The Auckland forensic scientist looking for a fight

by Sharon Stephenson / 12 March, 2019
Photography by Rebekah Robinson
ArticleGalleryModule - Auckland forensic scientist and Muay Thai champ Kelly Broerse

By day, Kelly Broerse helps catch criminals, but at night, she goes looking for a fight.

Forensic scientist Kelly Broerse has lost track of the number of times she’s arrived at work sporting a shiner. The 28-year-old is one of New Zealand’s leading exponents of Muay Thai, a combat sport that originated in Thailand and is renowned for its physicality, using punches, kicks, and elbow and knee strikes to target eight points of contact with the body.

“I’m always injured,” says the experienced fighter, who last November added the coveted New Zealand King in the Ring title to her domestic featherweight and South Pacific championships. “I don’t think I’ve had a day in the last six years when my shins didn’t hurt.”

Broerse works in Auckland at ESR (the Institute of Environmental Science and Research), which operates New Zealand’s only forensic DNA lab. Broerse spends much of her time there, profiling DNA samples from suspects and crime scenes – and she reckons the contrasting natures of her work and her sport help keep her balanced and motivated.

“I’ve always wanted to be a forensic scientist and work comes first, so if I got seriously injured, I’d stop training. But I hope that day never comes,” she says. “Muay Thai is the best stress relief I’ve ever had. Instead of going home to unwind, I go to the gym to beat someone up – or get beaten up! Then I go home feeling amazing and have a great night’s sleep.”

Up at 5.30am, Broerse trains around 10 hours a week – more in the run-up to a tournament – and has to watch what she eats. Her diet includes plenty of eggs and vegetables, with limited carbohydrates and salt. “I get cravings for pizza, but it’s all about having as little food in your stomach as possible during a fight.”  

Growing up with three older brothers who treated her more like another brother than a baby sister, Broerse was used to “rough-housing”. Dancing was her first love – Latin American, ballroom, hip hop and jazz – but interest faded in her 20s. “I stumbled across a movie about mixed martial arts and remember thinking, ‘I could do that.’” It was an easy segue to Muay Thai in 2012, and Broerse has been hooked ever since.

“It can be terrifying, stepping into the ring with an opponent who wants to hurt you. But it’s such a rewarding feeling, knowing how hard I worked and how much I pushed myself, long after the tank was empty.”

Broerse, whose partner Yassin Tansi also competes in the sport, has won 13 of the 14 major fights she’s had to date. This year, she hopes to defend her King in the Ring title and also compete in Australia. “Muay Thai has given me an incredible amount of physical and mental confidence and I’d like to encourage other women to take it up, whether for fitness, self-defence, confidence or fighting.”               

This article was first published in the February 2019 issue of North & South.

Follow North & South on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and sign up to the fortnightly email.


Tech Week: Time to celebrate Aotearoa’s own overlooked moonshot
106359 2019-05-25 00:00:00Z Tech

Tech Week: Time to celebrate Aotearoa’s own overlo…

by Peter Griffin

“We bow down to this idea of Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos going to Mars, when here in our own country, we had the equivalent."

Read more
Kiwi composer John Rimmer: An instrumental figure
106331 2019-05-24 11:09:35Z Music

Kiwi composer John Rimmer: An instrumental figure

by Elizabeth Kerr

Contemporaries and students are paying tribute to composer John Rimmer and his musical legacy.

Read more
Why Caroline Easther is thanking her Lucky stars
106325 2019-05-24 10:39:21Z Music

Why Caroline Easther is thanking her Lucky stars

by James Belfield

Well-known drummer Caroline Easther has stepped out front with a debut solo album.

Read more
Comedian buys Destiny Church's new political party's domain names
106322 2019-05-24 00:00:00Z Politics

Comedian buys Destiny Church's new political party…

by RNZ

Comedian Tim Batt buys up domains for new Brian Tamaki-backed political party.

Read more
Simon Bridges is hobbled in hate-speech debate
106336 2019-05-24 00:00:00Z Politics

Simon Bridges is hobbled in hate-speech debate

by Graham Adams

The National Party is leaving the heavy lifting of defending free expression to Act MP David Seymour.

Read more
When did a damn fine cup of coffee get so complicated?
106251 2019-05-24 00:00:00Z Food

When did a damn fine cup of coffee get so complica…

by Jean Teng

Long-time latte sipper Jean Teng embarks on a journey through the world of soft brews.

Read more
Win a double pass to a special preview of Sometimes Always Never
106301 2019-05-24 00:00:00Z Win

Win a double pass to a special preview of Sometime…

by The Listener

Billy Nighy plays Alan, a stylish tailor with moves as sharp as his suits, who has spent years searching tirelessly for his missing son.

Read more
What we must learn from the Israel Folau controversy
106275 2019-05-23 09:31:01Z Social issues

What we must learn from the Israel Folau controver…

by The Listener

Israel Folau has done us the unintended favour of showing how hard and counterproductive it would be to try to outlaw all comments that ...

Read more