Thursday, June 07, 2007

HEY,Dana, where are the female fighters??

So I know I’m suddenly on this mixed martial arts kick, seemingly out of nowhere, but moving back to Vegas has got me thinking more and more about it. I always told myself I’d get into the ring before I turn forty so I’ve got a little time to get in shape before my goal . I figured by then, even my littlest kids could give me up for a couple of hours or stay busy on the mat too. So I’ve kind of seized on my rekindled interest as a way of inspiring myself to get back in shape.

So how did a homeschooling mom to four kids, breastfeeding activist type get involved in MMA/submission fighting?

Hey-remember that In Living Color skit, where the blind blues singer would say,” I wrote a song ‘bout it, like to hear it? Here it goes”

Then he'd go on to sing a few lines about some man’s mistress-in front the man and his wife, or revel some other embarrassing truth well-this is my lament about breaking into martial arts;

I wrote a song ‘bout it;

Like ta hear it?

Here it goes.

Back in the day, so long ago (well, okay, 1991-1992) martial arts was a world of, well, nonsense.

There really wasn’t any real fighting or anything that could be converted to real fighting. And each discipline was like a football team, with loyal supporters who would never even think of crossing over to another team. If you studied at a karate studio, you couldn’t get caught going to a judo place across town or you’d be ostracized from both.

You couldn’t combine disciplines –this was sacrilegious. The only exception to this was Jeet kune do. And even in this,as I found out, there was an element of exclusivity.

This is the place where people who thought bowing to a mat and calling their coach some stupid foreign name that meant; you are a most holy master and I am a servant, was completely stupid. So jeet kune do, which by today’s standards is quite lame, was the thing to do.

I was 18 or 19 years old, my husband in his twenties and I loved working out at these places.

I have always been a very shy and withdrawn person. I was and still am really only comfortable around my immediate family.
Whenever I’m around friends or acquaintances; I’m always a little uncomfortable. I get nervous when I talk, even among the little group of homeschoolers I belong to.

I once had a friend remark- Wow, I see you from a distance, talking with your husband and you’re so lively and animated but so quiet around us. Well, that is just how it is.

Bear with me. It does relate.

So one day in our daily three hour class a friend of friend of the teacher filled in.

He set up focus mitts.

I got to do a little boxing.

It was amazing.

And what I discovered is that when my adrenalin got going and I start really hitting; all the nervousness and social anxiety and dry throat just disappeared.

It really ought to be the new “in” drug for social anxiety; beat the shit out of something.

I was free for a bit.

So after that, I awaited anxiously for the next day of boxing or maybe some kickboxing. The regular teacher kept promising it. Then the day came.

“We are boxing today and gonna do some kicks too.”

WWHOOOO-hooooo, I was soooo happy.

“Okay” he says.” “Men over here to box-women over here –practice katas.”

I was so disappointed; my eyes teared up (ya, just say it, like a girl.) At the time, this was the closest thing to mixed martial arts that we knew of; so we stayed.

It was like this for boxing and kicking and anything else that was cool.

Soon after this, my husband, who had been wanting to learn about ground grappling (after reading an interview with Rorion Gracie), approached the teacher asking if he would mind if we studied a little grappling on the weekends, with a guy who was teaching it (we were at this coach’s place five days a week for three hours a day).

He was so offended by this that he kicked us out and told us to never come back.

After that; the clown, who we were going to learn grappling from said he couldn’t teach a former student of Jack Soderberg’s (the offended guy). That he, himself, would be ostracized for stealing students- I’d out his stupidity too, but I can’t remember his name.

From there we met up with some pretty cool people who trained informally-garages, back yards, ect . We did some really neat Okinawan stuff in the backyard (actually a meadow on like twenty acres) of the one the coolest people we’ve ever met. A Las Vegas chiropractor name Dr. Michael Labram, (not a fake chiropractor-he believed in adjusting someone once; maybe twice-you could walk in there with a throbbing headache and walk out feeling taller-amazing)

He was always polite and soft spoken-kind of nerdy –it was only when you looked at his knuckles that you knew there was something more to this guy.

I got to do some boxing and once again felt the weight of constant self-consciousness lift. But like most really cool people, he was very very busy and even went to China for a while. We worked out (kali) with Lindsay Largusa (Lindsay has since become an honorary family member)in Ben Largusa's garage and that was awesome-got to beat the shit out of things with sticks.

My husband met up with another really nice guy, Pat Barry. He was a local police officer who also ran a boxing gym. His whole motivation was to help out kids, give the ones without direction something to strive for.

Hubby worked out there for a while. Of course, I really wanted to train there too. But was nervous about asking. I never had that tough look and didn’t think anyone would take me seriously.

He didn’t.

Hubby tried to talk him into letting me train there but no, he said. It would be distracting for the guys there. This was ludicrous. I was there all the time. I was there while hubby trained; I was there while hubby donated his time to paint a wall mural there (He was a professional artist at the time). He was nice enough to say- well, you could come in after hours and I could train you on my days off-but he said it in a way that it was obvious he did not really want to do it.

So then hubby says lets just go to the Gracie Academy.

Torrance is only three or four hours away.

By now it was 1993, early 1994. I really didn’t think there would be any problem training there. I just thought that Vegas was a little backward.

“Oh noo,” said Rorion, women can’t be in the men’s class.

We have rape prevention seminars that you are welcome to attend; we also offer private and semi-private lessons that you are more than welcome to schedule. And if you should reach the intermediate level then we would allow you a place in the men’s class. But no belts, women cannot earn belts in Gracie Jiu-jitsu.

Okay, but this was the Gracie Academy.

So I took what I could get.

I took some semi-privates from a purple belt, Klaus, I think. Nice guy, good teacher.

I endured the absolutely mind numbing rape prevention seminars from Rorion. Not Rorion’s fault really, but trying to train anything in a group of women that have that,” but I could never hurt anyone.” thing going on, is awful.

My husband walks out one day with his blue belt. “Royce just tossed it to me before class. “

“Great, I learned how to walk assertively while alone in the park.”

Now before I sound too bitter, I realize some of this was cultural.

And I’m sure Royce wasn’t that narrow minded, big brother was quite obviously in charge. And . . . coming from a very male dominated society; they have way more excuse for it than say,Pat Barry or Jack Soderberg or the Golden Gloves gym guy, who I didn’t mention but just said no fucking way to me.

Also, I’m sure all these guys are completely civilized and teach women all the time nowadays.

The semi-privates were cool but getting kind of expensive. I wondered if they would have let me in if I had looked tougher instead of so girly.

Ironically, now looking too tough can keep you out of the ring.

My husband really loved it there and I did too, as long as I didn’t get myself all worked up thinking about how unfair being left out of group class felt.

We did get to be privy to a certain conversation, in the lounge area, when Rorion said to all of us there -on the couch, watching Gracie JiuJitsu in Action, he’d been working on bringing the kind of fighting they have in Brazil to the states. There’s going to be no rules. No time limits. If all goes well; we should be set up to air on payperview.

So there it was.

Probably the most earth shaking, groundbreaking, three sentences I have ever heard-I just didn’t know it yet.

Sometime a little while after this; John Lewis opened up a school in town. And was going to start a women’s class!! This was amazing. We really couldn’t keep up the drive to CA and the expense, mostly because of my lessons, much longer. We showed up at John Lewis’s school. I watched the men’s class and then showed up for the women’s.

There were three of us. It was fun. Then two classes later, it was two of us.

Then a month later I showed up and no one was there but John.

“Hey listen,” he said, (man, I could feel it coming-I’ve heard this tone before)

“What’s her name isn’t coming anymore (I could feel my throat tightening-uugggh like a girl) so I’m canceling the women’s class.”

Then I could see the slight smile and I knew he was messing with me.

“Men’s class starts at 7 – see you there.”

Holy crap! That class might have been the coolest thing I ever done. We stayed there until hubby started getting really serious with school and until I started having babies.

As kind of an odd side note, I haven’t really had the bug to train again until recently –I think one of the reasons is that because all of my kids were born at home (without pain killer) the challenge of giving birth somehow fulfilled that lizard brain urge to push myself physically and now that I’m on the other side of that I am looking to train again.


jeff said...

I forgot what waste of time training was in the nineties just tieing the belt took half the day. roflmao Love your blog

Niki said...

Memecall! =)

ThatGirlTasha said...

I just spotted this comment -don't know how I missed it.

Jeff-just think, we could all have PHDs in philosophy or have become neurosurgeons if we could just have the time back we wasted on training in the 90s.

Oh well-it could have been worse;
I typed Fred Etish into Google to check the spelling and the 6th entry just said "Fred Etish; unfortunate enough to become a suckage icon."


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