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.