How Yoga Has Helped Me


For the last month and a half, I have been doing a lot of yoga. I’ve found yoga valuable in the past. For instance, when I was just beginning to recover from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, yoga was one of the first forms of exercise that I was able to attempt. I could do it at home, stop any time, didn’t need any assistance, and there was no risk of becoming stranded as a result of fatigue – which could have happened at that stage had a gone for a walk on my own and become too tired to make it back.

It’s quite amazing to think of how weak I had become as a result of being debilitated by CFS. Things like chair pose, high lunges or cobras which I now perform easily as part of an active recovery really tested my muscular strength and endurance back then.

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Kelly

A little bit before I started Muay Thai, which was my introduction to combat sports, I was caught in a cycle which many girls and women will find familiar, of hating my body, wanting to be “liked”, slavishly following poorly thought-out diets, and doing hours of cardio at the gym.

Needless to say, none of this was very fulfilling. In my quest for ever more cardio, I ended up in a Les Mills Body Combat class.

The instructor’s name was Kelly, and I remember thinking that she was amazing. She was lithe and strong in a way that I had always been told that women were not, and unlike the step-class instructors she made no apology for her athleticism – no thick layer of make-up or pink accessories or feminine affectations.

Unlike those other instructors, she was also very approachable and generous with her time. I spoke to her after class and she told me that she had a background in Taekwondo. I think she may have been the first person in whom I confided about my desire to learn to fight.

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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.

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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.)

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2014 in Review

It’s already half way through January, but it’s not too late for a quick recap of 2014.

In 2014, I:

– won gold in 66kg weight class at White Belt, no-gi, at Grappling Tournaments Australia. I also competed in the open weight division, which had 17 women in it – the biggest division I’d competed in – and got to the semi-finals, losing the semi-final match by one advantage.

– started studying an Advanced Diploma of Nutritional Medicine.

– got graded to Blue Belt.

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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.
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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.

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