After breaking her leg for the second time, Casey Lynn found her calling.

To say it has been a long journey is somewhat of an understatement when talking about the single mother of two. Casey’s pilgrimage into Muay Thai was the first of many steps that would get her to where she is.

Casey is a survivor of domestic violence. She first took up the art of eight limbs to build back her trust in men. For Casey, self defence has never been the answer.

“There is always going to be someone bigger and stronger than you, that’s what Muay Thai taught me. It taught me it’s ok not to fight back.”

Through Muay Thai, Casey developed unique relationships with her male peers. Sharing her story at the gym, she was pleasantly surprised when her male counterparts started reaching out to her, wanting to help, or offering their support.

Casey broke her leg for the first time while playing football last year in July; a sport she has been competing in since age three. It took a lot out of her, like a betrayal of some kind. Typical Casey— she defied the odds and the break healed in just 10 weeks. Then, just six months later, she jumped back into the ring for her sixteenth fight.

It was a routine move, something she had practiced hundreds of times in the gym. Casey threw a kick and her opponent went to block, that’s when it happened. She heard the break, but tried to keep fighting. Fortunately for her, her corner threw in the towel. It was the right thing to do.

“My eldest daughter was there each time. She saw me break my leg twice in the two sports I loved. She said to me, ‘Mom this is who you are. This is what you need to do.’”

Female Fighter, Female Fighter Collective, Muay Thai, Muay Thai

Casey at home with her two daughters. Photo by David Jaewon Oh

After the second break, things got a bit darker for Casey. It was hard to believe that this could happen, twice. The doctor had assured her both times were really just fluke accidents, but were they?

Mental performance coach Brian Cain reached out to Casey after hearing about her through mutual friends. He invited her to participate in an online course where he gave her tangibles; a step by step plan to directly deal with her broken leg that further allowed her to reshape the connection between men and women. Specifically he asked her to work on acceptance and to surrender to where she was at that moment.

“He told me to understand I was in a storm, but that a storm ends. “

Two of her male teammates had a matches coming up, so Casey headed back to the gym on crutches to offer whatever support she could. It was here, standing on one leg, Casey found her calling.

In the West, Muay Thai occupies a much different space than it does in Thailand, where youth embark on it as a career path hoping for financial security. For Casey, and the people at her gym, it was a mirror to their real lives. The trials and tribulations of finding oneself.

Casey was her teammates’ shoulder to cry on. Coaching them both on the mental and physical aspects of fighting, Casey expected them to be the very best versions of themselves, and they stepped into those roles winning their fights decisively.

“I did eight rounds on the bag with a fractured leg. I told , ‘if I can do it, and I’m in the trenches, you can do it. You can fight.’ It was about finding and being a community.”

Soon other men came to ask Casey for advice. Through giving back to the sport that helped Casey find herself again, she learned that men have very similar experiences to women, but that society often puts both genders into boxes that really don’t make sense.

Men must try so hard to be tough in America, it’s what society expects of them. But by not admitting to their feelings, they subsequently can’t deal with them. Casey was able to find a middle ground with the men— able to listen and relate but reminding them that fighters still must be tough.

The ongoing joke in her inner circle, is that Casey gives men their balls back.

People want to see you broken, but from Casey’s experiences, it’s always best to live out of your heart. Her strength scares people, but it’s also her secret to success.

“Bad things happen and you must move on. Think you are good enough, and own who you are.”

Having been a single mother for the past five years, Casey jokingly admits that she is secretly married to Muay Thai. It is how she got through her divorce, and overcame the years of abusive. It’s also given her the strength to be present for her kids.

Despite still technically having a broken leg, Casey ran a 5km race on Mother’s Day with her daughters and attended this year’s annual Thai Boxing Association’s Oregon Camp for four full days.

Her new experiences has given her a sense of purpose, and kept the fire of competition burning inside of her.

Casey is now part of an online group of women called the Female Fighter Collective who use the hastag #femalefightercollective to expand the reach of women’s voices in Muay Thai, and make it easier for them to share their feelings and experiences. The initiative hopes to create a space that other women can walk into and immediately relate.

If you’d like to join, or just need someone to talk to you can message Casey on Instagram.

About The Author

Frances Watthanaya

After receiving a Muay Thai scholarship to train at a prominent gym in Northern Thailand, Watthanaya packed her bags at 19 and left home with a one way ticket. She ended up at a Bangkok street gym affiliated with Sor. Thanikul and married one of the fighters. They took off up country and Watthanaya fought her way through Issan. Now, with a degree in tote, and a seven year old daughter, she is running a non-profit Muay Thai gym with her husband in his village.

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