Why KMT? – Karena Nguyen


Why TMT? I’ve always been the “nerd”. I grew up being the kid picked last (or second to last, if I was having a lucky day) for kickball, dodgeball, and just about every other gym activity. I was always lapped – multiple times – during the mile run for the Presidential Physical Fitness test every year. In middle school, I played sports to hang out with my friends, but was always the worst on the team. I sat on the bench. A lot. I always joked about being the “bench warmer” for the team, but everyone, including me, knew it was true.

As I progressed through middle school and high school, I learned to reside in my strengths. I concerned myself less with sports and more with finding my niche in the arts. I excelled at academics [insert Asian stereotype here] and was extensively involved in music groups [insert another Asian stereotype here]. Through college, I conducted research and eventually uncovered an intense passion for science and education. When I graduated, I accepted a position at the University of South Florida (USF) as an Integrative Biology PhD student. I was proud of myself. Yet, there was always a part of me that remembered my younger self – the one that felt ashamed for being bad at sports – and how it made me avoid outdoor activities as an adult. I wasn’t proud of that part of myself.


Enter TMT. After the first semester of grad school, I found that “occasionally” (I use that term loosely here) running wasn’t cutting it. After speaking with a close friend from the department who had joined the gym, I decided to take an intro class.

I’ve never looked back.

And I don’t plan on looking back either, for a multitude of reasons, and these reasons often come back to me when I’m struggling with a new technique, conditioning, or just plain ‘ol life.


Squats. When my quads are burning and I can barely bend my legs, I remember that we’re all carrying some sort of burden. Whether that’s school, work, family, or x-related, there is always something weighing us down. Sometimes it feels like the weight of the world, but when I’m able to hold that squat for a few more seconds or do one more set, it also reminds me of my own strength and how strong we all are as people, shaped by our experiences and the people we keep in our life.


V-ups. We all strive for something, don’t we? I’m not sure what I want to do with my life yet, but I’m hoping to finish my degree and go out into the world to do something great. I love TMT for the simple reason that everyone I have met here a different dream. Whether that’s owning a business, finishing medical school, designing a new game, or just living day to day in a positive way, everyone has a goal. And that’s what drives me to reach a little higher and crunch a little bit stronger [instead of getting called out by Dato to do a proper V-up instead of a C-up].


Push-ups. Don’t even get me started on these… When I first started coming to TMT, I could barely go down a quarter of an inch. Maybe. Eventually, Jason taunted me enough (jokingly, or maybe not so jokingly) and forced me to do so many push-ups that I am now approximately halfway to a proper push-up. Either way, these bad boys make me think about the barriers that we all face whenever we’re striving for a goal. Often, these barriers are internal – thoughts that we’re not good enough, that we don’t have the ability to do something, or that what we’re doing won’t be worth anything in the end. Yet, I’ve somehow gotten farther than I thought I would have when starting Muay Thai, and it reminds me that I (and everyone else) has the capacity to push past any barrier.


So why TMT?  I’ve found another home away from home here. The people I’ve met, the friends I’ve convinced to join, the people I continue to meet… they inspire me in the greatest way. Whenever I’m having a bad day, I know I can come to class and be greeted with a smile, some playful [or not so playful] jabs, and a sense of camaraderie. There is no judgement here, only acceptance and the beautiful art of Muay Thai.karena