My name is Kru Jenypher Lanthier. I am the program director and head coach at York Muay Thai. I will start by saying that I never planned or really intended for my life to turn out this way. I am a huge believer in following your passion and that the universe will guide me down the right path.
That is exactly what happened to me. Muay Thai was something I did on the side, after my day job as a Graphic designer. I trained five to six days a week until my hobby turned into a professional fighting career. After seven professional fights the universe knew before I did that my path as a fighter would be eclipsed by my ability to teach Muay thai to others. In my final title fight I broke my leg in the fourth round of the bout. During my recovery I began getting calls to teach at various places such as: York University, Extreme Fitness, Kombat Arts training Academy and Xtreme Couture. I saw this as the universe guiding me towards teaching rather than fighting.
I realized that the highlight of my day was teaching muay thai. Beyond this, working a 9 - 5 then teaching in the evening was leaving me frustrated and exhausted. By 2009 I gained enough steam to open my own school, York Muay Thai, and thus began a new journey with many entrepreneurial and gender challenges. I had chosen to run a business fuelled by passion and love for my once hobby.
Are there many Muay Thai schools run by a woman? Absolutely not. There are husband and wife teams that do it. However, there are probably less than ten women who own a Muay Thai school on their own in the world. Kru Laura Vuculescu of Black Tigers gym, Kru Natalie Fuz of Chok Sabai and Roxy Richardson of Function 5 Fitness are a few that come to mind.
I have encountered plenty of moments where someone made a comment about how a girl could not be the head coach or owner of York Muay Thai. I have heard that my fighters wouldn't win. I have been doubted by male peers even when I have accomplished more than some of them. I have been flat out told by one guy that a woman could not teach a man how to fight and that it was innately a male thing to do and it should be learned through another man. I have had my moments where I thought of giving it all up because I didn't feel good enough to do this job. But there were also many amazing moments when a student grasped a concept, a peer told me I was their inspiration, or a family member told me I saved their child suffering from anxiety or depression.
Though the path is not easy I would be lying if I said I did not find it worth while.
Here are my six rules of thumb that I have learned over the years and would tell any entrepreneur to follow.
1) Stick to your VISION.
To quote the great Canadian rapper Maestro Fresh Wes you must stick to your vision and never lose it. The vision is the day dream you had about your business long before you opened it. There will be times when you may feel that you need to change things up and follow the trends in order to stay relevant. That is a lie. People often panic when business drops and instead of stepping back and revisiting their vision they tend to jump to bandaid fixes. If things change for the worse, step back, look at what is happening and then search for genuine ways to improve it rather than jumping on a bandwagon that everyone else seems to already be doing.
2) KRSONE - Knowledge Reigns Supreme Over Nearly Everyone
Quoting another rapper KRSONE (can you tell I am a hip hop head?) who said that knowledge trumps all. This one hits home to me as a female because in my classes I am not a huge guy with big muscles. I am not a world champion ten times over. I am a small woman of five feet three inches tall. So what I need to do is teach what I know. I must always be willing to learn and grow in order to be able to educate people. People will stop and listen if you know what you are talking about and for me, knowledge has been a huge factor for dispelling the myth that a woman can’t teach a man muay thai.
3) Never forget your WHY
Simon Sinec said it best when he said that people don’t buy what you are selling but why you are selling it. Remember WHY you started your own business and continue to build your business based on your WHY. People buy into the philosophies behind your product rather than the product itself.
4) DUMP the nay sayers
People will always doubt you, be scared for you and try to protect you but all that jazz is nonsense. If you live in a place where fear controls you you will never reach your dreams. Don’t let other people project their fears on to you. Dreams required you to jump. Jumping doesn’t mean you won’t fail, but it doesn’t mean you will either. I encountered a lot of negativity when I first decided to open my school. I don’t blame them, I am a female, opening a Muay Thai School, alone. It was very scary but seven years later I still stand on my two feet and still love what I do. Over the years I learned that with love and support the courage to continue jumping gets stronger and you accomplish more. There is great power in positivity. Keep yourself surrounded by like minded people who support your dreams.
5) Be ready to WORK, a lot
The reality is that no one will give as much of damn about your business than you will. No one. I don’t agree with the idea that owners are ghost individuals that just hire help and then run off to a golf course. You started this business because you loved doing it so why wouldn’t you want to be doing it? You need to be there to ensure that your VISION and WHY are being communicated each day. Guess what? When people call in sick, who covers them? You do. When something bad happens who has to be there first? You do. Your businesses success depends on how well you maintain it. Stay at the grassroots level.
6) Have FUN.
Of course when you turn something you love into your full time career it loses a bit of it’s charm. That is normal. Wouldn’t we all love to sit on a beach forever and do nothing but sip margaritas and eat chocolate? Doing what you love full time does not mean it will always be fun but it should still be fun a lot of the time. You need to enjoy your passion in order for you to continually have the desire to improve and grow.
Kru Yai (Coach) Jenypher Lanthier began training boxing, and other forms of martial arts at a young age. She fell in love with Muay Thai when she trained at Siam #1 with Ajahn Suchart. She fought professionally and in 2005 earned the IKKC Professional Womens Flyweight Championship. She is the owner and program director at York Muay Thai; her gym that she has built from the ground up. Her mission to help develop as many students as possible and support and help grow muay thai in Ontario and Canada. She is the president of MTO (Muay Thai Ontario).