The Menstrual Cycle & Muay Thai Training: Important for Female* Fighters & Those That Coach Them

*The phrase “Female Fighters” is used in the title for brevity and discovery, read as: “People Who Menstruate”. Read more of my Gendered Experience articles here. There are a...

*The phrase “Female Fighters” is used in the title for brevity and discovery, read as: “People Who Menstruate”. Read more of my Gendered Experience articles here.

There are a lot of reasons why talking about the menstrual cycle – the whole thing – is important for athletes. Firstly, the “this is super private and should be kept private” approach keeps us from acknowledging that our bodies are going through some serious swings throughout each month, and not just our bodies but our brains are actually generating and responding differently from one week to the next, which heavily affects a fighter’s experiences; but also by keeping quiet we aren’t comparing data with one another and experiences which truly are not unique at all may appear so. I know from my own experience that failing to track my cycle contributed to my own ignorance of it, in many ways. Things would seem novel to me: pain, physical and emotional sensitivity, mental processes – since starting to track my cycle I find that these things are not novel at all, and in fact they are somewhat predictable. Once I know that, I can figure out how to train with these states in mind.

Talking About the Menstrual Cycle, Fear, Error Sensitivity & Pain

Below is an hour-long conversation Kevin and I had, excerpted from a Muay Thai Bones Podcast episode (you can watch the full 4 hour podcast here for free on YouTube, or get the audio as patron) discussing what some of these menstrual cycle hormonal factors are that I’m tracking, as well as what significant impact they can have on my training and fighting. The Luteal Phase of the cycle, for example, triggers in many areas of the brain that respond more intensely to error, facial expressions, as well as heightened fear. It’s not just an “off-day at the office,” as folks like to say, your brain is literally processing things differently. The hormonal shifts in your cycle can make you more self-critical; knowing that and acknowledging that you might respond to one type of coaching in the first half of your cycle completely differently than you do in the second half is significant. And, as a coach of fighters who menstruate, you can become a better coach through these understandings as well.

If you want to get a 7 min preview of what this is all about check my vlog on what and why I’m tracking:

my vlog on my tracking of menstrual phase differences as a fighter (above)

Below is the hour conversation my husband Kevin and I had on our Muay Thai Bones podcast:

watch this:

The hour long discussion of the effects of the Menstrual Cycle and training. (above)

As fighters who menstruate our perspective is improved if we can anticipate and recognize deeper patterns of how hormones are effecting us, in particular in areas of correction, fear, pain, anger & judgement. And importantly, our coaches also would benefit from understanding that their fighter who did quite well under one kind of teaching approach last week, might not fair well with it this week.

There is a thread on the Muay Thai Roundtable that includes links to studies, as well as being a space where this can be discussed openly between fighters, athletes, coaches, etc. Share your thoughts and experiences there, and check out the studies that Kevin has included in his search on the topic.

Some Graphics That Compile What is Found in the Studies

These will make more sense if you listen to the podcast, or read through the forum thread.

A graphic showing how the brain will literally process pain differently in different cycles of menstruation (above)
A very rough breakdown of the differing amygdala hemisphere intensification in the two cycles of menstruation (above)
This is my spreadsheet tracking of qualities that I score after every sparring session. Key is to think about and discover your own patterns (above)

More That Has Happened Recently

Get Caught Up With Me

I know it’s hard to keep up on all that I am doing, as you can see from how much there is below. These are videos I’m proud of that has been published since my last blog post so you can get caught up. There is something for everyone. I hope you enjoy it! If you want to get the best of what I’m doing consider becoming a Patreon, and get the Muay Thai Library and all my technique vlogs.

my vlog on why Being Good at Muay Thai might not feel good (above)
my interview with historic western female Muay Thai fighter Teresa Wintermyr (above)
my vlog, bringing you Muay Thai into the ring (above)
Kevin’s impressionistic filming of my sparring and Russian Hook training (above)
my technique vlog on Ambient Footwork (above)
my meditation on taking a more Vipassana approach to difficult techniques (above)
my 265th fight, with my commentary (above)
An 8 minute excerpt of one of my favorite sessions filmed for the Muay Thai Library project, my first session with the legend Wangchannoi (above)
My English subtitled interview with the Golden Age fighter Pairojnoi Sor. Siamchai (above)
my 266th fight with my commentary (above)
Answering the question: How Do you Time Knees? (above)
You can support this content: Sylvie von Duuglas-Ittu on Patreon
Posted In
Gendered ExperienceMuay Thai

A 100 lb. (46 kg) female Muay Thai fighter. Originally I trained under Kumron Vaitayanon (Master K) and Kaensak sor. Ploenjit in New Jersey. I then moved to Thailand to train and fight full time in April of 2012, devoting myself to fighting 100 Thai fights, as well as blogging full time. Having surpassed 100, and then 200, becoming the westerner with the most fights in Thailand, in history, my new goal is to fight an impossible 471 times, the historical record for the greatest number of documented professional fights (see western boxer Len Wickwar, circa 1940), and along the way to continue documenting the Muay Thai of Thailand in the Muay Thai Library project: see patreon.com/sylviemuay

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