Kru Michelle, A Resilient Coach, Fighter, and Role Model

Michelle Sturino standing in a boxing ring wearing a red sports bra and black leggings wrapping her hands for her boxing gloves.

Michelle Sturino is a woman who fights, figuratively and literally.

In 2005, after playing Rugby for the University of Guelph, Michelle found herself feeling anxious and needing a way to channel her aggression and competitiveness. Being used to competing at a high level, she didn’t know where to channel her emotions.

At 22 years old, Michelle wanted to continue challenging both her mind and her body. “I wanted to get to my breaking point and overcome it, I needed an endorphin rush.” Then she found martial arts, Muay Thai was a marriage of all that she was looking for. Once Michelle started to kick and punch things, her passion and love for Martial Arts were immediately ingrained in her soul.

Growing up in Mississauga, Ontario, Michelle never practiced Martial Arts, but she did play every other sport that she could: volleyball, soccer, basketball, lacrosse, hockey, you name it. In University, she was able to participate in both the University of Guelph Humber and University of Guelph campuses athletic programs as she was in a hybrid program studying Journalism. This led her to work as a sports anchor and host for Sportsnet World and (now defunct) CityNews Channel for about 1.5 years. Her last stop in broadcasting took her to NHL Network Radio as the only female host for the last seven years of her career.

Michelle Sturino, as a Colour Commentator for United Promotions, standing in a boxing ring with fighter Brandon Cook and his young son walking across.

Michelle Sturino, Colour Commentator for United Promotions, with fighter Brandon Cook.

Throughout this time, she dabbled in colour commentary for professional boxing and started to take boxing and Muay Thai classes herself. Michelle covered UFC fights before they became mainstream, and she was obsessed.

The Shift from Broadcasting to Martial Arts

Plateauing in her career began to frustrate Michelle. She was putting in more time and had the knowledge and capability to do more, but in a male-dominated field, she felt the pushback. There came a time when she realized there was just no upward movement, and was tired of working evenings and weekends. In 2018 Michelle started to do some personal training and taught Muay Thai in anticipation of her transition out of full-time broadcasting. She got credentialed, first as a WAKO and Boxing Ontario Coach, then earned all three levels to become a Kru in Muay Thai under the World Professional Muay Thai Federation (WPMF). She then added being a Level 1 Instructor in Krav Maga to her resume.

World Professional Muay Thai Federation & Professional Boxing Association of Thailand certificate in a frame against a blue background.

Michelle earned her World Professional Muay Thai Federation & Professional Boxing Association of Thailand certificate.

Near the end of 2019, Michelle started coaching at West End AC, her classes include Technical Boxing, Private Training, Fitness Boxing, Youth Classes (8-14 year-olds), and an All-Girls Class (10-14 year-olds). “I never advertised that I worked with youth clients; I just get a ton of them, especially come summer. I’m good with young people, I love being there for them.” 

Leaving her broadcasting career in August 2020 was a difficult decision, but she knew she wanted more. The physical demand and mental toughness that Martial Arts have taught her bleed into her Coaching and approach to life. Michelle has found a way to channel her energy through her training and prides herself on providing an outlet for those she trains and teaches.

World Professional Muay Thai Federation & Professional Boxing Association of Thailand certificate in a frame against a blue background.

Michelle with her Teen Muay Thai athletes after the Ontario Winter Games in 2020

Leveraging Boxing to Balance Life

Known as the “Gym Mom”, a nickname she laughs about but also takes to heart, kids will come early to her classes just to talk; especially in her all-girls class. “There are days when I see one of them walking in completely defeated. I tell her that she’ll be ok, that she can get through i,t and to just keep going.” Coaches can be one of the most influential people in a young person’s life; Michelle takes this role seriously and understands the power of having and providing a mental and physical outlet to navigate the ups and downs of life.

World Professional Muay Thai Federation & Professional Boxing Association of Thailand certificate in a frame against a blue background.

Determined to challenge herself, Michelle Sturino transitions from her career in broadcasting.

 Becoming a Martial Arts Coach, and training herself, has far exceeded what Michelle has sought for her life. She is rewarded every time she sees a client improve their technique or demeanour. “I see shy, introverted kids having more confidence and walking with their heads held higher.” Gaining trust and being a positive support to those she trains fuels her desire to continue working hard and shattering female stereotypes in athletics.

Training with Michelle means you’re going to get down to business. She focuses on proper technique so that clients can gain speed and power, which will produce a better workout. “I care about my clients and my students. In the 1:1 sessions, I’m really able to get to know someone. Martial Arts, no matter the discipline, helps people evolve spiritually, physically, and mentally. The art of self-mastery is a long journey, and there is always something to strive for. I love Martial Arts because of all that it brings out in a person, it’s about the whole self.”

World Professional Muay Thai Federation & Professional Boxing Association of Thailand certificate in a frame against a blue background.

West End Athletic Club is proud to have Coaches like Michelle Sturino who help empower our youth.

For these reasons and others, Michelle reflects on how her favourite class to teach is the girls’ class, “for one, they have the best attention span.” Beyond that, she shows the girls that they too can be strong and confident females. “The only person you are competing against in Martial Arts is yourself. It’s about working hard and understanding that there will always be hurdles to overcome in life; this sport can help them channel their thoughts and energy.”

A group of young girls standing in a line wearing boxing gloves with Michelle Sturino standing in the middle inside West End Atheltic Club.

Michelle with her All Girls Boxing Class at West End AC.

One day in Michelle’s class a young girl mentioned that she was being bullied; Michelle talked to her and walked her through how to stand up for herself in a controlled and self-assertive way. A few of the mothers overhead the discussion and asked Michelle if she could teach all of them self-defence. In turn, Michelle’s first Mother/Daughter Introduction to Self-Defense course came to be:

A series of 3 classes, every Friday, starting Friday, April 28th, at 5:30pm for 1.5 hours at West End AC.

Michelle Sturino is in the forefront demonstrating a jab as she is Coaching at West End Athletic Club.

Michelle Sturino, West End Athletic Club’s “Gym Mom”

“It’s my job, but it doesn’t feel like work. I don’t feel like I did in broadcasting, always trying to prove myself; which I had no problem doing, but it was the lack of appreciation and opportunities for growth that never came to fruition. In Martial Arts, I just want to grow the sport; we all do. There will always be someone to train or something new for me to learn and improve upon. I never feel like there’s a lack of potential opportunity, and everyone appreciates what I bring to the table as a Trainer and as a Coach. What you give and what you receive is balanced.

Sending a Strong Message of Strength, Determination, and Believing in Yourself

There’s often a stigma attached to females playing sports, especially ones that are so physically demanding as Martial Arts. Michelle Sturino is proof that, just because it seems male-dominated and traditionally, women haven’t participated in disciplines such as Boxing or Muay Thai, women can fight too. “Martial Arts may seem scary, but it provides a physical and mental release, unlike in any sport I have participated in. Your brain is constantly working, and it truly helped me transition from playing highly competitive sports.”

Michelle Sturino wearing Wonder Woman gloves, mid-round doing pad work.

Michelle Sturino is her own version of Wonder Woman.

“Even the best continue to learn and push their bodies, it’s a process that allows you to always learn and grow as an individual. Especially as a woman, the sense of confidence and empowerment it provides, the calm it offers in knowing you can defend yourself if needed; I will forever be grateful for what this discipline has given me.”

“Martial arts is the fountain of youth, you’re always learning and pushing your body and yourself.” Learning to fight for yourself, not to physically harm someone else, but to improve your well-being and balance your internal strengths and challenges.

For Michelle, life has come full circle. At the start of 2022, she received a phone call from United Boxing Promotions, the company she used to do colour commentary for; they asked her to come back and broadcast.

Michelle believes that “everything happens for a reason”, as fellow West End AC Team Member Sara Haghighat-joo was signed to the same promotion, and Michelle gets to commentate her fights.

Michelle Sturino wearing Wonder Woman gloves, mid-round doing pad work.

Michelle thrives on mentoring young people, she provides a safe place to open up and channel their energy through martial arts.

“I’m doing what I want to do with my life, it came about by chance but I had to leave the world behind to accept this one. Martial Arts has brought me so much joy in all avenues of my life, it’s quite serendipitous actually.” 

Fight for yourself, just as Michelle always has, with Martial Arts as your guide. Visit Michelle at West End Athletic Club in one of her classes or to do personal training in Boxing, Muay Thai, or Self-Defence: