“Just like sparring in a Muay Thai boxing match, life is a fight. Every fight does not go as planned, regardless how much you prepare. In a Muay Thai ring, you never know what your opponent is going to come with. You might get blindsided by a move you did not see coming like an elbow, a knee, a foot, and also, you have to steel yourself against the heckling supporters of your opponent, who want to see you fall and not get back up. Life is the same. It’s a challenge. Every day we are all fighting in the ring of life, and we have to be ready to face, not just our direct opponents, but elements in the outside world,” expressed renowned Muay Thai champion fighter and CROM Physical Culture owner, Chris Romulo, as he shared what motivated him to take pen to paper and explain why he keeps getting up in his memoir, “Champions Uprising.”
In “Champions Uprising,” Romulo, in a straight, no chaser endearing narrative, reveals his life’s battles both on the Muay Thai boxing ring and in life.
Romulo’s parents are Filipino immigrants. His mother, Lucita, worked hard and sacrificed her own life’s vocational dreams to make sure that both he and his brother had the American Dream. She wanted them to go to college and fulfill what she thought their life’s goals should be, while still preserving their Filipino culture. His father, on the other hand, was a reckless gambler, who Romulo felt estranged from, though they lived under the same roof in Queens Village or “The Ville” as it is otherwise called in is the “hood.”
After a series of unfortunate events in grammar school, Romulo took to the streets and at 20-years-old was almost killed in a near-death street fight. All these experiences redirected his life and purpose to be the man he is today — a champion fighter, husband to wife, Sarah, and father to sons, 19-year-old Jube and five-year-old Giovanni.
So how did Romulo discover Muay Thai?
“I got into Muay Thai when I was 21,” Romulo said. “I was full of unexplainable anger in my youth. One day I found myself in a street fight, in which I came close to losing my life, and it forced me to figure out how I could defend myself. So I started reading all sorts of magazines, hungrily searching to find out how I could be a better street fighter. So in one magazine, I discovered Muay Thai, which in the U.S. is referred to as Thai boxing. It was a full page ad touting a Navy Seal combat course, that said if you order these three VHS tapes and watch, practice and learn, you can become what they coined as an ‘unbeatable street fighter.’ I was a young adult and was like, ‘I’m sold!’ I thought that’s what I needed at the time to make sure nothing would happen to me in the streets again.
“So my younger brother and I ordered the tapes, and drove my mom crazy as we would kick and punch, sparring with each other in the house. My mom would shout, ‘You are tearing my house apart!’ She finally kicked us out of the house and put us in the garage. We trained with each other for over a year.
“The VHS box set essentially showed Muay Thai techniques, which basically is like boxing with the exception that you are using your hands, your elbows, knees and feet.
“I had been in martial arts since I was eight-years-old, but didn’t start training in Muay Thai until my early 20s, when accidentally I discovered this gym. I was just walking around in downtown Manhattan, and found myself in front of this gym. I peeped in and saw a heavy punching bag and a makeshift boxing ring. I walked by a few times because I was curious about the gym, but too nervous to enter. It turned out to be TriStar, the first-ever Muay Thai facility in NYC.
“I approached the only guy who was in there and asked, ‘What do you guys do here?’ He said, ‘We do Muay Thai.’ I joined and was immediately hooked.
Today Romulo is a retired professional Muay Thai fighter, who boasts state titles both as an amateur and professional, a North American title, two national titles and he even brought home the bronze medal in the World Muay Thai Championships in Thailand.
However, after countless battles both won and lost, Chris retired and with his wife opened his first Muay Thai gym in Rockaway.
“Sarah, originally from New Jersey, fell in love with Rockaway’s beaches. In 2006, we came down one bitterly, freezing winter day to check the community out, and immediately she said, ‘Let’s move here!’ My son, Jube likes to skateboard, and I saw the skate park on Beach 90th, and knew he would love it. So, we moved.
“We started teaching Muay Thai classes on the boardwalk, as it became more popular, we then shared a space with jiu jitsu gym, Rock-Jitsu: Team Renzo Gracie on Beach 108th Street. Then we outgrew that space and decided to open a Muay Thai gym on Rockaway Beach Boulevard,” Romulo said.
Then Superstorm Sandy struck. Romulo said he, Sarah and their children went to his parents’ home in Queens Village.
“As we watched the news, Sarah cried and cried. We wondered what happened to our home and our gym. When we came back, everything was destroyed, but you know what? Sandy did not knock us out. We lost a lot, but came back bigger and better. That’s what this book is about. How we can all resurrect after all the punches, jabs and kicks we get blindsided by in life,” Romulo said.
Romulo’s memoir, “Champions Uprising” comes out on Monday, May 15 and can be purchased on Amazon.com
“After interviewing over 20 well-known Muay Thai fighters, coaches and people surrounding the sport on how they discovered Muay Thai, I felt like I had to share my story to motivate folks that need that spark to get up, even when life knocks you down. I too have gone through a lot in life, both in the ring and in life. However, my mantra is to keep getting up, no matter how hard the blow,” Romulo said.BLOG COMMENTS POWERED BY DISQUS