Jill Guido Talks to the Science of 8
By Mike LNg
Much attention has been paid to professionals in my past interviews but its time I think more attention was paid to the amateurs in Muay Thai. Amateurs are really the future of Muay Thai and I feel remiss in not mentioning some of the notables in that quest. Jill Guido comes fighting out of Concord California with Team Tsutsui. George Tsutsui made a memorable mark in the bay area and was feared for his heavy hands and relentless style. Jill Guido captured the 112lbs. WCSC US Muay Thai title in 2009 and is the 2009 USMF Bantamweight Champion. Jill is the only female from the USA to represent her weight class at the coming Sport Accord combat games.
Much thanks goes to Jill for taking time with these questions and engaging in email tag with me to get this done.
What got you interested in Muay Thai as opposed to more classical martial arts?
I never trained in any martial arts prior to MuayThai. In all honesty, I started training because after college I gained a lot of weight and wanted to get back into shape. I was athletic in highschool – sort of a tom boy if you can believe it – so I wanted to get back into a healthy active lifestyle.
You recently were the only American woman selected to represent the USA in your weight category for Muay Thai at SportAccord. What are your thoughts on Sport Accord and amateur Muay Thai’s development in the USA?
I am very excited to participate in this year’s SportAccord, where MuayThai will be a featured sport for the very first time. This is a monumental step for MuayThai and this only mirrors the popularity and respect the sport has gained over the years. I do think that MMA has definitely brought MuayThai to the forefront of the stand-up game, though, MuayThai was always vibrant within the little communities across the US.
What do you think is most important for Muay Thai to continue growing in the USA?
Though MMA has helped MuayThai’s popularity grow, I think it’s important for MuayThai to stand on it’s own. More often times than not, people who don’t know what MuayThai is directly associate it to MMA and then ask me when I’m going to fight in the cage again. I think MuayThai needs to remind the general public of the history of the sport and educate the audience on the deep rooted Thai traditions that come hand-in-hand.
You’ve fought on some entirely female cards for Muay Thai such as Female Fury 2. Do you see more growth in the USA for women in Muay Thai and opportunities to fight?
There is definitely a growing audience for female sports in general, though I still feel there is a great divide between men and women in this sport. It is up to us women to model ourselves as athletes and erase gender lines by training hard, keeping professional, being respectful, embracing positive sportsmanship, and more importantly, by encouraging other female athletes to continue to train. The more the public audience sees how beautiful this art is and how talented the women are … there’s no doubt that opportunities for female fighters will widen in MuayThai.
You and I briefly discussed some bay area heroes for you in Muay Thai. Who do you consider your biggest influences in Muay Thai?
George Tsutsui is by far the biggest influence in my MuayThai “career” and training. He has taught me how to remain grounded and is always pushing me to the limits because he knows he can bring out my best. Those who have trained with Sir know his passion for the sport – his commitment to you as a fighter is endless – especially if you put in the work. Team Tsutsui – I wouldn’t be the fighter I am if it weren’t for the support I’ve gotten from all patrons in the gym. They are constant reminders of how hard works pays off and that no matter the outcome of my fights – they are still there to cheer me on. Additionally, the Bay Area MuayThai community is unbelievably supportive and because it is an intimate group of small gyms across the Bay … we have the utmost respect for one another, allowing us to grow within the sport. I’d like to add that Jenna Castillo and Christine Toledo are also inspirations to me. They have more talent in their pinkies than I do in my entire body!! More seriously, their work ethic is one to admire and respect.
Without playing your card too much what do you consider your best assets as a fighter?
I write this grinning because I think my best asset is deception. I always say never judge a book by it’s cover, though more often times than not, I come out being the underdog based purely on physical appearance. My recent fight in NYC was a rematch against Florina Petcu, WKA Bantamweight Champion, who is 110-pounds of pure talent and lean muscle (in June 09 we fought for the USMF Bantamweight Title in which I won by unanimous decision). She stands 5-6 inches taller than myself and has the obvious height and reach advantage. I think the NYC crowd was expecting complete domination on her part, and though I had hoped to come back with a third national title under my “belt”, she defended her title successfully, though to a split decision – suffice it to say it was a VERY close fight. So most definitely deception is my secret weapon (though I think no longer a secret now!)
I was impressed with the amount of class you show in an era where it seems fighters engage in much prefight banter. What made you decide to avoid those sort of antics?
This question shocked me, as I have never experienced prefight banter and haven’t really seen it first hand either. Here in the Bay Area we’re reasonably respectful against our local competitors, though of course if there’s an out-of-towner, competition surely heats up. It’s just not good form to engage in such antics because it’s a waste of energy – it does no good. Once in the ring – you can’t hide behind all that silly talk. I wouldn’t really call it a conscious decision – you just don’t do that. Period.
It seems often in California there is a certain amount of division among north and south California. Do you think that will change?
I have to agree 100%. To this day, I have not fought in Southern California, though there have been some opportunities here and there. I’m not sure if it’s related to escalating costs in bringing fighters from other parts of the State, but I would like to see a stronger camaraderie between the two.
What is your fight record thus far?
7-3-0 (losses against: Miranda Cayabyab my very first MuayThai fight, Team Thailand during the 2009 worlds, Florina Petcu by split decision)
What would you like to achieve in Muay Thai? Will there be a pro career in the future?
All the opportunities I’ve had in MuayThai have been astronomical in comparison to where I started to where Team Tsutsui has gotten me today. My focus is not the destination, but the journey. I still have so much to learn – the word Pro is not vernacular to me. I train, I have fun, I work hard. That is what makes me complete and that’s what makes my heart whole. Everything else is icing on the cake!
Are you fan of any other sports?
I enjoy watching football, tennis, volleyball, MMA, amateur boxing, amongst others … though if you ask me statistics about any of those sports or particular players/athletes/fighters, I couldn’t give you any answers!
Having trained some students what do you think is the most important thing a new student should learn about Muay thai?
Well, I’ve never really trained any students. I think I’m a horrible teacher when it comes to MuayThai … I can teach you retail math and show you how to run a successful apparel business, but when it comes to the sport I love and train – I leave that up to the experts like George Tsutsui. The most important advice I would give to a new student is learn your basics!! and … a tie with most important is … HAVE FUN!!! I wouldn’t be such a maniac over training if it weren’t fun!
What’s a day in the gym with Jill Guido like?
Some people mistake my focus in the gym for a person who’s not talkative at all, though I am the complete opposite outside the gym! I take MuayThai class just like everyone else because I think it’s important to show aspiring fighters and those starting out that even though I train to fight doesn’t mean I’m too experienced to take class. There’s always something to learn.
Having been a part of California’s Muay Thai scene for a while what are the most positive aspects that you see in California Muay Thai?
I think I’ve mentioned it before and I am slightly biased towards the Bay Area only because I have not experienced MuayThai in Southern California, but the camaraderie is unbelievable. I absolutely love and am so lucky to be a part of such a supportive community. I wouldn’t trade it for anything!
What are some of the things you’d like to see changed in Muay Thai in California?
Mentioned earlier, the divide between Northern and Southern California I would like to see a more cohesive camaraderie between the two areas. I’d also like to see more fighters from outside California – - I think that we know local gyms’ areas of expertise and common strategies too intimately because our proximity to each other. A challenge from an outsider is a true test of skill.
How do you see the level of Muay Thai in the United States is compared to the rest of the world?
Going to the IFMA World Championships last year was a huge eye opener. The skill at an international level is unmatched. These athletes were the top amateur fighters of their country and they were ALL really REALLY good. I was in awe of the talent underneath a single roof, brought together by a common love affair. There is a much bigger MuayThai community out there than the little geographical bubbles we are confined to. It sets the bar higher in training, most definitely!
Much thanks to Jill for granting this interview. For updates on Team Tsutsui and Jill check the official gym site. Best of luck to Jill at the Sport Accord.