• Model and Muay Thai fighter Mia Kang. (Instagram/missmiakang)Source: Instagram/missmiakang
Mia Kang says the combat sport helped her develop her body confidence and self-esteem, while keeping her down to earth in the image-led world of modeling.
By
Alyssa Braithwaite

17 Apr 2017 - 3:49 PM  UPDATED 17 Apr 2017 - 3:52 PM

A holiday in Thailand turned into a new vocation for swimsuit model Mia Kang, when she chanced upon a Muay Thai gym.

The 28-year-old Hong Kong-raised, half Korean and half British model was familiar with Thai boxing from previous visits to her parents' house in Thailand, but it was only in 2016 that she decided to stop in at the nearby gym and have a go.

"It turns out I wasn't bad, so what was supposed to be a 10-day vacation turned out to be a nine-month trip living in a Thai boxing camp with the fighters," Kang tells People, ahead of debut fight in Thailand next month. 

Muay Thai is the traditional Thai art of self-defence, in which feet, elbows, knees and fists are all used in combat.

It's not the usual sport of choice for a model who just won Sports Illustrated's Swimsuit Model Search (she also has a background in commodities training and a Masters in finance and financial law from the University of London). 

But Kang says the physicality of the sport helped her build up her body confidence, while psychologically it has had a positive effect on her self-esteem and sense of perspective.

Kang was overweight and bullied in primary school,  which lead to years of body image issues.

Then, when she hit puberty, her weight dropped. Not only did her former bullies start asking her out, modeling scouts came knocking too. By 17, she was walking in fashion shows in Paris and Milan.

But since taking up Muay Thai Kang says she "got a lot bigger, I gained muscle, I have definition, I have abs", and she's never felt better. 

"It was exactly what I needed being in the industry that I'm in," Kang tells People. "I have a very narcissistic job. A lot of my day is thinking about how I look. It was the perfect complement to that, where nobody gives a crap if I'm a model or about what I look like."

Now, Kang is about to compete in her first professional fight in Koh Samui, Thailand in May.

"I'm not going to lie, of course I'm nervous," Kang says.

"It's a professional fight, so there's no headgear, there's no shin pads, no elbow pads. I am fully aware of what could potentially happen in the ring and the worst-case scenarios. I accept that, but I believe in myself and my ability."

related reading
From beauty queen to freedom fighter: Meet Afghanistan’s only foreign litigator
One of the world's leading foreign lawyers, Kimberley Motley, had never left the US before she went on a study program to Afghanistan. There, she reinvented herself, her career and changed the lives of hundreds in the country's prisons. Hers is a truly extraordinary story.
"Martial arts helped me fight postnatal depression"
After being diagnosed with crippling postnatal depression, 33-year-old Barkindji woman Shantelle Thompson took up Brazilian jiu-jitsu to help her heal. Little did she know that a world title and an Olympics wrestling bid would form a part of the healing process.
Powerful women's sports campaigns encourage us to rethink our role models
A mini-series showcasing how top netballers overcame adversity and sustained success in an industry they’re undervalued in is the newest in a growing list of powerful women’s sport campaigns.