BATTLE CREEK, Michigan – U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Destiny “Diesel” Taylor has qualified to compete for a spot in the World Games 2022 as a result of her recent gold win at the World Association of Kickboxing Organizations U.S. National Championships in Nashville.
With the restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic, National Guard members had to find creative ways to stay fit to fight. Taylor, who serves with the 110th Wing at Battle Creek Air National Guard Base, has taken her passion for fitness to new heights.
“I wanted to test myself and see if I could do it.” said Taylor, “It’s so different being in the ring and hitting the bags compared with actually standing in the ring across from another person. I wanted to see if I could push myself to do it.”
Taylor, a finance specialist for the Michigan Air National Guard, began training in muay thai discipline seven years ago, without knowing her training would help manage stress during a worldwide pandemic. In early 2020, gyms were shut down to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
“The quarantine due to covid put a damper on a lot of what we could do in the gym. This was the first event that came up that I could actually compete in,” Taylor said, “and I just needed that for my mentality, mostly – to be doing my love again.”
Taylor’s husband introduced her to unarmed combatives after taking a course provided by the Army National Guard. They discovered a muay thai training center in Kalamazoo while searching for a gym for their son to train in martial arts. After watching her son train, Taylor was inspired to train in muay thai herself.
“Literally as soon as our daughter was born, and the doctor cleared her for activity, she was on the mat training.” said Master Sgt. Ruel Taylor. “After six months of training, she decided to fight. She happened to draw the most experienced fighter in her division first, and even though she lost, she stood toe to toe with her opponent.”
Taylor has been actively training ever since. Much like the military, women are outnumbered in the boxing ring. However, the odds did not discourage Taylor.
“There weren’t a lot of females training when I started, but there was one girl at our gym, and I just remember thinking she was awesome,” she said. “Watching her train, I was just like, 'I have to do that.' It was just super inspiring to see her in there with the guys.”
Taylor trains two days at the gym and the rest of the time at home in her garage. The rigorous training and regimented diet required to prepare for a fight resemble basic training.
“A day in training starts with a morning run with sprints, followed by some strength training lifting weights. Then in the evening, it’s about two hours of muay thai, with pads and kicks. The diet consists of a lot of lean meats, carbs to give you the energy you need, veggies, and very little red meat.”
While acing the Air Force physical fitness test has been easier since she began training, Taylor concedes the struggle to balance work, training and family can be difficult.
“Being married and having three kids, and working full time, trying to find that balance is the biggest thing,” Taylor said. “Most of the time, we have a really good flow. It obviously takes a lot of time, but there are times where it’s a struggle.”
Muay thai quickly became a part of the Taylor family dynamic. Master Sgt. Ruel Taylor’s training in unarmed combatives and experience as a coach scored him a position as a trainer at the gym. Both Destiny and Ruel Taylor have competed and won alongside their oldest two children in tournaments.
“The biggest reward is just the sense of accomplishment – knowing that I can push my mind and my body wherever it is I want it to go. Having my kids see that, too, that if you work hard you can be rewarded, whether it be a belt, or a medal or a trophy – or even just making yourself proud. For me, whether you win or lose, it’s a huge sense of accomplishment.”
“One thing I can say about her journey so far is that she has never put herself in easy fight situations,” said Ruel Taylor. “She always trains hard, makes weight, and shows up ready to fight whoever is put in front of her.”
Taylor's drive and passion for the sport have inspired some personal goals. Qualifying for the World Games was just a bonus of all her dedication.
“My first goal was to get in the ring. My second goal, after I lost my first fight, was to actually win. Two other personal goals are that I wanted to get to 20 fights (which I’m two fights out from) and then there’s a promotion called Lion Fights, which is similar to UFC, and my dream was to be on Lion Fights, so I’m hoping I can still get to that.”
Her dedication is replicated in the workplace. Taylor’s position as finance liaison has supported the 110th Wing’s MQ-9 mission while the Operations Group is deployed. She has become a part of the 110th Wing family, and members have shown their support in numerous ways.
“She never takes the credit she has earned, though she has worked hard to get where she is in life and muay thai,” said Ruel Taylor. “ I think she is a great ambassador for our family, our gym, muay thai, and the Air National Guard. I can’t wait to see what great things she will do next!”