Why Women Speaking for Themselves is “Facebook-Worthy” – Women’s Day Special

Some people think that you have to be “Facebook worthy” before daring to discuss your experiences in a public forum. It’s a shame that this attitude exists, because I personally find so much value in reading about the experiences of other people, especially other women, in combat sports as told in their own words. Historically, much has been written about women, and the voices of women that have made it into the public sphere have had to come through a thick editorial filter. The internet allows people to express their views and experiences without censorship, and while this can be both harmful and beneficial, I believe that in its capacity to allow women to speak freely about their own experiences it is invaluable.

Because it’s International Women’s Day, I wanted to share a few blogs and – yes – Facebook pages which are run by women whose shared experiences have added value to my own.



Wrestling Camp

Wrestling Camp was a great success for all involved. It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had, and I obviously learned a lot about wrestling, and how the wrestling community works here in Australia. Rather than inundate you with a long post comprised of fan-girl superlatives, I thought I’d break the experience down into a few categories:


“It’s Not Real Wrestling”

I have never called myself a wrestler, although I have been categorised as “Wrestler” before by some BJJ friends overseas, which simultaneously filled me with pride and embarrassment. (Apparently, the perception was due to some combination of my “physique” and my ineptitude with lapel grips. Maybe it also had something to do with that Greco class where I took down an 87kg guy a bit more than I should have. )

The thing is that, while I do wrestling training to benefit my BJJ and MMA, I’ve never entered a wrestling tournament. Thus, while I do tell people who ask that I do wrestling training, and for what purpose, I never call myself a wrestler. Wrestling is one of the oldest sports in the world, one which commands a great deal of respect. I would never dream of sullying its name by making unqualified claims about myself.

Imagine my horror then when the subject of Bikini “wrestling” (re-)surfaced in my little sphere of influence. Something in me is strongly repulsed by the concept of women in bikinis or lingerie doing something (which some producers have the gall to refer to as “wrestling”) for the sole purpose of letting cameras capture footage of sweaty cleavages or crotches tangled up in lace or lycra.


Confidence & Competence: Perception vs Reality

I have been thinking a lot about confidence lately, in the context of my own training. I go through cycles of feeling like I’m making great progress and solving problems, interspersed with cycles where it feels like I have run into a wall and am doing the “wrong” thing over and over again. I have come to view these phases somewhat fatalistically, accepting that if I just keep grinding, each phase will yield to the other in its own time.

That’s not to say that I don’t experience emotions in association with these states. When I feel like I’ve reached a plateau, I feel frustrated and inadequate, and I start to doubt myself and – yes – lose confidence.

Recently I’ve felt that I have been experiencing a plateau in my MMA training. I never feel that I am transitioning as fast as I want to be; I’m not winning as many drills as my team-mates; I don’t feel like I’m showing dominance in sparring or making enough progress from week to week.

While continuing to work with my team to increase my competence, I’ve been exploring ways of improving my confidence, which I consider my own responsibility.


Preventing Neck Injury

I get some strange looks when I do my neck exercises in front of BJJ and especially Muay Thai folks. It looks strange to see someone apparently running around on their head, but there a solid method and extremely sound reasoning behind this activity.

Leo Frincu is a former wrestling world champion, successful entrepreneur, and has been strength and conditioning coach to champions like Ronda Rousey, Diana Prazak and Romulo Barral. In the video above, he demonstrates the carousel, and some regressions of the front-to-back bridging sequence.

I started looking for effective neck exercises while trying to return to training after spraining my cervical spine during BJJ training in 2011. Previously, my neck had been strengthened through the process of Muay Thai clinching, which had given me very strong and active upper trapezius and levator scapulae muscles, but had not prepared me at all for the myriad of positions in which one finds oneself while grappling – falling or being dropped on the mats head-first, posting and bridging on the head, being stacked, and resisting chokes and neck cranks (intentional or otherwise.)


The Female Ghetto and Paradise Island – “Can You Help the New Girl?”

Long before I started training, I often felt like “Third Gender.” My earliest memories of pre-school were of a little troupe of boys who were my friends. I don’t remember their names now, but I remember that we would pretend to be soldiers, or play on an old, rusted-out tractor that had been painted in bright colours and left to us as play-equipment.

When I started primary school, children segregated themselves into gender groups, and I tried to do the same. A beautiful girl with long dark hair and big greenish eyes introduced me to the term “Best Friend” and claimed to be mine. She consecrated the “Best Friend-ship” by taking me to a big old pine tree that she called “the Tree of Sheba” and burying a fallen pine-seed under it. The next week, she had a new best friend, and I was heart-broken. I continued to visit the tree for a long time afterward to see if our seed grew – it never did.

Later in primary school, led by a thrillingly talented and tomboy-ish girl, who won every athletic event she entered, all of the girls in my grade started to play soccer. I found an outlet for my physical energy, my competitiveness and my lust for challenge (all of which had formerly been described as an “attitude problem”). I was never very skilled at soccer, but I enjoyed it immensely, and my eagerness to assert myself physically made me an effective, if not very skilled, defender. Our team went on to win local tournaments. We never really had a coach, although I do remember our male teacher being very supportive of our team and organising a seminar with a real, grown-up female soccer player.

Almost spontaneously, we practised every recess and lunch-time, usually against the “boys team,” who weren’t nearly as dominant in their tournaments as we were. We would run out to the oval and make a pair of goal posts out of hats and bins. Kids would be hurrying to eat their snacks or lunch while playing.

I loved the cameraderie in this experience. To this day, I miss the sense of female solidarity and pride that we had as children.

Owning It

This week has been fairly light in terms of training. Not only am I feeling very ungrounded and out-of-sorts since leaving Singapore, but most people are in holiday mode and many academies are closed or “taking it easy” over the New Year period.

The New Year period has provided a good opportunity to begin to consolidate some of the techniques that I learned at Evolve MMA, to reflect on the experience and distill some lessons. This is the way my mind works – an experience is not complete until I’ve spent a considerable amount of time “brooding” over it and have extracted as much meaning and learning as I can. I’ve been criticised harshly for this in personal contexts, but have learned to accept and embrace it, as it’s integral to my learning both on and off the mats. In this sense, my Evolve experience is far from over. It’s fermenting now, like wine in a barrel. The value of the experience will be determined as much by this fermentation process as by the actual act of having gone and trained there.