Muay Thai champion Georgia Ralphs wants to inspire more girls to try the sport

When Georgia Ralphs was in 8th grade, she wrote a list of dreams for the future.

One should become Muay Thai World Champion.

Although the Central Queenslander had only been involved with the sport for a few years, it was clear that the martial arts were different from all the other extracurricular activities she had tried.

Four years later, after countless hours of training, she has achieved her goal.

Ralphs won the belt for the 16-17-year-olds under 65kg class at the ISKA Muay Thai Championships in November when she traveled to Türkiye from her home in Rockhampton to compete.

“I didn’t believe it at first,” says Ralphs.

“As I raised my hand, I froze in time.

“I was like, ‘This is crazy, I’ve actually gone this far.'”

A young woman holds one championship belt buckle and wears another, she holds one hand in a fist near her head.
Georgia Ralphs is committed to getting more girls involved in the sport.(ABC Capricornia: Erin Semmler)

Ralphs’ fighting days have only just begun, but she has another dream on her list: to inspire more girls to take up the traditionally male-dominated sport.

Getting girls interested in sports

Muay Thai originated in Thailand and for centuries was reserved for men only.

That perception is slowly changing – partly because of young women like Ralphs and their trainer Chloe McLachlan, who owns a gym in central Queensland.

The sport wasn’t McLachlan’s first choice for an extracurricular activity, either.

She had been dancing for three years but waited at her brother’s Muay Thai gym for his training to finish before her parents could pick her up.

Eventually, her brother’s coach persuaded her to work at the gym and then take the classes.

“Dad was like, ‘You can’t do both,'” says McLachlan.

“It was a big choice [giving up dance]but i just fell in love with her [Muay Thai].”

A woman smiles at the camera, holding a toddler with dark curly hair who is smiling
Under the influence of Chloe McLachlan, more girls have tried Muay Thai.(ABC Capricornia: Erin Semmler)

Back then, McLachlan stood out in “a gym filled with men.”

“The females didn’t really look through the door, we always hid in the corner,” she says.

“Here, on the other hand, you come in, male or female, it doesn’t matter – you’re addressed in the same way, treated the same and everyone is equal, so it’s a good environment.”

When McLachlan transitioned into coaching, she faced a whole new challenge.

“It was tough as I worked my way up through the years tutoring the men because… they didn’t really want to be tutored by a little girl,” she says.

“But the little girl could teach you a lot.”

McLachlan’s influence attracted new girls to the sport and in the nine years Ralphs has been coaching, the Gracemere classes have evolved from “mostly boys” to an even gender split.

Ralphs also aims to encourage more girls to take up Muay Thai and coaches younger students alongside their regular training.

A young girl jumps over a pool noodle during a training session
Ralphs is dedicated to training young children in Muay Thai.(ABC Capricornia: Erin Semmler)

The next generation

For kids who are just starting out, Muay Thai lessons look like playing a game and learning some basic techniques.

Above all, Ralphs says, it’s about keeping things comfortable.

This approach works for Addie Hansell (eight), Pippa Banks (seven) and Rocco Vale (six).

The trio, who adore their “Miss Georgia,” say she pushes them to learn new things without making classes too difficult.

For Addie, Ralphs is more than just her teacher: “She’s like my big sister”.

A young girl and a teenager stand side by side with their hands raised in fists.
Ralphs trains young girls, including eight-year-old Addie Hansell.(ABC Capricornia: Erin Semmler)

This family atmosphere is something McLachlan dreamed of when he opened the shop.

“We want our gym to be not just a gym, but a family,” she says.

“Sometimes we bring kids here who have had a really bad time at home, or who have had a really bad past or a bad upbringing.

“We have the saying ‘one Muay Thai family’ and we live by that.”

“Your confidence increases”

McLachlan says having so many female coaches when they start the sport helps kids feel less intimidated.

A young girl is pictured mid-movement in a Muay Thai class, with an older teenager kneeling beside her.
Ralphs with seven-year-old Pippa Banks.(ABC Capricornia: Erin Semmler)

“Once they start training, you just see that change… and that’s it, their confidence skyrockets,” she says.

McLachlan says some parents worry Muay Thai is too violent for their children.

And while sparring can look violent, McLachlan says the sport is an art form.

“Parents are a little concerned that their child will be bullied or react badly at school and get into trouble because of this,” she says.

“Is not it. It teaches them discipline, respect and confidence so they know what they can and cannot do in school.”

“They have rules here … they know they can’t go home and hit their brother even though he’s annoying them.” Muay Thai champion Georgia Ralphs wants to inspire more girls to try the sport

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