Monday, October 22, 2012

Just Who Do You Think You Are?

"Oh, the audacity! Just who do you think you are? What makes you think you can do what no one else is doing?" I am standing in front of my mirror with my hands on my hips and hearing this voice inside my head. I raise my right index finger and answer with something the poet Theodore Roethke said, "What we need is more people who specialize in the impossible." 

"You're almost 39 years old. You spent over 15 years of your adult life goofing off occasionally expressing yourself in the arts lost in phases of depression putzing around trying to find yourself. What makes you think you can be a contender as a professional fighter among elite level athletes? What makes you think you can do it without performance enhancing drugs or dietary supplements or sessions devoted to strength and conditioning? What makes you think you can do it at the 115lbs weight class?"

Hush now you Doubter. Speak no more. Albert Einstein said, "The one who follows the crowd will usually get no further than the crowd. The one who walks alone, is likely to find himself in places no one has ever been."

Let us not argue with Einstein. Let us instead adapt with Darwin.

There will be no adapting though regarding steroids and HGH and the such. As Rosi Sexton recently said, "Here’s my bottom line... I’m not interested in taking steroids..." Well me neither, Rosi. Me neither.

It has been mentioned to me that my Integrity will get in the way of where I am trying to go. This is probably true however I see no point in going to these places without my Integrity. Beyond victory and greater than number one is a goal so many lose sight of in their hunt for glory: I am trying to be someone I would be proud to know.

At InvictaFC3 I weighed in at 113.4lbs without dehydration or hard dieting or extra miles of endurance cardio. Afterward my food choices up until the fight were no different except for a couple of cookies after Friday's dinner. It is safe to assume I was not more than 115lbs at fight time. This was no surprise. I am moving outside the norm by fighting my natural weight.

I have been encouraged many times before to "make weight" and fight at 105lbs so that I will be up against girls my own size. There are a few that prefer I stay at 115 and "be the Frankie Edgar" of that weight class. They tell me I am unusually strong and will be fine against the heavier girls.

This is a hard decision for me because in this world where everyone is trying to be the huge body beating up the little body there is a part of my ego that enjoys giving the big girls a battle! But even as I hesitate I already know the answer. 105. The last time I was that light was probably over 28 years ago. In the world of clothing that would take me from a large sized American Girl to a medium. However I believe it may still qualify me as a large Khmer woman though no longer an XL.

I am thinking about how to do this without developing an eating disorder or body dysmorphia. Since I moved to Los Angeles fat, weight, diet and exercise are the main topics of conversation women seem to have. Since I began fight training I have found that men too are also consumed by these obsessions. I prefer to talk about other things.

I do not want to count calories. I do not want to daydream about my next meal. I do not want to suck on ice cubes to curb cravings. I do not want to need "cheat days". I do not want to plan ahead what I will be having after weigh-ins and after fighting. I do not want to yearn for fast food and cupcakes and cookies and milkshakes. I do not want to be a mental prisoner to the foods I cannot have.

The only way for me to do this is to change my perspective on food completely. By that I mean I have to find a way to believe that food is food for its most simple purpose. Food is Fuel for the Body and the Mind.

I am the girl whose mother tried many times to trick into eating vegetables. I am the girl whose grandma would peel, cube and toothpick fruits in the hopes that making them fun would encourage me. I am the girl who enjoys an old fashioned doughnut for breakfast. I am the girl that finds a late second dinner of greasy fatiness to be the most delicious. I am the girl that would choose to pass on a meal rather than have a salad.


This is going to be an interesting challenge indeed. Good thing they now make organic beer. Now if I can just find an organic doughnut shop...

Friday, October 19, 2012

Still Happily Hitched

A few days after fighting at Invicta FC3 I went to see a client of mine. She has ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) also known a Lou Gehrig's Disease. She is a beautiful woman in her forties with a captivating smile. It is her main physical expression along with blinking her eyes. Other than that she essentially cannot move. ALS "is a rapidly progressive invariably fatal neurological disease that attacks the nerve cells responsible for controlling voluntary muscles... patients in the later stages of the disease may become totally paralyzed."

She knows about "this MMA thing I do" and she and her two young children have seen video of a couple of my fights. I am somewhat of a novelty to them. I want to ask her what she really thinks of it all. I wonder if she would tell me that the use of our bodies is such a precious gift that I should not intentionally put it at such risk of possible brain damage. Or would she say to go after whatever it is I hunger for because our health can be taken away from us without warning or reason at any time as she is living proof of that.

Technology has given her a means of communicating via a Tablet. It is pretty amazing. She looks at letters and words and somehow it "reads her thoughts" then it speaks for her or she can send emails. Perhaps next time I see her I will ask what she thinks of it all.

Photo by Mike Lee. Sparring with Melanie Lacroix at BlackHouse.
Recently I saw my doctor to make sure my last fight left me healthy and to get an overall assessment of myself as I have not ever done such a thing as far as I can remember. I deal with blunt force trauma on a regular basis so I asked for a CT scan to make sure my brain has not become a blob of hemorrhages and blood clots.

He gave me a clean bill of health! Yay! My brain is normal! Go figure. He even informs me that my vision is 20/15! This part sounds so daffy to me that I begin to question his abilities. But it is true. I read the chart correctly. Still it seems impossible to believe. 20/15? Perhaps I should not be a fighter afterall. I should be a Fighter Pilot! I wonder if the Air Force would say I am too old to be trained for this.

It is a good things we did not test my hearing because if that came back as perfect then I would no longer be able to use my usual excuse: "What? Speak up. My old lady cauliflower ears cannot hear you." People would know that I have for some reason chosen not to hear them. How rude of me.

My doctor has "the conversation" with me. Get out of fighting while you're ahead. You don't want to be an invalid at the age of fifty-five. Junior Seau just killed himself. Repetitive blows to the head are linked to suicidal tendencies. I know you are going to continue but I have to tell you you are placing yourself at such high risk. Think.

"What? Speak up. My old lady cauliflower ears cannot hear you."

I hear him. Loud and clear.

I think. I think about this beautiful wife and mother in her forties living as best she can with ALS knowing that her time here is so very limited. I think about my family and friends that support what I am doing but cannot help but worry for my health and my years of living after fighting.  I think about fighters that exhibit obvious signs of brain trauma. I think about all these young bodies around me that complain daily of pains that are a direct result of fighting and training. I think.

We make choices throughout our days, throughout our lives. Many like to deny this and blame everyone else for all that "happens to them". I believe in accountability. I believe in taking responsibility. I contemplate the pros and the cons. I give weight to reason, I give weight to inexplicable feelings. I understand. I choose.

I get asked fairly regularly why I fight. I am not someone who thinks this is the only thing I can be or do or become extraordinary at. I know I am capable of many things. I understand this life can be fulfilled in a variety of ways.They want to know is it Fame? Fortune? No. It is almost absurd to me to speak of women's fighting in the same sentence as fame and fortune.

So why?

song by Sarah McLachlan
I honestly do not think there is any intelligent articulate reason for choosing to be a fighter. It is a demanding life that abuses us both mentally and physically. But that does not stop us from pursuing this path.

This path I walk for the love. For the learning. For the relationships built along the way. For the challenges. For the inspirations. For the journey. For the tears that well up in my eyes when my coaches tell me they are proud.

For better or worse, Fight and I are still happy hitched and living as if we are newlyweds.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Caterpillar. Fear. Butterfly.

Mostly this life is "choose your own adventure" but unlike the books of my youth we cannot re-read the story to discover different paths and outcomes.  What's done is done.  What is left are indications of what needs to be learned so that we do not repeat our mistakes.

photo by Anita Hoehen

In fighting the primary goal is victory.  The secondary goal is to partake in an exciting battle.  Do not misunderstand what I just stated.  We always fight to win and never do we fight to not lose or simply survive. At Invicta FC3 my secondary goal was achieved.  My primary goal was not.  If I had it to do all over again would I re-read the book and make alternate choices throughout the three adventurous rounds? Absolutely.  I most definitely would have made some different decisions.

That being said I also do not have any regrets.  I fought the best fight I could at that particular moment in time.  I used all my resources to put all the parts together and the sum total was the end result.  My opponent was the better fighter that night.  She deserved her victory.

Image taken from a FB post
There is much to feel positive about and proud of.  I am looking forward to learning some very specific techniques that will improve my fighting tremendously.  I am pleased to be able to identify my needs so that I have particulars to work on.

What I want to express though are some of the negative thoughts that whispered in my mind immediately following the loss.  I do not share this in wanting positive affirmation or encouragement.  I am already surrounded by that.  Also now these feelings have already left my concerns though I know they will occasionally jab at me again over the course of time.  I am talking to talk, yammering to yammer.  Perhaps taking what residue of negativity that is left inside my body out and placing it here.

What did I feel?  I felt a low buzz of anxiety swarming through my heart even though everything I vocalized was positive as I was trying to reassure those who were trying to reassure me about the loss.  What was I fearing as I was sitting there in the "green room" at the beginning of my career as a professional fighter?  I was thinking of the future.  I feared the truth that lay ahead of me was not going to be pretty.

38 Years in the Making.  It's Official.
I'm an Athlete. It says so on the Pass.
I have heard the phrase "So much potential" my whole life.  Now I stand in a position where time will tell me if potential will become a reality.  Sometimes what I fear is the possibility of never coming into fruition.  What if I cannot be what so many believe I can be; what I have believed I can be; what I hope so much to be?

My body.  My mind.   My spirit.  My circumstances.  They must all conspire to work together.  They must choreograph and rehearse a ballet to be improvised.  They must speak one language at one time multiple times.

It is easy to talk about what could have been, should have been, would have been... if only... if only... if only...

Reality bends so easily.

image blatantly stolen from the world wide web
There are no excuses for me anymore.  In the world of fighting my time to become is in view.  The answers I seek will reveal themselves over the course of the next year or two or three.  I am hopeful the metamorphosis gives birth to the butterfly.  I am fearful of the caterpillar suffocating in the chrysalis.

But still I understand it would be better to know than to always wonder and I am fully aware that such an opportunity is a gift to be grateful for.  However seeing this does not stop the occasional fear.  I only know that my fears will not stop me from learning the truth even though it is the possible truth that I fear.