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Lillian Yu - Disrupting the male dominated world of combat sports promotions

19 July 2017

On Sunday June 25, Melbourne hosted the first all female Professional Muay Thai  Promotion in Australia – Naksoo 2. Twenty four highly skilled professional sports women came together  to produce not only a very technical and competitive exhibition of Muay Thai but an outstanding display of sportsmanship and comdraderie. 

Naksoo2 is the hard work of Lilian Yu, the first woman to be registered as a combat sports promotor in Victoria and Australia. Lily and her partner Dennis O’Dea own Dynamite Muay Thai – a Muay thai and kickboxing gym in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD.  A gym well known for its tough training regime and its culture. Dynamite promotes self-confidence and resilience and has turned around the lives of so many of its members over the past five years. 

Naksoo 2 was developed to promote women in sport, and to give these phenomenal athletes an opportunity to showcase their skills in an environment where they are not only paid but are supported by everyone in the stadium including by the opposition.  

Traditionally combat sport bring images of rough and bloody fighting where competitors bad mouth and sledge each other right throughout the competition, Naksoo 2 is far from this. The day before the promotion begins the competitors are required to weigh in to meet their weight classes. Competitors arrive dehydrated and starved. During the weigh in everyone in the room supported and cheered on their fellow fighters. Post weigh in food and drinks were shared amongst the room – something completely unheard of in the mens world of combat sports. 

The day of the fights, competitors share dressing rooms and talk to each, share supplies and wish each other good luck. Prior to each fight the competitors perform a Wai Kru ceremony, designed to pay respect and express their gratitude to their teachers but it also acts like a Haka to intimidate the opponent. Even during the Wai Kru ceremony’s competitors were supporting and acknowledging each other and at the end of each round and the conclusion of the fights, competitors again acknowledged their opposition and congratulated each other. 

Lilian Yu is a trained primary school teacher but her passion for the sport of Muay Thai and to support and empower women to develop their self-confidence and achieve anything, has lead her into the world of sports promotion. Putting together Naksoo has meant a lot of blood sweat and tears, combined with sleepless night for LilyShe is competing in an exclusive male dominated world and being young and a woman has meant that she has had to battle for everything including recognition amongst other promoters and trainers. Gaining sponsorships for the fighters and the events itself has also been a challenge, due mostly to the male dominated rough image of the sport and the limited recognition of the high skill and technical ability of the professional women. This has meant that Lily has not only has to battle hard physically but financially as well – she personally supports and sponsors a large number of the fighters and the event itself. 

 Naksoo 2 is a amazing example of how a sport can empower women not only the competitors but the promoter herself to believe in themselves and break though in a world where male domination still unfortunately exists.