James Donald, a 33-year-old Muay Thai kickboxer from Portage la Prairie, recently checked off a major bucket list item following his latest match at the Rajadamnern Stadium in Bangkok,Thailand. The fight, held on April 17th, was livestreamed, allowing many of Donald's friends and family to watch from home.

"It's probably my highest level fight yet; it was on a very big promotion in Bangkok," Donald said. "I didn't get the win, but it is always a good experience to take the step up and fight more experienced opponents."


James Donald Fight poster

Having lived in and frequently traveled to Thailand to fight competitively Donald has spent a cumulative seven years in the country. "I try to go back to the same gym, get close with coaches and trainers." He attributes his commitment to the sport to his competitive nature.

"I guess it comes from growing up playing competitive hockey, and once I stopped competing, there was a hole I needed to fill, I truly love competing, and once I found Muay Thai, it filled that space, and I didn't turn back."

His extended stays have not only honed his fighting skills but also his language abilities, allowing him to navigate the country with near fluency. Despite the rigorous nature of the sport, Donald has managed to avoid significant injuries. "I've had plenty of bumps, bruises, and stitches, but never anything enough to take me out of the game," he said.

Donald has turned his passion into a community asset by running a local Muay Thai kickboxing club in Portage la Prairie: JD MuayThai. "We started training and lessons last year, now we're training and exercising here in Southport. It's going well and growing steadily; we've added kids' classes now, and it feels like a new face is here every week." Donald says the club is complemented by Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu classes run by his training partner Chris Boyle, enhancing the variety of martial arts training available to the community.

Donald explains the nearly 40 members range from beginners to more advanced, with some competing out of province and attending sparring events in Winnipeg for a "fight-like" experience.

"This isn't just 'fighting.' This is a martial art, self-defense, exercise, and a sport just like any other sport," Donald explains. "There are points, rules, and all kinds of things governing what's happening. Kids are learning the basics: listening skills, the rules, and respecting other people in the gym."

He emphasizes the club is inclusive and welcomes all levels. "Not everyone wants to do contact; some people just want to hit the bag or exercise and that's ok. We do our best to offer something that fits for everyone."