Monday, 18 March 2013

Muay Thai: A Champion's Profile

Mel Shields: Mom, Humanitarian, Muay Thai Champ
Mel Shields with her trainer, Achilles Meridis

I first met Mel Shields at a soccer pitch in Simcoe County. Our boys were on the same team. Strong and athletic, she is passionate about the game herself and plays in a women’s soccer league. Mel is also a humanitarian extraordinaire. As a stay-at-home mom with three children, she is constantly doing mission and volunteer work through her church and on her own time. Whenever I am “spring cleaning” my closets, Mel will enthusiastically take pretty much everything I have bagged, sort it and distribute it to various charities. The woman is tireless. When I noticed she had added Muay Thai (a hard martial art form originating from Thailand) to her list of activities, sustained an injury, and then went on to earn the national championship for her weight division last month (her first competition) I thought, what an inspiration; this woman deserves a story.

Thank you, Mel, for being Simcoe Fitness Seeker’s first profile. And thanks to Empire Fitness in Barrie, Ontario, for letting me wander around the gym last week to take photographs of a Muay Thai class in training.

For the Love of Muay Thai:

An Interview with national champion Mel Shields


How long have you been practicing Muay Thai?

I've been training in Muay Thai for a year and a half. Muay Thai is a martial arts discipline that is similar to kick boxing with the addition of knees, low kicks, sweeps, clinching, throws and all of the punches and kicks of course. We wear hand wraps, boxing gloves, a mouth guard, head gear and shin guards when we spar and fight. 

 What or who inspired you to try this sport?

I've always been interested in martial arts, but I've always been too involved in soccer and didn't have time for anything else. I told my friend Em that I wanted to try kick boxing; she found us a gym called Empire. We went together to try a few classes and immediately I was hooked. 

Where do you train from, how often do you train, and who is your instructor?

I train at a gym in Barrie called Empire Mixed Martial Arts and Fitness. They offer classes in Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu Jitzu, wrestling, strength and conditioning, and No Gi. My trainer's name is Achilles Meridis, he's amazing, the best teacher ever. I train about eight hours a week but put in more time when I’m training for a tournament. 

You have a competitive spirit. Did you start Muay Thai with the goal of eventually competing?

Yes, I am very competitive and I went into Muay Thai knowing that I wanted to fight one day when I was good enough to compete. 

What are some of the competitions you have entered and tell us about your latest accomplishment.

I entered a few tournaments to have my first fight but nothing was panning out for me. One time they couldn't find anyone in my weight class to fight me. Another time my opponent didn't make weight. My weight class is 133-143 pounds; she weighed in at 145 pounds - too heavy - so according to the rules of our organization, CASK, we were not allowed to fight. Finally I got my first fight on February 24, 2013 at the Canadian National Championship in Burlington, Ontario. I fought a really tough opponent named Alicia Guzzo. I won by a TKO (technical knock out) in the second round to win my belt and the title as national champion in my weight division.
All of the national champions qualified to be selected as part of Canada’s amateur kick boxing team to travel to Brazil in September to compete in The Worlds’ Amateur Kick Boxing Tournament with 50 countries in attendance. I have my first training camp coming up on March 24; I’m really looking forward to it. One of my training partners Ryan Lem is also a national champion, so we’ll be attending the training camps together. If the organizers like what they see, we have the potential to be asked to join the team and represent Canada in Brazil. This is what Ryan and I are striving for….fingers crossed!

How has Muay Thai changed you, physically and mentally?
Sixteen months ago I had never even heard of Muay Thai, now it’s a huge part of my life. It’s made me physically stronger and I believe it’s given me more confidence in myself. I’ve met a whole new circle of friends at Empire, I feel so blessed to have so many new people in my life. Empire is a big family, we take care of each other and the family keeps growing. It’s strange because when we spar, we punch and kick each other but we never hold grudges. If someone delivers a really good swing kick to the side of your head, you don’t get mad, instead you say “Nice kick man!” Non fighter people don’t understand this and think we’re crazy - maybe we are. I think fighters are of a different breed.
What advice would you give someone who wants to try Muay Thai?

I think learning Muay Thai is awesome at any age, young or old. Even if you don’t want to compete, it’s a great way to get into great shape, lose weight, tone up, blow off steam, meet cool people and learn how to defend yourself in case you ever find yourself in a situation where you need to hold your own. It can be intimidating when you start out, but just remember that you have to start somewhere and we all started at that same place when we began. Stick with it, your hard work and determination will pay off and you won’t regret it.

What are your future goals with the sport?

I have tournaments coming up in April and May, so I’m training hard for those competitions. I can’t imagine my life without Muay Thai. I’m going to keep on training and competing for as long as my body will let me. I’m also interested in getting into Brazilian Jiu Jitzu to try my hand at a new discipline and hope to compete in BJJ one day too.

Aside from practicing Muay Thai and playing competitive soccer, you are very active in your community, helping with various charities and doing mission work. You really are an inspiration and role model. How do you balance all of that as a wife and mother of three young children?

Thanks so much Sandy. I am very grateful for my extremely supportive husband, Pete. Pete has a really great job so we can afford for me to stay at home with our youngest daughter. Since I don’t have to leave for work everyday, this leaves me with lots of time to work on the various charities and ministries that I’m so passionate about. I keep my children involved in everything I do, they work right alongside of me with the ministries that I’m involved in. This is a huge part of their lives; they’ve grown up this way so I’m praying that this will instill compassion in their hearts that will stick with them for the rest of their lives.

How do you define a healthy person?

I believe a healthy person is someone who is balanced physically, mentally and spiritually who has a happy and positive outlook on life.

Do you have a daily mantra you'd like to share?

Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. Whenever I’m feeling nervous, worried, anxious or scared about something, I chant this scripture verse and immediately a wave of calmness blankets me. I know that I am never alone; God is always with me in my corner.

Mel's gym, Empire Fitness, is located at 100 Caplan Ave, Unit B, Barrie, Ontario. For more information on their classes call (705) 728-8885 or visit

Thinking about lending a hand in your community?
For inspiration, here are some of the ministries and charity work that Mel supports:

  • Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes
  • Georgian Native Ministries and Outreach (our backpack and school supply ministry is with this organization in order to supply Native children in Northern Ontario with school supplies).
  • Active member of The Mission Possible Team at Living Faith Presbyterian Community Church in Baxter.
  • Year round clothing and footwear collection for Georgian Native Ministries and Outreach, as well as Evangel Hall in Toronto for homeless people.
  • Sponsor children from developing countries.
  • Help raise funds for different charities twice a year.
  • Collect medical supplies to send to hospitals in Mexico and Africa.


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