Never too old to learn


In this picture I am the oldest in the group by atleast 10 years but these kids have been training for as long as me and some of them even longer , a majority of their young lives. It makes me wonder did I start too late?

In our little close knit gym nestled away on the Old Kent road in South London there are both European Muay Thai champions and British Muay Thai champions and winnings of British opens in Brazilian Jujitsu, however, interestingly most of these were won by kids still in school. 

Impressive stuff! These kids have won titles that alot of us dream of, being the petite woman that I am it makes sense to train with people my size which happens to be teens. I have no shame in sparring these kids, who better to learn from? 

I have been asked if I wish that I had started earlier after all I could be a black belt by now. Of course I do! But in reality at the age of 15 would I really have wanted to go training after school and risk ruining my nails by having to wear gloves or having my face rubbed against the mats when sparring and possibly ruin my perfectly appiled mascara? Probably not! 

Respect is due were respect is earned and I have total respect for these kids and for the parents. It can’t be easy to get grumpy kids to go to the gym after school or on the weekends when a majority of there friends are playing out. Not always fun but bribery seems to be a pretty effective tool.

As a shy insecure teenage girl myself I can appreciate how hard it can be for teen girls to keep training. After all martial arts are still pretty male dominated and it’s hard enough to accept your appearance without black eyes and sporting a red swollen nose. 

As an adult we think it’s hard enough to go training after work but imagine having the pressure of standing over you aswell making sure you’re taking part! Terrifying! And some of the parents i’ve seen at various events and competitions can be pretty intense. Saying that if I have a child i’d love for them to take up a martial art it gives them confidence, they learn to take constructive criticism and of course respect. 

It’s never too late to start learning after all there is a masters division. And if this marvellous woman is anything to go by age is just a number and  dedication to learning is everything.
Till next time……

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Just a little respect

From pilates, spin and any kind of martial art you are there for a reason, whether it is to learn the sport or just to keep fit there are some points of etiquette that everyone should abide by. 

Admittedly etiquette is a difficult word to describe but in the most basic term I think that it means treating your team, your gym even your competition is treat with a degree of respect. This came to mind as recently a member of my jujitsu team was asked not to return. Harsh you may think but however a build up of months of a lack of respect or even common courtesy at times was the cause. 

Turning up exceedingly late, belittling others and most of the time not even bothering to bring that most basic item of jujitsu Gi- a Gi to me shows nothing but a lack of respect. Like most I’m there to learn not have to act with kid gloves around someone who gives little but contempt. If you don’t want to really to the class taught cool not a problem just leave. Trust me it is a much better way to go than the embarrassment of being asked to leave it must be a low point as an adult to be asked to leave due to bad behaviour.

On the other hand if you are struggling with any aspect and it is the cause of your anger don’t be afraid to ask your coach is there to help after all. They want to help and see you develop. We all have bad days were there a very little spark is needed to start the fire but when bad days are bad months that is a problem. 

Enter the gym with the same respect you would give as you would with any other aspect of life whether it be work or education. The people you train with make you the athlete you are; plus on a slight side note it is never a good idea to be repeatedly discourteous to someone who can bend you like a pretzel with ease. 

Martial arts begins and ends with respect for yourself, your coach and your competitors and very little is asked mainly just a willingness to learn and a clean Gi. They say that respect is earned and that is definitely true trying to learn a martial art without it is like trying to swim against the tide you’re just going to end up a wash out. 

Slap bump and roll  is an agreement that we are ready to spar, ready to learn of each other and if that is not enough to get some respect I don’t know what it.
Till next time….

Girls guide to mixed martial arts 


It is unquestionably a male dominated sport but more and more women are taking part and in this blog are going to be a few things you need to know before you dip your toes in the mma water.

When you pick a gym it is nice to see a few other girls taking part which is great if not guys are just as great to train with and with my experience I train harder when I am just with guys as it prevents me from getting distracted and chatting too much, sadly my jujitsu ability improved 100% when one female friend left the group as I no longer had a gossip buddy. 

Please do not worry about your make up or nails neither will be salvagable by the end of the class, mascara will be running down your face and your nails especially if you are doing boxing or muay thai will be chipped and broken. It can be hard not to worry what you look like but everyone male and female looks like a sweaty beetroot by the end of class anyway no exceptions! 

On a more personal note ladies buy a black gi if jujitsu is the martial art you are interested in you will feel much less self conscious during shark week, a pair of short underneath your usual gym attire is also recommended for any martial art. It’s true that exercise does reduce cramps but a knee on belly or tep landing square in your uterus does not…and of course the week we are drilling triangles coincidences precisely. 

I would really recommend that you braid your hair or wrap it into a tight bun not only for yourself but for everyone you train with stopping a spar to pull out a stray hair is not nice for anyone involved. Your hair will go through some damage with all the extra washing, braiding, being pulled and constant retying into a ridiculous pineapple ontop of your head it will take it’s toll but coconut oil is your best friend to keep it in great condition. 

Doing martial arts won’t make you any less of a woman I no longer bother wearing much make-up and constantly get smacked in the face but if anything I feel more confident than ever I train in martial arts that I love and I am confident in my abilities. Male or female no one inside MMA gyms really care what you look like when training the only things that matters are your willingness to learn and how you treat your teammates after all your team and coach can bring out the best in you. Just get out there and give it a go no one is made of glass and a bump to the nose isn’t going to break you (something i’ve frequently experienced) who knows you might even enjoy it….
Till next time…..

In pursuit of perfection


In the upcoming months there are Brazilian Jujitsu competitions aplenty so of course that goes hand in hand with signing up which involves choosing your weight division. I filled in the necessary forms and signed up for my usual -51.5kg and it wasn’t until a few days later when I hopped on a set of scale and my heart sank. I was 54kg. Definitely not a heavy weight by any means but in the past two years I had never weighed more than 47kg. I had put on 7kg, the heaviest I have ever been. 

54kg does not seem alot and it definately is not but when you are 5’2 every kg seems to show. Thing is I barely noticed the weight gain until someone kindly (rudely) mentioned I had put on a bit of meat (the one thing that you should never say to a woman). At this weight I feel good and I feel stronger it wasn’t from eating junk and not exercising i’ve been training along with running and eating healthier then I ever have been so what gives? 

I was not self conscious of my body before I weighed myself so why should I now? It seems to me that weighing yourself is just a trigger for bad habbits like meal avoidance and obsessive thought but unfortunately it is a necessary evil when it comes to martial arts. 
So i’m left with two choices loose the weight to go to my usual -51.5kg or go up a weight. My choice? Go up I feel healthy and I feel strong why give that up I always need to go up a weight divison anway and this way the competition is more in my favour. I don’t want to become obsessed with what the scales tell me and fall back into the habbits I had as a teenager eating small portions and avoiding anything deemed unhealthy at all costs weighing myself meant judging myself. It was not a fun time in my life but it is apart of my life now just a smaller part of it weighing myself is no longer necessary for me to able to like myself it’s just something I need to do to tell me what weight division I can compete in, that is all. My weight no longer equals my self worth, i lived by the scale, and that ain’t living! 

The only thing left to do now is train hard and go for gold, despite what the scales say don’t let digits control your life, that isn’t living. Would being the perfect weight give me make me more prettier? Nope. Would be the perfect weight make me happier? Nope, but my 15year old self certainly though so! 

Training in sports that I love give me more satisfaction that the ‘perfect’ weight ever could, and winning gold will give me even more! 

Till next time….

The Art of Eight Limbs

Image result for art of eight limbs

 

In this post I will be combining my two favourite subjects History and Muay thai, I touched on this subject in a previous post ‘why Muay Thai?’ but having learnt a bit more about the subject since then now is as good a time as any to explore it more.

As well as being a national sport and cultural hotspot for Thailand Muay Thai itself has an interesting back story dating from the 13th century in Siam (a name formally used by the country now known as Thailand) when an army was created and taught to use all parts of the body as an attacking weapon, it was a time when hand-to-hand combat was actively encouraged as martial weapons where not always readily available. Different parts of the body act as varying weapons the arms acting as a sword and the legs as both an axe and as defence. This was a time when Siam was often under attack by neighbouring countries precise and deadly force was needed and necessary.

The tropical climate of Thailand made for an effective training ground for these warriors, the coconut trees were used to toughen the shins though banana trees where preferred as it was softer and easier to break. The thought of hardened warriors in the days of old make me feel pathetically weak in comparison when I think I have it tough kicking a leather bag. But for these guys it wasn’t just training for a fight when at the end of the round it was over and he got to go home and lick his wounds it was a fight to defend his life.

These hardy warriors often used a coconut suspended from a tree to mimic the movements of potential opponents, this a method I would love to see.

Muay Thai is undoubtedly the most effective striking martial art especially if you are considering fighting mixed martial arts boxing will only take you so far and a grounding in other martial arts such as Brazilian Jujitsu and wrestling are essential, a great example of this is James Toney in UFC 118 a professional boxer who lost his one and only UFC fight. A great boxer but as an MMA fighter? hmm not so much.

A bruised shin and a bloody nose is not much in the grand scheme of things if it is a sport that you enjoy (and trust me you will get a lot of bloody noses I can feel a one coming on just looking at a boxing ring) Muay Thai is more than just a blood sport it is a Martial Art that has become engrained into a nation and now is on a global scale in part due to the Kings of Thailand love of the sport. Gone are the days of hemp hand wraps and splashing water into your face to build a resilience to closing your eyes during a fight but there are still plenty of warriors around will to train hard and fight harder.

 

Till next time……

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The realities of Brazilian Jujitsu 


Having taken some time off over the festive period I have been re-introduced to the wonderful world of Brazilian jujitsu. It was one thing reminiscing at Christmas watching videos on youtube of new techniques to try and getting back into training quite another. Along with the scent of gravy sweat the new year brought back the realities of training. 

Broken and sprained toes are pretty common and toe taping becomes a way of life. In my first class back in no-gi jujitsu my little toe was nearly yanked off reminding me of the importance of taping.Pretty much any digit will be in need of taping at some point in any BJJ career. Having spend and afternoon in a&e with a fellow BJJ enthusiast following a toe being caught in the mats I can safely say it is important to tap your toes especially when on interlocking gym mats. It was a sunday open mat session the slap and bump indicated the sparring had begun and within moments he grunted and looked at me eyes wide with horror and said ‘I think i’ve broken my toe’- think? There was no question it was broken it was sticking up vertically. The only possible solution? Pop it back into place, tape it up and keep on rolling
Judge a man not by his actions but by his ears. When out and about in daily life you will learn to respect and fear those with cauliflower ears and calloused hands, these guys and gals are to respected and feared. The cauliflower ear comes from a tear in the cartilage of the outer ear usually resulting from combat sports or rugby and through some calloused hands caused by a mean gi grip and you have one tough individual. Taping hands can also prevent skin on hands tearing and skin balm is a must I have found to prevent having hands like sandpaper.

 
This one may be a bit of a taboo subject but very much a real component of any female grappler and this is getting your period. Shark week is not a great experience at the best of times but combining that with having to wear a white Gi and the inevitability of getting a knee on belly can only make it worse. I’ll admit there have been times when i’ve been surfing the crimson wave and become victim of knee on belly or even a teep, which involves the heel of someones foot being embedded in your abdomen, and worried that the gym will suddenly look like the prom scene in Carrie. If you can work your way through the pain you’ll feel all the better for if after, exercise is known to relieve cramps and if your having mood swings well there is nothing better than doing a martial art to let out all the anger.

The best aspect of being back training it that I am back to learning about a sport I love with people that share the same enthusiasm for it that I do. 

Till next time…..

Blue is the new black

 

Practising Brazilian jujitsu in a Gi did not come easily to me, at first I was incredibly frustrated with myself for not being able to maintain a grip or even remembering do to it. Thankfully with practice it is improving! 

Since i’ve began BJJ in a Gi I have longed for a blue belt, as a fresh faced white belt in a stiff Gi I looked at the blue belt with admiration and a hint of fear. To my friends and family who don’t participate in BJJ I have received a fancier belt, a belt much nicer than my tatted white one but to me it is a sign of achievement and dedication. All the blood, sweat and tears on the mats has totally been worth it! 

I’m happy being a blue belt…for now I always want to learn and progress, i’m not happy if i’m not making progress. I think that is why so many people stop practicing BJJ when they get their blue belt as they have become content. I’m proud of myself and everyone else in my class we have helped each other improve. 

I now have higher expectations of myself I noticed that myself and those that I was sparring with went harder than usual during my first spar as a blue belt and if that doesn’t want to make you improve what will? White belts want to test their abilities and those of a higher belt keep you humble. 

Stay humble guys and let the journey continue….

Misogyny and Martial Arts 


Recently I have been teaching some guys basics of Brazilian jujitsu eveything has been going well they listen and seem eager to learn which is awesome. Then when wrapping up a quick lesson I hear ‘aw that’s cute, but I couldn’t do that it looks so wrong I couldn’t have my legs around all them guys’….I do not train 5 times a week just to pull a man between my legs like some sort of guard pulling venus fly trap.

I admit that some positioning Brazilian jujitsu (BJJ) to the untrained eye looks a bit risqué but I found a bit offensive that it only seemed to look wrong when I was training with guys not when they were training with each other. I can safely say there is nothing sexy about a sweaty rashgaurd being mushed against your face whilst your arm feels like it’s being pulled off.

The same person then said that I was good ‘for a woman’, I’m not good at BJJ for a woman I’m just good because I train alot. Being made to feel ‘less than’ just because your a women is not great but I whole heartedly recommend any sort of martial art for a woman and jujitsu especially. Jujitsu is designed for weaker, smaller opponents to dominate larger ones using technique rather than strength. 

Grappling is still very much a male dominated sport and I’ve come across all types of male grapplers the ones who refuse to loose to a girl, the ones who make you feel like girls shouldn’t be there and the ones who could not care less about gender and care more about technique and learning. Thankfully they are the majority! 

Just because you are a woman it doesn’t mean you can’t kick ass and if someone questions well you can’t fix stupid but you can choke it…
Till next time….

Temptation is temporary….

When you are dedicated to a sport that you love it consumes all parts of your life especially when it comes to the substances you put in your body. When you are an athlete you’ve got to be picky and if you over indulge in smoking & too much alcohol it’s safe to say your beloved sport is just a hobby not a lifestyle.

We all remember the golden boy at school or college who was amazing at football and chatted about wanting to persue it professionally, he was the schools star player and played for the county, however, he also smoked behind the bike sheds and drank far too much on the weekends. It took its toll on his body and now instead of fulfilling his athletic dream he plays 5-aside on the weekends at the local park wheezing up & down the pitch with a hacking cough. 

There was once a girl in the class I trained in no-gi Brazilian Jujitsu with that got so carried away taking drugs that she turned up to class looking like a racoon.she, however, was convinced that she was going to be the next Ronda Rousey, a difficult enough task without being off your face on various drugs most of the time. It made her behaviour erratic and her mind unable to remember any new techniques which quickly turned to frustration and anger on her part. It made her training partners unwilling to train with her, aggression is one thing whilst sparring but kicking your training partner in the face whilst sparring quiet another. 

Don’t get me wrong I also enjoy the occasional drink with my friends but my martial arts training is that important to me that I am willing to make that sacrifice. 

Alcohol consumption on a regular basis slows muscle growth & function, smoking of course speaks for itself, reducing lung capacity and generally athletes who smoke recieve more injuries as it hinders the oxygen travelling the brain and muscle. 

Smoking and drinking won’t get me the success that I want, an athlete should crave gold more than they crave a cigarette. 
Till next time……

Mixed martial arts is my drug and i need my fix

  

They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder but when it comes to the gym that is certainly not the case for me. I need my fix. The feeling of catching someone with a subsmission you thought was too advanced or mastering a new drill and doing so with ease are feelings that cannot be replaced. 

Working in a gym is awesome I am in a great environment surrounded by people who are there to improve themselves but working lates every other week sucks! It means i miss out on my martial arts classes (sob) and with a competition coming up I need to get the training in. I feel like my martial arts tool is becomming dull not a feeling I relish in so either I need to work all that much harder when I do get to a class or workout or accept my dull fate; the later is not likely I have far too much love for brazillian jujitsu & muay thai! 

It’s great that I have use of a top class gym with top notch equipment but  I miss my martial arts tribe when I’m not able to train with them, i look longingly at the clock wondering what submission they will be learning and who will pull it off in the next lesson.I can go on all the rowing machines and use all the weights to my hearts desire but it does not replace the feeling of grappling and the high that I get from it. I enjoy the constant thinking and manoeuvring that goes into it and I am chomping at the bit to have a battle next time I spar.

Martial arts has gotten under my skin for the better maybe in this case addiction is not such a bad thing….
Till next time….