When Priscilla Hertati Lumban Gaol tells her friends or neighbors about how she makes a living, she gets more than a few quizzical looks. Some are legitimately thrilled about her professional martial arts career, but many more, like her family members, believe she should quit.
“Some friends are excited. But some just have have questions like, ‘When will you stop? It is better to get another job rather than competing, because of your age.’ My family is very concerned for my safety,” the 29-year-old Indonesian explains.
Now, just after a year since she made her professional cage debut at ONE: THRONE OF TIGERS in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, there are signs that attitudes towards her profession, at least among her family, are beginning to warm. In fact, her little brother has recently taken up martial arts.
At first, things weren’t so easy. Following two tough losses to a pair of top contenders, the Jakarta native took time to get up to speed, and properly adjust to the cage.
“What I learned from my losses is I will not give up,” she states. “I have to keep training harder and keep my focus. I need to always focus.”
In January, at ONE: KINGS OF COURAGE at the Jakarta Convention Center, she was certainly on form. Gaol dominated Audreylaura Boniface in front of her countrymen, and defeated her via TKO in the first round.
“Thathie” will get an opportunity to get a win streak going this coming Friday, 23 February, when she meets Filipino debutante Krisna “Phoenix” Limbaga at ONE: QUEST FOR GOLD, which broadcasts from the Thuwunna Indoor Stadium in Yangon, Myanmar.
Like many who vow to step inside the ONE cage, Gaol’s journey into the world of martial arts began with a quest to earn respect. While some athletes trained for physical protection from bullies and other threats, the Indonesian atomweight was looking to put herself through school and gain the respect of her peers.
“I looked at most of my friends when I was young,” she begins. “They can pay for their tuition themselves without asking their parents. That is why I was interested in learning martial arts from the beginning.”
Through martial arts, Gaol paid her own way, and has since earned many accolades. She is an Indonesian national wushu champion, and a Wushu World Championship bronze medalist. And in recent years, the southpaw has built upon her skill set and rounded out her game at Tigershark Fighting Academy under head coach Zuli Silawanto.
On Friday, “Thathie” looks to keep the momentum rolling when she welcomes Limbaga to the ONE cage at ONE: QUEST FOR GOLD. Despite it being her opponent’s debut on the global stage, the Jakarta heroine is not leaving anything to chance.
“I think Krisna is a tough opponent, and I think she is a strong woman who is willing to do anything to win,” Gaol says. “Her strength is striking, but she may be little weak on the ground.”
Silawanto claims his pupil is ready for anything, as they have been working on all elements of the game in preparation of the tilt.
“We have trained her for grappling in anticipation of anything,” Gaol’s coach explains. “But whatever the condition, Priscilla’s best bet is a stand-up game and finishing the match with striking.”
Gaol, however, has not just been training for this match and to get a victory. The Indonesian atomweight is practicing on a daily basis, and she aims for a long and fruitful career in the cage. “Thathie” has immersed herself into her training regime, and she spends much of her spare time at the academy as a coach and mentor to the gym’s patrons.
There is plenty of ambition fueling her grind. She is saving money to buy a house, and could quite possibly start her own business one day. But most of all, she has her eyes on becoming a ONE World Champion.
Although Gaol acknowledges it will take more time and more experience to achieve her dream, that is the long term goal.
“I want to be a world champion,” she says. “And I want recognition in this industry.”