Kingston’s Kayla Taylor to represent Canada at 2024 Muay Thai World Games

Kayla Taylor receiving her bronze medal at the 2023 IFMA World Games in Thailand. Photo via Kayla Taylor.

The combat martial art Muay Thai is relatively new to Canada, but has a steadily growing community of passionate fighters. Kingston’s Kayla Taylor is one such fighter who has been chosen to represent Canada at the 2024 Muay Thai IFMA (International Federation of Muaythai Associations) World Games. The competition is taking place in Patras, Greece, from Friday, May 31 to Monday, Jun. 10, 2024. Taylor fought in the 2023 World Games in Bangkok, Thailand, and earned a bronze medal. This year, she’s going for the gold.

When Taylor was 15, she started karate and slowly transitioned to kickboxing. In 2018, she moved to Petawawa with her family, as her husband is in the military. It was then she discovered Muay Thai. There are only a few differences between kickboxing and Muay Thai. Muay Thai is called the art of eight limbs, for the use of knees, shins, fists, and elbows.

“What I love so much about [Muay Thai] is the respect culture, the deep history of it,” explains Taylor. “When I’m training, my coach always says ‘Muay Thai is pain’… that speaks to my soul. I love to be pushed to that spot where I feel like I can’t go anymore, and then I do, and I see the growth from that.”

Muay Thai is a full-contact martial art. Taylor enjoys being the kind of power fighter that Muay Thai allows for, and is working on her technical skills.

A military move brought Taylor and her family to Kingston in July of 2023. She discovered Savage, a Muay Thai gym, and met her current trainer, Mark Cleary, who will be accompanying Taylor to the World Games in Greece.

“Mark is this deep well of knowledge. He’s trained Muay Thai for around 40 years. He’s lived in Thailand, trained with Muay Thai superstars, and he’s exceptionally knowledgeable and gifted. Technique is not my natural skill set. He’s been teaching me a lot of that and really building up my weaker areas, and making me stronger,” Taylor expresses. “He knows how to push. He knows when to push. He knows when to sit back. It’s been really, really great working with him.”

The Muay Thai community in Kingston is small, partially due to Kingston’s constantly changing population of students and military families, but Savage has been building up their team, and has a good group of fighters. As Taylor has been training for the 2024 World Games, it has been difficult to find opponents. Taylor and Cleary used this opportunity to strip back and hone in on techniques that need to be worked on.

“I’ve been putting in a lot of time building up my fight IQ. I’ve been watching a lot more footage, like different professionals who have mastered certain skills, watching how they do it, how they teach it,” Taylor explains. “I’ve been working on my strength, endurance, and technique… we’ve just been going fight to fight and haven’t had the time to work on them. So while I was a bit discouraged to not get to fight, it’s actually been a good thing to foundationally build me up again.”

Kayla Taylor training with coach Mark Cleary at Savage Muay Thai gym in Kingston. Photo via Kayla Taylor.

The World Games are athlete funded, and Taylor has started a GoFundMe to cover competition, travel, and accommodation expenses for herself and her trainer.

“We’re hoping to reach out to the community see if people are able to support us, help us get there… I guess in a way, join our team to help us represent Kingston and Canada,” Taylor expresses.

Throughout Taylor’s Muay Thai journey, she has been working on how to have a positive family-training balance.

“My kids and my husband have been a huge part of my support system… I’ve just discovered everything has to be intentional,” she says.

“I’ve got to be intentional with my training in the evenings with my coach… because I’m going home to see my kids at this time. Then also intentional on the other side with the kids… Life coaches all around the world say just be intentional with how you live. It’s a real thing that I’ve been discovering, and that helps to make it possible with the family-training balance.”

The upcoming World Games is just part of Taylor’s Muay Thai career. She is the current Muay Thai Canadian Champion, and she will be defending her title this coming July in Oakville. Her goal is to go pro, as she’s still fighting at the amateur level, but she says she’ll “see where that goes and where the Muay Thai road takes me.”

It’s clear that no matter where life takes her, Taylor will continue to be a fighter.

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