As a child, I was that kid, in a pretty pink dress - matched with messy hair and scraped knees. For some time, my bedroom was half decorated with ballet guides and barbies, matched with Star Wars posters and (even cooler) Star Wars figurines. To most, it probably looked like a boy and girl shared. If ever there was a glimmer into the reflection of my life to come - that was it.
Since then, I've often come to be "the only girl". The only girl to be on the cricket team, the only girl to study sound engineering, the only girl on the CSGO team, the only girl in the weightlifting area at the gym. But I am also the girl who can be found wearing bright coloured lipstick, heels and a perfectly put together outfit. Why? Because it's fun, and there shouldn't be a divide on who does what.
Getting into MMA
When I reached university, I was even torn between joining the cheerleading team or the gaming society, with too little time to do both. Instead, I somehow ended up doing Mixed Martial Arts (MMA).
And so, usually the only girl in my MMA classes.
How I got into MMA is an interesting subject itself as to how women are perceived.
I was at a university party, and a wrestler friend was super excited for this new upcoming MMA class in the area - asking if anybody would be interested. Everybody just laughed at the thought, so naturally, I took this as a challenge. I volunteered to join, and everybody laughed at the very idea of this 5" 2 and a half girl (also the reason I enjoy heels so much) doing martial arts against people twice her size. Now? Nobody laughs at the idea of me doing MMA.
It can be challenging to be the only woman in the class, but I wear it with pride, like “hey, we can do it too!”. My experience with the MMA community has been so welcoming, and many seem happy to see a woman give it a go too.
The benefits of MMA for women
Training in martial arts is incredibly empowering. We're always warned of the dangers presented to women in society. 1 in 5 women in England and Wales have experienced sexual violence since the age of 16.
Figures released by the World Health Organisation:
Global estimates published by WHO indicate that about 1 in 3 (35%) of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime.
Most of this violence is intimate partner violence. Worldwide, almost one third (30%) of women who have been in a relationship report that they have experienced some form of physical and/or sexual violence by their intimate partner in their lifetime.
Globally, as many as 38% of murders of women are committed by an intimate male partner.
The need to be able to defend yourself is essential, and many women lack the fundamentals of self-defence. It's not just about doing a 'male' sport; this fun sport has been shown to boost mental and physical health and teach the necessary skills to protect yourself. Sadly, many don't even consider doing some form of self-defence until they've already experienced some form of assault.
The Gracie family created Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu, a grappling combat sport designed to defeat larger opponents. Now, Rener Gracie has developed The Women Empowered programme specifically to help women's self-defence. Rener has worked alongside law enforcement to understand the patterns and behaviours of perpetrators specifically for this programme.
A good show of equality
In addition to safety, MMA is one of the only sports where women are treated equally to men.
Ronda Rousey was the first American woman to win an Olympic medal in Judo and the first women's fight in UFC. During her time at the UFC, she earned her title as the Bantamweight Champion and was the highest-paid fighter in the sport, across both genders.
Mixed Martial Arts is so fun and empowering, not just for women but also for anybody who wouldn't know what to do in a self-defence situation. It's empowering for everybody. It can be challenging to get knocked down and get up, over, and over again - but it builds resilience like nothing else.
It's a great way to boost your mental and physical health, learn essential self-defence, participate in a sport and grow as part of a community.