Recently, I’ve been asked by a number of people, about my process on making the decision to change gyms, or cities, or how I go about making big life calls in general.  It may seem like a lie when I say I am a really private person, but in reality, I am.  I try to not make half statement or bitchy posts on social media and I find that when I do finally announce the big things, people are often surprised.  So I am here to share my own internal monologue and process when it comes to making the “big calls”.

I live my life by a pretty simple motto.  “Be happy”.  As long as I am not deliberately hurting others in my pursuit of happiness, I will continue to search for the things and places that fill me with joy.  When I feel unhappy, I look to make changes within my own means and power.  It’s the basis for all my major life choices in the last 5 years.

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It’s not always as simple as identifying that a certain something is making me unhappy and then the next day I make a change and it’s all better.  It’s seldom ever that easy.

One of the biggest things that I think people can relate to is the want or need to change gyms.  I think I have gone against the grain here a little as people tend to really stick with their crew for years and years.  There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with that.  If you are happy and you are getting what you need, why would you want to look for something else.  “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

Changing gyms has always been out of necessity for me.  Usually it is because I can’t get something that I need in terms of fight matches or coaching, or I am not a good fit for the team that is already there.  It happens.  You can be the greatest person in the world but you probably still won’t get along with everyone.

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I try my best to not gym hop.  I like rhythm and routine.  And you build a bond with your coaches and mentors that only develops over time.  If you move gyms frequently, you’re less likely to build these critical, yet beautiful bonds.

At the end of the day, sometimes you just outgrow your gym.  Maybe you have exceeded your training partners and feel like you are not being challenged.  Maybe you feel like you are not being coached correctly.  Maybe you are sitting at home looking at the gym crews Facebook photos of a group dinner you weren’t invited to… again.  There’s always something that creates that need for change.

I personally, try to rectify issues in house.  I pick the best person to talk to, whether it’s a coach, management, or another senior team member who could possibly advise me.  I talk it out, calmly.  Express my concerns and where I am at.  If there is no room for change, and sometimes there isn’t, I know then in that moment that it’s time to move on.

The best case scenario here is that the team bands together to try to deal with the issues at  hand.  I have found that clear, constructive communication goes a very long way.  The thing we need to remember is that, for the most part, coaches, team members and gym owners want their athletes to be happy.  They don’t sponsor you and hope you fall behind.  Chances are if there is something that isn’t working, they want to work with you to fix it.

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Then there is a waiting period.  A re-trial if you will.  I try to take a day to chill and re focus and head back to the gym like it’s my first day there.  I try to put my past grievances behind me and see how things develop.

Sometimes, things improve almost immediately – problem solved.  Sometimes things improve and slide back to their original state.  I try to keep communicating and keep putting in the hard work on my end and hope that things find their way to a good consistency.  Maintaining a level of optimism is key here otherwise you just end up being the cranky person in the room that no one wants to work with.

If or when things just don’t improve and I can see that I won’t get what I need, then I know it’s the right call to move on.

I’m pretty confident that I have never willingly walked away from a gym under negative circumstances.  My policy on this is that it’s better to not burn bridges, even if you do want to leave the place screaming and flipping everyone off.  It’s not constructive and you almost never feel better for it.  Thank them for the services they did provide you with and respect yourself enough to know that at the end of the day, they have lost you as an asset.  End of story.

So how do I pick my new gym?

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Again – this is a bit of a process, but a much simpler one than having to leave.

First and foremost. Research.  I figure out exactly what I want and need from a gym and research.  When I was looking to make the move from Phuket I spent many weeks on end, researching cities, cost of living, location, access to fights and reputations of gyms.  Granted, this was a little outside the scope of simply finding a new gym, but still applicable.  Location and travel time can really eat into your day, so unless you have the time (and willingness) you will always be looking for something easy to get to.

When I went on my scouting trip around Europe I had a fair idea that I was looking between Italy, Berlin and the UK.  For me these were desirable places for me to live.  Then it boiled down to the gyms and access to fights.  Italy was ruled out quickly simply because of quality and access.  It seemed low.  And I don’t know if I could move to Italy and not get fat (pizza, pasta, gelato – breakfast, lunch and dinner right??).

Berlin and the UK were up there in terms of training styles that I was in need of and access to fights.  While the German WMMA scene is not so developed, it was still an ideal stepping stone for me and I had access to a lot of K1 promotions.

I was in touch with a few gyms in the UK, some failed to get back to me completely which automatically ruled them out for me.  Then I talked to friends.  Reached out to reliable sources for referrals and continued to narrow down my list.

I ruled out the UK mostly due to cost of living and weather.  I enjoyed it there, but the locations of the gyms just weren’t really for me.  Connection wise, they were right up there.

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It came down to Berlin.  And I had looked at a number of gyms.  I researched potential areas for me to live in, where I might want to live, what gyms offered what.  Spitfire came up a few times and was recommended to me so I decided to give them a go.

I always try out a new gym first.  This seems like a no brainer, but you would be shocked to hear of the amount of people that get memberships to places they haven’t tried.  Now when I say try, I don’t mean try a single class and see if it’s good.  Try a few.  With different coaches.  For me, I really wanted to see the level and style of grappling at Spitfire, as this is where I need the most work.  I always needed a place that had boxing and K1 style drilling so I can continue to work on my striking. Spitfire offers both.  I got extremely lucky with Spitfire that both of my striking coaches spent time in Chang Mai, living and fighting.  They both understand my background and know why I have the flaws I have, and the strengths I have.  This was a draw card for me.

Did I get what I need?  Is the quality good?  Do I feel safe?  Do I feel like I will be coached sufficiently?  Do I vibe with the crew? Do I feel at home?

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This final one is my most absolute.  And I think about it every day when I am at Spitfire or Black Sheep Athletics.  With both of these gyms, I felt at home and myself almost instantly.  Call it luck – I certainly do! – but it matters.

If you are a bit loud and crazy and laugh like a hyena (like me), then finding a place that embraces your type of crazy is so important.  At the end of the day, we should be free to be ourselves and be with those who welcome that.  Both of these gyms have exceeded this for me.

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It’s matters for so many reasons.  I spend a lot of my time in these two gyms.  Training, socializing, harassing the staff so they can’t get any work done, playing with puppies and stuff.  The usual.  So why would I choose to be somewhere I don’t feel at home, with people I don’t get along with?  I also find it motivates me.

When I am somewhere I feel respected and valued, as a part of the team or the community in general, I want to give them my absolute all.  In fights, in training, in the way I represent them.  I want to do right by the people who look after me.  I want to get out of bed and go to the gym (even when it’s dark and snowing).  Because I’m a part of something.  And when you are this far away from home, these people become your family.  And THAT matters.

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At the end of the day, choosing a gym, a city, a partner in crime – it’s all each to their own.  Don’t expect that what works for your bestie, will necessarily work for you.  Talk to people.  Do your research.  Reach out to people whose opinions you value and respect.  Talk. Talk.  Research and talk.  Find the place where you get what you need, where you feel valued – find the gym that feels like home with the crew that embraces your crazy.

To all those embarking on change – good luck!  And keep trying.  You might not get it the first gym you go to – remember – that’s ok!  You’ll find it.

It’s been an insanely promising start to the year over here in Berlin and this week, things got even better!

I am so excited to announce Black Sheep Athletics as one of my new sponsors for 2017!

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When I moved to Berlin I was pleasantly surprised  by the popularity of Crossfit within the city.  Countless boxes appear on Google searches, all boasting very similar practices and facilities.

After spending some time with Unit 27 in Phuket, I have been spoiled for quality in coaching and facility.  Selling me on a new box was going to tough!

Through networking and meeting other athletes, I had been invited to try a few boxes, all in varying locations surrounding my suburb of residence.  Knowing that most places would be closed over the Christmas and New Year period I reached out to some other boxes to check opening hours and looked for a place to train for a few days.

Black Sheep responded to my email quickly, informing me of the sessions they had available over the holiday period.  I was pleasantly surprised that they were hosting WOD’s almost every day where most others were closed.

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I booked in for my first session after my Christmas excursion to Budapest.  I was pretty eager to get moving again as this was not long after my forced rest period from Spitfire.

It was easy to find (even though in a slightly obscure location) due to ample sign posting along the way.

When I made my way to the front door, I am immediately struck by what is painted on the wall…

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‘This is my type of place!’.

I felt comfortable before I had even stepped through the front door.  A feeling I welcome in new gyms.

Over the past few weeks I have participated in multiple Crossfit sessions conducted by the main coaches available and I have been extremely happy with the quality of the coaching and the facility is one of the best I have seen in the world.  (Check out the virtual tour at https://goo.gl/8UfYrt)

What I have found in my travels, is that it is relatively easy to go and jump into a Crossfit session, no matter where in the world you are, especially if you already have some base for lifting.  Usually though, I find that once instructors see that I have the basics down the tend to focus on the other students and leave me to my own devices.

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While this is not always a bad thing, I have been incredibly impressed by the fact that every coach at Black Sheep is always looking to improve my technique.  Every session I get to make adjustments to my lifts, making me look stronger than I actually am ????  The coaches are always looking to make you that little bit better then when you walked in the door.

It didn’t take me long to realise that this was where I wanted to be.  Just like Spitfire, I was welcomed with open arms and before long it felt like home.

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After a few weeks back into it, I decided that I wanted to compete in the Crossfit Games for the first time.  Unfortunately because they begin sooner than expected, I may not be ready to complete the full 5 weeks of RX workouts but I will be attempting the ones where I believe I can.

Most combat athletes have a cross training of their choice.  Crossfit is without a doubt, mine.  It’s not only something that I really enjoy, but the whole body conditioning allows me to move faster and push myself harder for my own training and fights.  My injuries bother me less when I am consistent with my Crossfit sessions as it allows me to work on strengthening my stabilising muscles and build strength in areas where I desperately need it.

A huge thank you to the team at Black Sheep for having me as a part of the team!  I’m extremely excited to get started with the Opens and am looking forward to building myself into a better, all rounded athlete.

If you are in Berlin, or travelling through, stop by and check us out!  You can find Black Sheep Athletics on the web, on Facebook, and on Instagram!

There are a lot of opinions and discussions out there about what it takes to be a champion.  This applies to mostly everything.  When people reference athletes though, the most common topics to come up are things like how hard someone trains, the way they train, how they treat their body, what they do for recovery perhaps, and finally, their mindset.

“Champions make habits, not excuses.”  “Champions go the extra mile/round.”  “Champions don’t quit.”

Do any of these statements sound familiar to you?

I wanted to write about this after seeing the UFC 207 post fight press conference with Amanda Nunes?  Did you all catch it?  It honestly made me love her even more and it spoke volumes to me about her frame of mind and why I consider he to be a true champion.

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Now let’s keep in mind how hyped this fight was.  It was rumoured months before the UFC confirmed it and it was high up on the list of fan requests.  Rousey making her big ‘comeback’ after a 13 month layoff and Nunes defending her belt for the first time.  After a victory like this, in environment that encourages smack talk, it would have been so easy for Nunes to be glib or arrogant in her responses.

Some people are immediately commented on Nunes ‘attitude’ post fight claiming she was arrogant in her interview with Joe Rogan in the cage.  I personally felt like she exuded confidence, walking that fine, sometimes indistinguishable line between arrogance and confidence.  At the end of the day though, haters gonna hate.

In the post fight press conference, Nunes fielded some pretty awkward yet obvious questions and I believe she handled things exceptionally well.

When she was asked how she felt about the promotion for UFC 207 being so one sided Nunes said that she had expected it.  She acknowledged that Rousey was the draw card for this fight and went on to say that she had asked Dana White for this fight and she ok with the promotion running in this fashion.  In return, it was in her favour to fight a big name.

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Nunes was asked about how she felt about the pay discrepancies and she said she was happy. She didn’t care. It allows her to buy a house, to look after her family and to help her take care of people that have helped her along the way.  It is the largest pay Nunes has received for any fight and she was just happy.  She said ‘I don’t know (how much I will be paid), but it’s gonna be a lot of money’ as she grinned from ear to ear.

She was asked if she felt bad for Rousey and Tate, having potentially retired the two biggest names in the division.  Her response?  ‘There is a lot of talent in this division and people need to see that.  Now people won’t only be talking about Rousey or Nunes.’

When asked about who should be her next opponent, Nunes says she doesn’t care. She will be ready for anyone.

It is so clear that Nunes is a passionate, driven fighter.  I think we all know that the reality is, fighting seldom makes you rich and famous.  Nunes talked and acknowledged that her win was not only good for her, but for the other talented women who have busted their guts getting to the UFC.  Of course she wants some recognition in the future, but I feel like that is just plain logic.

On the opposite side to this, it is no secret that I am not a Rousey fan.  Even when she was famous and on her winning streak I was not a fan.  However, taking 13 months off after a loss (and granted a very nasty knockout) is not, in my opinion, how a champion thinks.  A 13 month layoff is not something (barring surgeries and serious injuries) that I can really comprehend.  Losses are a part of any competitive sport.  And in fighting, when you look at it, when you walk into that cage (or ring), there are only really two possible outcomes (failing a draw which is incredibly unlikely at this level).   You win or you lose.

To be fair, Rousey is not totally to blame.  The UFC have enabled her to behave as she pleases.  They have enabled her extreme ‘time off’ and allowed her to shirk her media responsibilities.  And now, after yet another loss, it is likely she will not return to MMA.

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When Tate lost to Nunes, she still showed up to the post fight conference.  Tate being another example of an athlete who has the grace and mentality of a champion.  Rousey was no where to be found after both of her losses.

I’m stoked to see Nunes as champion again.  I think she is the prime example of the hard work, commitment and mentality that it takes to be a champion.  Every athlete is different.  Every athlete trains in a different way.  I guess I would just like to see more champions conduct themselves in the way that Nunes does.

It’s no secret that this year has been more challenging than the first two I had spent abroad.  But when everything happens in so many small, unconnected incidences, it’s quite confronting when someone forces you to look back at the challenges you’ve faced.

I always try to be positive and move forward – always looking for new opportunities if I believe I can be doing better – doing more.  That is, after all, how I ended up in Berlin.

My time in Thailand has allowed me to become a complete master in compartmentalizing my emotions.  Don’t get me wrong.  I have my moments – hell – I have my days.  I cry, I throw tantrums, I feel sorry for myself and I just want to throw in the towel.  The problem now is that I am so used to burying my head and pushing forward that sometimes that I fail to take the time to acknowledge the challenges I have had and the impact they have had on me mentally.

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This year started out in pretty bad fashion and was a constant roller coaster of injuries, let downs and questions over my own personal motivations and if I could justify to keep going down this road.

After changing gyms at the end of 2015, I was so hopeful and optimistic moving into 2016.  I was training under James McSweeney at the newly opened Unit 27 Technical Fight Factory and the year was full of promise.  After taking some time off for treatments to my knee and shoulder I came back ready to rock and roll.  Not a month into training, I was kicked in the hand and my 5th finger snapped at a 90 degree angle.  It took 3 months of xrays and visits to the surgeon to ensure that my finger and the fractured bones inside had healed enough to put my hand back in a glove.

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Before my hand even had a chance to heal our gym was shut down.  I remained diligent in my responses to the reasons behind the fall of UTFF but my friends close to me know that I experienced one of the biggest betrayals in my career to date.  My coach vanished – moved to another country and never said a word.  He left behind an entire fight team who were relying on him and because I had been training with him the longest, everyone turned to me for answers.

Fast forward a few months and I was happily back at AKA.  I had joined the MMA program and although far behind in certain technical aspects, I was still managing to hold my own and earned the respect of my fellow team mates.

Just as I had gotten back I was struck down with a random viral infection that had me out for a week.  A few trips to the clinic and lots of IV bags later, I was slowly getting back into training.

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Not long after this, I was finally settling in to the program at AKA and it was there I suffered my first ever concussion.  As per most training incidents, it was a complete accident.  I was in the midst of preparing to be matched for a fight though so stopping wasn’t an option.

2 days later I am called to fight Muay Thai on short notice and after much deliberation, I decided to take it.  I hadn’t earned any money in 6 months.  And most of all I was hungry.  And fed up.  I just wanted to fight.  So I took a fight on 24 hours notice after already training 4 hours that morning.

The next night I fought and walk away with a win, a second concussion and 5 stitches.

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Yes.  I can hear you all now.  The eye rolls.  The head shakes.  The ‘oh what a silly girl’.

None of you are wrong.  I still roll my eyes and shake my head when I think about it.

Luckily the stitches alone meant a week of rest which I happily took.  The head trauma was extremely noticeable so I was happy to take some time to relax.

The problem in Thailand is that no one checks on you or makes you see a doctor.  No one checks before you fight to make sure that you are ok.  No one questions when you decide to return to training, it’s almost expected that you just will.  And for someone like me, who has been such an active fighter for these years, these things make for a bad combination.  The fact that I could find myself justifying training like this will haunt me forever.

At this time I was having issues with my left ankle.  I suspected stress fractures as this was an injury I had suffered on numerous occasions before and everything about the injury felt familiar.  But I pushed forward, still hoping for my first MMA fight to come.

About 2 weeks after the Muay Thai fight, I suffer a third (yet mild) concussion.  Mostly a direct result of not resting for long enough.  It was an unfortunate accident in 4 ounce gloves that landed me out again for another week.  During this time off I went to visit the doctor to have my ankle looked at.  Xrays showed I had stress fractures in my left ankle that were approximately 3 weeks old.

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I was set to very limited training for a few weeks following meaning no fights, only light boxing and no weights or Muay Thai.  I tried to use this time to continue to work on my appalling boxing skills, but unfortunately my limited movement made sparring extremely difficult.

Finally I received the all clear to resume, but in my time off I had booked a 6 week trip to Europe to reassess what I was doing with my career.

I ending up booking a fight 2 days before I due to fly out.  Naturally I took it on 8 days notice.  It was a local Queens Cup event but I felt it was a good way to end out training before taking a big break.

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After a solid win, despite being incredibly unfit, I ventured to Europe where I travelled, at good food, tried out different gyms and cities and eventually found my new home at Spitfire.

When I look back on things, I should have cut my losses and gone home.  I had many moments where I wanted to.  I spent most of the year in complete angst over the time I had spent chasing what seemed like a ridiculous and impossible dream.

I was so unsure of myself and my ability to make good decisions moving forward.  The only thing I knew was that my time in Thailand had come to an end.

I had spent two weeks in Berlin on my holiday.  1 week enjoying the sights and the nightlife and another week of training in what was to be my new training home.  It didn’t take me long to realise that a change in pace and scenery was just what I was needing.

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The European circuit is full of competition in my weight class and I figured it was a great way to fulfill my lifelong wish to live and travel in Europe, and also take on a range of new opponents both in MMA and Muay Thai.  K1 also remains an option and experience for the near future.

I’m now a few weeks in to my time here in Berlin and I am loving it.  Unfortunately though, I have since suffered my 4th concussion for the year in a freak BJJ accident.  (a post on this to come).

It was a truly frightening experience for me because I know that there are only so many times that this can happen before it ends my career.  I remember just lying on the mat with a stream of tears rolling down my cheeks.  I couldn’t stop it.  In that moment I felt so useless and defeated.

I’m certain everyone thought I was physically hurt, but the stress of another hit was a little more than I could bear at the time.  Moving countries, leaving all my friends in Thailand and Australia and being benched again.  I was at my limit.

After a night in hospital under observation I was released and took a week off to rest.  (I was actually banned from the gym but let’s call it rest ;)).

I’m finally back into training, with the year coming to a close.  No rest for the wicked though as I have now been cleared to spar and fight pending a second doctors check once I get matched.

It has been a weird and refreshing change to be in a gym where my well being comes first.  Not just to my manager and trainers, but even to my training partners.  “Health comes first”.

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Being in Berlin, starting my life all over AGAIN.  It’s not without it’s challenges.  But I definitely feel good about where I am.  Even though I am so new, I have been so supported over the past few weeks and the knowledge that the fighters in my gym have to offer is just incredible.

Bring on 2017.  I’m ready to take things to the next level.

There should be no surprises when I say that moving back into the Western World was not without a little reverse culture shock.  It has, however, surprised me by the things that have taken some adjusting to and the things I am really enjoying!

Drinking tap water should have been the greatest thing in the world.  But I have been so wired to not drink tap water now that I kept forgetting that I could.  Couple that with the cold weather and I was extremely dehydrated my first week here.  The water tastes a bit funny to me but I am also not sure if that is just the taste of Berlin water or if I’m just so used to drinking the ‘recycled’ water in Thailand.

Everything is closed on Sunday’s here which is still throwing me through a loop.  It’s my only day off and I want to run errands but I can’t.  I was told over the weekend that this is impossible here (yes – the word used was impossible).  Aside from the local Spati’s (late night corner shops) almost everything is closed.

I have traded in my motorbike for a push bike which I am actually loving.  It’s so quick and easy to ride around here (although moderately terrifying because everything still feels backwards to me).  The extra exercise is great although I have been using it to justify eating bread and soft baked pretzels which is not so good.

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German efficiency is beginning to look mythical to me as the formal process to register my existence and apply for my visa is a stressful and taxing one.  Even with a lawyer it’s a difficult process and you always seem to need one thing in order to do another and vice versa.  I don’t know if this is simply the ‘German way’ or if they are trying to discourage the (quickly growing) number of expatriates living in the city.  A question for another day.

I have been surprised by the number of people who don’t speak English here.  On most accounts, general consensus was that almost everyone speaks English here.  This is simply not the case.  It makes training interesting because there’s a lot of hard work being done, and people shouting in German.  Sparring is particularly frightening with all the German yelling.

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I have to be very mindful to not fall into the lazy trap here.  Particularly with these colder months ahead.  Part of my moving here was to explore Europe and enjoy Berlin so I need to be diligent in doing so.  The two days off that I have had I have spent doing some touristy things.  A trip to the Zoo and the Berliner Dom have been my first two pits stops and I am planning to take a trip over the Christmas weekend – hopefully to somewhere I have not visited before.

Grocery shopping is challenging because I have had to Google translate a lot of things.  Meaning I spend a lot of time at the grocery store and often leave without things that I went in for (and a lot of things I didn’t go in for).  I have had some groceries delivered online so I could translate my orders on my computer but there is a noticeable price difference for doing so.

I have joined the ‘Free Advice Berlin’ group on Facebook where I can ask random questions and get advice.  It’s been very helpful in me avoiding committing any cultural or social faux pas, simply from reading other people’s questions.

Socks.  How great are socks!?!? Especially the warm fluffy kind.  And shoes!  I don’t even know where my flip flops are!  It’s a bizarre thing to be enjoying it, but I am!

There is a nice casual culture here which really suits my style.  My boxes still haven’t arrived from Thailand though so I am wearing mostly gym clothes and was forced to buy new jeans.  It could be worse, but I will enjoy having my things when they finally do arrive.

It is COLD!  But shockingly, I am enjoying it – provided there are no gushing winds.  It’s been a really pleasant change after walking on the sun for 3 years.  It takes an extra few minutes to get out the door because of all the layers I have to put on, but all in all, it’s not so bad.  I have more difficulty regulating my temperature between the initial cold, warming up by walking and riding, more cold, then extremely well insulated buildings.  I will get there eventually.

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DHL and other package delivery services are free to leave your parcels with your neighbours which weirds me out a little bit.  So far it’s been fine and it appears to be common practice.  Definitely not something I would want to have happen in Thailand.

The party scene and nightlife is not as obvious as I had expected.  Turns out Berlin has a great nightlife, but is, for the most part, a regular city where people get up and go to work.  Who knew!

I have managed to find a lot of random things that I thought would be difficult to find.  The other day I even found Matcha powder which was a huge win for me.

Wheat free bread is a thing here.  And gluten levels in regular bread are low.  So little to no allergic response to bread has been fantastic.  Very pleased to have been shown where the wheat free bread is though (hopefully when I go back there, the person can speak English…).

Berlin is proving to be quite a lonely city but again, I am not sure if this is due to the weather and being new.  I expect that summer will be a very different story.

All in all the move has gone well.  I love that I am here and I am insanely happy.  It was the right call for me personally and I’m excited by the opportunities that lie ahead.

In my experience, especially with grappling and MMA, every gym has a different style and program.  Most of what I know I have learnt through tips from other people or from watching fights on TV.  When everyone is on the same program it puts you on par with other students.  This recent change in gyms has really highlighted a lot of technical gaps and gaps in my knowledge.

My grappling is still very new.  Yes I dabbled from time to time in Melbourne, but nothing significant enough to warrant mention.  In all honesty I mostly went to spend time with my grappling buddies and to take a break from getting punched in the face.

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When I left Thailand I finally felt as though I had turned a corner in both my grappling and MMA sparring.  I went home and rolled with a good friend who had trained with me in Thailand earlier on in the year.  He had a lot of good feedback about my development in the few months in between which was a relief to hear.

Fast forward to Berlin and I don’t even understand a lot of the warm up.  I feel like the broken link in the chain slowing my partner down during drilling.  It’s the first time where things have been shown to me and I can’t put them into action.  It’s so frustrating to feel like I am starting all over again.

Fortunately, I am still a white belt and most people have exceptional patience with me but I’m eager to catch up with this program and to start developing again.  It’s a strange thing having your rolls be ok, but having no technical training against technical grapplers really shows.14753713_1814485248827455_8807372661076320949_o

I had my first sparring session over the weekend which was nice.  I almost backed out but thought it might be nice to see how I go on my feet – do something that I am more comfortable with.

One of greatest things from the past few months at AKA has been getting in MMA sparring 3 times a week.  I relied heavily on my clinch in my fights and never took the time to develop my striking until this year.

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It was a very uncomfortable beginning.  A few (accidental) concussions and some quiet (and some not so quiet) tears.  After a few sessions you decide to quit or not be the punching bag and I went with the latter.  I worked with people I trusted, people who would push me, and I grew.  My striking still has a long way to go but I am feeling a lot more confident on my feet.  Even in my exhausted and jetlagged state, I felt comfortable standing and trading.

It’s always difficult being the new kid at a gym – it takes time to see where people are at, what is acceptable in training and how hard people will push you.  Today was a great way to help me find my feet although I still feel like I was a few steps out of place.

I’m, however, definitely in the right spot for now.  I feel completely supported in my career and I have some really talented training partners.  I joined a team and a family and I’m excited to see what lays ahead for us all.

I am hoping to announce my next fight soon but this next week will be spent getting on the new program – getting some of my fitness back – and hopefully shaking my awful jetlag!

Stay tuned!

Phuket has become an increasingly popular training destination.  Not only for Muay Thai fighters but for health and fitness addicts, and people wanting to improve their general health in some way.  It’s actually a great deal.  You can come and train, eat well, and soak up the wonderful island atmosphere, all at a fraction of what it might cost you at home.

After almost 3 years on the island, I’ve noticed quite a few mistakes that people make on their first training trip to Phuket and I have selected what I believe to be the most important, and have included a few tips to help the new traveler out.

“I’m going to train 15 sessions a week, every week.  I’ve got it all planned out!”

I genuinely enjoy people’s enthusiasm when they get here.  Not only that, I also understand it.  People arrive with the best intentions but often feel defeated a few days in.

The humidity in Phuket is almost always high.  Much higher than most have experienced or expected.  Coupled with those travelling into our high season and the scorching heat, those first few days (sometimes even the first week) can take some time to adjust to.

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Many people start off really strong, fighting through the jet lag and the heat (or whatever other obstacles may be in their way) only to fall short a few days in, exhausted and unable to train.

Don’t underestimate the change in climate!  Start of a little slower than you normally would.  Let your body adapt to the climate and training in these conditions.  It might take a few days, then you can train as hard as you like.

“Water is adequate for hydration”

For those of us who have acclimated over time, this might be true.  But for those coming from abroad, it’s a common mistake to make.

Training sessions are often conducted outdoors  at times where the heat and humidity is not too extreme.  Most people sweat just from being outside, let alone pushing their bodies.

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I have seen many people suffer from cramping, nausea and extreme exhaustion during their sessions without understanding the why.

It’s difficult to replace the amount of water you lose through sweat each session.  Electrolytes are a cheap and simple way to avoid symptoms of dehydration and it always surprises me to see how many people don’t actually use any.  Head to your local pharmacy or Supacheap and ask for some.  Even your local 7/11 will stock some.

“Beach erryday!”

For those training 1 session a day, going to the beach (when the weather is good) is very realistic.  For those training multiple sessions a day, you might find this a struggle.

You usually have a few hours in between training sessions.  Most will spend the first hour or so after training, showering and eating.

Hitting the beach in between every training session begins to take it’s toll for a number of reasons.

Most importantly, your rest period is usually in the middle of the day, right when it’s the hottest.  Why?  Because most people don’t want to train when it is that hot.  So when you hit the beach at that time, be prepared to fry yourself.  Most only last a hour or 2 at that time.

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Second to this, the heat zaps your energy.  A combination of extreme heat and possibly a little dehydration can leave you feeling exhausted, as can swimming in the ocean!

Don’t get me wrong, I have seen people do it.  Chill on the beach every day in between sessions.  But usually it is people who are only here for a week wanting to maximise their time and experience.

The beaches are beautiful and relaxing, just be sure that if you go, to stay adequately hydrated and make sure you leave enough time to rest and fuel up for your next session.

“Thai food is so healthy!  It’s going to be easy for me to lose weight”

I myself fell under this trap when I first moved here.  Thai food is so delicious and cheap, it’s difficult to resist sometimes.

People often think that Thai food is all vegetables and rice – which to be fair is not completely wrong.  What most don’t realise is that a lot of the food is laden with MSG and sugar.

All Thai dishes contain sugar.  All.  Even their omelettes have sugar in them.  Luckily, if you are aware of this, you can request your dish without.

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MSG is the tricky one.  Here in Phuket, some cafes are advertising that they don’t use MSG.  Because of the rather healthy clientele and repeated requests to make food without it, it’s become easier to find places that no longer cook with MSG.

In addition to the MSG and sugar, traditional Thai meals don’t have a good macro balance.  You get almost 2 cups of rice with your meal (most people mistake it for one) and almost no protein (approx 50 – 70 grams per serve).

I’m not a huge advocate of stuffing yourself with protein, but if your nutrition approach requires a high level of protein, you’re best to stick with the BBQ proteins available.

For the longest time I was watching my friends (particularly in America and Australia) post about their gravity float or sensory deprivation sessions.  I knew a little about it from listening to a Joe Rogan podcast but had resigned to the fact that probably would not have access to, living in Thailand.

We lucked out here in Phuket when Joe and Steve came along and opened the first gravity float in Thailand – about a 10 minute ride from my house.

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I was quite curious about the whole thing so I booked in for one of their opening specials – an hour float for 1000 baht (probably less than half the price of what I would pay at home).

I was greeted by Joe and Steve and sat for a quick chat while the tank was put through it’s routine clean after the previous persons float.  They gave me a run down of the different experiences that people have had their first float and some sage advice for being in there.

Once the float tank was ready, I was ushered into a room where the tank is housed and am provided with a number of items to assist me with my float.  Ear plugs, pillow, Vaseline (for any nicks or cuts), a small towel to hang inside (in case I needed to wipe my face) and a large towel for when I was finished.  I am given a run down of the tank itself, how to get in and out safely, and the bell to listen out for when my time was up.  I was also shown the ‘panic button’, should I, for any reason, need to get out but can’t.

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Awesome!  I’m set to go!

I climbed into the tank, carefully placing my small towel on the rack, and closed the hatch.

Now I don’t know what I was thinking, but my first thought was ‘sh*t!  It’s really dark in here’.  Yes.  Yes it is.  Because it’s a sensory deprivation tank (d’uh!).

I slowly slide down in the tank and try to let myself float.  Easy enough so far!

I closed my eyes to try to visualise the fight I had coming up in a few days, and noticed that my body was slowly floating in a circular motion.  I went to reach for the handle bar on the hatch door, and couldn’t find it.  In a moment or slight panic and opened my eyes, looking for the dim outline of the hatch.  My eyes didn’t appear to be adjusting at all so I quickly sunk my butt to the floor to sit up and in all of my awkwardness, splashing myself in the eyes with the high sodium water.

I slowly found my way back to my starting point, attempted to flush out my eyes with the water bottle provided inside the tank, and continued to float.

I eventually found a few markers inside the tank to give myself an idea of where I was inside the tank.  Eventually I just forgot about it and continued with my float.  I figured there is only one way out!  I’d find it when I needed to.

I had a moment where I was fully focused.  I could see myself at the stadium, getting my hands wrapped, warming up…. and then I was thinking about my cat… and then thinking about training… and then thinking about my personal life… then thinking about needing a new media kit.  My mind went crazy.

I felt really frustrated that I couldn’t focus on what I wanted to.  In turn, it made me restless and I began squirming around in the tank.  I developed an insane impatience because I had no idea how long I had left and I felt a sudden urge to get out.

I convinced myself to just sit still but my anxiety got the better of me and I sat up and opened the hatch door.  I sat there for about 10 seconds and told myself it couldn’t be too far off finishing, so I took a long, deep breath, sunk back in and closed my eyes.  Next thing I knew the bell was sounding.  My time was up.

I hopped out and showered and took a seat out front with Joe and Steve.  They were both so eager to find out what my experience was like.  I told them I was so disappointed that I didn’t get what I thought I would from it, but they both assured me that it was ok and that my next float would be better.

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When I went back for my second float, I had a lot going on in my personal life and it showed.  I couldn’t focus on my next fight at all.  In a moment of frustration I told myself to just let it go.  What ever was going to pop up from my subconscious – let it.  Surprisingly enough, it helped me clear a lot of things out of my mind, which in turn helped me focus on what I needed to be ready for my fight.

I still couldn’t lie still for the entire hour.  What I estimate to be about 45 minutes into the float, I started moving my body.  Rolling my hips from side to side, stretching my arms and legs.  It was actually quite nice and I wasn’t bothered by it at all.  I felt a sense of accomplishment that I sat still for so long.  Meditation is not something I have ever mastered, nor is sitting still.

I didn’t feel panicked or anxious this float which made the hour pass by quickly.

By the time I went in for my third float, I was mentally and personally in a better place.  I was again, close to another fight, but I had such a different experience during my float.  I had a more calm sensation and was able to focus fully on my fight.  I spent my time visualizing all the things I wanted to achieve in my fight, combinations I had been working on and how I could implement them.

I still ended up moving around and stretching from time to time, but mostly because I was so stiff and sore from training that I wanted to increase the physical benefits of my float as well.

Aside from learning how to calm my mind and sort through my subconscious, I noticed a significant difference in my recovery and the extreme relaxation I felt after my floats meant that I came home and had some of the best sleep of my life.

I’m sad to be moving away from Float Indigo – if I had it my way, it would be part of my weekly routine.  Hopefully I can find something similar in Berlin!

To anyone visiting Phuket, I highly recommend you check these guys out.

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Recently I made the decision to leave Phuket and move to Berlin.  I’ve received an overwhelming number of messages that I have not had the time to reply to yet but I am very grateful to everyone for their well wishes and support.

Leaving the land of Muay Thai was not a decision that was made lightly.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Muay Thai will always be my first love.  Despite this, I’ve had to make a choice between the two for now and it’s time to give MMA a run.

While Muay Thai fights are plentiful here, MMA fights, especially for woman are not.  The pool of competitors is small, given that MMA is still, technically, illegal in Thailand.  So regardless of what happens, I will need to travel to fight.  This puts me in an awkward position given that I have had no MMA fights to date.  Promoters don’t want to fly nobody’s (which given the costs involved is totally fair) so I needed to look into where would be a good place to go, to continue on this path.

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Second to that, is that living in Thailand long term (without a work visa or education visa) is becoming more and more difficult as the years roll on.

I was extremely lucky to meet the requirements for a 12 month working holiday visa my first year in Thailand so I had no issues and no evidence of visa runs (border runs) in my passport so I was never flagged at immigration.  I then replaced my passport at the end of last year so that there were no obvious flags.  Getting through immigration the first few times were a breeze.

When I came back from my trip to Europe (check out my photos on instagram @missmuaythai) I was immediately flagged at immigration, despite having been out of the country for 6 weeks AND having a brand new, valid, 60 day visa.  The officer flagged me by mistake, as his supervisor took one look at my visa and said, this is fine.  But the questions came.  “You come in and out of Thailand a lot?”.  “What are you doing here?”.  I was half expecting them to request a copy of my bank statement or an ATM slip (which, they can actually ask you for so you can prove you have the means to support yourself here).

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At this point in time, another tourist visa is not going to help my case much and if I need to fly out of the country (to go home or to fight) means I will have more issues coming back.

And finally.  I and ready to rejoin western society, to work a little and get back into the swing of regular life.

Thailand is a wonderful place, and I am so grateful for my time here.  I’ve made lifelong friends and made irreplaceable memories, but for me, it’s time for the next adventure.  And who knows!  I’ll probably be back again!
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I always liked to dabble in jiu jitsu.  It has often been a welcome break from my striking training, and a large number of my friends back home are grapplers, so it was a great way to spend time with them and have a little fun in between fights.  (pajamas and cuddles!  I mean, c’mon!)

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Going into MMA, I know I need to work my ground game A LOT.  I am far behind the pack, but with no regrets as I have spent this time developing my striking skills.  In the beginning I struggled to find the motivation to train consistently because I naturally wanted to go back to what I knew.

I really enjoy live rolling.  I always have.  But it was never really enough to keep me interested.  How was it that I spent 2 years doing 12 Muay Thai sessions a week but 5 BJJ sessions a week seemed impossible?  Why would anyone want to do that?

Fighting on the side has meant constant interruptions to my BJJ training, which personally, I haven’t minded.  I have felt that by taking a few consecutive days off the mats, that I come back and new things click into place and make sense to me.  It gives my tired old body some time to catch up to my brain.

One of the biggest problems I faced, was that I have always loathed training in a Gi.  Mostly because I got choked out with my own Gi a lot (which is both hilarious and frustrating) and I felt like no gi was the better fit for MMA.  I used that as an excuse to avoid training in a Gi.  Also, if I’m being totally honest, having a valid reason to buy colourful spats and superhero rash guards was also a big draw card….

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Before I went on my holidays, I found a new enjoyment in my BJJ sessions.  It didn’t matter how tired I was, I didn’t want to miss out on a roll.  I put it down to it still being so new, that the novelty would wear off.  But to my surprise – it hasn’t.

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One of my friends tagged me in an article we were discussing last night, which I felt excited to read.  The BJJ community is so large and there is a huge amount of information out there, passed down by people, once walking in our shoes.

I’ve been searching for tape to buddy tape my busted finger and to protect my poor poor spidey fingers because I love spider guard drills so much that I don’t want to miss out because my fingers are raw or bleeding.

I recently watched some great videos on foot and ankle control and guard passes because I get stuck there.  And then I realised.  It’s happened.  I’ve turned into a BJJ girl.

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I had that great light bulb moment where I rolled with a blue belt, and used his Gi to manipulate his and my own movements and finally understood why people enjoyed Gi training so much.  There are so many creative ways to maneuver, submit and roll in a Gi!

It’s nice to be able to continue learning and growing so much and doing what I love.  I am shocked that I have found so much love for this sport and I’m excited to keep pushing and seeing where I end up.

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I’m joining an amazing team in Berlin next month where I hope to start working towards my blue belt (something which never really mattered to me before).

Maybe it’s time to buy that second Gi….

In my experience, especially with grappling and MMA, every gym has a different style and program.  Most of what I know I have learnt through tips from other people or from watching fights on TV.  When everyone is on the same program it puts you on par with other students.  This recent change in gyms has really highlighted a lot of technical gaps and gaps in my knowledge.

My grappling is still very new.  Yes I dabbled from time to time in Melbourne, but nothing significant enough to warrant mention.  In all honesty I mostly went to spend time with my grappling buddies and to take a break from getting punched in the face.

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When I left Thailand I finally felt as though I had turned a corner in both my grappling and MMA sparring.  I went home and rolled with a good friend who had trained with me in Thailand earlier on in the year.  He had a lot of good feedback about my development in the few months in between which was a relief to hear.

Fast forward to Berlin and I don’t even understand a lot of the warm up.  I feel like the broken link in the chain slowing my partner down during drilling.  It’s the first time where things have been shown to me and I can’t put them into action.  It’s so frustrating to feel like I am starting all over again.

Fortunately, I am still a white belt and most people have exceptional patience with me but I’m eager to catch up with this program and to start developing again.  It’s a strange thing having your rolls be ok, but having no technical training against technical grapplers really shows.14753713_1814485248827455_8807372661076320949_o

I had my first sparring session over the weekend which was nice.  I almost backed out but thought it might be nice to see how I go on my feet – do something that I am more comfortable with.

One of greatest things from the past few months at AKA has been getting in MMA sparring 3 times a week.  I relied heavily on my clinch in my fights and never took the time to develop my striking until this year.

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It was a very uncomfortable beginning.  A few (accidental) concussions and some quiet (and some not so quiet) tears.  After a few sessions you decide to quit or not be the punching bag and I went with the latter.  I worked with people I trusted, people who would push me, and I grew.  My striking still has a long way to go but I am feeling a lot more confident on my feet.  Even in my exhausted and jetlagged state, I felt comfortable standing and trading.

It’s always difficult being the new kid at a gym – it takes time to see where people are at, what is acceptable in training and how hard people will push you.  Today was a great way to help me find my feet although I still feel like I was a few steps out of place.

I’m, however, definitely in the right spot for now.  I feel completely supported in my career and I have some really talented training partners.  I joined a team and a family and I’m excited to see what lays ahead for us all.

I am hoping to announce my next fight soon but this next week will be spent getting on the new program – getting some of my fitness back – and hopefully shaking my awful jetlag!

Stay tuned!

Phuket has become an increasingly popular training destination.  Not only for Muay Thai fighters but for health and fitness addicts, and people wanting to improve their general health in some way.  It’s actually a great deal.  You can come and train, eat well, and soak up the wonderful island atmosphere, all at a fraction of what it might cost you at home.

After almost 3 years on the island, I’ve noticed quite a few mistakes that people make on their first training trip to Phuket and I have selected what I believe to be the most important, and have included a few tips to help the new traveler out.

“I’m going to train 15 sessions a week, every week.  I’ve got it all planned out!”

I genuinely enjoy people’s enthusiasm when they get here.  Not only that, I also understand it.  People arrive with the best intentions but often feel defeated a few days in.

The humidity in Phuket is almost always high.  Much higher than most have experienced or expected.  Coupled with those travelling into our high season and the scorching heat, those first few days (sometimes even the first week) can take some time to adjust to.

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Many people start off really strong, fighting through the jet lag and the heat (or whatever other obstacles may be in their way) only to fall short a few days in, exhausted and unable to train.

Don’t underestimate the change in climate!  Start of a little slower than you normally would.  Let your body adapt to the climate and training in these conditions.  It might take a few days, then you can train as hard as you like.

“Water is adequate for hydration”

For those of us who have acclimated over time, this might be true.  But for those coming from abroad, it’s a common mistake to make.

Training sessions are often conducted outdoors  at times where the heat and humidity is not too extreme.  Most people sweat just from being outside, let alone pushing their bodies.

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I have seen many people suffer from cramping, nausea and extreme exhaustion during their sessions without understanding the why.

It’s difficult to replace the amount of water you lose through sweat each session.  Electrolytes are a cheap and simple way to avoid symptoms of dehydration and it always surprises me to see how many people don’t actually use any.  Head to your local pharmacy or Supacheap and ask for some.  Even your local 7/11 will stock some.

“Beach erryday!”

For those training 1 session a day, going to the beach (when the weather is good) is very realistic.  For those training multiple sessions a day, you might find this a struggle.

You usually have a few hours in between training sessions.  Most will spend the first hour or so after training, showering and eating.

Hitting the beach in between every training session begins to take it’s toll for a number of reasons.

Most importantly, your rest period is usually in the middle of the day, right when it’s the hottest.  Why?  Because most people don’t want to train when it is that hot.  So when you hit the beach at that time, be prepared to fry yourself.  Most only last a hour or 2 at that time.

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Second to this, the heat zaps your energy.  A combination of extreme heat and possibly a little dehydration can leave you feeling exhausted, as can swimming in the ocean!

Don’t get me wrong, I have seen people do it.  Chill on the beach every day in between sessions.  But usually it is people who are only here for a week wanting to maximise their time and experience.

The beaches are beautiful and relaxing, just be sure that if you go, to stay adequately hydrated and make sure you leave enough time to rest and fuel up for your next session.

“Thai food is so healthy!  It’s going to be easy for me to lose weight”

I myself fell under this trap when I first moved here.  Thai food is so delicious and cheap, it’s difficult to resist sometimes.

People often think that Thai food is all vegetables and rice – which to be fair is not completely wrong.  What most don’t realise is that a lot of the food is laden with MSG and sugar.

All Thai dishes contain sugar.  All.  Even their omelettes have sugar in them.  Luckily, if you are aware of this, you can request your dish without.

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MSG is the tricky one.  Here in Phuket, some cafes are advertising that they don’t use MSG.  Because of the rather healthy clientele and repeated requests to make food without it, it’s become easier to find places that no longer cook with MSG.

In addition to the MSG and sugar, traditional Thai meals don’t have a good macro balance.  You get almost 2 cups of rice with your meal (most people mistake it for one) and almost no protein (approx 50 – 70 grams per serve).

I’m not a huge advocate of stuffing yourself with protein, but if your nutrition approach requires a high level of protein, you’re best to stick with the BBQ proteins available.

For the longest time I was watching my friends (particularly in America and Australia) post about their gravity float or sensory deprivation sessions.  I knew a little about it from listening to a Joe Rogan podcast but had resigned to the fact that probably would not have access to, living in Thailand.

We lucked out here in Phuket when Joe and Steve came along and opened the first gravity float in Thailand – about a 10 minute ride from my house.

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I was quite curious about the whole thing so I booked in for one of their opening specials – an hour float for 1000 baht (probably less than half the price of what I would pay at home).

I was greeted by Joe and Steve and sat for a quick chat while the tank was put through it’s routine clean after the previous persons float.  They gave me a run down of the different experiences that people have had their first float and some sage advice for being in there.

Once the float tank was ready, I was ushered into a room where the tank is housed and am provided with a number of items to assist me with my float.  Ear plugs, pillow, Vaseline (for any nicks or cuts), a small towel to hang inside (in case I needed to wipe my face) and a large towel for when I was finished.  I am given a run down of the tank itself, how to get in and out safely, and the bell to listen out for when my time was up.  I was also shown the ‘panic button’, should I, for any reason, need to get out but can’t.

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Awesome!  I’m set to go!

I climbed into the tank, carefully placing my small towel on the rack, and closed the hatch.

Now I don’t know what I was thinking, but my first thought was ‘sh*t!  It’s really dark in here’.  Yes.  Yes it is.  Because it’s a sensory deprivation tank (d’uh!).

I slowly slide down in the tank and try to let myself float.  Easy enough so far!

I closed my eyes to try to visualise the fight I had coming up in a few days, and noticed that my body was slowly floating in a circular motion.  I went to reach for the handle bar on the hatch door, and couldn’t find it.  In a moment or slight panic and opened my eyes, looking for the dim outline of the hatch.  My eyes didn’t appear to be adjusting at all so I quickly sunk my butt to the floor to sit up and in all of my awkwardness, splashing myself in the eyes with the high sodium water.

I slowly found my way back to my starting point, attempted to flush out my eyes with the water bottle provided inside the tank, and continued to float.

I eventually found a few markers inside the tank to give myself an idea of where I was inside the tank.  Eventually I just forgot about it and continued with my float.  I figured there is only one way out!  I’d find it when I needed to.

I had a moment where I was fully focused.  I could see myself at the stadium, getting my hands wrapped, warming up…. and then I was thinking about my cat… and then thinking about training… and then thinking about my personal life… then thinking about needing a new media kit.  My mind went crazy.

I felt really frustrated that I couldn’t focus on what I wanted to.  In turn, it made me restless and I began squirming around in the tank.  I developed an insane impatience because I had no idea how long I had left and I felt a sudden urge to get out.

I convinced myself to just sit still but my anxiety got the better of me and I sat up and opened the hatch door.  I sat there for about 10 seconds and told myself it couldn’t be too far off finishing, so I took a long, deep breath, sunk back in and closed my eyes.  Next thing I knew the bell was sounding.  My time was up.

I hopped out and showered and took a seat out front with Joe and Steve.  They were both so eager to find out what my experience was like.  I told them I was so disappointed that I didn’t get what I thought I would from it, but they both assured me that it was ok and that my next float would be better.

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When I went back for my second float, I had a lot going on in my personal life and it showed.  I couldn’t focus on my next fight at all.  In a moment of frustration I told myself to just let it go.  What ever was going to pop up from my subconscious – let it.  Surprisingly enough, it helped me clear a lot of things out of my mind, which in turn helped me focus on what I needed to be ready for my fight.

I still couldn’t lie still for the entire hour.  What I estimate to be about 45 minutes into the float, I started moving my body.  Rolling my hips from side to side, stretching my arms and legs.  It was actually quite nice and I wasn’t bothered by it at all.  I felt a sense of accomplishment that I sat still for so long.  Meditation is not something I have ever mastered, nor is sitting still.

I didn’t feel panicked or anxious this float which made the hour pass by quickly.

By the time I went in for my third float, I was mentally and personally in a better place.  I was again, close to another fight, but I had such a different experience during my float.  I had a more calm sensation and was able to focus fully on my fight.  I spent my time visualizing all the things I wanted to achieve in my fight, combinations I had been working on and how I could implement them.

I still ended up moving around and stretching from time to time, but mostly because I was so stiff and sore from training that I wanted to increase the physical benefits of my float as well.

Aside from learning how to calm my mind and sort through my subconscious, I noticed a significant difference in my recovery and the extreme relaxation I felt after my floats meant that I came home and had some of the best sleep of my life.

I’m sad to be moving away from Float Indigo – if I had it my way, it would be part of my weekly routine.  Hopefully I can find something similar in Berlin!

To anyone visiting Phuket, I highly recommend you check these guys out.

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I always liked to dabble in jiu jitsu.  It has often been a welcome break from my striking training, and a large number of my friends back home are grapplers, so it was a great way to spend time with them and have a little fun in between fights.  (pajamas and cuddles!  I mean, c’mon!)

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Going into MMA, I know I need to work my ground game A LOT.  I am far behind the pack, but with no regrets as I have spent this time developing my striking skills.  In the beginning I struggled to find the motivation to train consistently because I naturally wanted to go back to what I knew.

I really enjoy live rolling.  I always have.  But it was never really enough to keep me interested.  How was it that I spent 2 years doing 12 Muay Thai sessions a week but 5 BJJ sessions a week seemed impossible?  Why would anyone want to do that?

Fighting on the side has meant constant interruptions to my BJJ training, which personally, I haven’t minded.  I have felt that by taking a few consecutive days off the mats, that I come back and new things click into place and make sense to me.  It gives my tired old body some time to catch up to my brain.

One of the biggest problems I faced, was that I have always loathed training in a Gi.  Mostly because I got choked out with my own Gi a lot (which is both hilarious and frustrating) and I felt like no gi was the better fit for MMA.  I used that as an excuse to avoid training in a Gi.  Also, if I’m being totally honest, having a valid reason to buy colourful spats and superhero rash guards was also a big draw card….

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Before I went on my holidays, I found a new enjoyment in my BJJ sessions.  It didn’t matter how tired I was, I didn’t want to miss out on a roll.  I put it down to it still being so new, that the novelty would wear off.  But to my surprise – it hasn’t.

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One of my friends tagged me in an article we were discussing last night, which I felt excited to read.  The BJJ community is so large and there is a huge amount of information out there, passed down by people, once walking in our shoes.

I’ve been searching for tape to buddy tape my busted finger and to protect my poor poor spidey fingers because I love spider guard drills so much that I don’t want to miss out because my fingers are raw or bleeding.

I recently watched some great videos on foot and ankle control and guard passes because I get stuck there.  And then I realised.  It’s happened.  I’ve turned into a BJJ girl.

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I had that great light bulb moment where I rolled with a blue belt, and used his Gi to manipulate his and my own movements and finally understood why people enjoyed Gi training so much.  There are so many creative ways to maneuver, submit and roll in a Gi!

It’s nice to be able to continue learning and growing so much and doing what I love.  I am shocked that I have found so much love for this sport and I’m excited to keep pushing and seeing where I end up.

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I’m joining an amazing team in Berlin next month where I hope to start working towards my blue belt (something which never really mattered to me before).

Maybe it’s time to buy that second Gi….

Recently I made the decision to leave Phuket and move to Berlin.  I’ve received an overwhelming number of messages that I have not had the time to reply to yet but I am very grateful to everyone for their well wishes and support.

Leaving the land of Muay Thai was not a decision that was made lightly.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Muay Thai will always be my first love.  Despite this, I’ve had to make a choice between the two for now and it’s time to give MMA a run.

While Muay Thai fights are plentiful here, MMA fights, especially for woman are not.  The pool of competitors is small, given that MMA is still, technically, illegal in Thailand.  So regardless of what happens, I will need to travel to fight.  This puts me in an awkward position given that I have had no MMA fights to date.  Promoters don’t want to fly nobody’s (which given the costs involved is totally fair) so I needed to look into where would be a good place to go, to continue on this path.

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Second to that, is that living in Thailand long term (without a work visa or education visa) is becoming more and more difficult as the years roll on.

I was extremely lucky to meet the requirements for a 12 month working holiday visa my first year in Thailand so I had no issues and no evidence of visa runs (border runs) in my passport so I was never flagged at immigration.  I then replaced my passport at the end of last year so that there were no obvious flags.  Getting through immigration the first few times were a breeze.

When I came back from my trip to Europe (check out my photos on instagram @missmuaythai) I was immediately flagged at immigration, despite having been out of the country for 6 weeks AND having a brand new, valid, 60 day visa.  The officer flagged me by mistake, as his supervisor took one look at my visa and said, this is fine.  But the questions came.  “You come in and out of Thailand a lot?”.  “What are you doing here?”.  I was half expecting them to request a copy of my bank statement or an ATM slip (which, they can actually ask you for so you can prove you have the means to support yourself here).

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At this point in time, another tourist visa is not going to help my case much and if I need to fly out of the country (to go home or to fight) means I will have more issues coming back.

And finally.  I and ready to rejoin western society, to work a little and get back into the swing of regular life.

Thailand is a wonderful place, and I am so grateful for my time here.  I’ve made lifelong friends and made irreplaceable memories, but for me, it’s time for the next adventure.  And who knows!  I’ll probably be back again!
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I am a Muay Thai girl.  It will always be my first love and something I will always have a passion for.  What most people don’t know about me is that I have had a keen interest in MMA for years.  Long before I moved to Thailand, at the time where men like Rich Franklin and Forrest Griffin were breaking bones and spraying blood across the canvas.  I hail from an MMA gym in Melbourne so I always enjoying watching the MMA sparring sessions and the grappling classes.

When I first went to Absolute MMA, I tried my hand at about 6 weeks of BJJ resulting in me entering a No-Gi grappling round robin tournament.  I thought it was ridiculous, I was grossly under prepared, but the women’s side of the tournament needed numbers so I reluctantly agreed.

In this tournament I lost 2 (out of 5) rolls and won 3 by submission (2 Rear Naked Chokes and 1 Triangle) despite being the least experienced of the group.  Needless to say I was pretty stoked with the results for the day, but unfortunately my Jiu Jitsu journey ended there.

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I was desperately trying to get into Muay Thai, and I appeared to be insanely accident prone, so I took myself off the mats for a while to give my striking dreams a fighting (pardon the pun) chance.

So for the people that have known me from the start of my fighting journey, the transition to MMA has come as no surprise.  For those who have met me during my Muay Thai career, everyone seems shocked!

My time at UTFF was spent partially preparing for MMA, however the absence of a Jiu Jitsu program meant by grappling was limited and my coach was insistent on further developing my striking skills.

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Part of my negotiated return to AKA was that I was interested in making the transition to MMA while fighting Muay Thai on the side. It was a welcomed caveat.  So for the past 2 months, this is what I have been doing!  Unfortunately the grueling schedule to keep up with both teams requirements, however, has forced me to make a choice between the two.  So while Muay Thai will always be the love of my life, it’s time to focus and get my MMA up to speed.

I’ve been surprised at my progress on the MMA front and that has been a very exciting venture for me.  I’ve always been someone who loves learning new things so this really appeals to that side of me.

My first few MMA sparring sessions were ROUGH.  I felt so out of place and got served each and every time.  It was almost a nice little stall when I got offered another Muay Thai fight because I really questioned if I had begun this transition too late.  It was the moment when you are a complete beginner again, and everything feels awkward, as though you’ll never get it.  That was me.  I was a beginner again.

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After taking a little time off to focus on my Muay Thai fight, I was summons back to the MMA sessions.  I went reluctantly, dreading what my fate would be every time I walked into that room.  What I did not expect, was to turn a corner so quickly.  It was as though my body had finally caught up to my brain.  The hours logged watching MMA fights, watching grappling classes, and attempting to put some of these things into play.  All of a sudden, some things just seemed to make sense.  I was submitting people that were submitting me 2 weeks earlier.  I was understanding the movement required for certain grappling techniques, and my striking was somehow adapting to a faster style.  Things have started to click!

While I am a long way off from being where I want to be, I am certainly hoping that my next fight will be MMA.  My ground game is developing quicker than I had expected and my striking is also on the up.

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I’ve been lucky to be surrounded by great crew recently.  People who have helped me struggle along and encouraged me to keep pushing.  It’s an exciting time for female MMA so hopefully when I jump in there, I can make some waves!  Stay tuned!

Fads sweep through the “wellness” industry like nobody’s business. If you paid attention to all the spruikers, you’d be drinking your shake while squirting water up your bum, popping some pills, sweating it out in a sauna, wrapping yourself in plastic…oh no wait, plastic’s toxic, let’s try clay instead, juice fasting (or if you’re really hardcore…water fasting!), meditating, practicing mindfulness, acupuncture, chiropractic, detox tea, yoga, pilates, running (it’s good for you), not running (it’s bad for your joints)…you get the gist. The thing is, there’s validity in every single one of these things for someone, at some point in their life but does that mean any one of these things is THE thing? Hell, of course not! For some reason though, the wellness industry turns some people (you know the ones, we all have ‘that friend’ ;-)) into evangelistic fanatics who so strongly believe that their way is the only way that it literally becomes the only thing they talk about!

Me? I’m a bit of a trier. I’ll try pretty much anything! No, I’m not looking for a magic pill or the one thing that will solve all my worldly problems…  it’s more that I’m curious. I have this strange philosophy that I’m not really entitled to an opinion on something unless I’ve tried it. Strange, I know! So, with that in mind, when the latest resurging fad: Sensory Deprivation Floatation Tanks started hitting my Facebook newsfeed with a vengeance, well, I figured I’d give it a try!

If you haven’t heard of Float Tanks, give it a little google time. This is a little excerpt from the website of the float centre that I went to, www.beyondrest.com.au (HIGHLY recommend if you’re in Melbourne or Perth!!)

“The tank was created by neurophysicist Dr John C Lilly 60 year ago when he was doing research on brain waves and altered states of consciousness. The float tanks look like a large, enclosed bathtub. They are usually built from fibreglass and are designed to block out all external distractions, such as sights, sounds, tactile sensations and gravity. The floatation tank contains a super-saturated Epsom salt solution, which is about 25cm deep. This creates an environment similar to that of the Dead Sea, letting you float effortlessly on the surface of the water and enjoy a feeling of weightlessness! Once you are settled, it is almost impossible to tell which parts of your body are in the water and which aren’t. This will trick your brain into thinking that you’re floating in the air. The buoyancy created by the Epsom salt solution effectively removes the effects of gravity on the body. This will make you feel weightless, letting every single muscle in your body fully relax. With earplugs in and (if you choose) the tank’s interior lights switched off, the quietness and darkness will allow your mind to drift into a deep state of relaxation, creating a disconnection from today’s busy environment. Outside distractions such as sight, sound, tactile sensations, and gravity fade away, so you feel like you’re floating in space, losing track of where your body ends and the water begins. Noise from the outside doesn’t get to you. This is achieved by water and air being heated to your body temperature so you cannot distinguish between the air and water thus giving you the floating feeling.

“We had a Zen master who visited my lab once, and he asked to go in the tank for an hour. Most of his life he had meditated every day for four or five hours or more. And he thought the depth of meditation he reached in the tank was on par with a level he reached maybe once a year in his normal meditation environment—which was not exactly the middle of Times Square. He was amazed.” – Peter Suedfeld PHD

The reduced stimulation encountered in the floatation tank refocuses the your attention to internal stimuli. At first this includes the novel sensations of floating effortlessly in darkness and quiet. The sensations of the body become more salient, making the flotation tank a walk-in biofeedback device. This natural biofeedback initiates a self-regulation process that encourages relaxation. This relaxation is augmented by the full body absorption of magnesium that elicits the release of muscle tension. As physical sensations become less noticeable, mental activity can come to the fore. For those not used to being alone with their thoughts this can be difficult. However, even unpleasant thoughts become more pleasant as the body descends into a more deeply relaxed state. Eventually even the parade of thoughts subsides and the mind enters a meditative state. Flotation therapy has been academically studied in the USA and in Sweden with published results showing reduction of both pain and stress. At the moment there have been 80+ studies done on the benefits of floating.”

I booked an introductory special of 3 x 1 hour floats. I chose to do my floats on Friday evenings, at the end of the work week…kind of an extreme wind down theory! It definitely worked. The centre in Prahran is beautifully designed with a sacred geometry theme. I was led to a private room with the tank and a shower etc and left to prepare and enter the tank. Once showered and prepped with earplugs in, I stepped into the tank and pulled the lid closed behind me. The light stays on in the tank for about 5 minutes, giving you time to adjust and settle yourself before you are in complete darkness. Soft, meditative-style music plays, seemingly through the water for the first 10 minutes. So, essentially, it’s in the tank with lights and music, then dark and music, then dark and silence. For the next 45 minutes I was alone with my thoughts and enhanced awareness of my body. Initially, I became very aware of the twitching in my body as it settled into the magnesium saturated water where you float quite saliently, the magnesium making the water almost solid feeling. It seemed to highlight any injuries I was nursing, drawing the mind’s attention to these areas in almost an alerting manner. As my mind quieted and I slipped into a meditative state, I found myself moving through various states. Initially my thoughts were of recent events and challenges, then they deftly moved to specific areas of life. Health. Relationships. Family. Whilst I wasn’t consciously focusing on any particular thing, it was almost like watching a movie moving from one area to the next. At about the 3/4 mark, I felt a rush of endorphins and found myself giggling to myself in the tank. Not at anything in particular either. Weirdo. Before I knew it, the music started back up, signalling the last 10 minutes of tank time, then the lights were on and it was time to get out! Carefully extracting myself from the tank so as not to get any water in my eyes (this is the most crucial part…it stings like a mofo!!), I hopped back in the shower and stood under the warm water in a dazed state of bliss. Once out, I found my way to the designated chill out space where there was warm herbal tea and friendly conversation waiting for me. This was a really important part of the experience…the opportunity to debrief, ask a few questions and just generally sit with your post-float glow for a bit before heading back out into reality was amazing.

I have to say, once home, I was out cold almost as soon as I hit the pillow and had one of the best sleeps of my life! Seriously vivid dreams! I’m naturally an early riser too so to wake up and look at the clock the next day and see 11am was a serious shock! But I felt amazing. I think I had that post-float glow for the next 2 or 3 days :)

Of all the wellness fads I’ve tried, this one is definitely up there as a ‘must do’. My subsequent 2 floats only got better and I’m definitely going back for more! You do need to be prepared to be alone with your own thoughts though and, if you’re someone that doesn’t spend much time with yourself, it can be quite confronting! Lucky I think I’m pretty good company ?

You know those memories that Facebook likes to flash up for you now and then? Sometimes it’s good, you think awwww yeah, I remember that, THANKS Facebook ? and you hit share as you basque in the glow of your fabulous memory.  Then there’s the ones that slap you in the face, the ones you look at and think grrrrr THANKS Facebook :( and promptly click the “do not show me this memory” button, silently cussing an algorithm in a website as if it were a person for reminding you of ‘the thing’.

So, today was a grrrr day. It actually spun me into a day of reflection. My memory? The day I shared with my friends pictures of the house I was about to move into with my then partner, 7 years ago. We’d been living together for a bit over a year in the house I owned at the time. The first few months were great, then things went rapidly downhill. I guess I’d been lucky in the past, the worst confrontational behaviour I’d ever had to deal with was when my Dad came home grumpy from work and was a little short-tempered. A few gruff words here and there didn’t really prepare me for what I experienced with my ex. I remember the feeling the first time he blew up at me, like every part of me was frozen in time and I couldn’t do anything, couldn’t say anything. I describe that feeling, that has unfortunately become quite familiar over time, as ‘losing my words’. If you know me at, you’ll know I’m not one to be at a loss for words, like, EVER buuuuut there’s something about in-your-face confrontation that just freezes me up on the inside. Arguing I’m totally cool with… hey, we all have differences of opinion! But when someone is in my face, yelling, calling me every name under the sun, getting themselves into such a state that I actually think they’re going to make themselves vomit, spewing vile, viscous venom at me, well… I lose my words! I would actually LOVE to hear from anyone who has experienced this behaviour from someone close to them because I’ve had it in my life for around 10 years from 2 different people, though I am ecstatic to say that this behaviour is absolutely not welcomed in my life anymore!

I have always experienced life in a fairly calm state. Sure, I get aggravated, annoyed, angry, pissed off, even vile in my own way but I have learnt that I have an incredibly long fuse and it takes some pretty outrageous behaviour to really upset or anger me. There’s a couple of things that will rile me up very quickly: cruelty to animals is definitely one, intentionally causing harm or going out of your way to hurt someone is another. When I think about the 2 people who have been in my life over the past 10 years, both exhibiting the same behaviour, I think about where it stems from, what their intent is or was and I absolutely think about how I contributed or led them to think that was an acceptable way to treat me.

I am going off on a bit of a tangent here, and this is an area that I will likely explore quite a bit here because, not only do I think it’s important to talk about abuse for our own therapeutic release but I also think that by writing it out in a stream of consciousness manner, I learn things about myself that help me ensure I don’t repeat the same scenario ever, ever again!

So, this Facebook memory, this house, really took me back to a time where I made a decision that went totally against my intuition, my gut and fundamentally shaped the next 7 years of my life.

I had been living with this man, this violent, abusive, controlling, narcissistic man. I had actually asked this man to move out of my house (and my life) when I recognised where he was at in his life and how mismatched we were energetically BUT I had then allowed him to talk his way back into my world and we’d been living in a ‘walking on eggshells’ type space where I was so careful and cautious about what I said and did for fear of tipping him over the edge and unleashing his inner monster (it’s a fucking awful space to live in by the way – almost worse than the yelling, screaming and violence!). When my circumstances changed at work and I needed to move, I made the decision to sell my house, where he had been living with me without contributing financially (mistake #583737). Given he didn’t work and moving would mean paying rent, I actually thought this was going to be my ‘get out of jail free’ card. I told him if he moved with me, it would be a 50/50 arrangement financially and I was SO SURE that he would bail in that moment. He didn’t. Somehow, he found a way to make it work and so, there we were, 7 years ago on this day, sharing pictures of the new house we were moving into with our Facebook peeps.

Every single part of me knew it was a mistake. Knew I was signing on for 1 or more years extra misery than was actually necessary yet, I did it. I went against my knowing. I discarded my innate guidance system that intrinsically leads me AWAY from harm and I told my instinct to go fuck itself as I waltzed cheerfully into hell. I put on a facade for all my friends and family and silently let myself rot away on the inside as I shared my life with someone who reminded me daily that I was worthless, useless and a fucking idiot (his words, not mine ;-)).

It took me another 2 years to finally call bullshit on myself and get the hell away from that relationship. I can look back and wish I’d trusted my gut, listened to my instinct, let my innate guide me buuuuut, clearly I had a lesson or 2 to learn before I chose that option! Most of us kick ourselves a little bit on a regular basis for not trusting that gut instinct, but it’s usually with the little stuff. I absolutely walk away from that (and the subsequent ‘friendship’ that I walked straight into that was pretty much an exact replica of this relationship, only a little bit worse) now knowing that when that little voice sends me a warning, pay attention. No, really, fucking pay attention!!!

Now, I’m a pretty friggin’ tough chick. I can withstand a LOT. Hell, I’ve dealt with being gang raped at 18, I kicked cancer’s fucking ARSE at 21 and navigated life’s usual twists and turns pretty independently and with fucking awesome moral character. My friends and family know I would turn the world upside down for each and every one of them. So, my biggest question to myself (and one I will explore outwardly on this blog – feel free to chime in with your thoughts!) is why the hell did I let someone like this diminish my essence. How did I allow one, actually, 2 if I count his successor (we’ll chat about her in another blog ;-)) people to whittle away my self worth? To cause me to doubt everything I KNOW to be true about myself and even start to behave in the way they told me I actually was. WHY did I go against my knowing and give these two people permission to chip away at my being until I was so broken that I had to scrape around for the bits and pieces to start to put me back together again.

I’m actually going to leave this one there. I don’t know if you can identify with pieces of this but I really do welcome your comments. I feel like this blog is a little bit scattered and, admittedly, it’s somewhat emotionally charged. I haven’t quite collapsed it all just yet. Whilst I will continue to look deep inside myself (as I keep putting the pieces of me back together) and share my thoughts here, I also invite you to share your experiences, thoughts, wisdom, whatever feels right for you. The more we share, the more we grow :) Much love xxxxxxx

 

Over the course of 25 professional fights, I have only ever fought in a crop top once.  Even when I am lean, I always wear t-shirts because I am so self-conscious and embarrassed about my stomach.

Back around 2012, I was diagnosed with Poly Cystic Ovarian Disease.  I had been exercising rigorously and eating well and not losing weight.  I had been poked and prodded and tested for a million different things but no one could figure out why I was still, technically, ‘overweight’.  At this time I weighed about 77kgs (I am a staggering 5’5”to give you some measuring stick).

I sought out a new GP and she immediately said to me, these all sound like classic symptoms of PCOD.  I went and had a very uncomfortable test to confirm, and what do you know, I have PCOD.

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I’m not here to write about the impact of PCOD on women – maybe a story for another day.  But my point is this; PCOD messes with your hormones.  In a lot of women, being lean is not even possible.  I actually had to go on a specific form of an oral contraceptive, just so I could balance out my hormones a little and I naturally shed a little weight.  For me as an athlete, I never look like I ‘should’.  If you had someone approach me in a bar, or in the street, chances are, they might have a hard time believing that I am a professional athlete.  I don’t have abs, I don’t have superior definition in my arms or legs, I do not look like the girl on the cover of Women’s Health magazine.

To top things off, this year has been insanely taxing mentally.  I have been injured for 6 months and I really just had no self control with my food.  I couldn’t train properly, so saying yes to a few drinks became easy.  What did it matter if I didn’t feel good the next day?  Food, as per usual, became my comfort during an extremely stressful and trying time.  The end result of a visit home for Christmas, and a few months of bad eating, I have gained noticeable weight.  It happens.

When I fought the other night, even the staff who know me weren’t hesitant in telling me that I was “pom pui” (chubby) and my trainers have made it clear that my extra weight (in their opinion) is slowing me down and I need to slim down.  This may sound harsh, but they are not wrong, and once again I am venturing to lean out and be the best I can possibly be.

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My point to this little blog?  Since becoming a brand ambassador/sponsored GRRRL athlete, I am calling my own bullsh*t.  It’s time for me to practice what I preach.

I tell women all the time, to not worry about the way they look.  The scales don’t matter.  Mainstream media is unrealistic.  Real life is no photoshopped.  Yet I struggle daily with this myself.  I always wear baggy t-shirts, because I am now, even more so, embarrassed about my recent weight gain.

On Saturday night, in honour of our GRRRLs, I let it all hang out.   Fat rolls and all.  I got stared at, I felt uncomfortable, and I will probably never post the video footage because I hate seeing how out of shape I look – however – it was one of the most liberating things I have done in a quite some time.  Getting in there and not caring, and realizing that my looks did not impact the way I fight – it didn’t impact me getting a win, even though I took a fight on short notice.  Being a bit chubby doesn’t stop me from being a good person.  It doesn’t stop me from being a good fighter.  It only holds me back if I let it.

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Your looks don’t define you as a person.  I am not ‘perfect’, but I don’t need to be.

To all the beautiful GRRRLs out there – my biggest love to you.

For those of you that haven’t discovered GRRRL yet – head over to grrrlclothing.com and see what we’re all about!  If you want to purchase some swag, use ‘missmuaythai’ as the coupon code to get a nice 15% discount?

So here I am with my very own space on the big wide world of the interwebs. Blogging is something I’ve thought about doing for a really long time, for a number of different reasons. What made me bite the bullet and actually do it? One of my best friends and someone I admire enormously is a hardcore blogger….she’s raw, real and lets it all hang out – the good, the bad and the UGLY! This is actually something that’s somewhat of an anomaly in today’s world of what I call social media personality disorder: where everybody is putting their best foot forward, showcasing their bright, shiny moments and hiding away when times are tough. The biggest difference between this and what my friend does, for me, is that when I read her stuff… I relate – on many different levels! I don’t judge her, I respect her and sometimes, I have those moments where I think “oh my god, it’s not just me!!”. When she puts it all out there, even if she only does it for her, someone, somewhere reads it, identifies with it and it has an impact that she may never even see or feel. How awesome is that? When we only share the bright shiny moments, we paint such an unrealistic picture of ourselves that we then feel the pressure to live up to in real life and, inadvertently, we actually put pressure on other people who may feel inadequate or less than. Not for one minute am I intimating that anyone should feel responsible for how another person feels when they read something you’ve written. I just think we could all take a leaf out of my friends’ book and keep it real because, in doing so, we actually come together, relate and support each other through the amazing times as well as the down times.

So, long story short, that’s kind of what put the bullet up my arse to start blogging. My friend made a comment on her blog about how journalling keeps her grounded, on path, and moving forward. I totally get that and it’s exactly what I need to be doing! I could journal privately but I get so much out of reading other people’s thoughts, who knows, maybe someone, somewhere will get something out of reading mine :) One thing I promise is that it will be real, it will be raw and you’ll probably judge me at some point! Haha…..but you know what? That bit’s on you ?

I’ve had several random conversations with different people lately about language, how we use it, how we interpret it, and the challenges people face when they are bi or multi-lingual. I was delving into this topic with a friend of mine who spent his childhood in Greece and moved to Australia at the age of 10, not knowing a single word of English. You absolutely would not know that English was his second language now, he is ridiculously fluent. However, I was curious if it was still a challenge at times. For example, when he’s in his head, is it in Greek or in English? When he dreams, is it in Greek or English? I truly thought the subconscious would revert to the mother-tongue but, according to him, 90% of his thoughts are in English as that’s what he’s now constantly surrounded by and communicates in. The exception was interesting though. He pointed out that there are times of frustration when an English word doesn’t actually exist to describe / explain a thought or feeling, but the word does exist in Greek. My brain does like to go off on tangents when I get thinking about things like this and this one conversation took my mind into a bit of a rabbit hole…words / language and the interpretation of them. How is it that one word can mean so many different things depending on context, inflection, facial expression, tone…I could go on! When I say the word, it means one thing to me but something completely different to the recipient. Our words are one of our primary methods of communicating, yet they’re so open to interpretation, particularly in the age of ‘texting not talking’!

This then led me to pondering one of my all time favourite words: judgement. Not to forget its various forms: judge, judging, judgemental etc. I could almost guarantee that if you hear one of these words, particularly if it’s being used to describe you or someone else, you will attach a negative emotion to it. But why? The dictionary defines judgement as: the ability to make considered decisions or come to sensible conclusions. There is absolutely nothing negative in that. Human beings, by their very nature, judge! All day, every day, we are taking in information and making it mean something ie: judging! It’s one of those crazy words though, and I wish there was another word for what most people make judgement mean that more accurately described it. Perhaps there is in Greek – I should ask my friend!

So, the usual interpretation of judgement is: to form a negative opinion of someone or something or to look down upon (condescending). Something I hear people say about themselves quite often is “I don’t judge” and it never fails to make me laugh (because I just judged their comment about themselves as being ludicrous!). Of course you judge! You judge CONSTANTLY and…it’s perfectly ok! How else would you make decisions, determine if you like or don’t like something. Where I judge judgement to be not ok is when you believe your opinion is “it”. That your acceptable standards should apply to the whole world and the whole world should comply. When you decide another person should behave in a way you deem to be acceptable, based on your judgement or when you form an opinion that a person is below you or less than because of their behaviour or choices, that, to me, is (insert appropriate Greek word that describes this action and doesn’t exist in English but is what people term as judgemental). One of my favourite expressions ever is “LIVE AND LET LIVE” and I am so grateful for the diverse, challenging and interesting experiences I have had in my life that have led me to be an incredibly open minded and accepting person.

I love the plights for equality but I am of the firm belief that, until we get to a stage where we no longer have to discuss it, we have not achieved it. This is another topic for another day – and one I’ll get equally passionate over but my point really was that acceptance is king. My blanket rule is: live your life however you choose. Unless you’re intentionally hurting other living beings, your choices are your choices and, quite frankly, fuck those that condemn you because you’ve made a choice they wouldn’t make themselves. I only ever want people in my life that I can be 100% truthful with. Friends that I can tell ANYTHING to and, whether they would make those choices themselves or not, they will not love me any less for mine. Our diversity is what makes us a complete society. When we learn to love each other for our very essence, our differences become fascinating, and things to learn from, not “good or bad”. When we do away with the condemnation, the belief that our thinking should be everyone’s thinking, and get back to just loving each other, the fight goes away.

Language really is interesting. Judgement is a fun word to play with, I wonder when it got such a bad rap?

I am constantly fascinated by the crazy. Not just my crazy, EVERYONE’S crazy! I know you know the crazy I’m talking about, it’s that thing that happens when you choose something you know is going to have the complete opposite effect of whatever it is you’re working towards – in any area of life!

I’m going to use a really common example to explain “the crazy”. I like to feel good. I like it when my body is calm, happy, stress free. I like it when my skin is clear, I have endless amounts of energy and I feel vibrant and healthy. I know, without a shadow of a doubt, when I eat sugar or processed crappy foods, I feel the OPPOSITE of all of these things. So, why on earth would I choose to do it? The crazy!!! I actually laugh out loud when I hear other people talk out their crazy because it just sounds so goddamn ridiculous. The lengths we go to in order to justify the crazy is, well, it’s crazy!

I recognise my crazy when I procrastinate on doing things like housework, cleaning the car, writing out a schedule, keeping a “to do” list, preparing my meals…ahhh, I could go on and on. All of these things, when they’re done, help me to feel amazing, in control, on top of things, calm, happy, you get the point. All of these things, when they’re not done, mean I’m in chaos, stressed and out of control. So, how and why does the crazy win out?

I believe we all have areas where the crazy takes over at different times in our life. I don’t know about you, but I think when I get the crazy in one area sorted out, it seems to pop up in another area. I’m all for challenge but, come on! Surely, at some point, you can just have it all together, even if it’s just for a little while. I honestly cannot think of one time in my life where the crazy hasn’t existed and had its wicked way in some area of my life.

Maybe there’s meant to be a little of the crazy in our life at all times, just to keep us on our toes ?

I have a confession to make…my body is completely whacked!! At times I find it  amusing, sometimes annoying, mostly intriguing. Ok, maybe time for a little context…I have made some TERRIBLE choices over the past 10 or so years! Yes, everything happens for a reason and yes, our past shapes our present but, I think it’s also important sometimes to look back, acknowledge and learn!! What I mean by terrible choices is, I chose not to put myself first, I chose to let other people dictate how I felt about me, I chose to give my power away, I chose to let the people pleaser in me take over (to my absolute detriment), I chose to doubt myself, I chose to let the negative voices take over and, for the longest time, I chose not to do a damn thing about it!

How does this relate to my whacked out body? Oh my goodness, in every possible conceivable way! The above choices led to my internal environment being an incredibly stressful place to live. I didn’t actually want to spend time with me, I didn’t want to hear my own thoughts and, I kind of checked out. I detached and started floating through life. Existing but not living. It’s not a fun place to be. This is something I think almost everyone can relate to at some point in their life. I’ve definitely checked back in, and am now riding the wave of what happens when you start to reconnect with your body. Absolute fucking turmoil!!!

I’m talking 3 outbreaks of shingles, severe adverse reactions to the anti-viral medication prescribed for shingles, massive weight fluctuations, fluid retention like you wouldn’t even believe, digestive issues, fatigue…..ahh I could go on but really, what’s the point? The point really is that my body is currently teaching me a massive lesson. It’s saying ‘please don’t ignore me, please put me first, take care of me, nurture me, strengthen me and love me’ and I’m inclined to listen right now!

I do feel like I’m rambling a little but I also promised myself that I would just be real on here and this is where I’m at right now. My body’s currently in a hyper-reactive state where everything has an instant positive or negative effect! Acupuncture has been fabulous…the chinese herbs the acupuncturist gives me – eek! Well, the last lot instantly did the complete opposite to what they were supposed to do…but it’s a learning game, and if you don’t try, you don’t know! I’m loving spending time with my own thoughts hanging out in a sauna, hot yoga has become a regular part of my regime. I used to just smash out my angst in the gym but lately, my body flares up every time I work out so I’m listening and giving the weights a rest (as hard as it is!) and focussing on things that help me reconnect with my body. Meditation, yoga, even the acupuncture helps with this. This is what’s important. When was the last time you really listened to your body? Paid attention to the little signs it’s giving you? You know that little twinge we call a gut feeling? That’s the one I should have paid attention to in the past and the one I trust with everything now. We know more than we realise…we just have to trust it.

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12 months ago, the Unit 27 Group (best know for the Unit 27 strength and conditioning centre in Chalong) announced that they were in the process of building a fight facility.  It was no surprise to me that this would happen given that they already owned a gym (Primal Fitness), a health food restaurant (Muscle Bar) and have the only CrossFit certified box in Thailand (CrossFit Phuket).  It seemed that the martial arts route was the next logical step.

I decided to watch and see what was to happen with this new facility as coaches and location were yet to be announced.

As the year progressed, it was announced to the public that James McSweeney was set to come and run the facility.  Not only would he be fighting out of the Fight Factory, but he would also be the head coach.

I was having a difficult time at AKA and after months of back and forth, I made the decision to risk it and go train under James.

James has an extremely impressive resume, boasting world titles in Muay Thai, K1 and MMA.  He was one of the first successful TUF contenders after Dana White pulled him from the K1 circuit to go into one of the earlier seasons.  Not only is James a world class fighter, he is considered, by many, to be one of the greatest coaches in the world.

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When I went and joined James, UTFF hadn’t been completed so we worked out of Unit 27 as we, the UTFF Fight Team, helped finish the inside touches on the building before the soft launch.

We spent days building wall panels and laying floor, and creating space for the 32 foot cage that was on it’s way from Chang Mai.  The interior of the building was white and the floor was a custom fit, 1 piece of material, that had been cut to the exact specifications of the building.  This was to avoid bacteria forming in the cracks of the matting below and making it facility easier to clean.  Staph is a common issue in MMA gyms, and James was hell bent on avoiding it.

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Classes started slowly, firstly with Dutch Muay Thai, as we waited for new coaches to be flown in and work permits to be issued.  It was a process.  But classes grew quickly.  James had a solid reputation for coaching and people wanted to learn from him.  The difficulties most people faced was the intense nature of the classes.  James has a very old school approach to coaching and he coaches people in the exact same manner, whether they are a beginner or a professional athlete, it makes no difference to him.

People struggled not being able to take water breaks freely, because despite being in a climate controlled environment, it still gets hot and people get thirsty – fact.

I think many people particularly enjoyed the drilling aspects and the unortodox, yet effective combinations we were taught.

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As the boxing and BJJ programs took off, more people flowed through the doors, but again, some people struggled with the old school mentality.

For me as a fighter, it was not something that bothered me.  Training my mind to control my body was one of the most valuable things I will take away from my experience at UTFF.

Unfortunately as the new year rolled in, some internal politics began to create issues and James stepped down as the head coach and removed the “Sledgehammer Striking” class from the timetable.  Unfortunately this was the most regular class on the schedule and the most popular.  Numbers quickly dwindled, as did the overall vibe within the fight team.

The boxing program was strong, but unfortunately the one class a day was not enough to keep customers interested and the BJJ program was so new to a street already with strong ground programs that it was unsustainable.

As James left for Poland to fight for the KSW Heavyweight title, the decision was made.  On March 8, UTFF closed their doors for good and shortly after announced that it would be used as a new facility for CrossFit Phuket.

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I won’t ever forget the way I felt when I went to collect my things.  The cage was gone, the floor ripped up and the process of removing the wall panels had begun.  Before this I had felt indifferent about things, confident that I had options should James not return.  But in that moment, thinking back to the literal blood and sweat that went into that building, to seeing it all destroyed, it was gut wrenching.  I was just so sad at the abrupt way things had ended – I still am.  I am fortunate that doors opened for me that I had never expected and am able to move forward.

Fortunately, Unit 27 agreed to continue my sponsorship under their umbrella as an athlete and they still provide me with excellent S&C training to supplement my other training.  My official announcement of where to next is coming.  Stay tuned!