The Difference Between Women Who Train Muay Thai and Those Who Don’t
Certain studies say women tolerate pain better than men.
That would explain – to a certain degree – why it is women who bear the children and why they are more inclined to endurance disciplines whereas men tend to dominate in sports that require short intense bursts of efforts (think marathon vs. sprint running).
Based on these findings, we could be led to believe that women wouldn’t shy away from anything pain related such as martial arts, or in this specific case – Muay Thai.
‘Cause let’s face it, when it comes to pain, nothing (or very few things) comes to it as close as Muay Thai: getting kneed in the stomach, kicked to the ribs, punched in the face and thrown around like a rag doll in the clinch, all that shit hurts. Yet, in Muay Thai gyms women are practically non-existent.
How is that so?
As a girl who’s decided to take to learning Muay Thai for close to three years now, I’ve seen my share of women walk in the gym for a free trial class only to never come back. I’ve come to wonder why is it that this sport that is the epitome of empowerment for women never gets a hold of them.
While in all honesty, it does have to do with the way they are introduced to the art (some instructors can be all balls and no brains and will never know how to cater to a female clientèle in a male dominated sport), this refusal of martial arts on women’s part is much deeper than that.
Caley Reece, WMC World Champion said it best herself:
I don’t think any girl that fights is really a regular girl. They’ve got to have something in them different to be a fighter […] the time and the dedication that goes into it is something not a lot of girls would be able to do. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IrsakJXntAo )
Some will say it’s because we don’t have that fighting spirit in us, but that’s bull.
Agustin Fuentes, chair of the department of anthropology at the University of Notre Dame, has discovered that before age 7, boys and girls are equally directly aggressive and that after childhood however, it becomes less acceptable for girls to give each other noogies and the likes.
That’s in large part because past age 7, society archetypes start to emerge and girls then begin to understand what the female paradigm entails. And not only do they begin to understand it, they also come to discover that this paradigm shuns anything related to aggressively, grit and determination.
When you’re a girl, you learn that suffering stops when you start to cry, whine or show the slightest sign of discomfort. That the minute you do so, someone will run to protect you from harm. When you’re a girl, chances are you’ve never had to “deal with it” for a very long time. Someone – your dad, your brother, your boyfriend – always comes to your rescue.
In Muay Thai however, none of that shit works!
Whining only makes you lose your coach’s respect. It doesn’t make the drill stop… the timer makes the drill stop.
Don’t count on anyone to come to your rescue in the ring either. In fact, put on that damsel in distress act you’ve learned to master in there and chances are you’ll get an even worse beating that you would’ve if you just kept your mouth shut, walked forward and kept your focus.
And don’t even THINK of turning on the charm and acting cute. When it comes to Muay Thai, you better forget about being cute altogether. Any girl who has done this long enough knows it’s all down hill from clinch hair.
The problem is girls just aren’t used to being ignored when they act a little helpless when the going gets tough – they’re used to being cajoled and comforted. And the reaction they get in Muay Thai gyms (or absence of reaction should I say) clashes so much with what they’ve become accustomed to getting that they’d rather never come back, say they at least gave it a try but that it wasn’t for them.
All in all, women stay away from Muay Thai because it forces them to break from a female paradigm that’s been engrained in them for years. It has nothing to do with strength or weakness but everything to do with how they’ve been raised.
When you’re a girl and you decide to dedicate yourself to this crazy passion that is Muay Thai, you have to shape another you from scratch and to rethink your ego. It’s a pretty hefty task.
One so big in fact, that it might just explain why you’ll never see that girl who came in for a free try out class again.
- My name is Pascale Fontaine, I've been learning muay thai for about three years at Académie Sparmax in Rosemère, Canada, under Ajarn Normand Grimard. I attended the TBA Pacific Northwest Annual Muay Thai Training Camp in 2014. I plan on having my first amateur fight in 6 months. I graduated from University of Montréal in 2005 with a degree in literature and in 2008 with a degree in translation.