It has become a cliché in writing about fighters to remark on the disparity between a fighter’s in-ring persona and their regular, day-to-day disposition. In the main these remarks are to the effect that one cannot believe how gentle and thoughtful a fighter is outside of the ring, and how devastating, dangerous or aggressive the fighter appears against opponents. I am not struck by this disparity – I have come to expect it and might actually be shocked to find a fighter equally aggressive outside of the ring; or equally passive within the ring, which would make for a short career, indeed. I am, however, consistently moved by the thoughtfulness and spirit of the female fighters I’ve had the opportunity to interview. It is precisely this consideration and heart that permits a fighter to be any good at her sport and so I am in awe not of the difference between the personas, but that the fighter in the cage is really an amplification of the quiet fighter outside of the ring.
Linda Ooms is just such a fighter. When she answers her phone it is with a sing-song cadence that is typical of Netherlands speech patterns, but it is also a joyful. When I identify myself and she knows to switch over into speaking English, her voice changes – just slightly – in register and slows a bit. She’s inviting and shy at the same time, careful of her speech, though not cautious. She answers questions with full consideration, even if not with great detail. She cuts right to the heart of the answer and inspects the purpose of the question, which I suspect is how she deals with fighting as well. I’ve only seen a few clips of Linda’s fights and she executes her movements with this same care and directness. She’s a thinking fighter, for sure – her strikes are measured and plotted with great speed and she is considering as she moves. That said, she gets to the point of the fight without excessive dancing around, showing off, or unmonitored energy expenditure. You can see the Linda who speaks quietly on the phone in the movements in the ring; and you can hear the heart and strength of the fighter in the answers she gives over the phone. There is coherence, rather than discord.
Linda Ooms is an established fighter, with already 33 fights to her name, 32 of which are kickboxing matches. The one remaining is a boxing match from 2005 with another kickboxer, Ilonka Elmont. At the moment this stands as Linda’s only boxing fight, and yet in her most recent kickboxing match against Jemyma Betrian one could see evidence of boxing influence with Linda’s quick dips and slips, bobs and weaves and straight punches. It should not have come as a surprise when Linda Ooms told me that she is training in boxing with the goal of qualifying and competing in the 2012 Olympic games. This is a landmark and historical event as 2012 is the first year that women are permitted to participate in boxing as an Olympic sport – Linda Ooms, if she qualifies, will be among the first.
When asked if her training for boxing is much different for boxing than her training for kickboxing, Linda doesn’t give a moment’s pause before answering, “Well, yes; it’s a different sport.” When pressed for details regarding the disparity and whether they feel different to her body or whether she has to think differently for each art, she considers that they don’t feel remarkably different to her and she does not struggle with separating the two in her mind or body, and laughs when I suggest that I have a hard time sometimes not kicking someone in a boxing situation. She admits, however, that she has far more experience in kickboxing than in boxing and so this is a clear distinction for her.
As it is, Linda’s current training schedule is divided between time with her kickboxing instructor, with whom she’s trained for many years, as well as with her boxing trainer, with whom it sounds she trains among a group of female Olympic hopefuls. When asked about the qualification process, Linda offers that it’s simply a matter of getting and succeeding in a sequence of boxing matches. This is a remarkably simple and practical way to view the potentially complicated and stressful path toward Olympic qualification. But the straight-forward view is coherent with Linda’s mental approach to training. She trusts in her trainers completely – (in our first interview she advised me that she does not watch her opponents’ fights or care to know much about them prior to a fight as her trainer tells her anything she needs to know and trains her according to plan) – and is comfortable and adroit enough in her fighting style, strengths and overall love of the art to just go out and do it. It’s an effective method for her and her team.
Linda Ooms’ second boxing match and first bout in her path toward Olympic qualification for 2012 is this last week of April. We wish her the best and anticipate her success.