Not many people can put student nurse and Thai boxing champion on their CV, but for Jade Sandlan training for a caring, nurturing profession is the perfect counterpart to her success in the martial art of Muay Thai. Now the former Great Britain no.1 has plans to regain her Thai boxing crown with the help of an Edge Hill University Sports Scholarship.
Jade, 27, only took up Muay Thai at the age of 21 as a way of keeping fit, but within six weeks her natural talent for the sport had been noticed and she was taking part in interclub tournaments. Three months later, she was entered into her first professional fight, which she won.
“I’ve always been athletic,” says Jade, from Eccles, “but I wanted something different to going to the gym. My brother did Muay Thai so I decided to try it and I’ve never looked back.”
Jade quickly progressed up through the levels, starting at class C (no protection but without elbows or knees to the head) and moving on to class B (no protection with knees to the head, no elbows). She went on to win the Golden Belt British Title in her weight class at this level in 2012, and still holds the title today.
Despite the perceived dangers of Muay Thai, Jade has never been seriously injured in the ring.
“The worst was a cut that needed eight stitches but, apart from sore shins from being constantly kicked it hasn’t been too bad so far,” she says. “My mum hates me doing it, but I grew up with five brothers so I think I can handle myself pretty well!”
Her dedication to mastering the art of Muay Thai led her to spend a total of 12 months in Thailand, learning about the sport and training with some of the best fighters in the country. While there, Jade took part in five fights at the highest A class level, which has no restrictions and is considerably more skilled and potentially dangerous. She won four of the fights and went on to compete internationally, eventually being ranked no.1 in Great Britain.
“I don’t really get nervous before a fight,” says Jade, “because I know I’ve put the training in and that gives me confidence. Before a fight I’m training six days a week, running or swimming for an hour plus doing about two to three hours in the gym. Nutrition is also very important as I have to be exactly the right weight before a fight so I have a pretty strict diet.”
Currently ranked second in the UK, Jade has her sights on taking the no.1 spot again, and plans to use her Edge Hill scholarship to help her achieve that ambition.
“At the moment I’m only able to train four times a week,” she says. “To maintain my current status and fitness at this level I need to train six tines a week, including daily strengthening and conditioning as well as running. The financial assistance and gym membership that comes with being a Sports scholar will allow me to keep training at the highest level and carry on competing while I’m studying for my degree.
“I was surprised and delighted to be awarded this scholarship,” adds Jade. “It’s an honour for me as a fighter as well as further recognition of Muay Thai as a sport for women.”