Interview with Victoria Nansen
Victoria Nansen, lovingly called Tori by her many friends, is a fighter, a trainer and co-manager of the highly respected SMAC Gym in South Auckland. She is known and valued by many in the fighting scene, which has resulted in her recent nomination as the NZ WMC President (being part of the leading sanction for Thai Boxing globally).
Along with moving her gym to their new premises in Manurewa (14 Holmes St), Victoria is training her fighters, and herself; living for the gym, her family and the sport of Thai Boxing (MuayThai).
We caught up with Tori to find out how life is treating her and to see what's going on in and out of the ring.
NZF: Victoria tell us a little bit about yourself before MuayThai?
VN: I started Kung Fu and WuShu when I was 9 years old. I entered my first full contact competition when I was around 9 or 10 years old, and I always wanted to fight especially once I started Martial Arts. That's why dad put me in to it. I came from a family of boxers so I always wanted to be a boxer. That changed when Thai Boxing started to become more main stream and so that's when I wanted to evolve into Thai Boxing. I was 16 at that time and had my first Thai Boxing fight when I was 20.
I grew up in Ponsonby, Auckland before my parents moved out to the Southside. I went to St Mary's College and went to University all while this was happening. I've always been into Martial Arts. I have never done any other sport. I've always wanted to be a fighter and will probably continue to fight until I'm told not to or my body tells me not to (Laughing).
NZF: When was your first fight & what was it like getting into the ring for the first time?
VN: My 1st fight was 13 years ago; a padded kickboxing fight. I remember like it was yesterday saying to Ray in the 3rd round "do I have to go back in" I was so tired. Hehe Having practiced Martial Arts, it was a little easier than for most people. It's still nerve racking as you still have hundreds of people looking at you. But when you love something and it is something that you have always wanted to do, it's not so hard. I wasn't just trying it out, I was doing something that I was destined to do. The training is the hardest, the fun part is the fighting.
NZF: So what drew you to Martial Arts?
VN: When I was 5 dad said that he notices quite aggressive traits in my personality. Apparently I chased after a 5 year old boy with a plastic knife as he stole my bike. So he said to himself that he was going to put me into Kung Fu for some discipline. Once I started Kung Fu, I knew that I wanted to fight. I promised myself that once I got my black Belt I was out of here and would then only fight in the ring, and that's what I did. I trained at Balmoral Lee Gar on and off for a couple of years, I spent time on a 1 on 1 level with my cousin Ray as well and I will always owe it to him for introducing Muay Thai to me.
NZF: So at the moment what is your current record and titles?
VN: Former titles: I've had around 6 - 7 full Martial Art contact titles that I never mention now. I've have probably about 50 - 60 Martial Art Fights. I've had 7 Muay Thai fights. It would be fair to say I'm top ranked in my weight division but have no opponents to fight for a title. I'm a heavyweight girl so I fight from 76kgs onwards and there are very few women who want to get to that level at that weight.
NZF: What you do for a job and how do you keep balance between work and being a fighter?
VN: I'm an account manager for a commercial printing company and am also a manager, trainer and fighter at SMAC Gym. Something has to give. I suppose that would be my sleep! The only way for me to get my balance is for me to alienate myself from other things that I can't do. I can't go to the movies, I don't have much of an outside social life. Fighting is a lifestyle and being involved in a gym is a lifestyle. My friends are all fighters, my network and my social group are all fighters or family and it does help that all my family fight. That's all I work for. I work from 9 - 5 and from 5 - 10 I work for my gym and I love it! SMAC gym is my life and in the perfect world I would only be working for them. The only other thing that I do is get for balance Godmum time with my brother Antz Notorious' son. When I need the soft-touch I always go to him. That's my only balance outside of my ring and training life.
NZF: What would a typical fight training day look like for you?
VN: Four weeks out I am always running. Diet is really important for me because I love my food, especially junk food. So 4-5 weeks out I start to become hard on myself. I do my running in the morning to keep my weight down and train 2 - 3 hours at night. Pad work is really important for me. All trainers are different, but for me I have to have hard pad work at night and sparring which can be every second night with Fridays being all night quite heavy sparring. Then 2 weeks out the intensity picks up and I start running faster and at night we limit the sparring and do a lot of skill work and pad work.
Fitness is key for me. I have all the other traits that will get me the win in the ring, there's my aggression & experience and all that but if you are not fit, you can't apply those things. You can't mentally tell yourself to work in the ring if you are not fit. So running is a big part of my training (I'm not saying I actually like it! HEHE).
Sparring is also important as you can run every day to Africa, do pad work but if you aren't used to getting hit back then you won't have that ability to handle getting hit in the ring. I'm also a big girl so girls in my weight hit harder and the chances of me getting knocked out on the ring is quite high so I need that conditioning.
NZF: Do you do anything in particular to get your head into the game?
VN: From the moment I get matched, that is when my mental fitness kicks in. I work on my mind so that I have no doubt what-so-ever. When you see me walk into the ring I am dancing. That's because I'm happy. I have done all the hard work. There are crying moments, spewing moments, times when I can't walk and times when I am covered in bruises. But that's when I know in my mind that I am going to win this fight because I am doing the hard yards. Take no short cuts is what my brother and mentor Jason Suttie says to me.
I usually pick my walk out song for my opponent. And I listed to that song every day two weeks before the fight. There is a lot of mental preparation, and I am total believer in God so part of my mental strategy is prayer for my training and always before my fight.
NZF: As a female fighter how do you cope when is that time of the month? Does it affect your fighting and training?
VN: Yes it does affect my training. I get bloated. My eating habits go out the door. I get a bit moody. I never had that problem when I was younger. I could fight when I had my period. Now that I am older its harder. It is all what I see as something that messes with your head. When you have a bad day and you think "I can't be bothered going to training" it is all a mind game. You just have to pick it up, suck it up and just do it. It's all mental. If you are in pain, take panadol. If it's heavy, take the extra precautions and double up and wear black trunks and tights. That's what I do as I will not have it dictate to me that I can't train for a day or two because of my period. There is nothing worse however, than getting it on the week of your fight.
NZF: From the moment you get to the changing rooms to the moment the fight starts, in that window of time do you have a particular routine you follow?
VN: On my way to the fight I play Christian music as it's a soothing mechanism for me. I'm not a churchie but I do believe in God and I know he loves me. I get there and go and mingle and try to relax. I go to the back. Our fighters do nothing, and the trainer does everything on fight day, so all my gear is laid out for me. I listen to my iPod and then start to shadow box after being strapped up. I warm-up on my own and I don't like to be rushed. One fight out from my fight I get on to the pads and that's when I'm ready to go. I think you might've seen my mum as well make her way to the back when all her kids fight. It's routine for her to do a quick prayer for us. A big part of my routine as well lies in the support from of my sister Baby and brother Antz. We feed off each other, we are always in each other's corners and our presence for each others fights is integral.
I shut everything out and only think of me. I won't allow anything to distract me from what my goal is on fight day. From the moment I wake up in the morning I am winning that fight. It is all about me and we are in a selfish sport. You have to think like that or you will always be easily distracted.
NZF: Do you find it difficult being a female in such a male-dominated sport? Do you feel you get treated equally in the training and the ring?
VN: Now that it’s 2010, I do believe that Thai Boxing is non discriminative to females. Buy when I was growing up yes. It’s not a sport that is designed for girls. We have evolved it so that both genders can do it. We do get treated fairly now. If it was back in that day there was no way I wouldbe WMC President, especially being a female trainer from a third generation. We have greats like Lolo Heimuli, Eddy Tongalahi, John the Rebel, Jason Suttie, Aaron Boyes (just to name a few) who are all trainers that are a generation or two before me. They too deserve to look after the WMC more than me. But now I think the sport has grown to accept, and we have now got wicked female fighters like Michelle Preston & (must mention my sister) Baby the Pitbull that have put this sport on the map for females. I think for that people are starting to change their view on female fighters and trainers.
We had a world champion as well, Julie Wood who was from SMAC. But she was the only one around. Now we can go to each gym and pick out 4 or 5 good female fighters, whereas before they may only have had one. There was Julie from SMAC, Michelle/Karen from ETK, Sandy from Lee Gar, Sue from down the line and a couple of others from around the country. Now we could do a whole night of female fighters, and it’s a great night.
NZF: Any aspirations or plans for the future?
VN: I would like to train a world champion. I'd like to see my sister be a world champion. Furthermore see my gym grow into an internationally recognised fight and fitness organisation. Also being in the WMC, I would like to see more New Zealanders on the international stage. We deserve it, as we have good fighters. I'd like to see a New Zealander on the Contender series and on Fox Tel. Also to break this rumour that NZ fighters are not as good as Australian fighters. I've been over myself and seen our fighters carve up. We have some great fighters coming up to that level. Not just my gym but all gyms. Especially those fighters that want to. There is a difference as some of us fighters just want to stay in NZ, but for the ones that want to prove themselves on an international level, I'd like to see us get them there.
NZF: Any advice for the youth or those wishing to get into the ring?
VN: I have a saying "Cry in the DoJo; Laugh in the battlefield" because I truly believe that all you blood, sweat and tears in the gym is where you will win your fight. So that's where I like to see young people train hard and enjoy their fight. Just keep going really, the more you sweat the less you bleed! It is fun in there, truly enjoy the experience. If you're getting in there for the 1st time - win in your mind and in your heart and your body will follow.
If you are truly passionate about something then you will work hard for it and you will see your rewards. I am only happy, no matter whose gym it is, to help out, or do what I can to get these young ones to grow. I want to see the next level of Ray's, Eddy's and Jason's. I want to see them reincarnate in our young ones.
NZF: Thanks Victoria it was brilliant talking with you.
VN: Thank you Arash. I enjoyed the interview and even more so support this great venture you have going to further promote kiwi fighters here and abroad!