New to Combat Sports? Here are Six Fighting Arts you Need to Know.
Over the past decade, society has become more and more accepting of females taking part in combat sports. While there are still detractors to watching “women hitting other women”, minds are being changed every day, and more and more girls are taking up the fighting arts.
Here are the six most popular ones.
This is the most familiar sport to those starting to get into combat sports. Women were trained in the U.S. in the sport as early as the late 19th century. Popularity of female competitors had their peak in the 90’s with Mia St. John and Christy Martin. A second golden age is approaching as the Olympics just added women’s boxing in the 2012 Games. Those popular fighters include Holly Holm, Anne Sophie Mathis, and Cecilia Braekhus.
“The Sweet Science” involves hand striking only, using combination of punches to incapacitate an opponent. If the time limit expires, a set of judges decide a winner. The participant uses 8-10 ounce closed gloves at the pro level, while amateurs use 12 ounce gloves.
Taking it up as a sport, it is the most familiar and easier to master. Boxing clubs are still around most areas.
There is a limited amount of what you can learn versus the other fighting arts we will discuss.
Taking the aspects of boxing to a new level, kickboxing has been practiced in Asia for several millennia. At the turn of the 20th century, what was a predominantly a male sport started to add female fighters. Popularity in the U.S. is just starting to grow as many females wanting to get into MMA are first exposed by using amateur kickboxing matches. Stars in the sport include Tiffany Van Soest, Julie Kitchen, and Miriam Nakamoto.
Kickboxing, as it sounds, uses kicks as well as punches to incapacitate your opponent. In a variant form of the sport, Muay Thai, knees are also utilized.
Unlike boxing, kickboxing gives you more skills to master in terms of striking. It has also becomes more popular in fitness gyms, with the advent of Tae Bo.
In a MMA context, it lacks ground skills in the case of being taken down.
One of the oldest sports on the planet, female wrestling can trace its roots back to the 12th century B.C. Historical articles can trace women (especially the Greek state of Sparta) competing in the sport just as far.
Women’s inclusion in the Olympics began in 2004, with Sara McMann gaining a silver medal for the U.S. Clarissa Chun won a bronze in the 2012 Olympics. The International Olympic Committee is looking to drop the sport from the Olympics in 2020, but there is a campaign to prevent it.
To win in wrestling, you need to either pin your opponent to the mat for three seconds, or outscore your opponent due to takedowns and control.
High schools are starting to get more and more female participants, with five states that have their own women’s divisions. Two states will be added this year, New York and Oklahoma. Over two dozen colleges have women’s wrestling teams as well.
Growths in smaller populated states are hindering women who want to take it up. Also, unlike boxing and kickboxing, there is no striking element.
Jiu-jitsu was developed in Japan in the early to mid 16th century. When Judo/Jiu-jitsu master Mitsuyo Maeda made it to Brazil in 1917, the modern martial art of Jiu-Jitsu started to develop. Maeda taught brothers Hélio and Carlos Gracie his martial art, with the brothers developing new techniques to improve the sport.
BJJ is a ground based sport, with no striking. The objective is to incapacitate or make your opponent quit via a submission hold. Examples include armbars, leglocks, and chokes. Stars in the sport include Kyra Gracie, Hannette Stack, and Gabie Garcia.
BJJ seems to come naturally to women, as the sport requires flexibility. For those who don’t like getting hit but still like to compete, this is the sport for you. It also is the preferred technique for teaching rape prevention classes and military hand to hand combat.
Like wrestling, there is no striking element in the sport.
Photo courtesy Koumoutsakos Photography
At the 648 B.C. Greek Olympic Games, Pankration was a introduced as a hybrid of wrestling and boxing. Considered to be the original roots of what we know now as Mixed Martial Arts, the modern day version of the sport doesn’t allow shots to the head. To win, like in BJJ, you have to make an opponent quit by a submission hold.
Pankration is only starting to gain popularity in the U.S. There are international competitions for the sport and the US does field a team. Although there are not superstars in the sport, MMA fighters Tara LaRosa and Lisa Ellis have both participated.
It is a great gateway sport for Mixed Martial Arts, especially for those who want to strike but are still squeamish about being hit in the face.
There are not very many places to train Pankration, so many train at MMA gyms instead. The chance to compete is also lacking.
Mixed Martial Arts
In an effort to prove that BJJ was the superior fighting sport, the Gracie family started the Ultimate Fighting Championship in 1993. It took the best of different fighting sports (including the ones we listed) on a no holds barred tournament. As the sport progressed, rules were established and elements of all fighting sports were incorporated.
Women started in the sport over a decade ago, with the Indiana based Hook-n-Shoot the first ones to promote women’s fights. The biggest growth came in the past four years. Stars include Ronda Rousey, Cyborg Santos, and Megumi Fujii.
To win a MMA fight, you either need to knockout an opponent, make them quit via a submission hold, or ref stoppage. If they don’t finish off the opponent, three judges score the match and declare a winner.
MMA gyms are readily accessible with more and more women taking up the sport. It takes the best of striking and grappling and makes them accessible.
There is a lack of females in the MMA gyms to train with, so a lot have a tendency to train with smaller men. Also, different gyms have different philosophies in the sport, and there are no “belts” to see how well you are doing. It is probably the toughest sport to start at.