How do you learn how to make something of your life when you never had an example to follow?
Today’s guest knew he wanted to make a name for himself in the world, but he didn’t know how. Growing up with an unavailable, addicted father, he was filled with anger and took it out on those around him. But he says that we are all born with the champion spirit within. All we need to do is tap into it.
Muay Thai legend Chris Romulo returns to the show to share his story of a champion’s uprising. He talks about how he grew from a frustrated, depressed young man into a world-renowned fighter, and how he’s used what he’s learned in the ring to become the husband, father, entrepreneur and community leader he is today.
From the humblest of beginnings in Queens Village, Queens, it was Chris Romulo’s dream to make a name for himself. While he was physically present, Chris’ father was not emotionally or psychologically there for Chris or his family. This took a toll on Chris as he struggled with abandonment, depression, and bouts of anger. Watching his father struggle with a gambling addiction provided Chris the drive to achieve something greater for his life as he inched and clawed his way through his early years. But, it was a near death street fight that turned out to be the decisive moment that turned Chris to Muay Thai, setting him on a path to personal growth and success, in both the sport and life.
Muay Thai was the perfect outlet for Chris’ natural physicality. With this newfound passion, Romulo became a true pioneer of the sport in 1995. Despite limited opportunities to showcase his skills in New York City, his successes were many. Romulo was determined to learn and gain as much experience as possible training and fighting up and down the East coast. At the start of his career he racked up an impressive amateur record of 18-3-1(7), earning 5 WKA state and national titles. His bronze medal performance at the 2004 IFMA tournament in Bangkok was the launching point for his jump to professional fighting.
In 2011, after an illustrious career in which he posted a remarkable pro record of 13-3 (10KO) and, his crowning achievement, earned the Professional North American Super Middleweight title in 2010, Romulo made the momentous decision to retire from fighting and pay his passion for the sport forward. Due to his successes in the ring, many of today’s young athletes grew up watching Chris, were inspired by him, and continue to look to him as a foundation of the East coast Muay Thai community.
The year 2009 was a pivotal year for Romulo in his desire to extend his reach beyond the ring. He decided to bring his passion and respect for the culture of Muay Thai to a more mainstream audience as he opened CROM Physical Culture in Rockaway Beach, Queens. Through CROM PC, Chris has been able to continue his work with the youth by partnering with the Muay Thai Preservation Project, offering scholarships to at risk youth for no cost. Romulo and CROM PC have helped shape and guide the lives of countless youth that have gone on to winning national Muay Thai championships, excelled in their education, and have become competent and confident individuals in their community.
Chris Romulo is a product of his resiliency and Muay Thai. In 2012, Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc to Rockaway Beach. Romulo and his wife, as well as many others in the community, lost everything. Their home and their business were destroyed. The entire peninsula was devastated. But, Chris’, and his wife’s, resiliency powered them through this time period. While living in a friend’s basement, Chris and his wife, Sarah, rebuilt their gym and became a central part of the Rockaway community as it tried to climb out of the hole that Sandy left. Today, CROM PC has a permanent home, incorporated new programming, and has a 300+ member community.
While reflecting on his 20+ years as a Muay Thai fighter and coach, Chris felt the need to increase his reach beyond the four walls of his gym and NYC to try to help change as many lives as possible. In 2015, Chris began offering online training programs that focused on martial arts, fitness, and mindset. Chris’ projects in 2016 included creating the first ever World Muay Thai Summit, featuring superstars John Wayne Parr, Bazooka Joe Valtelini and Chris Algieri.
In May of 2017, Chris’ memoir, Champions Uprising, will be published. His story displays his unwavering mindset of determination, grit, and the perseverance of the human spirit. Chris Romulo grew up in a broken home. His mother Lucita, a Filipino immigrant, wanted Chris to go to college and live the American Dream. His father Carlito, also a Filipino immigrant, detached himself from the family and turned to gambling.
After a series of unfortunate events in grammar school, Chris took to the streets of Queens, New York, where at twenty years old a near-death street fight redirected his life and purpose. Chris then set off on a twenty-year journey through the study of Muay Thai, which took him from New York City to Bangkok, Thailand and back again. As a fighter, Chris went on to become the first professional North American Super-Middleweight Muay Thai Champion in 2010. But after retiring, Chris was forced to make one more comeback when Hurricane Sandy destroyed his home and gym in 2012.
Chris is convinced that struggle and setbacks can be the fuel to future success. He also believes that by understanding how the mind works, you can use your thoughts as weapons for hunting down your dreams rather than digging yourself into a hole. “Control your thoughts. Control your reality,” is a mantra Chris likes to live by. And he is eager to share his story with the world and uncover stories of “champions” of other industries, to show how we all have the tools inside us to overcome adversity when we tap into our fighting spirit. So while continuing to coach at CROM, Chris now motivates people outside of the gym’s four walls through public speaking.
“It all takes heart.”—Chris Romulo
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