Muay Thai fighter Stephanie Schmale has been cleaning up in the amateur kickboxing ring in Alberta.
The Red Deer resident finished second in her division at the TBA Classic tournament in Des Moines, Iowa in June. She won the Pan American International Kickboxing Championship in her division in October. And on Nov. 17th, she will compete for a North American World Kickboxing Association title in Edmonton.
The 29-year-old started out in karate as a youngster. She later moved on to Muay Thai, a martial art form from Thailand that uses stand-up striking along with different clinching techniques, as she found it to be a better fit.
She fought her first fight at sixteen.
“I train six to seven days a week,” said Schmale, who also works full-time as a special education teacher at Parkland School. “A short training session could be an hour to two hours and the long ones can be upwards of four hours.”
Schmale has seen a lot of recent success. Aside from training hard, usually during the weekdays at night, she said the martial arts world is opening up to women fighters – something she has noticed in the past 10 years.
“When we started out, it was a lot different,” she said. “We got treated a lot differently. You had to work harder to get anywhere. Watching girls come and start now, the culture is so much different.”
She said the amateur circuit for women fighters has grown ‘tremendously’ in Alberta.
“Even in our gym alone, we have quite a few competitive girl fighters, which is awesome,” she said. “So it definitely has grown.”
Will Quijada, co-owner of Absolute Fitness Red Deer, is Schmale’s trainer. He said his gym is unique because there are more women martial arts fighters than men. It has somewhere from six to eight active female fighters compared to four or five male fighters.
“It’s definitely getting easier for females to find fights,” he said. “It’s becoming more common in all combat sports ever since Ronda Rousey started making headlines in the UFC. She opened doors for a lot of female athletes so it’s a little bit more mainstream and you see more often on TV where females are fighting each other.”
“It’s great to see. We started off with maybe one strong female fighter and she motivated and started a lot of the other girls to follow along and come down and start training with her. They saw some success in the sport and how it can carry over in everyday life, good health, good fitness and being able to control their emotions better, all that.”
He said many factors contribute to Schmale’s success. “Her mindset. Her will to train and her will to never give up. That’s what separates her from athletes I have worked with. She’s always looking to improve.”