Growing up as an athlete, I always believed any frustration could be worked through with sports or physical activity.
But when I started to experience big waves of anxiety and panic, it left me vulnerable and not ambitious. I completely forgot the physical ‘language’ I used to speak fluently.
My habit of getting out of bed and going for a run disappeared and I felt insecure about every little thing about me.
Until one night, I decided to catch up on a UFC fight that was trending on Twitter. It almost felt like drinking water for the first time after a marathon. It clicked, and small memories I had of trying out combat sports a few years before started pouring in like a river.
On its own this wasn’t the key to unlocking the long brawl I had with my mental health but it was a way to use my fighting force in another way.
If you’ve ever been curious about learning self-defense, and maybe deepening your interest into mixed martial arts, read on. The octagon awaits…
Self-Defense as a Gateway to Combat Sports
A good place to start is to try a strictly a self-defense class. Everyone is different when it comes to conquering intimidation on all levels and feeling some sense of security, but I would urge you to consider going further and trying MMA.
Combat sports can help you long-term, keep your self-defense skill up to par and teach you new techniques that could really help in an emergency situation.
Getting Starter: What You Need to Know
First off—you don’t need to be a lean machine with washboard abs to take up MMA.
There are so many weight classes, and you will see people from all different sizes, shapes, and backgrounds. You don’t have to look like the most badass woman on the planet—this sport can be for everyone.
There are drop-in classes across the country, and some even have happy hour specials so you can go and see if you and the mat click.
It’s normal to be nervous about attending a class, but everyone is there for the exact same reason you are, and you can opt for a women-only class.
If you are really worried other people might have way more experience than you do you can:
- Watch a session without participating, to evaluate.
- Give yourself a month or even more to work out at a public gym to get your endurance up before joining.
- Try out a personal training session or talk to one of the trainers. Communication is key and I guarantee you they will put all of your concerns to bed.
Some women worry about gaining a lot of muscle. But after learning the basic skills you don’t need to hit the mat every few days.
When you feel comfortable or have received feedback from your instructor you can start to make your own schedule. You can even just drop by once in a while to freshen up on technique. (Though a little muscle doesn’t hurt anybody.)
Every combat sport comes with different equipment, so make sure you ask what you need before you take the class, or see if they have a borrow and pay program. Always have hand wraps or at least 8oz gloves, and light spandex shorts.
One of the big benefits is that it's a low-cost sport, if you take the time to do your research on equipment and gyms. There is no rush to become your city’s new Ronda Rousey.
Ontario has its own UFC gym in Mississauga, which is open to just about anybody. The gym features a regular facility, incredible membership deals, youth classes and a huge variety of programs you can dive into. I understand the intimidation the name might instil, but it's just a little goal to keep in mind when you're ready to enter new waters!
Even if you never have to put your new skills to the test in a self-defense situation, the confidence you gain is worth it on its own.
I find my annoyance has grown with curious stares and unwanted attention, especially on public transit, but now I have a little hidden “you can’t mess with me” secret!