Nili Block is one of the best female kickboxers in the world. Nili Block is one of the best female kickboxers in the world. Nili Block is one of the best female kickboxers in the world. (Photo: Nili Block Facebook)

A woman's unusual path from Baltimore to kickboxing gold

Nili Block reveals her future goals after winning world championship.

Nili Block is nothing if not determined.

In October 2015, the 20-year-old Israeli was crowned champion in the 60-kilogram (132-pound) senior division (ages 19 and up) at the Kickboxing World Championships in Belgrade, Serbia. It took a semifinal victory over the reigning and six-time women’s world kickboxing champion, Elana Muratova, to do it.

"It was thrilling, especially because I have been dealt a lot of obstacles over the past few years," the now 21-year-old Block told From The Grapevine.

Nili Block (R) hands out punishment to an opponent in a recent match. Nili Block (R) hands out punishment to an opponent in a recent match. (Photo: Nili Block Facebook)

Those obstacles included the Belarussian Muratova, whom Block had lost to in two previous competitions.

"She had been my biggest opponent, and once I got past her I knew it was in my pocket," she said of the championship. She was right. In the final, she easily beat Croatian Marija Malenica.

For Block, it was mostly by accident that she came to the sport. Born in Baltimore, Maryland, she moved with her family to Israel when she was 2. At 10 her mom introduced her to kickboxing, and Block quickly showed a talent for it. At 18 she placed first in an international Muay Thai kickboxing competition. (A similar discipline, Muay Thai employs different techniques than kickboxing.)

Then came her November victory. To sum up the significance of the achievement, one need only know that the Federation of Non-Olympic Competitive Sports in Israel, known as Ayelet, named Block Female Athlete of the Year for 2015 because of her win.

"Things have changed a little bit. I've been on TV and in all the papers. People recognize me sometimes in the street, especially in my hometown," she explained.

Block is quick to credit her coach Beny Cogan for her success. She's also eager to acknowledge the role Israel's Kickboxing Federation has had in helping her and Israel's other competitive kickboxers excel on the world stage.

Both will play a major role in the next chapter of her career, which she hopes is at the 2017 International World Games, an event that takes place every four years and brings together the best athletes from around the world who participate in non-Olympic sports.

"The goal now is to find a sponsor who will allow me to focus totally on training," she said, clearly aware of the fact that the attention is nice, but the real reward happens between the ropes.

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