Yeah, It Hurts
Thailand, Pattaya – My trainer, Kru Nu, is 5’10 and a solid 25 kg heavier than I am. He’s not small. He’s also long, rangy, and doesn’t throw full power when he spars with me but he doesn’t lightly tap me… ever. A few years ago we were doing padwork in the ring and I went for a kick. Kru Nu went for a knee at the same time and ended up landing it flush into my groin; hard. The pain felt like I’d been split and I fell to the ground. Kru Nu helped me up and muttered a “sorry,” but the tone of it indicated that he was more apologizing for breaking a social code of making any associative contact with a woman’s private parts than he was at having caused me intense pain. If I’d been a man, the “oh shit, dude, I’m soooooo sorry,” would have lasted 5 minutes. I’ve been hit like this a few times again, since then, one time last December resulting in a small cut and surrounding bruise that took more than 10 days to heal. I don’t know of men who experience that kind of injury. Testicles are sensitive and cause exquisite pain when impacted, no question, but they move; they don’t split and bruise.
Since that first impact from Kru Nu, I purchased a female groin guard from LoBloo. I’d only ever seen a female groin guard one time before, when it was given to me as part of a uniform in Chiang Mai on the “Muay Thai Warriors” show, now years ago. The uniform was shorts, a top, a chest protector that was essentially the same thickness as gloves but shaped into a ridiculous bra, and the groin guard was essentially the kind Western Boxers use and was so enormous that neither I nor my opponent could actually fit them under the shorts they’d provided us with. It was so cumbersome and alien-feeling, we both opted out of the protection. My LoBloo, however, is a small piece of hard plastic that fits under anything and actually works. The difference between opting out of protection because it doesn’t even make sense, versus choosing to wear protection all the time because getting hit in the groin is horrible, is a pretty massive difference. It’s also illustrative of how much protection for bodies without testicles is completely ignored, even by people who have those bodies. The boys at my gym have seen me get hit and be in pain, unprotected, and they call out with surprise, “does it really hurt when women get hit there?” I understand men not getting it, but I’m astonished at how many women don’t recognize the need for protection either. If you’ve ever been hit there, hard, you know; then the problem becomes trying to find something to use. You can’t just go buy a good female groin guard at the average sport store, as men can. This is illustrative of how under-appreciated the need for protection for women is. But women who haven’t experienced the pain of getting hit in the groin often respond to the idea of it like, “I had no idea.” Men and boys who have never been hit hard in the groin know that it hurts; they know without ever having experienced it. People without testicles, who will never experience this pain first-hand, know that it hurts, because we talk about it and appreciate it. In fact, the vulnerability and preciousness of male genitalia is somehow a point of identity and pride. The dismissal and ignorance of women’s need for protection has the opposite effect.
Moving Toward A Different Equality
There’s a lot to be said and done to bring gender equality into any sports, let alone combat sports. There a lot of glaring differences that will take a great deal of effort to change, like the difference in rounds, time, promotional interest and opportunities, etc. There are also differences that remain somewhat invisible, such as the mandatory groin guard for men and the dismissal of the need – let alone requirement – for female groin protection. I truly believe that bringing awareness to this and making not only individual women aware of 1) the need for protection and 2) the products which offer that protection, but also the larger organizations that promote these sports will make a big change in bringing gender equality into greater balance. Imagine if women didn’t wear mouthpieces because “women don’t hit very hard, so it won’t cause any damage.” Or something like that. It’s infuriating. I’ve seen women get kneed in the groin in fights and, guess what, we don’t get time to recover the way men do, because it’s assumed the injury is slight. To imply that bodies without testicles don’t need protection because pain is either impossible or insignificant is far more political a belief than one might assume on the surface. Anyone who has chipped teeth, split tongue or lips from not wearing a mouthpiece – we don’t ever forget to wear the mouthpiece again. It’s the same with the groin guard. When you put your mouthpiece in, you feel fortified by that protection. You can bite down and step in to danger in a way that you are more hesitant to do when you don’t have it. It’s the same feeling with the groin guard. When I started wearing the LoBloo on a regular basis, in training to get used to it so that it wasn’t on my mind at all in fighting, I realized how much the semi-conscious awareness of that protection allowed me to move in ways that I simply don’t without it. I’m not consciously worried about getting hit in the groin all the time, to the extent that I suspect men are because that’s something they’re actually conditioned to worry about, but I definitely was subconsciously moving my body in ways to protect that area without realizing it.
The Support of Lobloo – And Why I Care
I shot a vlog/announcement video, which you can see below. You can also see the LoBloo Aeroslim that I use in training and have used for many fights. I have two, I slip this one on for training daily, it’s great. They’re very easy to put on and take off, as well as machine-washable. But the real point about the Lobloo is that the lack of awareness surrounding women’s need for groin protection is pretty shocking. Honestly, it’s as obvious to me as saying that both men and women need to wear a mouthpiece, but for reasons that have a lot to do with cherishing male genitalia’s vulnerability as a point of importance, the fact that women need protection is something that many women in combat sports don’t even recognize for themselves. To be clear, if you’ve ever been kneed or kicked in the groin hard, you know you need protection. Once that realization comes, the methods for how to go about acquiring that protection is a maze of mostly bad options. Men can buy a cup at any Walmart or sport shop. Women often have to do their own searches online, so just go straight to Lobloo.com
In the video I mention the wonderful discount and contribution that Lobloo is offering with the purchase of the guard. You get a 5% discount on the product, but they are also donating 10% of the sale to the Kru Fund. (Discount Code: KRUFUND). I’m very stoked on this inclusion, because the Kru Fund is very dear to me and is a huge part of my work. I’m supported by Patreon and 10% net of what I earn through Patreon is put in the Kru Fund, as well as 100% of profits from the sale of merchandise (shirts and shorts!). That money is collected into the fund and then distributed out to the fighters, Legends, and krus who are in the Muay Thai Library – Preserve the Legacy, a project which is aiming to preserve the fast-disappearing techniques of Muay Thai from the Golden Age and now, as well as archiving the men who carry that knowledge. They are aging out of being able to teach it and Muay Thai is changing quickly (it’s a living art, this is natural), so the Kru Fund offers a bit of additional financial support to many of these older ex-fighters who don’t always have steady income. It’s a huge gesture of aligned values that LoBloo is contributing to this project.