Kickboxer Ann Mary Philip on finding balance between sport and family
Learning kickboxing was the furthest thing on Ann Mary Philip’s mind when she enrolled her son, Chris Jubin, for lessons in 2018. She and her husband, Jubin Peter, wanted their son to learn a contact sport. “We were impressed by a demonstration fight by the Kerala Kickboxing Association,” says Ann.
Cut to February 2020, the 35 year-old has won two gold medals — Light Contact Senior Female (under 60 kg) and Kick Light Senior Female (under 60 kg) — at the Wako Indian Open International Kickboxing Championship, held in Delhi this month. And nine-year-old Chris won a bronze medal in Point Fighting, in the children’s category.
Ann initially took Chris, a student of Class IV, at Rajagiri Public School in Kalamasserry, to Jzals Dance and Fitness Studio in Kakkanad, before moving to SpaRing on Chittoor Road, run by the Kerala Kickboxing Association, in the YMCA building. It is here, as she waited for her son’s classes to finish, she got interested in the sport.
“The more I practised the more interested I got. It is not monotonous: routines are different. I was pushed to do more by the coach, Kiran VS” she says. Seeing her enthusiasm, and stamina, Kiran asked her if she wanted to compete. The Kickboxing Association’s championship competition was to be held in June 2019 in Kottayam.
Though she had only been training for four months by then, she was game for a challenge. Her schedule got intense: she began training for close to seven hours a day. As a result, she won a gold medal in her category in Kottayam.
Buoyed by the win, she began preparing for the Wako Indian Open International Kickboxing Championship in Delhi, which draws competitors from six-seven countries such as Kirgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Iran and Nepal. Since there are few women training competitively in Kochi, Ann spars with male boxers for practice. “Some of these are veterans of national and international championships, I get to match my power with theirs,” she says. Her schedule is spread across the day — three hours in the morning and the rest in the evening, when Ann takes Chris for his training after school.
Age is a factor in sport, especially contact sport, but Ann is not deterred by the fact that she has started relatively late. “There is no age limit to kickbox: there are 55 year-olds who practise it for fitness. Age accompanies maturity with which comes inner strength. The knowledge that you can do something; that is motivation enough,” she says.
From the ring
- Kiran is secretary of the Ernakulam branch of Kerala Kickboxing Association. He has been a kickboxer for 12 years. He says the age limit for kickboxing competitively is 40. There is a veteran’s category for those between 40-55 years. Kiran took a team of seven for the Wako Indian Open International Kickboxing Championship this year and returned with eight medals. He says that the composition of the teams from other parts of the country is 50-50, when it comes to men and women. “Teams from the south, especially Kerala have barely one or two women if at all there are any. This year Ann was the only woman.”
She credits Kiran for her achievements, “How a coach pushes one to do better, to try harder is very important. Kiran sir constantly pushed me.” He in turn says that being a coach on the national kickboxing team for eight years helped him recognise Ann’s potential. “I could see that she had it in her. She has the attitude and the commitment. She constantly pushes herself…if she is asked to do 10 push-ups, she will do it irrespective of how tired she is,” he says proudly, adding that she competed with a six time national champion in one of the rounds and came out winner.
An engineering graduate, Ann did an MBA after her son was born, which was not easy with a baby. Post-competition, she still trains for a couple of hours everyday with Chris, when she takes him for his classes in the evening. She adds that her husband is a constant source of support. Balancing home and her training schedule was a challenge. “But we, my family and I, worked it out,” she says. She signs off by adding why she keeps going, “I want to set an example for my son and inspire him.”
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