The Female Fighter Collective – we are now 6
The Female Fighter Collective was borne out of the idea that women’s voices are out there, they’re just not being shared. For many of us, we are the minority in our gyms and so the shared experiences with other women might come from other gyms, with women who are across the world. But how do you make those contact points? My friend Emma lives in Bangkok and during our friendship I’ve lived in Chiang Mai and then Pattaya. She and I have trained at very different gyms, under very different circumstances and yet we can always celebrate good moments or complain about difficulties together because the similarities of experience far outweigh the difference in circumstances. And I’ve found that to be true across the board when I talk with female fighters. I can even feel inspired and excited about things that don’t apply to my reality at all. For example, I’m the only woman in my gym 99% of the time, which brings a lot of difficulties for me. But Mary is part of a gym (8limbs Muay Thai Academy in Philadelphia) that has a very large, very strong female community, and just the fact of that makes me incredibly happy. The more she shares about it, the more I feel connected to it – even on the other side of the world. Erin has come back from not one, but two knee surgeries, is one of the most accomplished female fighters in the US, and I can be inspired by both her resilience in continuing on through those injuries and by her honest self-doubt, despite her accomplishments. I haven’t directly experienced those injuries, but her story helps me. I have directly experienced that shame of self-doubt, and being able to say “me too,” helps me. Casey is a master at injury recovery herself, but it’s almost in the background to her persistent battle to be part of her gym’s community. She’s a strong part of the fabric, offering support and friendship and training to both the male and female members of the gym, and yet she still finds herself outside of it. I can relate to that so hard it hurts. But you keep going because love has nothing to do with what makes sense. KC fights in Thailand on a circuit that occasionally intersects with me. I’ve seen her in person a couple of times, but I’ve watched her social media for years. She’s so confident, so dedicated, so n0-nonsense, but in a way that really connects to me. And then she shares about how passion has had to carry her through obstacles and so many of us can say, “shit, I relate to that!”
Here’s the thing: more often than not, it’s our vulnerabilities that people connect to. It’s hard to relate to someone’s exaggerated confidence, because a lot of us have a hard time relating to our own. But I’ve never once posted about something that I’m struggling with and not heard back from the Ether a voice saying, “thank you, I feel this, too.” And never once have I celebrated a victory of some sort, even if it’s a moment of feeling good in training, and not had someone offer to celebrate it with me. It’s about sharing all of it. I’m also part of a network of sharing posts from male fighters and the way men talk about themselves and other men… we need to realize, women just don’t do that. We don’t celebrate ourselves and if we admire and respect each other, rarely do we take the extra step (which feels self-exposing, for some reason) to share about the women we follow. The Female Fighter Collective is an experiment in changing that, in taking a note from the male world of fighting and saying that women are worth hearing about; worth sharing about. The Collective is now 6 women, K.C. has just joined us! – systematically sharing about ourselves and from each other in order to create this larger network, but the larger idea is to get women all over the world, in all kinds of different circumstances and stages of their Muay Thai paths to start sharing their own voices, to share from the women they know, the women they follow.
How Can I Help and Be a Part of It?
You can follow the #FemaleFighterCollective hashtag on Instagram and Facebook.This is a stream of female fighter voices and stories. Read us, and please do comment on anything that moves you or that you appreciate. If you are a female fighter or serious student write your own story post on Instagram or Facebook and tag it #femalefightercollective and tag some of us from the collective in it too, so we can read it.
And, when you see our #femalefightercollective posts give them a share if you connect to them, adding a little something of your own. The more dots that connect, the strong the voices, and the higher a chance that women who feel isolated or alone in some way will read something that matters to them.
You can also of course follow the female fighters in the collective. We are 6, our connections and a sample from the collective:
Mary Bee – Philadelphia (USA)
‘Don’t Think Just See Don’t Know Just Flow.’
My Coach @charliecottone_viii is a man of few words when he holds pads for me. “Just throw and I’ll get the pads there.” Developing this kind of flow without verbal prompts is just infinitely challenging to me. I can see my gears grinding in little moments in this clip that is only from our warm up.
You can’t just turn your brain off and smash all cave-person style (historically my preferred method of training and fighting), but you can’t get too caught up in thinking and wind up stalling out. I oscillate (hard) between these two states before I find that balanced state of flow. And once I strike that balance it is so dang hard to maintain it.
For me, guided meditation (I love the headspace app), focused breathing and maintaining a sense of humor about the whole thing help immensely.
I’m interested in what other folks do or practice to be able to enter that state of flow. go to the original post
Erin Jimenez – Maryland (USA)
I first felt intense insecurity when I attended a summer internship where the interns came from some of the most elite schools in the US. Then there was me, a community college transfer. I stood out. I felt intellectually inferior that when it came time to present my summer project, I was paralyzed. I could barely speak. I felt like a fraud and didn’t belong and I fulfilled that by doing a shitty presentation. The second time this happened, I was giving my presentation to advance to candidacy. Although not entirely paralyzed, I felt that way leading up to my thesis defense.
This is partly why I started training. I knew from experience that I can punch things and I can take a beating. I wanted to go somewhere that wasn’t the lab or library. I wanted to separate myself from what I was striving for my entire life. I have been striving that way since 8th grade and Muay Thai sounded like an escape for me. I liked being able to go somewhere no one knew me. No one expected anything of me. I wasn’t trying to be a fighter either. I didn’t feel like I was striving.
As a post doc, I feel alright with my work performance. Work is a happy place. With training and fighting, I noticed I started to strive for something when I started to fight more. As I started winning fights and building a reputation, I felt like I was reaching for something out of my league. I started to feel like I was trying to be someone I wasnt. In training, I felt like everything I did was wrong even if a technique was ok or near flawless. I have always had a great work ethic, but I need to work super hard to make sure I win. Every single fight brought out those intense feelings of “not enough”. Its only after 35 fights that I can let a lot of that crap go. I have an alter ego hell bent on crushing my ambition and I have lost control of it several times in the past. The narratives Ill tell myself are nasty. I have a Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde situation going on where good and evil exist in me, constantly at war. I still strive in areas I am passionate about but I’m better able to shake off the demons after putting myself out there and exposing myself repeatedly. go to the original post
Emma Thomas – Bangkok (Thailand)
I used to hate watching videos of myself training. I would only see the things I was doing wrong and cringe at how low my hands were, how much power I was lacking, or whatever else I felt like picking at. Plus, there’s always someone on social media who is ready to point out what you’re doing wrong.
I still make all those mistakes and worry about comments from assholes, but I’m much happier to post videos now. Most of us feel the same discomfort about watching ourselves, and if I only ever posted videos where I looked perfect, I would have nothing to share! Besides, if I never watched those videos, how could I fix my mistakes?
Constantly striving for improvement is great, but you have to have positive self-talk as well. Don’t beat yourself up for not being perfect. Instead, find small victories in your training and celebrate them as often as possible. go to the original post
K.C. Pinay – Phuket (Thailand)
My whole life of fighting in Martial Arts, I have ALWAYS been the shorter fighter. Even from cutting weight to a lower weight class, I am STILL the shorter fighter. I accept that, because that is a part of who I am. There is no miracle drink that will magically turn me into a 6 foot tall beast, but what I have is passion. Nobody can take that away from me! With this passion, I am willing to strive and do the very best I can against whoever is placed in front of me. I am asked every now and then, by other individuals new or currently in a combat sport, “How do you fight against taller opponents?” I answer back, “Don’t ask how, you just do it.” For anyone preparing for a fight, you put in all the blood, sweat and tears in your fight camp as if you were expected to fight Godzilla. The more harder you work, the more confidence and faith you will build up till fight day. You will win or you will lose, but no matter what you always learn. It is the power of passion that will help you get through any fight! go to the original post
Casey Lynn – Seattle (USA)
Another perspective on self defense. “Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Do not be afraid.” Let’s teach women to control their space instead of how to defend their space. Let’s teach women that they have the ability to be as strong, as aggressive, and as powerful as a man. Let’s not condition women to believe will be a victim at the hands of someone stronger. Let’s teach women they are strong.
Let’s condition women’s subconsciouses not into accepting more defeats/victimhood, but instead teach women power feels like. Let’s teach women how to claim their lives.
The reality is that there will always be someone stronger than you no matter who you are, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have power.
By changing how we teach and look at self defense, we can teach women the ability to direct the course of their lives. We can teach how to be proactive instead of reactive.
Women are powerful. Let’s teach that. go to the original post
Sylvie von Duuglas-Ittu – Pattaya (Thailand)
Going into my fight last night, I was full of doubts. That’s not entirely unusual but it marked my mental state. In the fight, I fought hard, I had lots of uphill challenges, and with a cut pouring blood into my eye, I had to beg the doctor to let me continue. He did, then he didn’t. After the fight he apologized to me, “I know you want to fight, but it’s my job to protect you.” I sat there on the table while the doctor organized his kit for my stitches. I felt so sad, so embarrassed and prickly. When I lay back to let him start cleaning the wound, I closed my eyes to shut out the sympathetic looks. I could hear the “snap snap” of a photographer’s shutter as the needle began sewing into my skin.
I wanted to shut out the world. I knew there were people waiting for me, to take photos or say hello. Even my cornerman Fah, who is one of the sweetest men you’ll ever meet, was waiting for my stitches to be finished before leaving for the night because he was showing his support, and all I wanted was to tell him to go home. Don’t wait for me. I felt this pressure to not feel bad, and so like a kid rebelling, I cuddled and protected my disappointment. Not the “right to feel bad,” which is fine, but the actual bad feelings. There are literally people waiting to tell me I’m awesome and I don’t want to see them because I want to keep feeling bad. Just let me be sad a minute.
The point isn’t to be “above” feeling bad. Everyone feels bad sometimes.The point is that I shared the experience of that fight with over 100 people in the room and nobody else felt what I felt. Why would they? You don’t have to share every feeling.You’re allowed to be immature or hurt or unreasonable sometimes. Courage is only possible with fear, disappointment only possible with hope. It is only out of one’s weakness that one can choose to be strong. In that moment last night, i wasn’t strong. I chose weakness. But I can always choose again. One thing that sharing these moments does, for me, is make me accountable for how I want to be, without disgracing how I can be. go to the original post