Kayla Taylor – The Muay Thai Warrior

        “Skjaldmaer” or “Shieldmaiden” is the title given to female warriors in Norse folklore. The names of women such as Lagertha were made famous by the Norse Sagas and popularized in modern media. However, female warriors are not just unique to Scandinavian culture. They span multiple regions and cultures throughout the world from Ancient Greece to Native American. They are also depicted in many popular works of fiction. From the fantastical worlds of JRR Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” and George Lucas’ “Star Wars” to shows like “Avatar: The Last Airbender” and “Attack on Titan”. The female warrior is a widely celebrated figure in history and fiction alike. Although “Shieldmaidens” were a source of historical speculation for many years, the concept of what they represent is very much real. A “Shieldmaiden” is a woman who is honor bound, prideful, and personifies inner and outer strength through the battles they fight and the trials they face. They take up the sword to fight for their loved ones, and they die for the causes they believe in. Even here in the Ottawa Valley, the spirit of the “Shieldmaiden” lives on.

         Kayla Taylor is a mother of two children, a military spouse, and Muay Thai fighter. Unlike most athletes, Kayla would never consider herself a sporty person growing up, “I hated games like tag, or anything that involved moving. I played soccer but I was never fully involved and wasn’t very competitive.” However, at age 15 her mindset changed, and she was spurred by the decision to live a healthier lifestyle. Instead of going down the path of traditional sports, she took up karate and her journey as a martial artist began. She rose to the rank of black belt and competed in several international tournaments. It was at one of these tournaments that Kayla witnessed a kickboxing bout. Her ambition grew, as did the warrior spirit within her. She shifted her focus from karate to kickboxing and started training at the now defunct Creed Martial Arts in Ottawa, Ontario. The sharp shift from not even enjoying traditional sports to becoming a combat sports athlete was not lost on Kayla. For Kayla it was the individual aspect of combats sports as the main motivator in those early days, “I didn’t feel like I was pulling a team down because of my lack of experience, with combat sports I felt like my success, or my failure was on me.”

The life of a combat sports athlete comes with many sacrifices. After getting married her husband was posted to CFB Petawawa, Ontario and they had to leave their life in Ottawa behind. With a new posting and having two children also presented its own challenges. For a time, Kayla wondered if she could even continue fighting, “I had two babies at home, my husband was on course, it was a lot, and I had no idea when I would ever get to train again. I was kind of in a spot that I felt maybe this was a dream I needed to let die. When you have a passion for something though, there’s no way it ever really dies right?” Through great resiliency Kayla began training on her own, she started running and found ways to keep in shape, “Running with a double stroller is a nightmare.” Kayla joked, “But it was either this, or nothing.” Then just before the Covid-19 pandemic, she found her new home at Evolution BJJ & Muay Thai and the man that would become her new head coach, Kru Ricky Godoy. She found a new calling in Muay Thai, a combat sport from Thailand incorporating punching, kicking, as well as strikes with knees and elbows.  

    Finding a balance between being a military spouse, mothering two children, and being an athlete is difficult to say the least. Some would say it’s impossible, but for Kayla it came down to priorities and the example she wanted to set for her children, “I think about when I was a kid and what I admired about my mom, and what do I want my kids to be like as adults. One of those things that was really important to me was showing my kids that they can have a family and continue to follow their dreams.” Though Kayla would never say this lifestyle is easy, “Sometimes I get overwhelmed. I feel I put my kids through so much especially when my husband is away. I bring them to the gym to train with me. Sometimes I feel like I’m putting a lot on them, but what I want my daughter and my son to see is that if you have a goal your family can be with you through it. You can have a family and you can achieve your goals.” However, the life of a warrior is often one with great personal loss. Two and a half years ago, Kayla’s sister passed away, and that loss helped fueled her efforts, “After I lost my sister it felt like I needed to live my life more, live more intentionally and live a fuller life. I feel that way when I do Muay Thai. I get nervous a few days before each fight and I start thinking about all the reasons I can quit, but then I think about why I do this. One of my whys is because she’s not here anymore. It motivates me to maximize the time that I have left, it motivates me to maximize every training session. It’s given me the recognition that life is so short, but it’s also part of my healing process.”

        Kayla’s unbreakable spirit partnered with the mentoring of Kru Ricky Godoy and her team have led to incredible success this past year. In 2022 she was named Female Muay Thai Athlete of the Year, along with Kru Ricky being promoted to the rank of Kru Yai, and Evolution BJJ & Muay Thai winning the award for “Best Supportive Gym of 2022”. Kayla won the award due to her outstanding work rate throughout the year, with an amazing 6 wins! With only 3 losses, and 1 exhibition. One of those losses being included from her previous kickboxing experience. Kayla spoke about what it was like to win the award, “It was such a huge honor, and it was so cool. I honestly still feel tingles thinking about it.” To Kayla though, winning the award wasn’t even something she was aiming for, she was merely doing what she loves most and chasing her dreams. “I am so honored. It’s a good reminder of just do what you love, do it well, and it will come back to you.” Kayla was also selected to join the National Muay Thai Team, “I feel so much pride for my country. This is the country where I live, where I love, my husband is also in the military. It’s just amazing. I’m so proud to be representing Canada.”

        To some, combat sports may appear to be a brutal, but to those who understand it, and whose lives have been touched it know its true nature. Muay Thai is a code, one that the warrior adheres to, its principles and traditions are followed and honored by those that practice this noble art. Kayla Taylor is picture of a modern-day shieldmaiden. Her strength is personified by her dominance in the ring. Her pride is exemplified by the work she puts her body through in training. Her character is formed through a life of challenges. Kayla Taylor is a daughter, a wife, a mother, and in all facets of the word…a true warrior. Her name is Kayla Taylor, and she is a shieldmaiden.


  • Sharon Maye
    January 12, 2023 at 9:35 am

    Excellent article! This is a different than just highlighting someone in sports. It is empowering…addressing the struggle/balance with being a parent, spouse, and pursuing something you love. This is relatable to both women and men.

  • Jordan Girard
    January 12, 2023 at 11:36 am

    I had the pleasure of training with Kayla during her karate days. I’ve never met someone with such sheer determination, true grit, and desire to push themselves to their absolute limit. Moreover, her ability to inspire others to push their limits and be the best version of themselves, not with force or intimidation but rather kindness and generosity, is unmatched, and I will forever be grateful for the years we spent training together. Clearly, I could not agree with this article more. She is a true shieldmaiden, and I look forward to watching that win record increase. 🙂

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