At 51, Jacque Walters is still fighting.
Toronto’s Hook Up Muay Thai’s star kickboxer is fully aware of the uniqueness of being over 50 and still involved in combat sport.
“It’s interesting for me what kickboxing has done because I found the sport late. I’m older than everybody else,” she says. “It enabled me to find my inner youthful self and not get hung up on the number of how old I am but really… push myself to still be active and competitive. I’m actually in the best shape I’ve ever been in in my life.”
But not everyone understands why Walters keeps going. “People are always asking me… ‘You’re getting hit in the head. Why do you like that?’” she says. “It’s not about being a thug, it’s not about being in a bar fight… it’s physical, it’s also mental and it’s exhilarating.”
It’s that mental exhilaration that drives Walters — which might be why, when she describes her best fights, she chooses ones she hasn’t won.
“Normally you think the best fight is always the fight that you’ve won, but I’ve had a fight or two that I lost where I felt that I fought really, really well, and so did the other person, so I lost to a better competitor,” she explains.
At the age of 49, Walters went to the 2009 K1 World Championships in Austria and competed as a quarter-finalist on Canada’s national team. “I felt I had shown myself; I had done Canada proud,” she remembers. “I docked my opponent down several times, she got a standing eight count… I’m pleased with most of my performances.”
Walters hopes to inspire people who are concerned about aging or getting older to continue to live large and try new things — especially sport. “It’s not too late. You can get in shape; you can do the things you want to do,” she says. “I have fought girls 30 years younger than me and beat them… the old lady has still got it.”
But for Walters, the sport is about more than mere physical fitness. She says the discipline and self-esteem one draws from kickboxing can help women to resist violence and feel secure in their daily lives.
“It’s easy to say ‘Don’t be a victim,’ but I think part of the definition of being a victim is it’s out of your control. So I want to try to find a way in which we can at least take control over what we can take control over, which is our own demeanour, our own mindset… how we portray ourselves,” she says. “These cowards that prey on women pick women that they know they can… overpower. And so when you walk with strength and confidence… people see that.”
Walters hopes that her success in the sport can help people find the same courage in their own lives. “It’s really important to me that I continue to be a role model to other women. You know, things didn’t work out domestically and you can start all over again, you can do it. You’re in a bad situation, there’s support for you.”
Walters says she intends to keep boxing as long as she’s able, whether that’s until she’s 60, 70 or 80. “It keeps me young, it keeps me vibrant,” she says. “It empowers me and everything I do in life.”