I grew up in Cogan and Penarth. As a child I was very shy, quiet and worked hard in school. I was always sporty in primary school. I was on the school football team and also lacrosse team which won the under 12s British championships. In secondary school I used to play hockey and enjoyed cross country running and swimming. In secondary school I was bullied really badly, both physically and mentally. I was different, and that never goes down well in a school full of sheep. My dad wanted to find a way to give me more confidence and to help look after myself. He found classes in a local hall in Penarth. My twin sister was doing Aikido and wouldn’t let me join her, so the next class on was Muay Thai and that’s how I fell into the sport.
Ater I left university and took up the sport again I realised that I wanted to pursue it seriously. My fitness improved and my technique progressed, I decided I needed to learn more, which meant flying over to Thailand and training in a camp out there. It was there I was offered my first fight, and I accepted. I wanted to see if I really was any good at this sport.
I train and fight a style called Muay Thai. It is known as the art of eight limbs. You strike with kicks, punches, elbows and knees. It is very aggressive and highly technical. It requires you to be fast thinking, sharp, controlled and skillful in order to out maneuver your opponent and score points.
I’m currently training for a fight, so will train around 10-14 times per week, work commitments permitting. This means on the days off from work that I have, I’ll train twice – sometimes three times a day. When I am not training for a fight, I still train every day to keep my fitness in check. I train between two gyms, doing my strength and conditioning at Dave’s Gym in Roath and I do my fight training and pads at Eagles in UFC gym in Roath Cardiff. I also run most days, between seven to 13 kilometres.
I have lived in Cardiff on and off since I was 20. I have been in Roath now for the past four years. One of the main reasons I decided to settle in Roath is because its close to both my gyms, near to town, easy for me to commute to work. I have the best of everything. Cardiff really is a brilliant place to live, it’s big enough to have everything you want and small enough that your now overwhelmed like it can be in places like London etc. Roath is the best place for me, it has a young vibe and some cool places to hang out in.
My advice for people interested in fighting would be to try out an interclub first. If you have been training a while and want to see if you can put what you have learnt into practice, participate in an interclub. This is a controlled environment where novices fight (with shin pads and big gloves) in a ring to a time. This will give you a taste of what a real fight will feel like, and how you control your nerves and perform against an unknown opponent. It’s also a really fun day as lots of gyms get together and everyone has a laugh and watches some potential shine through with the new up and coming fighters.
My favourite Cardiff places – if I had some friends visiting me for the weekend, I would have to take them around the parks we have. I run around Roath Park every day, and I love it there. I’d also have to take them for tea and cake, as well as heading into town and showing them round the castle, stopping off for a drink or two (if I am not fighting of course!)
Tanya Merrett is 30 years young and has been training Muay Thai for nine years, fighting professionally for two and a half years. She fights out of Eagles Gym in Cardiff. Her ambition is to become a world champion and take her fighting up to the very highest level, and fight the best out there. Her next scheduled fight is against Christi Brereton A Class on 6 April 2014 in Manchester – for more details, visit her Facebook page: Tanya Merrett.
Tanya was photographed at her gym by Joe Singh.