The road to martial arts success can break many athletes, but Alma Juniku has had two people by her side every step of the way to help her stay the course.
The 19-year-old Australian – who returns to action against Anne “Ninja” Line Hogstad at ONE: FIRE & FURY on Friday, 31 January – began Muay Thai with her siblings more than a decade ago, and all three are now professional competitors in “the art of eight limbs.”
Alma, her brother Andy, 21, and sister Amanda, 20, started training at Modern Warrior Muay Thai in Logan City within days of each other, and they have given each other strength to continue ever since.
“I think having my siblings alongside me has motivated me, and kept all of us going through it,” says Alma ahead of her match-up at the Mall Of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines.
“I think because we were all together, and because of the connection with the gym and the trainer, it became family-orientated. It definitely helped us stick to it.”
Andy went to the gym first at the suggestion of one of their neighborhood friends. When his sisters went to pick him up after a training session, they saw other girls in the gym and instantly wanted to be a part of the action.
Despite being the youngest, Alma was the first to compete when she jumped at the opportunity to step through the ropes at the age of 9, but Andy and Amanda followed soon after.
This meant the trio shared their journey and helped one another through the highs and lows of life in one of the world’s toughest sports.
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“It definitely helped to have them around,” Alma says.
“We’ve all had our experiences, and we all help each other so it’s really good and it makes things easier. It’s good having that support. When times got tough, I always had people there backing me up and reminding me what I’m here for.”
However, their job was not always to wrap their youngest sister in cotton wool. Their close relationship meant that they were not afraid to push each other in the gym.
In particular, Alma cites her older brother Andy’s influence as one of the main factors in her success at such a young age.
“My brother is a bit tough on us, so I feel like we get good sparring out of him,” adds the 19-year-old.
“It’s hard because sometimes you take it personally, but it’s not. We’re all trying to help each other, but because it’s my brother I get frustrated.
“But that made me as a fighter because if I didn’t get pushed by him at a young age, I don’t think I’d be a good fighter now.
“It was tough when I was so young doing hard sparring. Now I realize it was actually helping me. All the hard training has definitely paid off and helped me to get to where I am now.”
Though she is still a teenager, Alma has already claimed the WBC and IPCC Muay Thai World Championships, and those achievements booked her ticket to the world’s largest martial arts organization, where she is earning more and more recognition around the world.
Perhaps more importantly, she has developed a bond with her brother and sister that goes beyond their shared DNA, and looks set to push them all to even greater heights as they continue to grow together.
“Thai boxing has definitely made us closer outside of the gym. Me and my siblings are very close and I feel like it’s because of the sport,” Alma adds.
“I always have my brother and sister here with me. We’re constantly training, we’re a team.”