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110th Member 'Strikes' to the Top

Tech. Sgt. Destiny Taylor, 110th Attack Wing Comptroller Flight claimed victory in her third Muay Thai full contact fight, Saturday, March 7, 2015, Wings Stadium, Kalamazoo Mich. Sgt Taylor has been practicing Muay Thai for two years. (Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Timothy Diephouse/Released)

Tech. Sgt. Destiny Taylor, 110th Attack Wing Comptroller Flight claimed victory in her third Muay Thai full contact fight, Saturday, March 7, 2015, Wings Stadium, Kalamazoo Mich. Sgt Taylor has been practicing Muay Thai for two years. (Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Timothy Diephouse/Released)

Tech. Sgt. Destiny Taylor, 110th Attack Wing Comptroller Flight claimed victory in her third Muay Thai full contact fight, Saturday, March 7, 2015, Wings Stadium, Kalamazoo Mich. Sgt Taylor has been practicing Muay Thai for two years. (Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Timothy Diephouse/Released)

Tech. Sgt. Destiny Taylor, 110th Attack Wing Comptroller Flight claimed victory in her third Muay Thai full contact fight, Saturday, March 7, 2015, Wings Stadium, Kalamazoo Mich. Sgt Taylor has been practicing Muay Thai for two years. (Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Timothy Diephouse/Released)

Tech. Sgt. Destiny Taylor, 110th Attack Wing Comptroller Flight claimed victory in her third Muay Thai full contact fight, Saturday, March 7, 2015, Wings Stadium, Kalamazoo Mich. Sgt Taylor has been practicing Muay Thai for two years. (Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Timothy Diephouse/Released)

Tech. Sgt. Destiny Taylor, 110th Attack Wing Comptroller Flight claimed victory in her third Muay Thai full contact fight, Saturday, March 7, 2015, Wings Stadium, Kalamazoo Mich. Sgt Taylor has been practicing Muay Thai for two years. (Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Timothy Diephouse/Released)

August 1, 2015 -- Recently, members of the 110th Attack Wing in Battle Creek Michigan traveled to Wings Stadium in Kalamazoo, Mich. to watch a full contact Muay Thai boxing event with a line-up of twelve different contests.  One person in the bout was Tech. Sgt. Destiny Taylor a member of the 110th Attack Wing.

Tech. Sgt. Destiny Taylor has been a member of the Battle Creek Air National Guard since September 2004.  She works in the Accounting Section of the base Comptroller Flight, and is a wife and mother of four.  Taylor became interested in Muay Thai boxing while watching her husband, Tech. Sgt. Ruel Taylor, and her nine year old son, Jaden, as they both competed.

"The excitement I got just from watching them, and seeing their love of it made me want to start training."  Taylor said.  "It was one of the best decisions I've ever made."  She soon joined the Alliance AZO Martial Arts Training Center in Kalamazoo and became a member of the Team Toro fighting team and began training five days a week.

Muay Thai is a combat sport of Thailand and uses stand-up striking along with various clinching techniques.  It is known as the "Art of the Eight Limbs", because it is characterized by the combined use of fists, elbows, knees, and shins, and traces its history back to the middle of the 16th century.

Ceremony and ritual are hallmarks of Muay Thai boxing.  Upon entering the ring the fighter will first "seal" the ring to block out any outside negative forces before commencing with a ritual dance.  To do this the fighter will circle the ring counterclockwise and pray for a short time in each corner.  While transitioning from corners, the right hand always remains in contact with the rope with the left hand raised to the fighter's face. Once the ring is sealed, the dance begins.  For Westerners, this may seem strange or tedious, but this dance has deep meaning to Muay Thai practitioners.  It's called the wai kru ram muay, and is generally referred to as the wai kru.  The wai kru is performed by fighters in order to pay homage to their teachers and family and to bless them with victory in the ring.  Each fighter's wai kru is unique to their training camp and has been passed to them by their teachers, or kru.  Over time, fighters will slightly modify their wai kru by incorporating different techniques in order to personalize the ritual.  The wai kru is sacred to the Thai culture and should not be taken lightly.  Performing a poor wai kru can be seen as an insult to your teachers and cause an individual to lose face in the eyes of his or her coach and classmates.

Fighters oftentimes wear a ceremonial headdress into the ring called a Mongkon.  Traditionally, a teacher will present a Mongkon to a fighter once he feels that the fighter has trained hard and is ready to represent the gyms name in the ring.  Tech. Sgt. Taylor describes it like this, "The Mongkon is worn out of loyalty, respect to the gym, kru, and the martial art as a whole.  It is worn to show when you fight that it's not all about you, it's about the people around you that helped you along your journey."  The headband is traditionally not to be touched by the fighter, and handled only by the coach.  It is also not allowed to come near or touch the ground, as it is believed doing so will cause it to lose its blessing.  Contrary to popular belief, the coloring or make-up of the Mongkon in no way represents the ranking of the fighter.

Armbands may also be worn.  The armbands are called Prajioud, and were traditionally made from a torn piece of a mother's dress.  They were then given to the fighters and tied to each arm for good luck and protection in the ring.  Unlike the headdress, the armbands may stay on the fighter during the fight.

As her bout begins, the attending members of the 110th are on their feet cheering loudly for Tech. Sgt. Taylor.  I asked her after the bout if she heard them or anything during the fight.  "There are times during the fight when everything goes quiet around you except for your heart pounding and your opponent's breathing.  Then, at other times, you hear everything; your teammates yelling, your kru, and the crowd."

The fight consists of three two minute rounds with a one minute rest period in between each round.  In this particular fight, both boxers were landing good shots and it was difficult, especially for the untrained eye to determine who was getting the better of the exchanges.

When asked if getting hit hurts, Tech. Sgt. Taylor offered this, "There is definitely a feeling of relief after that first hit.  That is when you officially know what you're up against and how you plan to handle the rest of the fight."

After three rounds of intense action, the judges gave their verdict.  The fight was scored a draw.  One more round would be needed to determine a winner.  During the fourth and deciding round, Tech. Sgt. Taylor left no doubt as to whom the winner of this bout would be.  Instead of showing signs of fatigue, she seemed to gain strength and speed and delivered numerous solid blows to her opponent.  When the judges' decision came in, Tech. Sgt. Taylor's arms were raised in victory.

Tech. Sgt. Taylor also credits Muay Thai with helping in her Air Force career.  "It has boosted my self confidence and my drive to excel and succeed."  She then added, "It's also made the PT test a breeze."

Tech. Sgt. Taylor hopes to one day travel to Thailand and experience training and fighting in the traditional Muay Thai ways.  Until then, she continues to train and fight when she can.  Her next bout takes place over the September drill at a "Support the Troops" event in Lansing.  She says she would love to, "fill the venue with my military/guard family."

A final note.  At the writing of this article, Tech. Sgt. Taylor and her husband traveled to Iowa to take part in the Muay Thai Classic in Des Moines.  They both finished the tournament undefeated, making Tech. Sgt Destiny Taylor the 2015 National Flyweight Champion, and her husband Tech. Sgt. Ruel Taylor, the 2015 National Cruiserweight Champion.