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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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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Jiu Jitsu Adventures: The Gi and I

I can’t believe that I’ve already been here in Singapore for over two weeks, and that in ten days’ time I’ll be back in Adelaide.

My holiday so far has allowed me to live out the fantasy of not needing to do anything except eat well, sleep when tired, spend time with family and friends, and train. No matter how many sacrifices one makes, this is not the reality of everyday life, when the more burdensome aspects of our responsibilities in relationships, study and work all get in the way of our peace of mind, recovery-sleep and focus.

Training at Evolve MMA is always rewarding. I first trained at Evolve in 2011, and it marked a turning-point for me at the time, in terms of health, self-esteem, ambitions and relationships. Being exposed to such a positive environment allowed me to envision a life of positivity and progress for myself, and experiencing BJJ and MMA for the first time helped me to clarify my sporting goals.

It wasn’t easy to create the vision that I saw back then, but three years later I can certainly say that I’ve changed my life for the better. When I look back on the sad, lost young woman who walked into Evolve in 2011 and put on a gi for the first time, I am proud. People who know the real me have commented on it as well – my energy goes towards betterment and progress now, rather than to damage-control.

I have chosen good people with whom to surround myself, and this has strengthened me in the pursuit of my goals in all areas, not just training. In the last two years, I’ve upgraded my Fitness qualifications, achieved High Distinctions and Distinctions for all of my Nutrition subjects and in my first year at University, got my first win in MMA as part of the first WMMA fight in South Australia, won gold in my weight class at the South Australian State Championships and Grappling Tournaments Australia as a white belt, won gold in my weight division at the State Championships at Blue Belt, and competed overseas for the first time. I could not have done a fraction of this without the support and positivity of the people who are in my life now.

Coming back to Evolve has become a sort of ritual for me, something which marks the passage of time, gives me the chance to reflect on my progress, and which always renews my passion for what I do.

This time I’ve particularly been enjoying gi jiu jitsu. In the past, the gi has been an obstacle for me, something that I tolerated but didn’t always enjoy. There have been many times where I wished that there was the option in Adelaide for me to train under a Tenth Planet gym, and be able to do away with the gi altogether. While I do love the Tenth Planet style, and find the Tenth Planet techniques that Nick has helped me to use really relevant to my no-gi and MMA game, being at Evolve has helped me to love and understand the gi.

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Jiu Jitsu Adventures at Bull and Tiger Grappling: Evolving Beyond My Comfort Zone

On Wednesday night , I did something out-of-character and registered at the last-minute for a BJJ competition that I literally found out about mid-roll that day. I’m a creature of habit when it comes to pre-comp and pre-fight preparation and routine. Although there are many people who take a relatively casual attitude towards BJJ competition preparation, I usually treat mine like a fight-camp and make it the sole focus of my training.

At Bull and Tiger Grappling Comp, Singapore
At Bull and Tiger Grappling Comp, Singapore

But ever since I first put on a gi in 2011 and started thinking about MMA, I have wanted to fight in Singapore. A last-minute BJJ comp is hardly a fight, but it seemed serendipitous – as if the Universe was posing me a question that I needed to answer.

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Where Did You Want To Be Two Years Ago?

I was recently prompted to “write the post that was on my mind when I decided to start this blog.”

I went back over my archives and read my first post. It was February 2012. I was enjoying my first year of good health after chronic fatigue syndrome.

I wrote:

Me, 2012, with cake and neck injury
Me, 2012, with cake and neck injury

“Where I’d rather be now is reaching more people through my personal training business, competing in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, fighting in Muay Thai again both here and in Thailand, and making my debut in Mixed Martial Arts. These are the things that have formed the basis of 2012β€²s Resolutions, which in turn determine the actions I take each day to make these a reality.”Β 

Since then, I moved some goal-posts. Transitioning from Muay Thai to MMA was more difficult than imagined, so my goals to have more Muay Thai fights and to go to Thailand have been superseded by my focus on grappling.

I have seen how competitive the personal training industry has become, and how much more clients need than basic exercise programs. I continue to work with fitness clients, while making myself a better exercise specialist and, eventually, a holistic nutritionist through formal study.

One area of my lifeΒ has gone according to plan, and that’s Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Losing via ground-and-pound stoppage in an MMA fight against Arlene Blencowe last year turned out to be a blessing. It has driven me to develop my grappling skills.

Last weekend I competed in the South Australian Brazilian Jiu Jitsu State Championships – my first competition as a blue belt.

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On Progression: “Have You Got Game From There?”

Last night, I got my blue belt. I’m still pretty blown away by it, and can honestly say that I wasn’t expecting it at all. Perhaps because, as someone who came into jiu jitsu from a Muay Thai background, the concept of belts and gradings still seems a bit foreign to me.

I have been putting a lot of work into my grappling, particularly since losing my last MMA fight. I felt so disappointed and humiliated by that loss that it lit a fire under me and made me determined not just to be a “striker” who had some take-down and submission defense, but a legitimate MMA fighter, with real jiu jitsu and wrestling skills. I don’t want to have to be afraid of being anywhere in the cage. When posed with the quintessential question “Have you got game from there?” I want always to be able to answer “yes.”

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