Frances Watthanaya is a modern day saint. Realising her mission and her body of work with the at-risk youth of Isaan in North-East Thailand confirms there is no other way to describe her that could possibly be more fitting. She packed up her bags, left home and headed to Thailand to pursue a career in fighting at the tender age of just 19. Since finishing her degree and relocating from Canada to Thailand to take up the sponsorship offer provided to her by a prominent gym in Northern Thailand, Frances has found a husband who she has a daughter with and built her own gym to aid and support the kids of Isaan. She sits down with Whitney Tuna to share her inspiring journey on episode 10 of A Champion’s Mind.
Isaan is the largest area of Thailand and makes up a third of the countries population of 67 million. Covering an area of around 160,000kms, Isaan is also considered to be Thailand’s poorest region which provides very little opportunity for the children of the area. This often leads to drug and alcohol abuse for the kids and after visiting the area, Frances knew a change was needed. Frances and her husband, Boom, built their own not-for-profit gym in Isaan called Wor. Watthana Muay Thai Gym to give the youth a focus and a way to begin to change and improve their lives. They began to train the kids every day and offer to work as promoters for them whilst building a structure for them to save money and help build the community around them. Frances is so passionate about building the community that she also teaches in school and is the parent/guardian for each child she trains in Wor. Watthana. The work Frances does takes up every day of the week for her and amazingly she does all of this whilst still managing to train and compete herself.
Frances talks to Whitney about the quality of life and the overall experience of living in Isaan and it’s not for the feint hearted. She continues to describe the many battles she has had with herself over the years of living there and developing the ways in which she tries to improve the quality of life for the community. There have been many times she has questioned whether what she is doing is working, but the stories she shares that have confirmed the positive adjustments are unbelievably powerful. From getting fighters on shows that are shown all over the world to stopping young kids from fighting every day in school and focussing on improving their grades, Frances has had a huge impact on the kids of Isaan.
Frances is an incredibly hard working and caring individual and the best possible mentor for the youth she supports. Her journey in life so far is full of fascinatingly strong-willed decisions which have seen her follow a tough path and come out the other end shining. Perhaps the most incredible part of what she does in the region of Isaan is how focussed she is on ensuring that the benefits of the work she does stay in the community. Her largest focus is that the kids who learn the sharpest way to create some success do not use the powerful tools they have acquired to leave and never come back. Frances and her husband put all of their efforts in to seeing Isaan improve as a destination and hopefully the community can work it’s way out of extreme poverty and provide everyone with better living circumstances in the near future.
The findings of the research conducted on the Brain over the last 25 years has been one of the most exciting frontiers that we as a human race have discovered. The Brain is the control centre of our body and for most of our existence, we have believed it is a tool that we have very little control over. Elaine Corcoran is one of the worlds leading experts in the studies of brain behaviour and she sits down with Whitney Tuna for episode 9 of A Champion’s Mind to explain just how much you can tweak your brain to work to your advantage.
Elaine came to Australia in 2011 and she is the clinical director and founder of Brain Training Australia. She was inspired to devote her life to studying the brain after a skiing accident in her mid 20’s which resulted in a fractured skull. After the accident, Elaine was experiencing aggressive seizures everyday. She was advised it was highly unlikely that she would be able to have children or be without a carer 24 hours a day and she would need to remain on medication for the rest of her days. Luckily, Elaine was highly motivated to change her fate and she found a neurologist who was able to change her brain through neurofeedback brain training. She is currently medication free and has been for many years and she is also a mother to a young boy. Elaine is incredibly driven to share her findings and help everyone in understanding the brain and how to train it to be big your big asset no matter what lies in front of you.
Perhaps the most fascinating point of Elaine’s discussion with Whitney is when she addresses the impact that chemical release in your brain has on your physical state. Diving deeper, she advises that whilst the chemical are most definitely being released, the brain is not intelligent enough to define whether you are exercising or being chased by a wild animal. As the groundbreaking discussion continues, Elaine describes how self-esteem far outweighs confidence. Simply because one is real and cannot be avoided whereas the other is not and can be imitated. This leads her to explain just how powerful a deep-rooted belief can be and what it can help you achieve.
The episode of A Champion’s Mind with Elaine is interesting enough simply for her story. But as she explains how the brain operates, the ways in which you can change it and the methods of how you can train it, the information is unbelievably powerful. Make sure you save this episode as you will want to return to it and try some of her techniques in the future and they are techniques you will not want to forget. Subscribe to the podcast, there are many more guests like Elaine to come. Give her methods a try and let us know how they work for you!
Sylvie von Duuglas-Ittu has trained in Thailand and competed over 250 times. When she began training and learning the art of Muay Thai, she admits that she never had any intent to compete. Since beginning training with the legendary Master K in his basement in her hometown of New Jersey, Sylvie has documented every step she has taken in Muay Thai through her own website, 8 Limbs. 12 years and 250 fights later, Sylvie’s journey is an absolutely fascinating one and her goals are big enough to scare anyone. She sits down with Whitney Tuna for episode 8 of A Champion’s Mind.
Training with Master K was an incredible starting point for Sylvie. But in 2010, he suffered a serious health scare and Sylvie decided to honour what he had already shown her and inspired her with by pursuing a career of competing in Muay Thai in the motherland of Thailand. The decision to move to Thailand was heavily influenced by a previous visit to test the waters and Sylvie says once she experienced the training, the food and the people, she knew that she had to live there. It was around that time that she started to document her journey through her website which was funded generously by people who believed in the same path and wanted to follow her on the journey.
The move to Thailand was planned to last for 6 months but so far it has continued on for 8 years with Sylvie still residing there today. After amassing an incredible 80 bouts in her first two years of living and training out of Lanna Muay Thai in Chiang Mai, Sylvie and her husband decided to pack up and head to Pattaya and train at Petchrungruang. A move Sylvie says had a massively positive impact on her Muay Thai career. Whilst her career blossomed, so did her ability to document it. Sylvie was presented with the Awakening Journalist of the Year and the Awakening Fighter of the Year awards. Documenting her training sessions with the legends of Muay Thai in Thailand as well as sharing who they are as people has given Sylvie worldwide notoriety.
Sylvie currently holds the record for the most amount of bouts in Thailand by a westerner. With 250 in the bank already, its impressive to hear she aims to surpass Len Wickwar’s record of 471 bouts before she retires which confirms she has no intention of slowing down anytime soon. So much so, she has a trajectory of fights planned out for the public to see on her website which sees her surpass the record in September of 2028. Sylvie has an incredible journey that she shares with Whitney on the podcast and her idea of what it takes to be a true champion is incredibly inspiring and very well thought out.
Yolanda Schmidt has an endless list of achievements in her fascinating career. Stepping into the ring more than 40 times has gathered an incredible amount of respect for Yolanda within the Muay Thai community. But it is safe to say that it has not been the smoothest ride. From broken bones to collecting belts, Yolanda sits down with Whitney Tuna for episode 7 of A Champion’s Mind to talk about the trials and tribulations of her illustrious career thus far.
Yolanda has experience in many different sports throughout her life. She explains to Whitney she has always attacked everything she has been willing to give her time to with all she has to offer. Winning her first 10 competitive bouts is evidence of her work ethic but she explains her first loss was a learning curve that impacted her so heavily she would never forget it. Upon reflection, she explains the feeling of letting her peers down was hard to take but as time progressed she realised that the disappointment she was feeling was purely within and was not a feeling her family and friends shared. Yolanda continues to explain that learning to balance between feeling as though she had disappointed herself to taking a loss an opportunity to learn has helped her greatly throughout her career.
As the life Yolanda lives begins to unravel throughout the podcast, it becomes clear that her work ethic is simply astounding. Her fight career has been plagued with injuries. She mentions that there has been times in a fight camp when she has had an injury to her left arm that would justify refusing to compete. But instead, she takes the opportunity to work on her techniques that do not involve her injury. Such a positive mindset has helped her work through losses, avoid the negativity that might be directed at her through social media and continue to inspire the youth in her job of Health and Physical Education.
Yolanda has a fascinating career with many decals to support her abilities. Perhaps the most fascinating factor of her career is the amount of setbacks she has worked through in order to achieve what she has achieved. The most important message Yolanda delivers is definitely supported by the fact that she won a gold medal for Australia with a torn hamstring that occurred in round 1. If you want something bad enough, you will find a way. Have a listen to how Yolanda has always found a way.
Episode No. 6 of the podcast, A Champion’s Mind, sees Whitney Tuna sit down with Australian Champion Boxer, Jason Mallia. Starting Boxing at a young age, Jason recalls his biggest influence in the ring to be his Dad considering he was responsible for introducing him to the sport at a very young age. A mere 25 years in to his life, Jason has already won an incredible 5 Australian Championships and 9 State Championships. This has helped his dream of making it to the Tokyo Olympics in 2020 a very real reality. Perhaps most fascinating of all, he has managed to continuously achieve and grow in his career whilst managing the world class facility, Crew, in his hometown of Melbourne on the east coast of Australia.
Recalling his youth, Jason describes how he developed a strong work ethic from a very young age through his upbringing. He says his father would regularly explain to him that he had a responsibility to those around him to deliver his absolute best at all times in all aspects of his life. He explains such a strong message has helped him a lot throughout his career in and out of the ring. The reality is that, if you want something, you have to be willing to work for it. He mentions this particular realisation would serve him well when he would be in the pits of a stressful day that would often lead to a lack of motivation. Reflecting as honestly as possible, Jason mentions this mindset has been pivotal for his progression in many ways.
Touching on the fact that 25 is a young age to be the owner of a gym, Jason explains he could not have it any other way. In the very early days of his career, he explains he would feel very conflicted working as a personal trainer in rented spaces as he was rarely allowed to operate in the manner that he believed was in the best interest for him and his clients. Even though he was quite young, to Jason it appeared the obvious move was to open his own facility and use his experience to develop a strong and successful product. Whilst he openly admits there are a lot of struggles that came along with it, he likens it to any difficulty you face in life. He advises strongly that you should learn from every experience. He explains that all your experience builds your character and quite often the biggest change or positive adjustment to your character occurs in your most difficult times.
With a storied career already, Jason paints the picture for his future goals. Interestingly enough, as a competitor, his focus is set heavily on an appearance at the Tokyo Olympics. It is fascinating to hear that he has a sole focus given his position would likely offer many doors for him to walk through. As the conversation progresses, it becomes quite apparent that Jason is very experienced in putting his focus in the right place. His career is illustrious and young, his business is thriving and young. Jason is an incredibly exciting human being to watch and his future is undoubtedly going to be beautiful to watch unravel. Listen to one of the industries most exciting and passionate leaders share his mindset and his journey with a likeminded individual.