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 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.

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.

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!

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.

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….

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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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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It’s been a frustrating few months being out of the ring, losing fitness and gaining weight!  Especially given my first two years you couldn’t get me out of the ring!

Unfortunately at the end of my time at AKA, I had done significant damage to my left knee.  Surprisingly no stress fractures in my ankles from all the running, but something was seriously wrong.

When I went to UTFF, we originally agreed to stick with the Muay Thai and expand my horizons.  We were looking at fights, mostly in Europe, and the offers were a plenty.  While we knew this was the path we were going to take for the immediate future, we were still training my grappling game in preparation for my transition to MMA in the new year.

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The change from Thai style to Dutch style was significant.  Dutch style was more suited for MMA and for fights in western countries.  It completely opened my eyes to the way I look at Muay Thai and fighting.  It was so great learning different things every day as most of our classes were spent drilling with a partner.  A nice change from the same routine that I had been in for the past 2 years.  The aggressive Dutch style suits me, but there is still a lot about the traditional style that I will always love and I really hope moving forward, I can try to merge the two styles together a little.

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As my training load increased, so did the pain in my knee.  I was training though a ridiculous amount of pain and was beginning to have issues in everyday movements such as sitting, and walking.

We booked a fight locally for me, just to test out how the Dutch style was working for me and what was in my “DNA” (as my coach liked to say).  As we got closer to the fight date, I was still awaiting information and then eventually my coach tells me he has pulled me from my fight.  He didn’t want me fighting injured and the pain in my knee was affecting my basic movement in training.

In that moment I had a mini meltdown.  I was so frustrated, and homesick – my best friend had just visited and her return home sparked an insanely emotional response.

I was due to go home for Christmas anyway and he tells me to take a break, don’t train while I’m at home, just rest my mind and my body and come back ready to work.  I agreed that it was the best thing for me.

I had scheduled an appointment with a sports doctor for my first week home.  I wanted to try some PRP treatments in my shoulder and my knee to alleviate some of the pain.

After a round of MRI’s and other sporadic testing, we discovered the problem with my knee was worse than I had expected.

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Immediately the doctor advises that I need surgery.  To repair the meniscus (a common injury in athletes) and to shave off the back part of the knee cap to create more space for me knee to move, to prevent the knee cap grinding against the meniscus.  On top of that I had a crack in the left side of the knee, what he described as the “shock absorber” most likely damaged from all the running I had been doing that year.  PRP was an appropriate, but temporary remedy.

My shoulder, as I have been told a few times before, needs a reconstruction, but more notably, there was  cyst sitting near a nerve which was affecting my range of movement.  A very intimate gathering with a very long needle (to aspirate the cyst) followed by two shots of cortisone, saw me a week later lifting my arms above my head and having both my biceps touch my shoulders.  Magic!

After some much needed R&R, time with my family and friends, a few extra kgs from Christmas, and a renewed sense of motivation, I was ready to come back to Thailand.

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We hit the ground running and agreed it was best that I take an MMA fight at this stage.  We were set to go to Sydney, March 12, to make my debut.  I was nervous, but ready for the change.

As we pushed the pace in training, I fell victim to my first injury for the year.

In a round of touch sparring (exactly as it sounds, because no one is wearing any protective gear, not even gloves) I threw my ‘jab’ out only to be kicked in the hand. A sharp pain ran up my hand and I looked down at my hand.  My little finger was bent back behind my other fingers at a 90 degree angle.  I won’t lie. I screamed.  I clutched my hand and I screamed as I dropped to my knees.  My coach ran to me and everyone was at a loss as to what to do.  Neither of my coaches wanted to touch it, but leaving it at such an extreme angle while we waited for an ambulance could have made it worse.  Along comes one of our students; a Danish man, and also a coach.  He is confident he can put the digit back into place and I’m not arguing.

I will never forget the sensation of my finger, popping back into its socket.  It was such a bizarre feeling, yet oddly enough, not extremely painful.

As we went to ice my hand, I could help but cry.  “What about my fight!?!?!”  Confident that my finger would heal itself, my coach tells me not to worry and that I will still be able to fight.

A week later my finger is still extremely swollen and blue.  I head off to have some x-rays and the damage was more extensive than we had anticipated.  I was requested to wait to see the Orthopedic Surgeon.

I turns out that I had broken off the top part of the base bone and fractured the middle bone.  I was being told I could potentially need surgery.  I know what you’re thinking… it’s just a pinky… wouldn’t it be easier if we just cut it off?  (My thoughts exactly!)

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8 weeks of not using my hand.  Fortnightly x-rays and visits with the surgeon along with a sexy white plaster to boot.  Great.

I kept training to the best of my ability but staying motivated was difficult. I gave myself specific goals to work on that didn’t require the use of the left hand.  I worked on my south paw stance, and I worked on my head movement.  Both of which have improved significantly over the past two months, but it has been a frustrating time.

I’m finally back training at full capacity.  I’m getting my cross training in at Unit 27 and am thoroughly enjoying CrossFit (I don’t know how it took me so long to get into it!) and I am kicking pads at Dragon Muay Thai.

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I’m finally scheduled to fight again, April 12 and it could not come any sooner.

I’m a little nervous about returning to the ring.  My conditioning and fitness is not great so we are pushing as hard as we can.

Nevertheless I’m excited.  To get back to what I came here for.  These past 6 months have been a bit of a detour for me, but like always, I have no regrets.

MMA is not off the cards for me, but for right now I just need to be fighting again.

Bring on April 12!

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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!

When I went home for Christmas last year, I’m not going to lie, I was tempted to stay.  The lull of the beautiful beaches and sunsets had lost its fade and I was missing having some consistency in my life.  I get homesick – A LOT.  I watch my fight family at home kicking goals and I want to be there kicking goals with them.  My niece is growing up quicker than I can fathom, and life on the island has more challenges than I thought possible.

After much debate and conversation, I decided that I would be foolish to quit now.  I had already given 2 years of my life to this, and I thought I had found myself in the care of one of the greatest coaches in the world.  He was going to make me a world champion.  He was going to turn me into one of the greatest female fighters to date.  I believed it, and so I returned.

I used the month I had at home to treat existing injuries, to spend time with my loved ones, and to eat drink and not train.  That’s right.  A whole months of no training.  I thought I would go mad, but I didn’t realise how badly I needed it.  24 fights over an 18 month period, my body and my mind was exhausted!  I slept.  I drank.  I ate. I let my body heal itself a little getting ready to come back for the year of my life.

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I was so motivated when I returned; I was ready for anything. 2016 was going to be my b*tch!  My friends knew it, I knew it, I felt like the whole world knew it.

Now of course, when you take a significant break from training, your first week back SUCKS.  You wonder if you’ll ever be fit and strong again, even though you know that EVENTUALLY it will happen.  And it did.  Sooner than I had expected.  It literally took me about a week of solid, hard training which really surprised me.  The rest had done my body wonders.

We were all set for me to head to Sydney to make my MMA debut.  March 12.  We were ready. Surely enough, not 2 weeks into camp, I broke my finger.  Not, in the way where you have kind of broken you finger.  I was kicked in the hand, had my finger dislocated at a 90 degree angle, snapped off the top part of the bottom bone and fractured the middle bone.  For realisies.

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While I attempted to train around my hand, my motivation dwindled.  I kept pushing forward and the next thing I knew, my gym was shutting it’s doors.  Everyday I woke up thinking ‘what the hell is going on???’

As my team mates moved on, and in my heart I knew I should too, I waited for our coach to return to no avail.  Eventually I had to make a decision.  Where to from here?

A friend encouraged me to head over to Dragon Muay Thai as he had some great time there with two brothers who he knew would look after me.  I didn’t hesitate.  I needed to get back in shape and get ready to fight again.  My hand was about a week away from being able to put in a glove again so there was no reason to not start pushing hard.

When I went for my first session at Dragon, the trainers recognised me immediately.  I had fought and beat one of their fighters last year.  A well know girl, Nung Ning.  They immediately asked me if I wanted to fight and I told them that I couldn’t.

I wanted to scream yes, but I was stalling.  I still didn’t know what was going on with my other coach.  Was I allowed to book a fight with another gym?  I hadn’t heard a word from him yet I still felt like I was betraying him so I waited.

I decided to take off to Vietnam for a week.  I was scheduled for a visa run anyway, and my friend had told me about this amazing facility in Saigon.  I figured it might be a good chance to do a little travel and a little training and to see my friend who had just finished her time in Phuket.

The reset was EXACTLY what I thought I needed.  I got to train with some amazing people who welcomed me with open arms.  The coaching at the Saigon Sports Club is incredible and I don’t say this because they asked me to, or because they are giving me anything.  They had one of the most decadent facilities I have ever walked into, with carefully selected coaches all so willing to work with me and pass on their knowledge.  I was in heaven!

I made sure to take some time to explore a little, including a visit to the War Remanents Museum and a trip out to the Cu Chi tunnels used during the Vietnam war.

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When I packed my bags and returned to Phuket I felt ready to come back, but I still didn’t know where I wanted to go or what I wanted to do.

I had weighed my options carefully, options both in Phuket and in other areas of Thailand and beyond.  I had seriously considered the other MMA gyms in Phuket and after some long chats with a friend, I was reminded of why I was here.

I came here to fight.  I came here to become a Muay Thai World Champion.  Had I strayed too far from the real reason I was here.  This time spent away from home to not achieve what I came here for?  Was it all a waste?

I finally had decided that returning to Muay Thai was the best option for me.  It was probably too late, especially at my age, to be changing to MMA and I was already in Muay Thai land so why not go back to what I know.

As I started to prepare for my next Muay Thai fight, a women causes a bike accident causing me to fall off my bike.  Nothing too serious,  but enough gravel rash to stop me from grappling and sparring for a few weeks.  Yet another set back.  Frustration was consuming me and I had a little meltdown to one of my friends.  I just couldn’t believe that it was the end of March and I had done nothing but gain a few kg’s this year.  What was I still doing here?

Then, out of all the strangest things to have happened so far this year, I was offered a sponsored spot back at AKA, for both MMA and Muay Thai.  That was really what I wanted.  But was going back to AKA going to be the right call?  A lot of my reasons for leave AKA, were no longer reasons.  It seemed on a social level that people were very happy to have me back, claiming it’s where I belong.

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Out of all the stories I’ve heard in Phuket, I don’t know that this has ever happened.  That a gym re-opened their doors to a former fighter or that one has returned.  It’s very unusual for Phuket.

It certainly was something that took much consideration.  It meant I could fight Muay Thai and still explore the MMA path.  It appeared to be leaving doors wide open.  Management seemed eager to have me back, for a variety of reasons, but after much debate and lengthy conversations and negotiations, I agreed to return.

After a week in, still training at Dragon for a Muay Thai fight, and getting back into the ground work at AKA, all around my gravel rash, I discovered more aftermath of my previous coach.  My original opponent for April 12 had pulled out, and all the local stadiums were full up with female fights.  I asked if we could fight in Patong and the coaches at Dragon paused.  “Gemma.  You remember last year, you come and book and fight, but then you go to Australia and the promoter can not replace you.  He is very angry and doesn’t want you to fight there anymore.”  What. The. Freaking. Hell?

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I had tried to get a fight last year but I was told it wasn’t happening.  I pestered and pestered for information and nothing.  It seems like my previous coach had booked at fight for me and withdrew me 2 days before the fight.  The promoter couldn’t replace me and was so angry that he never wants me back again.

When I returned to AKA, I asked one of the head Thai trainers if this was fixable, and he basically said it wasn’t.  Even though it wasn’t my fault, there was not point trying to fix the situation.  “It’s just the Thai way” he said to me.

Last week I fell horribly ill with a virus – we assume it was influenza.  It’s officially the sickest I’ve ever been in my life and I am still recovering now.  I slept for days and had multiple IV bags of fluid to speed up the process but it really took me out.

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Is everyone reading this on the same page?  Could you follow the chain of events?  Admittedly, writing this made my head roll a little!

Everyone always says “it’s so cool!  You’re living the dream”.  I just wanted everyone to see what the reality of that dream can really be like.

I am so grateful to be out here doing what I am doing.  It’s something many fighters dream of and I fully understand that.  But it’s not always what it’s cracked up to be.  I don’t go to the beach everyday because I don’t have time.  I’m not enjoying cocktails at sunset and this year has definitely not been my ‘dream’.  Being a fighter is hard work and doing that while living in Thailand comes with its own unique sets of challenges – I’m proud that I’ve managed to navigate my way through most of these things.

I still don’t know what this year has in store for me, and after spending the last week laid up in bed, ridden with a virus, I haven’t had time to get back into the swing of things yet.  I’m on the mend and looking forward to heading back to training next year.  Things can only get better from here!

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????

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!