A Story Of Two Halves

“I’m not one of each, I’m a bit of everything.” Muay Thai champion Annabelle Gely on identity, motherhood and seeking joy above all else

By Tahmina Begum

Before I spoke to Annabelle Gely, there was one thing I didn’t account for: her French disposition for enjoyment. When researching the doubly-revered European Muay Thai Champion and former Golden British Muay Thai champion, I discovered that the now retired athlete and Operation’s Director at Eight Club London had been designing a martial arts themed gym as well as raising her eight-year-old son. I naively expected our conversation to be based on juggling the different gloves Annabelle dons; that archaic question on how she balances it all as a woman and a mother. But the real message I was left with was: if you don’t enjoy something, even if you’re training for the Olympics, then what was the point of doing it at all?

“First and foremost: just have fun,” is the simple answer Annabelle gives when I ask her what advice she has for women, of any age and background, that want to do martial arts. “It’s the same thing I say to my son, who does lots of different sports, the main thing is to enjoy what you do. I think it takes the pressure off.”

Martial arts for Annabelle Gely is the gift that keeps on giving. Photography by Filip Latka.

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