‘I Was Scared At First’ – How Smilla Sundell Overcame Her Early Fears To Try Muay Thai

Smilla Sundell

Smilla “The Hurricane” Sundell might be the youngest ONE World Champion in history and one of the greatest female strikers on the planet today, but like many people, she felt intimidated when she first stepped into a Muay Thai gym.

The Swedish teen superstar had previously learned karate for self-defense purposes during her childhood in Stockholm, but when her family relocated to Koh Samui, Thailand, she decided to try a new martial arts discipline to maintain her fitness and have some sort of physical activity.

When Sundell was 12 years old, she walked through the doors of Yodyut Muay Thai with her parents and younger sister Leia. But just before the Swede participated in her first training session at the gym, she remembers feeling some initial anxiety.

The reigning ONE Women’s Strawweight Muay Thai World Champion said:

“I was scared at first because I was a little girl, you know? But I had my family on the side and my sister trained with me, so it got easier after, like, five minutes. We had private lessons first and then after a few times, we also tried the group classes.”

There were all types of Muay Thai practitioners in the gym – including professional fighters, amateurs, and even first-timers like Sundell and her sister.

Although the Swede was just looking for a fun way to stay in shape, she couldn’t help but feel naturally intimidated by some of the bigger, more grizzled athletes on the mats.

She recalled:

“You can certainly see those big guys with big muscles, which were a bit scary. But I knew I wasn’t going to fight them. I was just a tiny girl training for exercise.”

Soon, “The Hurricane” realized she had nothing to be scared about.

Rather than irresponsibly throwing her into the deep end of sparring with professional fighters, Sundell’s coaches taught her Muay Thai alongside other beginners, making for an incredibly welcoming environment that would lead her to a career in martial arts.

Sundell said:

“There were a lot of trainers at the gym, so they took care of everyone. It was a mix – some pros, some beginners. They may put some to the side and then the pros [would] do their own thing on the bags while they take care of the beginners. So, that was nice and helpful.”

Smilla Sundell’s Family Support Key To Success

There may not have been anything for Smilla Sundell to fear, but she was admittedly self-conscious.

The Swede was nervous about embarrassing herself when attempting to perfect a technique, and she really didn’t want anyone to stop and stare at her. Or worse, mock her.

She confessed:

“I really didn’t want to make mistakes, and kicking pads made me look like an idiot, so I was scared to do it and do anything wrong with people looking at me.”

With that, Sundell came up with a solution – she forced her younger sister Leia to try any new techniques first. By doing so, “The Hurricane” had some more time to study the movements, and that put her mind at ease.

The Swedish star explained:

“I think all new stuff is uncomfortable. For me, it was even harder sometimes, I would say. So yeah, it was uncomfortable, but I had my sister there who I would push in front of me to make her do all the stuff first, and then I would go after.”

Nowadays, the reigning ONE Women’s Strawweight Muay Thai World Champion no longer practices alongside her family members, but that doesn’t mean she’s not still motivated to make them proud.

Sundell says that she now feels comfortable putting herself in difficult and new situations by focusing on her ambitions and own self-betterment – even though she might not have her sister by her side.

She said:

“I just want to be the best version of myself and to be able to reach all my goals by doing a thing that I love. My family’s a big support that helps me reach everything that I want, even if they’re not training with me anymore.”


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