Photo by Greg Scaffidi

Meet Gianna Smalls of Five Points Academy in New York city. Gianna trains Muay Thai and Brazilian jiu jitsu. She is a fighter and one of the owners of Infightstyle brand.

By Oxana Klokovskaya

How she got into Muay Thai

When I moved to New York I was partying a lot, enjoying the city and then somebody brought up that they wanted to take a Muay Thai class. At that time a lot of gyms would offer a free trail so I did a free trial at every gym I could find, Five Points Academy was  the last gym I took a class at. I was just hooked right away. It was super expensive to get a membership. At that time I was broke so I put it on my credit card and I didn’t know how long I would be able to afford it for. I decided I would start with three months training three hours a day every day and nine months later I was on the ring. From my first class I knew I wanted to fight.

How she trains 

For the most part my training schedule is the same whether I’m getting ready for a fight or not, it’s just the intensity of it that changes. Three times a week I train twice a day. A lot of times in the morning I weight lift or do basic gymnastics to help me with balance and strength. If I have a fight or a bjj competition I would either do Muay Thai or bjj or boxing and then I eat, take a nap and then I train again at night time. I make sure I take one day off during the week.

The benefits that training Muay Thai may offer women

At Five Points we have a lot of women fighters. We get treated the same here, if you ask my coach he would actually tell you he prefers to train women.

The only experience I got of not being treated the same was in Thailand. The first gym that I went to in Thailand I had to go to the ring under the ropes. There was a gym where I couldn’t even get in the ring, I couldn’t touch the ring, [because in Thailand] it was bad luck. For the most part I got good experience, trainers didn’t treat me differently because I was a girl. This sport is growing, and the more it grows, the more opportunities we get and the less barriers there are for women.

Muay Thai works your full body: legs, abs, arms. It’s a stress relief.

As a woman, you want to learn how to defend yourself if anything happens. You feel empowered. I feel like a bad ass. If somebody would ever try to come at me at least I could tip and run.

About her trip to a Muay Thai championship in Minsk, Belarus

Some time ago I went to a world championship of Muay Thai in Minsk. It’s sort of Muay Thai Olympics. There were teams from all over the world, definitely more men than women but I saw quite a few women still. They were the best fighters from each country. I was really happy I got to experience that.

I’m going to Pan American championship in Mexico City, October 4-8. I am really excited because one of my teammates, got picked to be on the team as well, so I get to go with my friend, and my coach will go too.

About her hairstyle

I wanted to cut my hair like this before I started fighting. Actually, I had a bad breakup and I needed a change so I decided to just shave all my hair off and I liked it. It’s been like this over 4 years now, I let my barber do whatever he wants and he’s done over 100 different cuts on my hair. It’s easier for training purposes too, no one can pull on my hair when I crunch.

Why no one should be afraid to try Muay Thai

Nobody comes to their first class and starts sparring. When I invite my friends to come train they think they will come and I will beat them up. When you first start, you learn the basic movements and you start on the pads or the bag, you are not going to take your first class and be thrown into fighter training, you have to develop the basics.

About Muay Thai scene in the United States

Muay Thai in the US is concentrated in certain areas, you have a lot of Muay Thai in the North-East but then you also have a lot of Muay Thai in California, Arizona and Texas but it’s really spread out. The more the sport grows the more east coast will get to fight against west coast and it’ll get more interesting, there will be more opportunities.