do you have for people who are debating if they are ready to start their Muay Thai journey? 

If you’re nervous about making a fool of yourself, we all do at first.  The most experienced coaches or fighters you know all started out feeling silly; not even knowing what to do with their hands! We all start there. 

Again, it’s back to facing your fears. If this is something that you feel like you want to start doing, you have to put yourself in those uncomfortable positions. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable, as the saying goes.  So start by showing up every day.

Everyone starts with that overwhelming feeling of, “I don’t know what I’m doing, people are staring at me.” But really, you beat that by just showing up again and again. If you get in that repetition, you’ll get better each time.  And also just knowing that no one in class is staring at you, because really everyone else is worried about themselves.

That’s right, exactly!

I think it’s important for first time people to know, hey, everyone feels this way. It’s okay to feel this way. You’re supposed to feel this way. And then just taking it step by step, because it does get better each time you step on the mats. You learn the terminology more each time. You learn where and how to stand more each time and where to put your hands. It gets better each time, so just keep showing up.

Yeah, I feel like we have a lot of supportive people here, who are very nice and helpful to new people.

Again, it’s that community aspect where everyone wants everyone else to get better and learn. So even if you throw a kick and fall down, people aren’t going to laugh at you. They are going to show you, “This is how you can do the kick without falling down.” Everyone is so kind and welcoming here.

Yeah, absolutely, and I also always let people know who think they are not in good enough shape to do Muay Thai or Jiu Jitsu to just show up. That doing the actual sport will get you in the right shape to do it. 

Exactly! You’re not going to get in Muay Thai shape by running or lifting weights. You just have to show up and do it.

Yeah, I did seven years of yoga and cycling, and once I stepped on the mats I was not prepared to move my body like that! 

Haha yes, absolutely! Just show up!

Well, awesome, thank you so much Bailey for all of your time and insight, it was so great talking to you!

Yes, you too, thank you so much!

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