And don't forget, FIERCE is still 99 cents!
I'm over at Elizabeth Barone's Blog today talking about inspiration for FIERCE and Tori's struggles (following your dreams, being a girl in male-dominated areas, the culture of victim blaming) and also some other things like Shane being a hot mess in his upcoming book. Come say hi!
And don't forget, FIERCE is still 99 cents!
As you may know, my novel Fierce released on 8/14/14. Fierce is a contemporary sports fiction with romance elements, focused on mixed martial arts (MMA). You can read more on Fierce HERE
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.
Arlene started fight training in 1981 and went Pro in 1984. She was a member of the legendary Bill Packer's original fight team, and the only female training under him. She has won numerous amateur and pro championships. She also served in the military, and was a bouncer (the only female bouncer at the time). She is currently the co-owner of and striking coach at FIT NHB, a gym located in New Mexico and home to UFC Tim Means, Invicta fighter Amber Brown, and pro Brenda Gonzales.
LG: What made you get into Karate and kickboxing?
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 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 :)
We are continuing our Squishing Gender-Stereotypes Program with an interview. As you may know, my novel Fierce released on 8/14/14. Fierce is a contemporary sports fiction with romance elements, focused on mixed martial arts (MMA). You can read more on Fierce HERE
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, my guest is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu ninja Ben. If you couldn't tell, Ben is a guy. I know, I know. Above, I talk about celebrating women in male-dominated areas, so, why is today's guest a guy?
LG: What made you get into Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?
B: Survival. I was 17 when I began training in self defense and MMA in earnest, and I thought that good striking, mediocre wrestling, quickness, and brutality would allow me to best any opponent. I believed that if I were just “good enough” (a perilous phrase indicating stubbornness) I wouldn’t need to learn Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, i.e. a ground game. Once I started sparring in MMA, however, I became exceedingly apparent that without a ground game I would be crushed in a matter of moments by anyone who knew even the most basic BJJ techniques and concepts. I had to evolve or die. So I started learning everything I could about BJJ, and now it is one of the things that I am most passionate about in all my life.
LG: How has Brazilian Jiu Jitsu impacted your life outside of the Dojo/Gym?
B: I cannot begin to count the ways. Each person needs a metaphor to be able to translate, analyze, and interpret life with. The metaphor is a tangible microcosm by which you can more easily access and understand the macrocosm of your life and the events therein. My metaphor is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Thus, it has helped me mature and gain real self confidence. It has connected me more deeply with myself and humanity. It has helped me find peace during times of strife, and it has allowed me to meet some of the most influential individuals in my life.
LG: Do you feel training with women in BJJ/boxing/MMA is different than working with men? If so, how?
B: I feel that there are inherent differences in working with different sexes--so, yes. The first major differences are the physical ones, but please understand that, in my opinion, these are relatively minor. Men’s and women’s anatomies are simply different, so some techniques change in order to accommodate this. Additionally, women are very rarely as strong as males of an equivalent weight. What this means, for men working with women, is that they may have to remove some of the strength element, and rely more on speed and technique when they train with women.
Understand this is not the same as going easy on a training partner because they are female! It is training in a manner that allows both practitioners techniques to be practiced and tested in a manner that is technique focused (as training usually should be anyways)
Also, this will not always need to be the case: men often train with stronger opponents, and it is good for women to be exposed to that as well.
LG: Do you feel like its different coaching women and men? If so, how?
B: Yes, very. The major difference here is that men and women have different psychology, and have been typically socialized in very different ways. Thus, when helping students or athletes bring out their best selves for learning or competing, you have to approach men and women very differently.
I believe that to truly coach men and women equally as well, it is most important for the coach to empty themselves of their own psycho-socio biases which allowed them to be successful at whatever it is that they are coaching: The goal of a coach is not to help them become you, but to help them become a better version of themselves in whatever it is that they are training.
About Ben: Ben has been training self-defense and MMA for 12 years, and BJJ ten years. He is a purple belt in BJJ He has trained in various martial arts, and was a professional coach for 9 years.
A note from LG: If you couldn't tell, Ben is a fantastic coach. Thank you, Ben, for sharing your thoughts with us.
My question for YOU: Do you guys do any coaching/teaching/instructing? Does your plan of attack for these things differ between the genders?
A few words about Fierce...
Today, I have Andrew Tenneson. Many of the interviews/guests posts I've had/have coming up look at being a woman in male-dominated areas. Obviously, Andrew is not a woman, but I also want to share people who are passionate about what they do, and show that there are many guys, like Andrew, in these areas that are supportive of their female counterparts.
Andrew is a fighter in the lightweight division out of Jackson's MMA and occasionally Luttrell's MMA in New Mexico. He went Pro this year, 2014.
LG: What got you into MMA?
AT: I actually got into grappling before I got into MMA. It sort of started in basic training for the Army when they taught me combatives, which largely revolves around Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (Grappling is sort of an umbrella term). More than a year later I wanted to show off to my then girlfriend (now wife) and we were working some arm locks on Johnson field at UNM. One day a really short guy showed up and we grappled. I was completely destroyed by him, if I recall he leg-locked me a bunch of times.
I used to be really overweight, over 200 pounds, now I fight at 145 and walk around at around 165. I owe that to grappling and later MMA. Now it just all seems to blend together quite well, I still have many weakness in my game and I work on them consistently. The challenge is high, but I have the skills to meet it.
LG: How does MMA influence your life outside of the gym?
AT: It has become the main part of my life. I train at the gym, cross train with weights or running and I watch a lot of tape and techniques online. I've been a big fan of Japanese MMA for a long time so I like to think I can bring a unique contribution to the team. I could say that MMA offers many life lessons that I can apply outside of the cage but I would feel too smug and disingenuous. If you treat people with compassion, work hard, keep an open mind and accept the vulnerability that comes with going outside of your comfort zones you will more likely than not find success. That tidbit of knowledge can come from almost any career though
My favorite part of MMA? The positivity. My least favorite part? The negativity.
The truth is MMA is just a magnifying glass for what people value. If you value an athlete or martial artist testing themselves against another with a positive spirit then the sport can be an amazing thing. Yet if people just care about blood lust or the expressing or praising of machismo, then it can take a more negative force in society.
LG: What do you have coming up that you would like fans to know about?
AT: I'm currently on the lookout for another fight or two before the year is over. I had my first two professional fights just recently and was able to win them both.
I would really appreciate it if fans followed me on social media, specifically Twitter and Facebook, and shared my posts to help build some hype.
LG: Thanks, Andrew, for the great interview! And thank you for reading. Please be sure to check out Andrew's links below
In celebration of Fierce's release, we continue with MMA fighter Jodie Esquibel's interview.
LG: Women and men tend to fight differently. What are your thoughts on fighting a guy verse a girl?
JE: There are guy partners in the gym that you know are going to make you better, and others that aren't. John Dodson and I will stand toe-to-toe and knock the shit out of each other, but he was one of the first friends I made at the gym, so just having that friendship and trust and familiarity makes a difference. We push each other, and trust each other.
Girls, we tend to toe-to-toe right away. But guys go out there with us and we have to kind of see…how hard we are going to hit. If you don't hit me hard, you're wasting my time. If you don't tap me out, you're wasting my time. There are some guys that aren't beneficial for me to train with. Maybe they aren't comfortable training with a girl. But I don't want that.
Being a Girl in the Gym Part 2
Fighters are very selfish and have to be. Fighting is an extremely selfish sport. Me being better is going to help my teammates, and myself. If you're not helping me get better, it's a waste of our time. Taking it easy on me in training won't help me in a fight.
There are a handful of guys that don't really help me, but it's not a big deal. It's not awkward and we're friends. If I'm training for a fight, then I'll go for Dodson or one of the guys I know is going to push me and make me better.
Overall, the caliber of fighter at the gym is unbelievable. Every day is a battle. If you don't bring your A game, it's a sad day.
The Female Component
It is different sparring with a girl than with a guy. We have a handful of badass girls I train with, and we're going light at first…and then we're going 30%, and it's harder, and then it's 70%, and we're just going, the intensity elevates. It's controlled but we just keep going. I appreciate that, it's very fight like.
We do fight different. A girl doesn't punch like a guy. Girls throw differently than a guy, they walk differently, they move different. I'm lucky to have a great girl team, and great guys to work with also.
Rolling [jiu-jitsu] is different with a girl also. We're more aggressive, less methodical.
To be super nerdy, scientifically and chemically, we [women] are just wired differently. Females are emotional. In the beginning , when I was an amateur, my opponent would have this reaction that was like, "bitch, you just hit me" and it's like no, it's nothing personal. You signed up for this.
As women, sometimes we have to curb those raw emotions a little more, so that we can fight more strategically.
LG: Having a female component in the gym is important for training.
JE: It is. Having the female component is awesome and beautiful and great. At first, it's hard because it's another girl in the gym and girls are territorial. Immediately, girls think "what weight does she fight at?" Sometimes, you have to be like, get over yourself.
When a new girl walks in, the response is usually like "who brought the new girl? Oh, that's so-and-so new girlfriend. Okay, cool." And then that's okay. It's instant scan mode.
It sounds horrible; it sounds animalistic. But it's very true. When a new girl comes in to fight, the other girls get dibs. "All right, cool, first round I got her, you get her second round etc." It's ridiculous.
There's a lot of dynamics being in male dominated areas. The fire department, being in the gym training in a male dominated field… You have to keep control. All of a sudden, you are just competing to be the best of everything but really not making yourself better. That's an ugly place to be. Everything is a competition. 'I can throw a ladder higher than you.'
But all of those things I experienced in those other areas and in my life transferred into fighting. You don't fight to lose, you don't fight to be second best. Every time you lose, it hurts. We don't fight to lose at this level.
LG: How does your yoga business tie into the rest of your life?
JE: Everything tied in well for me being able to learn with each career. The yoga studio was brought into my life to bring my ego down for sure. I was out of control. I feel a lot more grounded now. My ego may still be large, but at least I can acknowledge that.
It was fun to open a business and try to slow life down a little bit. It's fun to offer classes and see people happy. It helps balance everything.
Being so red-line all the time with training and paramedicine and helping the swat team makes it nice to step back and go teach yoga. Finding balance is important.
LG: Any advice for women who want to pursue fighting or a life in other male-dominated fields?
JE: I would say, that it’s super important to stay grounded and stay true to yourself because if you're not happy with what you're doing, it's not going to work out. If that's truly what you want to do, whatever your path is, who cares what everyone else says.
You lose ten fights in a row but you still want to do it because it makes you happy? Stick with it. Put your head down and work hard and stay on that path, stay tough until you figure it out. There are people--including women--paving the way.
There are women in the UFC. Not long ago, Dana White said we would never be there. And we have Invicta, which is an unbelievable group creating a place for female fighters to go.
Now is the time to stay with your dream and hard work will pay off.
Women's MMA is here to stay.
Even if it's not done the same way, the result is the same.
We can do just as good as anyone else.
Jodie has a fight scheduled for September 6th. You can find out more about Jodie:
From L.G. : Thank you again, Jodie, for the great chat!
And thank you, readers, for checking it out!
Fierce Is Available At: Amazon | Barnes & Nobles/Nook
As you may know, my novel Fierce released on 8/14/14. Fierce is a sports fiction novel with romance elements. It's a mixed martial arts (MMA) novel.
To celebrate the release, I'm hosting some awesome interviews. Over the next two weeks, I'll be posting interviews with fighters and athletes. Many of the post will also look at what being a female in male dominated areas means, and how that translates to specific sports/arts/hobbies.
In preparation for today's interview, I did a brief post about women in MMA and how it relates to Fierce yesterday.
Today, I have a professional female fighter, currently fighting in Invincta Fighting Championships (an all women fighting series): the wonderful Jodie Esquibel's interview. I'm so very happy and lucky that Jodie let me interview her. Jodie is a professional MMA fighter, currently with Invicta, fighting in the atomweight category. She has been boxing and kickboxing since age 14, and trains at Jackson/Winklejohn’s in New Mexico. She also works for the fire department, and has a yoga business.
"When it comes to comparing myself to guys, I think, maybe my takedown doesn't look like your takedown, but I still took you down. You're still on your back, and you can't deny that. It fuels you a little bit to have that chip on your shoulder, the will to try to prove yourself"- Jodie
JE: When I was 14, before high school. I had been involved in gymnastics, drill team, and dance team but none of those things kept my interest. My parents and I knew I needed to be involved in something to keep me active. I never was like 'Oh, I want to go beat someone up.' I just wanted fitness and fun. The first gym I went to was Mike Winklejohns and he was my first and only trainer I had. It was an after-school activity.
LG: When did you decide to make it more than that?
JE: I decided to take it to the next level after I went to some amateur fights. I went with teammates, and it was just like…wow, I want to do that. The energy level is high, and everyone is screaming and yelling, and I said sign me up. Wink said no, that I was too young. He didn't want anyone fighting that young, and I was grateful for that. The more I get into my career, the more of an advocate for safety I am. So, I was 15 and he made me wait another year.
LG: What was it like when you finally got to fight?
JE: When he let me fight, I had my first fight at the old school [gym]. I won. I often think about if I had lost would I be on a different path? But I won that fight and that was the biggest high.
LG: How did you go from KB to boxing and to MMA?
JE: Majority of my amateur fights were in kickboxing. After you start winning a couple of amateur titles, it's hard to find fights--at least, locally. Traveling as an amateur is just spending money (at that point, I was spending my parent's money). When it was hard to find fights, it was time to go pro. Boxing was a big deal in New Mexico so my early professional fights were boxing. After Wink and Jackson merged, Wink would ask me every day if I was going to start doing jiu-jitsu. I would say, no, I kickbox and box, no, no, no. Now I look back and think if I had given in earlier, I'd be a lot further than where I am now [she laughs].
Being around the best coach and being around the best fighters in the world, you can only say no for so long. And, it started getting hard to get boxing fights as a pro and getting professional kickboxing fights is really hard. MMA, on the other hand, well, there are MMA cards every weekend. How could I keep saying no? I'm at the best school in the world and how can I say no to this amazing thing [mma] that is taking over?
Being a Girl in the Gym
"John Dodson and I will stand toe-to-toe and knock the shit out of each other, but he was one of the first friends I made at the gym, so just having that friendship and trust and familiarity makes a difference. We push each other, and trust each other.
LG: You've been in martial arts for awhile now, and in various disciplines. Have you had to deal much with sexism in any of the areas?
JE: We [at the gym] have an extremely strong female team as far as MMA goes, so I think that helps. Being around other great martial artists helps, because we don't really pay attention to any of that.
I'm overly aggressive and have a huge ego problem. I work in the fire department, which is male dominated It's a constant 'I can do things just as well if not better than you' battle.
When it comes to comparing myself to guys, I think, maybe my takedown doesn't look like your takedown, but I still took you down. You're still on your back, and you can't deny that. It fuels you a little bit to have that chip on your shoulder, the will to try to prove yourself. Really, though, it helps having a great team because we don't pay attention to any of that.
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Fierce Is Available At: Amazon | Barnes & Nobles/Nook
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