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Fitness / Editorial

Dare to Defend

Carlie Morrison / October 11, 2012 - 5:36pm

"I think I am the most dangerous unarmed woman on the planet." – Ronda Rousey

Being a female in the male dominated industry of fight sports, I've always wanted to enlighten and educate more women about the empowerment of combat. Whether it's just for fitness, fun or actually wanting to learn self-defense, combat sports is not just for men. Women can and should be learning it too.

I'm a former competitive dancer, training in everything from ballet, tap, ballroom and hip hop. Transitioning into martial arts, especially into muay thai and Brazilian jiu-jitsu had its ups and downs. Learning to kick without pointing my toe or focusing on speed rather than working to the beat of the music were definitely elements that took some getting used to.

However, with some solid practice and persistence, I learned to not only enjoy these workouts, but I used them as mental and physical therapy. It didn't matter how exhausted, drained or stressed out I was from my day-to-day tasks, I knew going into a class at my gym would put me in a much better place – mind, body and spirit. I can walk into the dojo feeling lethargic and I will leave feeling like the energizer bunny.

Training in combat sports really does not compare to anything I've ever done. I couldn't remember the last time I had that much fun sweating. The great thing about being involved in mixed martial arts training is that you're learning a skill while you are getting incredible exercise. I may be worn out, sweaty and in pain, but I want to keep going. The feeling of smashing the bag, focus mitts and thai pads is simply invigorating. I feel powerful, strong and fit... like I could have a serious shot against UFC heavyweight champ Junior dos Santos... just maybe...

All jokes aside, after realizing how much of a positive impact MMA has made on my life, I was determined to share this with other people, specifically women. Then, an incredible opportunity fell into my lap.

My friend Tara, owner and director of the Forgiveness Project, and an inspiration to many, currently volunteers at the all-female YWCA Elm Centre.  We were eating lunch and discussing how great it would be to do something fun, unique and empowering for the residents in the building.  At 3 a.m. that evening, I was hit with the name 'Dare to Defend' and the rest is history!

Dare to Defend is a self-defense and motivational seminar targeted to women, by women. The aim is to introduce combat sports to a completely new audience. When most girls hear the words UFC, combat sports, MMA, etc., they immediately think of hostile cage rage, but instead they should understand the skills behind the sport can change your life for the better.

Dare to Defend brought in some key female demonstrators to the YWCA to showcase some of the styles involved in mixed martial arts. We had Brazilian jiu-jitsu, boxing, krav maga, muay thai kickboxing and more for the women to try out first-hand, ask questions, and hear inspirational stories about how these combat sports fanatics used MMA to heal.

Once everyone physically saw other female professionals training in these sports, they were eager to try it out themselves.

The Sept. 5 event went off as a great success. We introduced an all-female building to fighting and fight lifestyle, leaving them all excited to try out some of these skills in their next work-out or to practice some of the self-defense techniques. We may have even peaked their interest to tune into Fight Network and catch 'Best of Jewels' or 'Invicta FC' to see some real all-female professional MMA.

This, for me, was the most gratifying part of the whole experience. Watching all the excited participants chatting with the demonstrators, showing interest by asking questions, truly made me see that this pre-conceived notion of combat sports being "too tough for women" is wrong.

I 'm greatly looking forward to working on more 'Dare to Defend' projects and I'm excited to introduce the world of mixed martial arts to more fabulous females.

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