She Likes to Fight

Guest post by Le Tigre
After my not so fun experience at an Eikaiwa (private English school) down in Okazaki, I decided to head for the hustle and bustle of Tokyo. I yearned for the bright lights, and for some excitement! And that’s exactly what I found.

I had dabbled in Muay Thai kickboxing in the states for 3 years. I really enjoyed it and had 3 amateur competitions over 2 of those years. It was hard to really get a foothold in it though because at the time I was a full-time student and had a semi full-time job. So I was obviously spread pretty thin over 3 things that all manipulate my time in demanding ways.

After coming to Tokyo I quickly found a gym and started training. I hadn’t trained in 3 months due to all the moving around, and the first time punching and kicking those pads was a breath of fresh air. Muay Thai has always been my stress release. If you’ve ever had a sport or physical activity completely consume you, then you may know how I feel about kickboxing…I need it.

If you’ve read any of my other posts than you’ll know I had a really hard time with money and adjusting to Japan during my first year. I had started training at my gym in May ’09 and around August of that year it seemed like my luck was changing. I got a job as a part-time elementary school teacher, AND I got my first fight offer. These couldn’t have come at a better time, I was living with my friend for free, hated my current job at a bar, and was about to give up on Japan.

I had been training at my gym for a month when my coach mentioned that he thought I could go pro. Of course I was enthralled and told him I would love to do that. So he started making phone calls to see if he could find me a fight. Then the offer came in. It was set for September 27th, two months later. We enthusiastically started negotiating the details, theeeen things got dicey.

Who was my opponent going to be? Because I had learned that most Japanese women fight around 55 kg (120 lb), and I was 70 kg (155 lb.) The promoters told me I needed to drop to 65 kg (143 lb) but explained that the only woman even close to my weight was a well established Japanese fighter with almost 20 fights, who already had a champion belt. At first I was apprehensive, but was eventually led to believe that she was a champion by “luck.” One of the promoters even told us that he had seen her fight and thought she had weak punches. Me and my coach were still on the fence, so they sent us a video of one of her fights. After watching it we decided that she was good, but not too much out of my league. Her gym, however, was also paranoid. This was going to be marketed as my debut pro fight, and if she lost to me it would no doubt make her and her gym look bad. It didn’t help that her coach had googled me and supposedly found videos of me as a pro MMA fighter. I don’t know what he found, but I’ve never fought MMA. I can only assume that was all B.S. We told him that, but they were still worried. So we finally negotiated the contract with me at 65 kg, her at 63 kg and because of the weight difference she would get 6 oz gloves, and I would get 10 oz gloves.

The huge difference in glove sizes should have been a red flag. If you’ve ever boxed then you know that 6 oz gloves are small, and you can feel the person’s knuckles, 10 oz on the other hand are bigger, have more padding and absorb some impact. I should have never agreed to those terms, especially because of her experience. But I had been swept away in the excitement, and was still holding onto the idea of her somehow floating through all her fights to get a champion belt with ‘weak punches.’ Looking back, I realize how absurd this sounds.
You can probably guess how the fight went, I wasn’t knocked out but there was a three knockdown rule, that after my ass hit the canvas 3 times they automatically stopped the fight.

In a daze I walked to the backstage area, my coach put some ice on my face and asked if I was okay. I was, but I was almost speechless. I couldn’t believe my first fight had gone down like that. I had trained harder than I ever had before, and had felt so confident and it was all smashed in a matter of one minute and forty-eight seconds.

I ended up looking more closely to the dvd of her fight they gave us. I then realized it was from 3 years earlier. No doubt before her champion belt and probably some 10-15 fights ago. From then I realized that I was on my own. No one here was going to do me any favors so I’d better make more careful judgement calls without getting swept away by promises of recognition and glory. I do however want to stress that I DON’T regret taking the fight. I would not agree to those terms now, but it did give me experience and I learned a lot about myself as a fighter. The limits I thought I had but overcame, my strengths and weaknesses, and that fighting is what truly motivates and inspires me.

I had taken a break and went home for the holidays. Upon returning January 9th 2010, my coach told me I had another fight offer. This time to a European woman who only had one professional fight, same as me. It would be January 31st however, not much time to prepare (especially after being in America for the holidays) so I jumped right back into training. She happened to train at the same gym as the champion, and I was eager to fight her. I was still angry because I felt the promoters had deliberately outmatched me, and it felt kind of personal since I knew she was training with the champion.

This time I wasn’t fighting for recognition or for the excitement. I was fighting to prove something to myself, to show everyone that I wasn’t a bad fighter, and to let her gym know that they hadn’t broken me. I would be back stronger than ever.

Day of the fight I remember stepping in the ring. It was a different feeling from the first moment. Now the desire to prove myself was focused on giving everything I had, I was just ready to go. If you look at my photos from that fight, you can see it in my face, total angry determination. And it came through, I overwhelmed her and took the win. I ended up with a pretty good shiner from her, but it was okay because that was my trophy. I also felt like I had won my own battle.

“Le tigre attacks! The Claws! The Gnashing of Teeth!”

My training was pushed to a new level in the summer of ’10.

That’s when I met a new friend, an American, a former military guy who was also a pro-fighter. It was July, and my next fight offer was in the end of August. But I had totally fallen off the bandwagon since my last fight and gained 20 pounds.

Thankfully my friend had taken an interest in my training and offered to help me get ready for my next fight. I would still be at my other gym, but I would work with him 2-3 days/week. However, it ended up being more than that since I had a 4 week summer vacation with mornings open to train with him, followed up with my gym at night.

I had never trained that much for anything. Considering I was in such awful shape, it was horrendous at first. But he had a positive, no B.S. way of thinking that I grasped onto and really connected with. A good example would be one morning when I went into training with him at 8 A.M., I had only gotten 2 hours of sleep the night before and felt like crap, and it was coming through in my training. Well, he noticed and told me flat out to snap out of it. I was told to “take 800 milligrams of Uncle Bob’s –suck it the fuck up– and get serious.” He said that being tired is a feeling you can control and overcome. He reminded me that I came here to train, and that I was doing what I loved so I needed to get the most out of it while I was there.

In that instance I was grumpy and annoyed that he called me out like that, but it got my ass moving. Then I realized that I could train a lot better than I thought when I felt shitty and this realization was great. I always try to remember these things when it gets tough. Training for a fight is, of course, grueling and mentally and physically exhausting. But I seem to struggle the most during sparring. I can kick the bag 200 times, and do pad work for hours, but when it comes to being punched and kicked repeatedly, it gets to a point where I feel like I’m giving everything I have and it’s still not enough. And when no one is easing up, or giving me a break it gets so frustrating.

There are no female fighters at my gym, so I have to spar with men. And they definitely don’t take it easy on me because I’m a woman. They know I am a professional fighter and want me to be prepared for my fights, so they push me hard.

That’s why when it gets to that point of being so frustrating that I feel like giving up, I really have to remind myself why I’m doing this.

“Why…do I do this again?”

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