Priscilla Hertati Lumban Gaol’s parents wanted her to be a “normal” girl who would grow up to be a “normal” woman. For a while, that’s what she was.
The Indonesian was quiet, played with dolls, and did ballet and swimming. She focused on her schoolwork, and she never caused any trouble.
She was a model daughter. Her father and mother had big dreams of sending her to medical school. But when tuition proved to be too expensive, they corralled her towards an IT degree at university.
It was their dream she would lead a simple, stable life. However, that was not a future Gaol wanted for herself.
“My parents wanted me to be a normal nine-to-five girl, working in an office,” the 29-year-old from Jakarta says. “But I was not interested in that.”
Gaol wanted to become an athlete, and independently pay her way through university. In high school, she started to take the steps necessary to accomplish that.
One day, when she was 17, the Indonesian wanted to practice wushu so desperately, she skipped school for a week. At first, she trained in secret. But soon, she was caught, when the principal called her parents’ house because of her uncharacteristic absence from the classroom.
Things got worse from there, as the school initially refused to let her pursue athletics as well as her academic studies.
“I wanted to be both a student and an athlete, but the school refused,” she recalls. “The school eventually caved in, and let me attend a boxing tournament. I won that.”
However, “Thathie,” did not entirely win over her father and mother’s approval.
“When I explained it to my parents, they understood it,” she says. “But they still wanted me to study.”
Despite her success in becoming an Indonesian national wushu champion, a Wushu World Championship bronze medalist, and a rising ONE Championship star, Gaol’s family has yet to throw their full support behind their daughter’s dream. Recently, however, there has been some progress in that department.
When the wushu warrior steps into the cage, in front of her hometown crowd at the Jakarta Convention Center, for her match-up against Rome “The Rebel” Trinidad at ONE: GRIT & GLORY on Saturday, 12 May, her father will be in the audience.
Even her mother has promised to watch the match on TV – not just the highlights as she has done before.
“They support me now, but they do not want to see their daughter get beaten up,” Gaol explains. “They are proud of me, but they do not know how to express it.”
The discomfort Lumban Gaol’s parents feel is not merely because of her gender. They are equally worried about her younger brother, Hariyono.
Newly graduated from high school, the 18-year-old is trying his hand at Muay Thai. He was inspired to practice “the art of eight limbs” after watching Goal’s friend compete. He is also part of the team at Tigershark, where she has trained for years.
“I am very happy to have my brother here,” she says. “There is another member of the family [trying] to become an athlete.”
Lumban Gaol is particularly happy, because with her brother remaining busy in the gym, he is away from the problems of drugs and motorcycle gangs that plague her parents’ troubled Jakarta neighborhood.
Though the gym is only a few kilometers away from their family home, her little brother has found focus and vision through his martial arts training. He already started competing in Muay Thai, and won his first match. Now, he has plans to engage in more.
“Thathie” will be keeping a close eye on him, especially if he decides to one day transition from the ring to the cage.
“I will be looking at his progress. If he has talent and the fighting spirit, I will support him if he wants to enter mixed martial arts,” she says.
“Of course, my parents want him to go to university.”
Parents only want the best for their children, but Gaol is proving she can carve her own path and live her martial arts dream. She is thriving and now, with her father and mother starting to show more support, she could be ready to take greater steps forward inside the ONE cage.