Fighters In & Out of the Ring: Janet Garcia-Borbon

Fighters In & Out of the Ring: Janet Garcia-Borbon
Interview by Kristine Plena
For this week’s fighter spotlight, I had the honor of interviewing fellow San Jose native, Janet "Yanet" Garcia-Borbon. Janet’s journey as a fighter shaped her into a confident, strong, and driven individual. With stories, just like hers, we hope that it inspires you to face adversity with confidence and courage, like these fighters do. To be the change and impact you want to see in yourself and the world around you. 

Surprisingly, Janet’s career as a fighter began all thanks to a groupon that she purchased as a gift for herself. “I turned 21 and I was going to the 24 Fitness that was close to AKA at that time. I always saw it and thought ‘maybe one day i’ll join.’ Then, one day I was going through groupon and saw a deal that was like $25 a month or something like that. I bought it as a gift to myself and that's basically what started off my journey.”
From then on began her 9 year journey as a female fighter with a current record of 15-3. She first started off with a mixture of kickboxing and Muay Thai, but slowly and gradually transitioned to just Muay Thai. It was the fire and passion that drew her to Muay Thai, but also being able to throw elbows here and there. She achieved a lot in her journey.  For Janet, her greatest achievements within her career were breakthrough moments that really pushed her boundaries and out of her comfort zone. 
“There’s two I can think of--the first one being my second fight ever when I broke my collarbone in half. After that, everyone was telling me to stop fighting, but my viewpoint was keep going, overcome it and come back. It was scary, but it was one of the reasons I joined Jiu Jitsu. I was like what is one thing that scares me? Jiu Jitsu. So, I’m going to do it. I pushed myself out of that fear and brought more awareness to my body.”

The impact being a fighter has been for her, was truly life changing. 

“When I first started training with my coach (with the groupon), I was studying in school to be a mechanical engineer. The more I got into Muay Thai, the more I pushed engineering  to the side. And now I completely flipped my major and am now studying kinesiology. I liked engineering, but I loved Muay Thai so I chose it.”

That groupon led her to find her passion in life. But even more so, led her to self-empowerment and confidence.

“For females, it gives you power. I feel so empowered when I do it, especially being a smaller female. People look at you like this small, precious thing. Your parents, friends, everyone around you looks at you like a baby. It gives you so much power. I can defend myself. I can look after myself. It showed my parents too, I can go out and be by myself and be okay. It's such a good feeling to be powerful in a way. It also changed how I looked at my body. Before I used to want to be thin, petite, no muscle. Then I started doing Muay Thai and it changed the way I wanted to be in my own body--muscular and strong.”   

The pandemic made it difficult for everyone to go about their daily lives, but this proved a bigger challenge for fighters like Janet. She made it work despite the hindrance. Janet continued her rigorous training schedule, but instead of the gym it was in her trainers’ backyard. Janet also continued to hold her kickboxing classes, but like many of us, transitioned to conducting them online. 

“I started my online kickboxing classes about 3 times a week. At first, I didn’t like being in front of the camera and by myself in my room, but after continuous training with everyone I got used to it. Other than that, I tried to train as hard as I could, maybe twice a week with my coaches in their backyard. I used to work as a trainer at UFC gym, but because of the pandemic I was unemployed for a good amount so I decided to go to  school and finish my degree, and next year in Spring I  will be graduating!”

The transition of how our lives were before the pandemic to working from home was not an easy task for anyone. Especially if you are holding self defense classes through a computer screen, while you’re by yourself in a room. 

 As a teacher what has been the more rewarding part?

“A couple things, one you get this bond with people that you wouldn’t get in any other way. I like giving back my knowledge. I have so much to give and it's so fun for me. Another is, I know some struggle with their technique. We work on it so hard & when they overcome those challenges and thrive I love it. I always film them from the very first day of training and I show them their progress through these videos. To see them happy with their progression is the most rewarding.” 

Along with continuing her training during the pandemic, she also decided to go back to school to finish her degree in Kinesiology. Janet’s passion continued during the pandemic. Not only was she physically training, but mentally learning more about the body and applying what she has learned into her own training. 

From balancing school and training, it would seem to be a challenge to keep up with such an intense schedule. However, almost a decade into her career, Janet realized that mindset is where it all starts. 

“In the beginning, I didn’t really know much about mindset. I would just go in there and just balls to the wall and go after it. But the more fights I got into, the more I realized how a mindset can make or break your fight. You can be physically ready, but if you are not mentally then you won’t perform well. You have to get your mindset correct, do whatever it is you have to do. For me--I figure out after each fight what I need, what I have to do before, and stuff that helps prep me when I walk into the ring.”

In a previous interview that you did in 2017, you said that “one of the most difficult things [for you] is staying motivated, because there are days you want to give up” how do you think you have grown or improved on staying motivated/having that mindset  from where you were then, to where you are at now?

“I feel like with motivation its natural for you to be not motivated, but now its all about even if I am unmotivated I am still going to do it. So it is really about discipline. You have to get that discipline that will push you to keep going past that unmotivation. To get you to that next level.”

What is in the future in Muay Thai for you?

“I really would love to represent in the World games. That is one of my goals ever since I was younger and doing tae kwon do, even when I was that little I always wanted to do the Olympics. Seeing Muay Thai grow so much from the US, to the world games, and it now being an Olympic sport gives me extra ambition. There’s a lot of things I need to do to get there, but they’re on my list so I have to keep going to achieve them.” 

Janet has come a long way from when she first purchased that groupon that led her to this journey. With her last remarks, despite where we all are in life, these words should echo to us as we continue our own journeys…

“Do not let other people dictate your life. When I was growing up, I thought I had to have a plan right after high school to go to college, graduate, and fall into this alignment. I made my own plan instead. There shouldn’t be a timeline on when you graduate college. Find your own path and don’t listen to other people. Do what’s right for you  in your life.”

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