March 12, 2018No Comments

Jamie: From 250 Lbs to Golden Gloves

Photo by Olga Nasalskaya

Meet Jamie Benson who practices boxing, kickboxing, and grappling.

How she started

Martial arts is like an active meditation. I started training six years ago in 2011. I was over 250 pounds, and I needed to get healthy. Before I began to train, I had a miscarriage. It happened mostly because I was so unhealthy. Now I have son Dante, who has been training in martial arts since he was three years old.

I remember my first class like it was yesterday. The class wasn’t easy, but I didn’t quit. Martial arts is the type of exercise when you go at your own pace. I fell in love with the sport, and I started competing. It changed me as a person. I used to be so shy I couldn’t ask for help in a store.

How she excels at competing

I happen to be excellent at competing, I almost always win. I lost a lot of fights, too. Losses are always disappointing, but they are an important learning experience. My biggest achievement so far as a fighter is Golden Gloves 2014 at the Barclay Center. I lost. It was a very close fight. It felt like it lasted forever. I went against a fantastic boxer and six-times Golden Gloves champion, Nisa Rodriguez. I’ve never been hit this hard in my life. She is 6 feet tall, she is tough, and when she hit me the first time I thought “Oh my God, do I really wanna do this?” Then I told myself, “you know what? She hits you, you better hit her back”.

I did more than 20 competitions of different types, and I did three amateur fights. At my very first grappling competition, all I could think of was “If I don’t throw up on this girl, I will be very happy.”

About men in martial arts world

Men in the martial arts are different than your average man. They are so inviting and respectful and feminist without even realizing it. I train with men. Maybe they hold back because I'm a woman, but some guys hit me pretty hard. I've trained with UFC and Tiger Schulman’s fighter Lyman Good before, and he hit pretty hard. I go much harder with men then I go with women.

I don't like when men treat me differently, and I wanna let them know they shouldn’t. I am a bigger girl, and I hit hard. I am very competitive with men, but I tend to be a little less competitive with women. But if a girl hits me hard I hit her back. Women bodies are naturally not as strong as men’s. But it doesn't mean that we can't get to men's level.

About her trainmen schedule and diet

I train two to three hours a day, almost seven days a week. I feel like I’m never not eating. I will always be a 250 pounds girl at heart. I eat at least one avocado a day, and I eat a lot of nuts, grains, and vegetable. When I compete, though, I am insanely strict with my diet.

Why martial arts is a necessity for women

I understand why people think that women should not be fighting, but I think it’s funny. Every woman needs to know how to fight. Look, I love men, I believe they are great, but I consider every man a threat until I learn that he’s not. The idea of a woman not knowing how to fight scares me. Martial arts is a luxury for men, and it is a necessity for women.

When women started fighting, we weren’t that great, but now we’ve shown that we can be just as entertaining as male fighters, and even more. Women are wild when we fight because we have so much more to prove, we can’t afford to make mistakes. The day we stop being entertaining men are gonna stop letting us fight on TV.

March 13, 2018No Comments

Kristin: Krav Maga For Those Who Dislike Competition

Photo by Olga Nasalskaya

Kristin Agüero has been practicing Krav Maga for four years. Since she first tried it, she became a Krav Maga instructor at Krav Maga Institute in New York city. She told us about

By Oxana Klokovskaya

How she got into Krav Maga

I started doing Krav Maga four years ago, in 2013. I used to do kickboxing in high school, but I wanted something applicable to street fighting and self-defense. I’d heard about Krav Maga here and there. It kept popping up. I’m not one that believes in fate, but I was like Ah, I keep hearing about this thing. So I took one class and fell in love and never looked back.

I want to try Muay Thai, and I’ve taken a couple of classes of Brazilian jiu-jitsu.  I would love to do more of that.

Why the absence of competitive element in Krav Maga is an advantage

I like that there are no rules in Krav Maga. I don’t like competitive fighting. My other job is a social worker. I work with victims of domestic violence, so I am really anti-violence. For me, competitive fighting is not entertaining the way it is for other people. A big draw of Krav Maga is the real life application. I also felt that I could advance in it without having to go into competition.

The hard part of Krav Maga was getting used to hitting people in the groin and going for what in competitive fighting would be called a "cheap shot" or "dirty fighting." Here it’s just part of the system. Things like trying to train the awareness and the prevention aspect of Krav Maga were new and different. Honestly,  I found the mentality of it harder than the physicality of it.

About her training routine

At first, I was training 4-5 times a week. But then I started teaching, and it got harder to train that often. I take conditioning class twice a week, where it's all about endurance and working on your form. We also have instructor training twice a month.

I like to eat a lot of things and not all of them are conducive to training. However, when I train, all of a sudden I have cravings for healthy food, like salads and vegetables, and fruit. I love that stuff anyway but something about training makes it hard for me to bring myself to eat things that are bad for me. Although I still definitely eat bad stuff too.

About women in the Krav Maga world

In my experience as an instructor, I find that women tend to pick up the movement of Krav Maga faster than the men. Women often have more grace and body agility and are more in tune with their bodies. I think that in something like Krav where the goal is not just hitting but also the defenses and the mentality,  women can do really great at it.

When I joined the instructor team, there were seven of us, and I was the only woman. All the guys treated me like the rest of the team. We all trained the same and we all fought the same. I think the notion that women can’t or shouldn’t do martial arts is BS.

There is this mentality where if you are a fighter you cannot also be feminine. Or if you are feminine you can't be a fighter. Some of women-fighters have changed that perspective and showed that it doesn’t matter how feminine  you are. Being a fighter doesn't take away your femininity.

 

March 12, 2018No Comments

Jean Tree: From Dancing to Capoeira

Photo by Lionel Taurus

Meet Jean Tree who practices capoeira. What started out as her love for dancing grew to be her lifestyle, now capoeira is much more than a hobby, it has an influence on her whole life.

By Olga Nasalskaya

How she got into capoeira

I started training capoeira four years ago. Capoeira is an Afro - Brazilian martial art. It has a very pleasant visual aesthetic which is very important to me since I love to dance. I moved to New York eight years ago and started training in many dance styles, including hip-hop, house, and contemporary. In house a lot of moves have capoeira in it, so I was curious. At first, I hesitated to join because it sort of looks like a cult: all members sing, dance and wear white - and I hate uniforms! But then I found out about Bklyn Beast and I checked their capoeira class one day taught by Omi and Shem. They weren’t wearing uniforms, and they were playing house music, so I got sucked in. I started training capoeira because I wanted to enhance my dance form. But then I became addicted to it.

About capoeira

Our group name is ile de Palmares, and it’s lead by Contre Mestre Omi and Professor Caiman. SpaceWorks has been our home for almost 2 years. Capoeira is very particular about lineage and where your roots are from. It is rooted in culture, and there are so many things you have to learn beyond the physical aspect. We have to learn how to sing, to play instruments, to dance samba and maculele, and the cultural traditions within the roda (a space where capoeiristas circle - Jane Can Too). The history and the origin of the art is important to the people of capoeira.

My best friend Caiman is also my teacher. Him and I and all our friends in the group like to try and live a holistic lifestyle. We get together and cook. Capoeira is physical, mental, emotional and spiritual and what you put in your body is important. People who join our group see that we push the limits of our bodies training all the time, but then we cook and eat healthy, nutritious food, and it supplements our growth. After my workouts, I like to drink vegan protein shakes. I definitely do not eat before a workout because I will throw up. You are upside - down for the whole class, it's not worth it.

How capoeira helps her in her acting career

My main career is acting for film and television. I am also a stunt performer/double. For acting, I’ve been on a CBS show called Bull, a web series called Wall Street English and various commercials and short films. For stunt work, I was featured in Daredevil, Iron Fist, Gotham, Blind Spot, and Netflix’s The Defenders. Capoeira and dance help me at work in so many ways. Having a dance background is an advantage in terms of body control being able to pick up fight choreography. On set there are always last minute changes, and you have to be very adaptable.

How different martial arts styles complement each other

I am in capoeira four times a week, two to three hours per class. I have ballet once a week, and I have another dance class. I go to Andersons Martial Arts to train Muay Thai. I started training Muay Thai two years ago. I was training in Kali and Jeet Kune Do. I saw capoeira as a dance, and I made everything look very pretty which is not very practical sometimes. So when I started doing Muay Thai, it helped me improve my fight game in capoeira. My kicks became more intentional, and my elbows became better placed.

I’ve played sports all my life, so I don’t have a problem with taking hits, it’s part of the game. It wasn't until I started training in Muay Thai and Capoeira simultaneously that helped me understand the art of the fight. There was a moment when I realized that in a moment of emergency, I could protect myself if I need to. And I thought “ok, I can elbow someone and that will hurt. Ok, that's pretty cool.”

About women in capoeira

Our teachers are two guys, but 90% of group members are women. Capoeira was very male- dominated for a long time, but these things are slowly breaking. Many powerful women capoeiristas are rising up. I adore my teachers, and most recently Professora Sarara, she is such a beast. To see a woman who could be unapologetic and have such intensity in a roda was a life - changing experience. To see these women who have children and go through a process of giving birth and then they go back to training - wow we are powerful!

How capoeira changed her life

Capoeira changed my life. In the beginning, I thought “oh, I just want to learn this one thing then I’m gonna leave”.  But capoeira pushed me beyond my limits. Physically, I got points where I couldn't imagine getting years ago. In the process you learn how to be resilient, to endure and to push through. Capoeira also changed my life mentally/emotionally. It taught me how to be a part of the group and how to work through relationships. You are stuck with these people training together, you see them 3 - 4 times a week, and sometimes you are gonna get annoyed with them. How to deal with that? If you don’t get along with someone, get in the game and work it out.  

March 6, 2018No Comments

Gianna: From Night Clubs to Muay Thai

Photo by Greg Scaffidi

Meet Gianna Smalls of Five Points Academy in New York city. Gianna trains Muay Thai and Brazilian jiu jitsu. She is a fighter and one of the owners of Infightstyle brand.

By Oxana Klokovskaya

How she got into Muay Thai

When I moved to New York I was partying a lot, enjoying the city and then somebody brought up that they wanted to take a Muay Thai class. At that time a lot of gyms would offer a free trail so I did a free trial at every gym I could find, Five Points Academy was  the last gym I took a class at. I was just hooked right away. It was super expensive to get a membership. At that time I was broke so I put it on my credit card and I didn’t know how long I would be able to afford it for. I decided I would start with three months training three hours a day every day and nine months later I was on the ring. From my first class I knew I wanted to fight.

How she trains 

For the most part my training schedule is the same whether I’m getting ready for a fight or not, it’s just the intensity of it that changes. Three times a week I train twice a day. A lot of times in the morning I weight lift or do basic gymnastics to help me with balance and strength. If I have a fight or a bjj competition I would either do Muay Thai or bjj or boxing and then I eat, take a nap and then I train again at night time. I make sure I take one day off during the week.

The benefits that training Muay Thai may offer women

At Five Points we have a lot of women fighters. We get treated the same here, if you ask my coach he would actually tell you he prefers to train women.

The only experience I got of not being treated the same was in Thailand. The first gym that I went to in Thailand I had to go to the ring under the ropes. There was a gym where I couldn’t even get in the ring, I couldn’t touch the ring, [because in Thailand] it was bad luck. For the most part I got good experience, trainers didn’t treat me differently because I was a girl. This sport is growing, and the more it grows, the more opportunities we get and the less barriers there are for women.

Muay Thai works your full body: legs, abs, arms. It’s a stress relief.

As a woman, you want to learn how to defend yourself if anything happens. You feel empowered. I feel like a bad ass. If somebody would ever try to come at me at least I could tip and run.

About her trip to a Muay Thai championship in Minsk, Belarus

Some time ago I went to a world championship of Muay Thai in Minsk. It’s sort of Muay Thai Olympics. There were teams from all over the world, definitely more men than women but I saw quite a few women still. They were the best fighters from each country. I was really happy I got to experience that.

I’m going to Pan American championship in Mexico City, October 4-8. I am really excited because one of my teammates, got picked to be on the team as well, so I get to go with my friend, and my coach will go too.

About her hairstyle

I wanted to cut my hair like this before I started fighting. Actually, I had a bad breakup and I needed a change so I decided to just shave all my hair off and I liked it. It’s been like this over 4 years now, I let my barber do whatever he wants and he’s done over 100 different cuts on my hair. It’s easier for training purposes too, no one can pull on my hair when I crunch.

Why no one should be afraid to try Muay Thai

Nobody comes to their first class and starts sparring. When I invite my friends to come train they think they will come and I will beat them up. When you first start, you learn the basic movements and you start on the pads or the bag, you are not going to take your first class and be thrown into fighter training, you have to develop the basics.

About Muay Thai scene in the United States

Muay Thai in the US is concentrated in certain areas, you have a lot of Muay Thai in the North-East but then you also have a lot of Muay Thai in California, Arizona and Texas but it’s really spread out. The more the sport grows the more east coast will get to fight against west coast and it’ll get more interesting, there will be more opportunities.

 

 

January 27, 2018No Comments

Jamie Lew: From Wall Street Deals To a Hard-Core Boxing Gym

Photo by Lionel Taurus

Meet Jamie who practices boxing - her true love. When she’s not sparring, she designs stylish bags large enough to fit boxing gloves, you can check them out on jlewbags.com. We talked with Jamie about her passion for boxing, motivation and various events she organizes.

By Oxana Klokovskaya

How she started boxing

I hate saying this but it was pure vanity that got me into it and then it brought me back to life after a bad breakup.  I moved to London and didn’t know what I’d do for exercise given the lack of gyms at the time and the lack of sunlight at the hours I had available to run.  I met a Scottish woman who started training me in boxing ... and when the guy for whom I’d moved to London in the first place dumped me, I returned to NYC pretty soul shattered.

Day by day I pulled myself back together through boxing. I found camaraderie in the boxing gym I’d never experienced.  There’s something special about “earning respect” the old school way, day by day, through effort.  That’s what’s kept me there – the friendships, challenges, and support it offers.

How she got punched during her first sparring session and ended up wanting more

When I started, a guy told me if you’re going to swim, you’re going to get wet.  If you’re going to box, you’re going to get hit.   Face it and embrace it.  It’s not a normal feeling to get punched, but once you get a feel for the strategy of the sweet science and learn to bob and weave ... to counterpunch ... it becomes so much fun.  I really can’t get enough.   Every sparring session I improve and discover areas for improvement.

How martial arts changed the way she judges people

I definitely am slower to judge a person based on looks.  Looks are deceiving ... you learn that quickly in boxing.  Just because someone “looks” ripped doesn’t mean he/she can fight ... and just because someone “looks” out of shape doesn’t mean he/she can’t fight.

Why every woman should try martial arts at least once

Without a doubt, I’d love for every woman to try martial arts if only just once.   The mental benefits outweigh the physical ones and both are pretty fantastic. Discipline, confidence, trust ... you learn so many valuable skills that translate to everyday life.  And it’s fun and empowering.   I do think it can be intimidating at first to walk into some of these gyms, but that’s why organizations like yours (Jane Can Too) help – you can build a community of women that introduce others to the various disciplines.

On bags she designs and events she organizes

I founded a company called JLEW Bags, inspired by my love for boxing actually.   We make designer bags that are great for travel but also toting gym gear believe it or not.  When I couldn’t find a bag that suited my needs (nice looking enough to take to work but also functional enough to get me through my varied daily activities), I decided to make my own ... fast forward to today and we’re in business!

I made a conscious effort to seek out real athletes and trailblazers who inspired me when developing the “face” of the brand.  As that group has grown, I realized we could have fun working out together and inspiring one another. So that’s what we do.   We encourage women to try new activities, learn from one another and generally have fun ... look for the silver lining in all aspects of life.  Please stay tuned and join us if you’re able.  We post on social media @jlewbags but also on our events page.

January 27, 2018No Comments

Stacia Suttles Aims For No Less Than 2020 Tokyo Olympics

Stacia Suttles at Mendez Boxing gym

Meet Stacia Suttles from Bronx, New York. Stacia is an elite amateur boxer and currently a member of Team USA for boxing. Stacia ranked #3 at 132 lbs in the United States and #3 at 141 lbs in North & South America. She’s a 2016 New York Daily News Golden Gloves champion, 2016 USA National champion, 2017 USA National Bronze medalist and 2x International Medalist.

By Oxana Klokovskaya

How she started boxing

I started boxing 4 years ago just because I came from my freshman year of college and wasn’t doing anything except for working. I’ve been in sports my whole life: basketball, karate, taekwondo. Sports was something that grounded me and I wanted to try something new and fun so I decided to start boxing.

The first year I was going with the flow, and everyone was telling me I should enter the National Golden Gloves competition so I did, I ended up making it all the way to the finals. I wasn’t nervous until I stepped down into the Barclays center and then I realized where I was and it was like, “wow”. And then I just kept going.

Challenges she had to face in her boxing career

The biggest challenge in my boxing career so far was when I decided to go back to school. I was studying, working and training for my second Golden Gloves championship and that was really hard. There were times when I was just tired I didn’t want to go train, I just wanted to sleep. But I really wanted to win the Golden Gloves, I wanted that necklace around my neck and I thought to myself, “my opponents can be working hard, so I have to work harder” and that is what motivated me to stay in the gym.

Now my biggest motivation is other amateur fighters and women in general because I get messages from people all over the world saying I motivate them, that’s crazy! I want to keep motivating other people to accomplish whatever they want to accomplish.

How people have misconceptions about women doing martial arts

I think a lot of people have this misconception about martial arts, they think that as soon as you start doing it you have to fight or you are going to grow all these big muscles and that’s not true. When I first started boxing I was only doing it once or twice per week and I gradually loved it so I started doing more. I think it’s a great sport and a full body workout.

A year before I started boxing I was a college student and I was all over the place, boxing made me more grounded, I started making goals for myself. When I first started, I didn’t think my goal would be to make it to the Olympics but here I am. My biggest goal is to go to the Olympics and win a gold medal for this country.

How her dad is her biggest fan and supporter

My dad came with me to the USA Boxing National Championships in Salt Lake City, Utah in late 2017. My dad is my #1 supporter. I can decide to start rock climbing tomorrow and he’ll be on board from the beginning! So when I started boxing it was no different. Of course he’s my dad so doesn’t want me getting hit but he sees that I love it and is there to support me along the way. He even got a coaches book so he can help in my corner if another coach is needed.

March 19, 2018No Comments

Jenel Black Panther

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.

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© 2018 Copyright Jane Can Too | Terms of use | Privacy Statement

© 2018 Copyright Jane Can Too | Terms of use | Privacy Statement