Lupi finds peace in the kickboxing ring

SERENITY: The ring is a place of calm for Wellington kickboxer Gentiane Lupi, seen here beating three-time world champion Alicia Pestana last Saturday.
SERENITY: The ring is a place of calm for Wellington kickboxer Gentiane Lupi, seen here beating three-time world champion Alicia Pestana last Saturday.

She's definitely sane, Gentiane Lupi.

It might sound mad for a well-known actress, turned mother-of-three, to opt for a career in Thai kickboxing.

Even crazier that, far from being something tried once and quickly regretted, this kickboxing caper has become a calling.

Two years ago, with a 40th birthday not so far off and her waistline thickening a little, Lupi decided to get fit. Six nights ago she beat a three-time world champion and is now hoping to conquer the world.

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She's definitely come a long way from playing leading roles in films such as Eagle vs Shark, Kombi Nation and Second Hand Wedding.

''I was completely happy before but now I can't go back to that because I know this [kickboxing]. I was content being a housewife with young kids and now I'm not so content anymore,'' she said.

Except in the ring.

Lupi would fight every week if she could - she's known as AAA because she'll go to war against Anyone, Anywhere, Anytime - and just about does.

Beating Australia's Alicia Pestana last Saturday was about as gruelling a bout, mentally, as Lupi can remember.

Usually they're a breeze.

''It's pretty peaceful in the ring because you've got nothing to worry about except what's in front of you.

"In a way it's quite meditative and your brain operates at such a high level that you basically don't remember those minutes until you see the video later on.

''Living life, you're always all over the place, thinking 465 million things at one. In the ring, you have no chance to second guess, you're relying on instinct and those are instincts that you've built.

''They're not natural instincts.

"Naturally, you're meant to close your eyes when you get hit and you're meant to move away from things that are dangerous. Here you've trained yourself to do the exact opposite.''

The years of acting help, she says. Some fighters are great in the gym but go to pieces before a crowd. Not her.

''I'm smart, I'm wise, I have more life experience. That experience in front of an audience all ties in and works for me. People do want to see blood. They're not too picky if it's yours or the other person's.''

Her mother is, though, and will never attend a bout under any circumstances.

But her children - aged 10, 7 and 5 - happily come along.

''The two girls just love the ring girls, they think they're awesome. What they do is they go home and strip off and walk around practicing to be a ring girl. They're probably not going to follow in my footsteps.''

Lupi, who also boxes, has a dream to be New Zealand champion in every boxing and kickboxing weight division between 55 and 66kg. Once they're ticked off she plans to do the same at world level.

Getting this far has taken plenty of time management and sacrifice.

Her mother-in-law sounds like a saint, as do other family members and friends whose help enables Lupi to combine training with motherhood.

It's a hard life she's chosen for herself, not least because of the dietary discipline required to fight in so many weight classes.

''It's not easy when you have kids, especially when you're giving them ice cream and baking brownies and you're eating cabbage and steamed fish. But it's good to suffer and good to keep pushing your edges.

''I've done years of sitting at home and drinking wine every night and eating whatever. So, though I suffer now, I suffer by choice and it's a good feeling.''

The Dominion Post