Women’s Mixed Martial Arts
This is a huge week for women in martial arts! Although women have been involved in traditional martial arts throughout history, the road has never been easy. Recent years have seen a huge leap forward in terms of self defense training classes for women and girls training and competing, and this weekend there will be an event that many claimed would never come to pass…the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), the largest mixed martial arts promotion in the world, is featuring its first female fight between Ronda Rousey and Liz Carmouche. For years UFC president Dana White was emphatic that no woman would ever fight in the octagon, but the surge in the sport’s popularity combined with a charismatic, incredibly talented fighter in Rousey changed his mind. Opinions on Rousey are decidedly mixed, but no one can deny that she has played a pivotal role in the world of Women’s Mixed Martial Arts (MMA).
MMA Training for Women
When I began martial arts in the late ‘90s “MMA” was more commonly known as “No Holds Barred” fighting. The closest manifestations at the time were Vale Tudo (“everything allowed”) from Brazil and Shooto and Pancrase from Japan. Then the Pride and UFC promotions brought MMA more mainstream and exposed the general public to the importance and effectiveness of ground styles, most notably Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ). BJJ schools became very popular, but there was still a large gender gap. While many schools nowadays are between 20-30% women, my first grappling school was probably around 2% women. Those first women in MMA/grappling schools had to fight for respect, dealing with sexual harassment, taunting, and the fact that many male instructors didn’t want to teach them. MMA in Redondo Beach was primarily seen as a guys’ domain. Fortunately, these attitudes have been largely changed and continue to change as women prove that they are just as capable as men at training hard, applying solid techniques, and putting on aggressive, technical, entertaining fights. Seeing the potential, several promotions began including female fights on their cards. Last year Invicta, the first female-only promotion, was formed. Finally, the UFC has made the leap, and history will be made this weekend as thousands are introduced to the capabilities of female fighters.
Elite is unique in that our student base is made up of about 40% women, whereas most schools are around 30%. There are many reasons why Elite is such a great place for women to train, but I think a large part of it is that women are truly treated equally. Our MMA in Redondo Beach and BJJ programs have many females participating, and we have a Women’s MMA class on Monday nights that helps our female students get comfortable on the ground before they join the general program. And March 3rd, Pam Venegas will be fighting in her first MMA fight at Club Nokia in Los Angeles! I don’t think most of the women who train now realize how different it was a short time ago. We owe a great deal to those first women who insisted on being recognized as serious athletes, martial artists, and fighters. And with so many girls and teens training now I can’t wait to see what the future holds for Women’s MMA!
Elite Training Center
1628 South Pacific Coast Highway,
Redondo Beach, CA 90277