To celebrate the release, I'm hosting some awesome interviews and guests posts that look at women in male-dominated areas, gender-stereotypes, and, truly, people with passion. Today we bring this round of Squishing Gender-Stereotypes to a close with an interview with coach Arlene Sanchez.
AS: My dad was a boxer. We moved out here from California as a teenager, and I don't know if it was the culture or what in New Mexico, but girls wanted to fight. I guess it was a good thing I knew how to defend myself. When I was 19 I got started in Karate. For me, I knew how to use my hands and I thought it was really neat to watch people use their kicks. I just thought wow, ya know, to be able to do that. I think it was meant to be. I really do. Neither of my siblings ended up in this sort of thing, not even close.
LG: You were the only girl competing under training from Bill Packer. Not many gyms have that female component as far as having female coaches goes. You've seen the sport evolve for women, what do you think about it?
AS: Boxing has always been tehre for women, since the 60s. MMA has so many components involved, it was always going to take longer for women to get into. First of all, because not very many women are fighters. Not very many women go into those sort of gyms to train. So, when gyms started making them more everybody friendly, like with kickboxing aerobics and cardio, that's when every day person started walking into these fight gyms. That's what broke the ice. It made men actually go "hey, maybe some women can be fighters" because there was always that stigma that women couldn't fight. It just took a little bit of time, once the ice broke, the door was left open and women started getting involved in all the single disciplines so they could start MMA fighting, and once women started fighting things started to happen.
Women definitely have to work harder to get the same amount of respect as men in the sport. I've had to work three times as hard to get the recognition my husband gets. But that's just what it is, and we just have to keep working on it.
LG: Did you ever have that moment where you thought you were done with fighting?AS: I did. In 1993 in Amsterdam I blew out my ACL. ACL repairs weren't something they did very often back then. It took a year and a half to recover and still not really recover, they didn't do therapy like they do nowadays so I had to figure stuff out on my own. I took a fight two years after, right away for a world title in Vegas. I hurt my rib in 6th round and it had me thinking, do I really want to do this? Or was it time? I thought maybe I didn't want it bad enough so I called it quits. I was 34. I still stayed involved and in shape, but I thought maybe mentally I should step out.
LG: How was being the only girl in Mr. Packers team? Did he treat you differently because you were a girl?
AS: You know, here's the thing, I'm sure Mr. packer downplayed some of this aggressiveness in the beginning but after that, no, man, he saw I was one of the guys. That's how it worked. I was one of the guys. He used to tell us I want you spitting and farting, and so I just took it. I'm part of the team and that's how it worked. You're blowing snot, it didn't offend me. I wanted to be the best I could be, so if that's what it took, so be it. The guys were cool to, to this day, they're all my brothers.
There was Rose and Gwen too. They would jump into class but they weren't competitors, and they weren't there consistently. They were my friends, they are still my friends. I haven't run into them lately but I won't ever forget them
LG: Now you coach both male and female fighters. Does your coaching techniques differ between the genders?
AS: In some aspects yes. Some girls are real fragile in the way of responding to being told what to do. And most men--most of them, not every one of them--are used to being ordered around and told what to do, and they get on it and get it done. The structure for men is easier than for women, although there are some guys I have to be careful with as well. You kinda gotta pick and chose. I enjoy working with everyone that wants to do it. It does drive me nuts when I'm in a class and someone is there, male or female, and doesn't apply themselves.
LG; What are the differences between the genders when it comes to fighting? What does the female component mean to you?
AS: To have that female component sometimes was the key. I was so used to training with men, and men tell me I fight like a man. Well, that's what I trained with. Men are pretty strategic. They are precise and will break you down and then get the finish.
Women do fight differently. They are very aggressive and often less technical. Men are very strategic. Women are just going to slit your throat, they're just going to go at you and get it done. I think it shows if you watch most women fighters.
Technique is everything. That’s what I've always fallen back on,that's how I've figured it out. When you train with men, it's not going to be the power. I'm not going to be able to keep up with those guys power wise. There are other differences too. Men have bigger lung capacity, and that influences their cardio. So I think that's why I became very technical.
If I had trained with women, would it have made me a different fighter? I don't know. Probably?
It used to throw me off when I started fighting women because they would just come at me. Seriously, it would throw me off in the 1st round, I'm like what is this? Hands and feet flying all over and it would take me the first round to get through the what the hell is going on and pull it together
I'm real hard on my girls. I want them to be the best they can be, and that won't happen if I baby anyone.
I tell my girls when they train with the guys: you hit these men as hard you can , as hard as you can. I want you trying to knock them out. Submit and choke him, whatever you need to do to kick his ass.
And I tell my guys: see her as a fighter, however, she's not a man. You're not going to go out there and completely kick her ass. You'll keep some pressure on her, but you find her level and that's where you stay.
And the guys get it. They're like ”holy shit". It makes my females better.
It does help the guys with control, but I don't want them to be like "oh man, I don't want to work with her." Because it does happen. Oh yeah, it happens. The girl will be like 'where is my partner ?' and all the guys have wondered off.
As a female you gotta get out there and push yourself and be aggressive and "you're my partner" so they can't back out. Once you do that and stand your ground, it's an awakening for them.
And females move different. I didn't know back when I was fighting that I was missing the female component, and I don't really mind that I missed that, but I am glad our girls have that. We have five girls at the gym. They need each other for certain things but other than that they are fine with the guys.
LG: What are your thoughts on MMA?
AS: I think in a lot of ways, the problem with MMA is it has lost its tradition. They call it mixed martial arts, but it's really its own thing. And nowadays, it's just a game of who can go the distance. We don't fight to go the distance. We don't train for the fight to go to decision. It used to be that you go in there and you submit your opponent or you knock them out. Now, these top pros go in there and just go the distance. I get it, they're scared to lose that paycheck. If they take a risk, and fail, well, there goes a couple thousand dollars. It's become a sport about the paycheck. It used to be about going in there and finishing your opponent.
A note from LG: Thank you, Arlene for the fantastic interview!
Readers, don't forget to check out the rest of the interviews and guest posts from the past two weeks, and be sure to check out Fierce :)