They’re fierce, incredibly fearless and potentially fatal. Terri Blair, Louisville’s first female boxing world champion; Justine Kish, prized Muay Thai, kickboxing, MMA and boxing competitor; and Meghan Chapman-Herp, expert Krav Maga trainer, each bear their own level of impressive strength and confidence. Together, they’re helping women and men in the Louisville area achieve the same through CORE Combat Sports – a premier fight training center and gym owned by Rolando Haddad.
Inspired by Bruce Lee movies, Blair – who holds three world titles – first began her career at age 8, enrolling in a Shaolin Do kung-fu school in Paintsville, Ky. Similarly, Kish took up fighting early, earning her second degree black belt by age 17 before garnering attention from prominent Muay Thai teacher Master Toddy, who invited her to train in Thailand. Chapman-Herp, however, entered the game a little later in life, when a friend told her about a class teaching the self-defense system Krav Maga. “At first, it was a struggle because I’ve never done anything like this before. But I ended up sticking with it,” she said. “I felt really empowered when I did it and started to understand what Krav was all about.” Now, a decade later, Chapman-Herp, like Blair and Kish, is a role model for many who take her classes at CORE Combat.
The Voice-Tribune visited Blair, Kish and Chapman-Herp to learn more about their successes in fighting and self-defense, as well as the various benefits of becoming involved in the gritty battleground of combat sports.
You’re Louisville’s first female boxing champion. What does that mean to you?
BLAIR: It really is (surreal). I’m very proud of it. And it’s not really the belts and the wins and losses I’m really after, it’s who I’m fighting. Because the girl I fought for the world championship, at the time she was considered the best in women’s boxing. And so that for me was the biggest victory, just fighting the best out there and then beating her, knocking her out.
Throughout your career, you’ve become known as the “Road Warrior.” How did you earn that nickname?
BLAIR: All my fights have been on the road, I’ll fight anybody anytime. I’ve had a week’s notice before. It doesn’t really matter. This is what I do so I want to fight anybody.
Have you suffered many injuries as a boxer?
BLAIR: I’ve been lucky, I have not had any serious injuries in boxing. I’ve had more injuries when I played soccer in college than I have boxing. Just a few cuts over my eye, but that’s it.
What do you love most about CORE Combat Sports?
BLAIR: This is a great facility, and it’s great for self-defense, just fun. But it’s also family-oriented. A lot of families sign up here together. There’s a niche for everybody to fit into, too. And, the nice thing about it is we offer free classes, so you can try everything out and see what you like best.
KISH: I lost two bouts in Thailand (by split-decision), but had rematches and made sure I didn’t lose those. With my professional record in boxing, kickboxing, MMA and Muay Thai (I’m undefeated), but my favorite (sport), of course, is Muay Thai. Everything else I’m undefeated in except Muay Thai, I think I’m 16-2.
You grew up in North Carolina and trained across the world. How did you end up in Louisville?
KISH: Word got around that I teach Muay Thai, and people had heard I would be static, that I wouldn’t be traveling and competing (because of a knee injury in March 2011). … CORE (Combat) really helped me get momentum back for training in Thailand. … The trainers are so reliable, and you can always count on them to be there and push you to be your best.
How physical is Muay Thai?
KISH: After every bout, I had one day off before my bout and two or three after, because even if I won my bout, an easy win or comfortable win, I’d still have bruises over me. So, no matter what, there’s always going to be some sort of injury, but your body toughens up and you get used to it.
Why should someone consider Muay Thai?
KISH: It’s such great training for people who don’t even compete. … (It’s good for) health and fitness, and it’s always good to know how to punch and kick. … It’s not a self-defense class, but it’s still learning how to punch, how to kick, how to use your body as weapons.
What are the qualities, not just physically, you take away from Krav Maga – a lethally effective self-defense system?
CHAPMAN-HERP: I think, especially coming from a woman’s perspective, it really gives you a sense of empowerment and confidence and knowing that, God forbid, (if) something happens to me … I know I can protect myself and keep myself alive. … It puts your mind at ease a little bit.
I think Krav is such a great self-defense system. I think everyone, male or female, should learn some kind of self-defense no matter what. It can be Krav, boxing or Muay Thai, but everyone should have to learn some type of self-defense.
What’s the atmosphere at CORE Combat like?
CHAPMAN-HERP: Once you’re here, you’re kind of family. We’re like a giant family – dysfunctional because we like to hit things – but we are a giant family.
CORE Combat Sports, 13124 Eastpoint Park Blvd., offers training in Krav Maga, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, kickboxing, boxing, Judo and other types of fitness and self-defense; children’s classes are available. For more information on CORE Combat Sports, visit www.corelouisville.com or call 502.489.5444.