Martina Ptackova is a tough young woman. In fact, pound for pound, she’s one of the toughest women in the world. In the Czech Republic, where she is from, she’s a source of national pride, having distinguished herself as an elite athlete in the often brutal sport of kickboxing.
But Ptackova is not a brutal person. She got into kickboxing so she could defend herself, not beat up other people. But what started out as a way to deter bullies has become one of her greatest passions.
Ptackova dominated the World Cup in Innsbruck, Austria in 2017, taking gold in her weight category. She did the same for the two years prior, cementing her place at the top of her sport.
The Epoch Times sat down with Ptackova to ask about kickboxing and what she’s learned on her way to the top.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
How did you get involved in kickboxing?
My parents were the ones who introduced me to sports because I was such a clumsy little girl. They were really worried about me. They wanted me to learn how to defend myself and how to stand up to bullying because I was actually a bit bullied at school… My parents didn’t like the fact that my schoolmates were bullying me, so they took me to combat sports classes.
How have you grown through kickboxing?
I think that combat sports, or any sport in general, help a lot. A person learns to not give up so easily and to chase after their goals. That helps them to be even more focused. Nothing knocks them down easily and they continue to fight despite the fact that it’s hard—even if there are obstacles on the way. A strong will is important in life if one wants to do something, like stick to a diet (laughs). It is also about pushing one’s limits internally and rising above different circumstances.
Have martial arts contributed to the deeper development of your character?
I think it made my discipline more solid. You build respect for yourself, but also respect for your opponent, which is very important. Shake the hand of your opponent, treat them with respect. I think a lot of people often forget this, which is wrong.
Could you tell us a little bit about how you train?
I start my training with a warm-up and stretches, then I do spar, which is the preparation for a real fight in the ring. It is also important to devote some time to theory because the tactics are very much needed. Without them, one is lost. But of course, physical fitness is essential.
What does the mental training encompass?
I train for concentration. I focus for a certain time on a chosen subject. I perceive its colors, heat … (laughs), which sounds crazy, but it works. I do eye exercises, breathing exercises to improve and enhance concentration … Sometimes I turn on music and set up a clock and try to concentrate on its ticking and not hear the sounds of music.
It helps to be better prepared. It also helps me in my personal life when I want to concentrate on a certain thing. In sports, it helps to concentrate on performance. If you have the ability to concentrate, you will not be distracted by the environment and you will stay focused. This also leads to being more fervent in the fight. I concentrate on my coach and what he is telling me, but not on what’s happening around me.
People usually focus on several things at once. Maybe at work we move from one task to another. I think the ability to concentrate on just one thing is important.
Have you ever questioned why you were training, or interested in those particular things, or what you want to do with your life?
Of course, such questions come to my mind. It’s natural. I’m doing it mainly because I enjoy it and want to be able to defend myself if I am ever in real danger. I also train children. When they come they are very small and they don’t know anything. After some time, they improve and seeing that makes me really happy.
I think it’s important to stop from time to time and think about everything that life brings us. It is important to realize why we are dedicated to a certain activity and whether it fulfills us. One of the fundamental causes of losing motivation is a negative attitude toward what is happening around us. I try to stay positive.
Do you think that it is necessary for success in a sport to develop not only physically and mentally, but also to cultivate your personality and character?
I think there needs to be a balance between those things. It’s not possible to focus merely on the physical part and avoid the mental preparation. I’m also learning how to be more patient and considerate of others.
If I just train and don’t do the other things, it simply won’t fulfill me and my performance will not be as good. When my personal life is in balance, along with other things, then things will be different.
So, does your fascination with martial arts come mainly from the way it develops you as a person?
Sure. Some people train just to hit someone or to fight or beat someone up. That’s strikes me as being rather odd. What I enjoy about this sport are the possibilities for improving myself or helping others. Thanks to success in sport, I can help in charity, teach children, or even inspire someone to do something.
Will you be involved in any charity events in the near future?
Yes, there will be a trip to Banat in Romania, where some Czech villages are. We will be teaching children martial arts and self-defense there. We’ll also bring some gifts from a public collection—such as toys and crayons. We are planning to build a small gym there as well. I am very excited about that. I also work with a company which helps children from orphanages.
Then I will have a few motivational performances. Oh, then there’s also the shoot for Red Bull, the exhibition called Through the Eyes of the Kickboxer and the release of a documentary film. I am also very excited about going for training sessions with my brother in NATO. I will also expand my collection of handbags. Apart from that, I’m planning a dog shelter campaign. I like making other people happy.
I also became a patron of the healthy eating project. My brother and I are filming the continuation of the combat sports program as well. There are always lots of plans. For example, the World Cup in Austria and the championship in Belarus, etc. await. There are many challenges.
People say that glory can go to a person’s head or inflate one’s ego. What is your experience with that?
I’m trying to keep my feet on the ground, to keep going forward and improve. It’s true that there is sometimes quite a lot of pressure when you win a match. Others then automatically expect you to win the next one too, but that’s not the way it is.
Despite how difficult it is, it is great to have the opportunity to inspire and motivate other people to go after their dreams and never give up.
Translated by Vladislava Mašková and Dan Monagan