A former world Thai boxing champion is on his way to break a Guinness World Record this month.
Nicola Ireland, 40, is confident she can kick more than 59 items off a person’s head in just one minute landing her another world title.
the Maidstone mum has had a successful career in Thai boxing, with British, European and world titles under her belt – but now she wants to bag another victory on November 27 at Ironworks Gym in Maidstone.
She will be kicking boxing gloves off the heads of fellow gym members.
Nicola has already kicked 61 off in a minute during practice – beating the current official record of 59.
She said: “After leaving Thai boxing in my late 20s to have my two daughters I wanted to challenge myself to see what I could achieve at 40 years old.
“This challenge has given me a sense of self again and it has been amazing for me to do something for myself, other than doing everything for the family.
“I am really excited to show my two girls they can achieve anything if they work at it and for them to see me achieve this world record.
“My youngest daughter, who’s five, has already said she’s going to try and beat my record when she’s old enough.”
Nicola joined the sport aged only 15, when she was introduced to Bruce Lee’s martial art, called Jeet Kune Do.
She soon met coach Alan Keddle, who showed her Thai boxing and immediately fell in love with the sport.
“As soon as I tried that, it just felt like the most realistic martial art. Thai boxing is the stand-up that you see in UFC. I just loved it. By realistic I mean that you have to be good at defense, at striking, at everything, really.There’s no escaping, you can’t hide.
“Alan then invited me to compete because his girlfriend was doing so. I think he was the first person that actually took me seriously as a girl because being one of the only girls at this club, I didn’t feel like anyone ever took me seriously enough to fight.
“After that I just started going to his gym, Keddles Gym, in Orpington, and trained every day.
“I had my first fight when I was 18. I was working full time as a shipping clerk and it wasn’t until my first fight that I managed to get sponsorship.”
When looking back on her career, Nicola immediately recalls one of her craziest adventures – the time she fought an inmate inside a prison in Bangkok when she was 23.
She had gone to Thailand to “learn from the best” and improve her fighting skills, but little did she know the challenge ahead of her.
“That was my second fight when I was out there,” Nicola said. “Obviously not speaking Thai, you just sort of communicate as best you can and the boss at the gym, who was the manager, arranged the fights.
“The fights are revolved around gambling in Thailand. So if you’ve got a really uneven fight, the gamblers don’t like it. They want an even fight where the gambling is really exciting.
“So all I knew was that it was going to be a fight in a prison, but I’d fought in places like a market and things like that. So I just assumed it was a ring that was set in the grounds of a prison I didn’t actually know I was fighting an inmate.It definitely got lost in translation.
“On the day, it was quite funny because we arrived at this prison and it was like a maximum security place. I was going past all these people in chains going into the grounds. I was like ‘oh my God’. I didn’t don’t think we’d actually get to go through the prison.
“My coach from over here actually flew over for that one, so it was good to have his support there. And I think there was another person that I knew from England there. So we were all joking like ‘oh, my God, this it’s so surreal.’Only in Thailand this would happen.
“And then we got through to this courtyard and where this ring was set up and all the spectators, a couple of hundred of women, and half of them had uniform on, which were like the guards. The other half were in plain clothes. And I was like, ‘are these all the prisoners?’ It was just surreal.
She continued: “We still didn’t know at the time that I was fighting a prisoner. This was at 11am and normally fights are always in the evening, so that was another reason it felt a bit surreal because it was still really early.
“I didn’t know when I was fighting, they just told me to get ready and to warm up and everything. I hadn’t even seen my opponent when I was weighed in.
“By the time the fight came around, I was first in the ring and I didn’t even know what’s going on. I was thinking ‘this is so weird’. And then came this lady who was the biggest Thai I’ve ever seen, covered in tattoos.I just remember looking at my coach and being like, ‘what is going on?’.
“I was actually a bit worried at that point because everything was coming so quick and still not knowing for sure what was happening. I felt really anxious at that point. But once we touched gloves, I just had to get on with it.
“Within literally the first couple of minutes I felt that she wasn’t as strong or skilled, so it was fine and I won.
“I got this humongous trophy, had loads of pictures taken, then the inmates were all coming up afterwards to have pictures taken with me and my opponent.
“I found out what really happened through online media afterwards that it was an organized event to rehabilitate women in prison.
“It was an incredible experience.”