Photo by Lionel Taurus

How she got into martial arts

I am originally from Long Island, NY and I started in Karate when I was four years old. I got into Tae Kwon Do right before high school but I stopped because I started playing basketball. After college, I fell into the personal training world landing a job at Equinox. Once I found Anderson’s Martial Arts, I fell in love with it and I’ve been there for eight years now. I train in six martial arts: Jeet Kune Do, Muay Thai, BJJ, Savate (French kickboxing- JCT), Silat & Balintawak (Filipino martial art- JCT).

 

Currently, I am a stunt performer and have been on projects such as Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Quantico, Blind Spot, Mysteries of Laura, The Get Down, Orange is the New Black, etc. I am one of the instructors for Jeet Kune Do (3rd degree black belt), Muay Thai (Kru) and the Kettlebell Kickboxing classes (a fitness program created by Dasha Libin). I also have purple belt in BJJ. I have personal training business as well – Prowess Private Training, Inc. Stunts and martial arts are my passion. The camera angle is critical when you are selling a hit without actually striking. In martial arts we want to be tight, compact, not reveal movements, not telegraph our attacks. But on camera, you have to so the other performer knows what’s coming.

I was a competitive Muay Thai fighter. I have a 5-0 record and a NY State title. I fell into stunts right after my last victory and doing both - fighting and performing on movie sets - was too much.

About natural killer instinct

It takes more than you think to hit somebody with full force. There are people in martial arts who have natural killer instinct. I am not one of those people. I am an athlete, and I am a competitor, I want to win, not hurt. I train six days a week and usually take a couple of martial arts classes a day. I also do cardio and lifting. Then there is specific stunt training that I do as well.

During my first sparring session even though it was friendly and fun, I thought to myself “There is no way `I will ever fight.” What brought me to the point of competing was the fact that I had back surgery on a herniated disc because of lost motor function in my foot. It was horrifying. It happened in 2012 when I was in my late 20s. I needed something to come back to train for so I told myself that I want to compete. I wanted to compete one year after my surgery, but It took me a little longer to recover than I thought it would, I fought for the first time two years after surgery.

About punching, striking, grappling and ultimately avoiding fights

I’m very into female empowerment. But I do know the reality where some men that are twice your size, and you would not go into a fist-to-fist fight with them. You want to give yourself a better fighting chance by having multiple fighting techniques to choose from and/or an equalizer – a weapon. That’s why I love Jeet Kune Do. It makes you a well-rounded martial artist. I learned to work with weapons so I could use them. If I need striking, I have striking techniques. Most fights end up on the ground, that’s when we need Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and grappling. Fortunately, I never had to use my fighting skills in a real situation, and I don’t plan on it. My first move in my martial arts defense is to run. There is no way I want to be face to face with someone who has a knife. You’ll never walk out of a knife fight as a winner. What if they have a gun? I don’t know how you can dodge a bullet. I do know some gun disarms but that’s only if the gun is close enough to you to touch it, but no matter how skilled you are, you can still get shot, maybe fatally. The best defense is to get away from the situation.

About her favorite weapon

The concept of Jeet Kune Do is being well-rounded and making martial arts work for you in your phase of life. People come in in all shapes and sizes and with different skill sets. With my Jeet Kune Do, is I am very good with weapons. I like the knife. It’s a fast weapon which suits my personality. When I got my black belt in JKD, I felt like a white belt all over again. Until that point, I followed a certain structure, and once I reached that point, I had to break the structure and start building a new one finding my own groove from the strong base that I learned. People are obsessed with getting the next belt, but It’s not about the belt. Belts are just a way to put the curriculum in place so people could progress the way they need to progress.

About sensing fear and self-defense

Martial arts gives you a sense of confidence when you walk down the street. People can sense fear. If you walk around knowing that you have ways to defend yourself, people will not try to challenge you. But you have to train. You can’t truly understand how to handle a weapon if you don’t practice it. You don’t know how to effectively throw a punch if you don’t practice it. It is all about the never ending journey.  For self-defense purposes, I recommend taking on as many different martial arts as you can. However, I do think that Gracie jiujitsu is great and based on self-defense. You just have to take that first step.

How there is no excuse for women not to practice martial arts

Women can get into martial arts at any point in their lives. We have kids classes with girls who started training at 4 years old. We also have women in their 60s and 70s who are just starting. There is no excuse to not practice martial arts in some way. Martial arts is very mental. You learn discipline, and you learn that there are things that are bigger than yourself. It humbles you. Learning about different cultures and arts, and being respectful of that. Realizing that there is a bigger world out there is another aspect that I love. For me, one of the hardest things in my martial arts journey was cutting weight when I was competing. I had to change my diet drastically, and that took mental discipline to get through.

We are not yet at the point of gender equality in martial arts and professional sports. Women will have to continue the fight to be considered as equals. But we are on the right track. People finally see that Jane can too. If I discovered Andersons Martial Arts when I was 18, I’d probably be in the UFC by now. Ronda Rousey got everyone's attention, and men wanted to see her fight. A lot of women are so intimidated by martial arts. We need to have more schools like this one to promote women empowerment and to give them tools to accomplish their goals and not be intimidated. But women have to take a step, too.