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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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.

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New Beginnings and Minor Setbacks

A few things have happened since my last blog post. Here is a short Instavideo of last night’s training:

What you’re seeing is a treatment and mobility exercise to break down an intramuscular hematoma, which was the result of an injury which I incurred in training on Monday night. An intramuscular hematoma as basically a bleed that is contained within a muscle, and although it’s usually caused by trauma (everyone assumed that I had copped a leg-kick) it can also be caused (as in my case) by an elongation injury.

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The Fortnight That Was: Gi Problems, Weight-Cutting, and The Gout Strikes Back

Hot cacao-and-almond-milk after a walk by the riverI’ve just gotten back from a long, slow walk. This rather unexciting circumstance has been brought about by a flare-up of Gout. It’s one of the most ridiculous things that I have to tell people – that I, a thirty-year-old, non-drinking, non-smoking female athlete have Rich Man’s Disease, but without the patriarchal or financial privilege that is supposed to predispose one to it!

I first became aware that I had gout when, on a Saturday night in 2012, when working as a gaming manager after a day of BJJ training and MMA sparring, I started to feel a little pain in my ankle. Within half an hour, the pain had escalated to the point where it was completely debilitating and even the touch of an ice-pack on my foot was excruciating.

I was taken to hospital, in my black work dress make-up and other non-sporting accessories, where I had to explain all of the bruises on my legs and how my ankle couldn’t possibly just be broken, because I had fractured, sprained, broken, torn and crushed many things before with not even half the amount of pain I was in now.

I was given anti-inflammatories, which were surprisingly effective, and a diagnosis of Gout. I remember laughing when I heard it; I thought the young intern was trying to lighten the mood. But no, really, at the age of 27 I had developed Gout.

I went on to discover that it’s not unheard of in athletes. A diet rich in purines and alcohol is only one cause of the build-up of uric acid crystals in the joints which cause this intensely painful condition.

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Tapering, and The Burden of Proof

It’s Thursday night and I’ve finished my final training sessions for the Synergy Pro BJJ comp this weekend. I’ve had a near-perfect lead-up, with no personal stress, minimal injury and little disruption to my training routine.

The final week before any fight or competition is, for me, always a relatively light one. I halve the duration of my training sessions, and switch from full rolling to doing drills which are specific to my game-plan. My priority is being mentally and physically fresh, fully recovered, on weight, focused and happy. So far, I consider this week successful, because I am all of these things. The soreness of the last and hardest weeks of full training is gone; the minor injuries I that accrued have almost completely healed.

Tapering is not a new or revolutionary concept. Any strength and conditioning coach or experienced athlete is familiar with the concept. However, as I have discovered over many years of training in different disciplines with different coaches, not all martial artists do what is physiologically best.

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Progress is Incremental

I had a hard night at MMA sparring tonight. At the end of it I leaned against the wall in the women’s bathroom (yes, there is one of those, awesome) and looked up at the shower-head (wow, we have all the amenities!) and wondered if I could “do this.”

Wondering if one can “do this” is almost always counter-productive, because doing “this” usually means succeeding 200% of the time and being the Best In The Whole World Ever Of All Time. In other words, it represents an all-or-nothing, be-all-and-end-all definition of succeeding.

Luckily the same sparring partners who took me down and smacked me in the face from top half-guard reminded me of the incremental improvements that I had made. It’s hard to view one’s own progress objectively, so this kind of feedback can be valuable.

I was still angry at myself – angry because I was “unimpressed with my performance” and angry about the fact that I had allowed it to unbalance me emotionally. I didn’t feel like staying for the second training session (No Gi jiu jitsu), but I did because I knew that that was what I needed to do. (After all, discipline consists of doing what you need to do, not what you feel like doing.) I’m glad that I did. I exhausted myself with good, controlled rolling, and the success that I achieved ameliorated my frustrations about the sparring session.

Jiu jitsu has allowed me to learn a lot about what it takes to make progress in all areas of life. It’s important to allow yourself to enjoy what you do, and to be willing to make mistakes and get countered hundreds of times while you’re working on perfecting something.

Tonight I tapped someone for the first time with a submission that I’d been taught in 2011. You can imagine how many failed attempts there have been in the three years that have passed since that time.

It was a fitting reminder of the importance of persisting, of relinquishing unrealistic expectations when it comes to progression, and of striving for that 1% improvement every time I train. It’s not an all-or-nothing process, it’s a 1% improvement, one day at a time.

The Grind: Someone is Watching

Screen Shot 2014-06-03 at 3.37.23 PMThere was a young woman at the gym this morning doing some observations as part of her Certificate IV in Fitness while I was doing a strength and conditioning session.

Dayni, my strength coach, introduced me as an MMA fighter and explained what we were doing in terms of strength and conditioning. The young woman was very interested, and asked me a lot of questions that I don’t usually “have time for.” Today, I took the time though. I answered all of her questions about how long I’ve been doing “this” for, why I started, how old I was, what I did for work, what I was doing for the rest of the day, what other training I did apart from weights training…

I’m glad that I did, because now I realise that she was asking because I was something that she’d never seen before. It’s hard for me to recognise that some people see me that way, because to me what I do is so normal, so ordinary, so tedious at times, that it doesn’t warrant consideration and I find it hard to understand why people are asking me “basic” questions like what I’m doing “after this.”

As if to confirm the validity of the thoughts I’ve been having lately about putting myself out there as a way to somehow add value to the lives of others – and particularly to expand the minds of girls and young women – this young woman said:

“I love it when I see girls do things like this. It makes me believe that I can do anything.”

 

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