Penzance is a small town located in Cornwall, a county southwest of London.
Upon arriving at the Penzance train station, one can soak in the beautiful scenery of the clear blue water, fresh air and small shops lined up and down historical British roads.
It is also here where you will find Touchgloves Gym—home to 14-time World Muay Thai champion and, in my opinion, the best female ambassador for the sport of Muay Thai, Julie Kitchen, aka The Queen of Muay Thai.
For those who have not followed Julie Kitchen's fighting career, she is the only female fighter to have successfully defended her reign as Muay Thai champion 14 times.
On August 18, at the Pala Casino in San Diego, CA, Julie Kitchen will unleash the power and science of eight limbs against WBC Champion Miriam Nakamoto for the WCK Championship Belt, showing the world why she is the Queen of Muay Thai.
Unlike her opponent Nakamoto, Julie does need to "trash talk." She embraces the spirit of the martial arts, which as legendary Bruce Lee famously stated, "Martial art means honestly expressing yourself."
What makes Julie Kitchen an amazing fighter in and out of the ring is how approachable and kind she is as a human being.
Along with her husband Nathan and their two daughters Allaya and Amber, who are rising champions in their own right, the Kitchen family have created a great opportunity in exposing a small British town to the wonderful art of Muay Thai.
I was fortunate enough to already be in London, helping with the US Olympic Team Committee prepare for the 2012 Olympics. I took the five-hour train ride from London down to Penzance to meet and train with Julie.
Touchgloves Gym is located on the second floor inside Branwell's Mill, which is located literally right next to the Penzance train station.
Upon entering the gym, one feels the presence of a welcoming family. Their gym motto is: "NO ATTITUDE....NO BULLYING....NO INTIMIDATION."
I look around and see Julie's two daughters and other gym members. Then, I spot Julie behind the front desk. She immediately smiles, making me feel right at home. Whether you are a visitor or regular gym member, you will feel honored to be in the presence of such greatness.
Now, don't go on thinking that you will not get top notch training because I stated that the gym has a "family feel" to it. Touchgloves Gym is one of the best Muay Thai gyms one can train at in the United Kingdom.
There are two boxing rings, hanging bags and plenty of various equipment, from Thai pads to a huge tire for strength and conditioning drills.
But most impressive is the collection of Julie's championship belts and photographs hanging throughout the gym.
Not only is she preparing for a major fight in her career and, I believe for the advancement of women in Muay Thai, Julie still teaches class in addition to her rigorous training schedule.
The Kitchen's and I have a lot in common because we all trained in Thailand at the world famous Sasiprapa Muay Thai Gym. It was amazing for me to simply be able to chat with them and felt as if I've known them for ages.
I was even fortunate to do a little bit of sparring with Julie in one of her many daily training sessions. How many could say that they went toe to toe with a 14-time champion? And how many champions in any sport for that fact would even consider working out with an out-of-town visitor?
Julie was kind enough to even offer to show me around her hometown the next time I am back in Penzance.
It is this kind of professionalism, kindness and heart that makes Julie and her family champions not only in the ring and for Muay Thai, but also in life.
This is also why I write various articles in addition to MMA articles. I encourage everyone to explore the world and discover for yourself great role models like Julie Kitchen.
Though my trip to Penzance was short this time around, I had a wonderful time training alongside Julie. I will be back again and again without a shadow of a doubt.
I highly recommend anyone who has never been to Penzance to go and visit Touchgloves Gym. It will be an experience you will never forget.
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