Kai Ting Chuang has additional inspiration ahead of her ONE Kickboxing Atomweight World Title bout in Bangkok, Thailand at ONE: KINGDOM OF HEROES.
The Chinese star will be making the maiden defence of her belt in the co-main event on Saturday, 6 October when she faces Thailand’s Stamp Fairtex.
The athlete known as “Killer Bee” is determined to put on a performance to make her grandparents proud.
Chuang was brought up by her grandparents when they adopted her as a baby following her parents’ divorce, and they helped raise her into the role model that she is today.
“Blood is thicker than water,” says her grandmother, Liu Ying In.
“I knew I had to take her home and raise her, because she is my granddaughter.”
As well as her main parent growing up, Liu was also one of the biggest influences on Chuang’s career. She helped provide a sound base from which “Killer Bee” could launch her kickboxing career, and encouraged her to chase her dreams and give it her all.
“I felt very happy and safe,” Chuang explains.
“My grandmother is very kind with a warm heart. With time, as I got older and older, she also tried to let go and give me space.”
Chuang started her career as a 16-year-old prospect to help provide for her grandparents and, hopefully, earn a university scholarship.
That aim became a reality, but all the way through her early years, she kept the details of her combat sports career secret, fearful that her protective grandparents would persuade her away from the ring.
“In the beginning, she lied to me about it. She told me she was working out in school,” Liu recalls.
“Her teachers often talked about signing up for competition, but I didn’t have a clue back then. I found out later that they were talking about boxing.
“I went to see her match once in her school, and then I realised, ‘Okay, it has been boxing all the time.’ I didn’t think about her winning or losing. I only wished that she didn’t get hurt.”
Looking back at that moment, Chuang recalls how she convinced her grandmother that she would be OK competing inside the ring.
“She was worried at the beginning since I am a girl,” the Chinese striker says.
”But she trusted me a lot. When I told her I will protect myself, she felt more relaxed.”
While she needed to convince her grandmother, the fact that she knew she had a maternal figure looking out for her best interests helped give Chuang all the confidence she needed to launch into her martial arts career with gusto.
Whatever happened in the field of competition, she always knew she could return home and be straight back to earth with her grounded grandmother.
“When I go back home and talk with her, it can bring me calm and inner peace. It also gives me motivation,” she says.
“I wish I could give her the world, but I can’t. I just need to do my daily training and give my best each fight. I know she is proud of me.”
Chuang’s grandparents won’t be in her corner on Saturday, but they will be lending their support from afar, and she knows they will be there in spirit.
They have supported her every step of the way, and Chuang knows that victory in Bangkok will mean she retains her title and she will make her grandparents proud.
Wins and losses don’t define the pride Liu has in her granddaughter.
“It hasn’t been easy for Kai Ting to grow up, and learning martial arts is not easy either,” she says.
“But she finds joy amid the hardship. As long as she is happy, I just wish her a beautiful life.”