Female Fighting Camp
A couple of weeks ago I went to Manchester to take part in a Female Fighting Camp hosted by Fighting Fit Manchester, who deliver BJJ, MMA, Muay Thai, Boxing and Strength and Conditioning classes in Manchester City Centre. Sore and bruised, I came back with a massive smile on my face and few new tricks under my sleeve.
It was a full weekend camp but unfortunately I only managed to make it to Sunday’s training. I traveled up Saturday afternoon as all the girls were getting together for some well-deserved pizza, drink a chat, and a round of ping-pong. How could I miss this part, right??
When I arrived, even though being a bit of an outsider as all the girls had been training and sweating together the whole day, I was received with smiles and a warm atmosphere. We talked about martial arts, what had brought them to the camp and what they wanted to do within the martial arts world. It was amazing to see so much passion and hear some of the other women’s hopes and dreams of being professional fighters. It was also sad, on another hand, to find that so many times there is no support within martial arts as a whole for women fighters. “There’s no money to be made in it” as said Anna Mayne, the BJJ (Brazilian jiu-jitsu) senior instructor for the day - Anna is the two-time brown belt IBJJ European Champion 2013, 2014 and took Bronze at the IBJJ World Championship.
Ping pong was definitely a good idea but me and the other Portuguese girl let our country down.. (yes, even in bloody Manchester, in a women’s only event, in Martial Arts, there was another Portuguese human being!! Can you believe that??) Jay showed her true colors and her competitive nature led her to 3 consecutive wins (I left by then but I am sure she won all other games too), even when at times her teammate failed her and looked like she was playing on her own.
Sunday morning I woke up nice and early ready to have some fun! The reason I decided to attend the camp was because I have always wanted to try Judo because of our Portuguese athlete Telma Monteiro – She’s a real inspiration and makes me proud of being Portuguese! She has been the European champion for 5 consecutive years, been in the World top 3 podium 5 times and has just won Bronze at the 2016 Olympics in Brazil. On another hand, I love following MMA, and of course one of my favorite women fighters is Ronda Rousey. Rousey was the first U.S. woman to earn an Olympic medal in judo, in 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. From there she got into boxing and now MMA. She won all of her amateur fights within seconds and made her armbar submission famous. In 2012 UFC President Dana White officially announced the first ever UFC Women's Bantamweight Champion - Ronda had convinced him she was the one and she forever challenged the notion of MMA being anti-woman.
I love other martial arts and love trying new disciplines. Thinking about it, this transpires in all aspects of my life really. I just love new experiences and trying different things (including all new chocolate flavors at the supermarket!!! It’s a real problem!!). On a serious note though, THERE’S SO MUCH IN THE WORLD... to see, try and feel, why would you stick to the same thing over and over again?
I was excited to try BJJ, Judo and of course do a bit of Muay Thai. They also had MMA sessions but they were only available on Saturday so I missed out on those :(
The gym is built under the arches at Red Bank. It’s an open space of beautifully laid mats, ready to be jumped on, thrown around and submitted on. I felt like a kid with candy!
The day started with breakfast and all the girls gathering around some tables for a bit more chatting. The day was well planned out with set sessions you could choose to attend – BJJ with gi, Bjj no-gi, Judo, Muay Thai, 2h each, all broken down into beginners and advanced groups. Fighting Fit also offered a session with their in-house nutritionist and physiotherapist – great added value and I know a few of the girls took advantage of it.
I started with BJJ with Anna Mayne – my first experience with a gi. Damn! That thing was hard to grab on. My brain instantly went into basics mode and all I kept on asking was “What’s the basic stance?” hoping it was as straight forward as boxing… Anna showed us a basic throw, an escape and a submission move. The throwing was fun and I really enjoyed it. I love how you can dominate the other person with your body weight. In a way it is similar to Silat and Kali, as it uses the body mechanics and balance to take down the opponent. The hardest for me was the submission move, where we had to use the gi to chock the opponent. My grip never seemed to be hard enough. It is weird being used to having your hands and fingers locked away behind 14oz of foam and then all the sudden you need grab a gi and strangle someone…
After that I decided to do Muay Thai (YAY) and loved all the tips from Rachael Mackenzie Jones (OMG!! Please read more about this woman!! Still can't believe I had the honor to train with her!) - Rachel is a World Thai-Boxing champion. In only 6 years she topped the Women’s Thai-boxing world rankings in two weight categories (50kg and 52kg). She has also taken two British titles – both by knockout – and a European title. Rachael became the first European Woman to compete in traditional bare-knuckle Thai-Boxing in Thailand and the first woman to fight under Full Muay Thai Rules in the UK. Bare-knuckle people!!
The good thing about training with different people is that they all have different styles and different tips they’ve gathered throughout their journey. Even though I have been doing it for a while, I came away with 4 new techniques and that alone would have made the trip worth it! I had the chance to speak with Rachael at the end and people like her are always inspiring for me. I just love to hear their story, how they got into boxing/ thai-boxing and sense the true passion in their voice. After reading more about her and her role as a Senior Athlete Mentor to inspire and motivate young people in sports my chin was on the floor. What an inspiration!!
We stopped for some amazing chilli con carne for lunch (thank you Jay’s mum!!!!), and finally I tried Judo. I was quite nervous because I had been aiming to try it for so long. As expected… I love it! I want more!!
We trained with Sophie Cox - British judo player. Sophie represented Great Britain at the 2004 Olympics in Greece and won silver medals in the 2004 and 2005 European Judo Championships in Romania and the Netherlands. In 2011, she won one of the bronze medals in the European Judo Championships in Turkey and represented Team GB in London 2012 Olympic Games at ExCeL London. And despite her amazing background, she was very down to earth, humble and had a genuine smile. Charlotte Wain was there to help us as she is in the process of getting her Level 1 certificate as a Judo instructor – something I can relate to so we bonded straight away. She started us with a GREAT warm up, which she normally does with the kids, and it was amazing!! Duck walk, whale, you name it! We did the whole zoo!!
I paired up with 2 other girls who had more experience in Jujitsu but they too felt a bit like fish out of water. For me… one minute I was standing up, next minute I was flying onto the floor in a rapid trajectory for a head dive in a white mat (only comparable to the Russian's Nadezhda Bazhina back flop dive at the Rio Olympics, 2016).
Closer to the end I paired up with Charlotte and once again I went back to my “what’s the basic stance?” We had a great chat and she showed me some of the more basic moves. I absolutely loved it!!!!! And came away thinking… I want to do more of this! (The only problem being time, I will have to postpone it for a while… don’t think I can cut down anymore on my 5h daily beauty sleep…).
Once we finished we were all pretty sweaty and happy. You could see the joy in our eyes!
In the words of Jay Cahill, the owner of the Fighting Camp “I know I only have to bring people to the gym. And then once they are here, I know they will love it!” And it couldn’t be more true! It is an amazing place and the trainers are quite simply the best!
I did truly enjoy the whole day and it was amazing to be surrounded by a group of women with the same passion for martial arts. The building was full of young, fit and healthy energy, gathered from all 4 corners of the country. Energy that inspires you to create even more sweaty energy!
We all exchanged contacts and I promised to come back for the next camp, or at least visit if I am ever in Manchester again.
Overall, a great experience to add to my martial arts discovery, my journey into my passion.
Check out Fighting Fit Manchester, and join us for the next camp:
Fighting Fit Martial Arts & Fitness Center
2 Millow Street,
t: 07723 338 813