x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Packing a punch with ladies

Lii Schacht, a Swedish personal trainer in Dubai who is prepping a female boxer for a fight, tells us why more and more women in the UAE are taking up the sport.

Lii Schacht, right, spars with Lisa Redman, who does boxing and muay Thai. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
Lii Schacht, right, spars with Lisa Redman, who does boxing and muay Thai. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

Melanie Swan

The Dubai-based Lii Schacht is a doctor of naprapathy and a personal trainer at Scandinavian Health & Performance in Jumeirah Lakes Towers – and she’s also a boxer. Schacht, 29, was Sweden’s national champion until 2009 and is now using her skills to help women in the UAE to follow in her footsteps.

Schacht grew up with an elder brother and father who were both black belts in judo and recreational boxers, but it was only after she turned 18 that she became interested in boxing.

“I was playing around with some classes, training with my father’s friends who used to box, but it really changed when I moved to Stockholm at the age of 23,” says Schacht. That was when she met the Swedish professional fighter Tonton Semakala, who took her under his wing.

“From that day on, I was at the gym every day. Three months later, I had my first fight, which was pretty quick – it usually takes at least a year before you’re ready to fight,” she says.

Schacht went on to participate in 35 bouts in the next few years, taking the national title. At the same time, she was also studying for her degree in naprapathy, a blend of physiotherapy and chiropractic, at the Scandinavian College of Manual Medicine. Training twice daily, she said it actually helped keep her focused on her studies.

“I could disconnect from school when I was training and think of something else,” she explains, adding that it also helped her deal with being away from home. “In the gym, you have your family. My trainer was like a second father.”

In the UAE, one of the women Schacht is training is the British-born Dubai resident Lisa Redman. The 33-year-old, who trained in muay Thai for 10 years, says she has only two fights behind her – boxing and muay Thai – but never really enjoyed boxing until she started training with Schacht in August this year.

“I never thought I’d say this, but now, I think, I actually prefer boxing to muay Thai,” she admits. “It’s amazing what a difference a good coach can make.”

Schacht says that women’s interest in boxing in the UAE is encouraging.

“A lot of girls here are into boxing and fighting, more than I expected, but there aren’t really the tools for them here,” she says. “It’s fun to be part of this while it’s young and growing. There’s a totally different approach to it in the UAE and more financial support now, with people sponsoring fighters just for fun because it’s something they want to be a part of.”

Schacht says fight night always gets her excited.

“Just the smell of the gym makes me feel like I’m preparing for my first fight again,” she says. “When you stop, there’s a part of you that’s missing. Through Lisa, I get that feeling of fighting again.”

Schacht believes that women’s approach to the sport is different from men’s, with more focus on technique than brute force. Psychology also plays a big part.

“It’s a male-dominated world, but I think it’s easier for a female coach to empathise with a fighter having a down day and to motivate her. Girls need more praise, which men don’t really understand. Girls need that extra mental support.”

• Lii Schacht can be contacted at liischacht@hotmail.com

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