I recently listened to a male friend react to testimonies from the “Me Too” movement with shock, horror, and anger. He reached the noble conclusion that since so many women are “probably traumatized, you must feel so vulnerable.”
As I listened to his well-intentioned speech, all I could visualize was the time I choked a 225-pound man with my thighs using a move called “the triangle.”
I learned the triangle, along with many other moves, holds, and takedowns, while training in mixed martial arts (MMA). I took up MMA when I was nineteen to counter the physical inadequacy I felt. Like many young women, I’d grown up having internalized the narrative that boys are just stronger than girls, run faster than girls, throw farther than girls, lift more than girls. Boys rape girls, boys murder girls. Rhetoric and representations of the physical and symbolic power of men made me feel condemned to frailty. But as Leslie Jamison points out in her “Grand Unified Theory of Female Pain,” that’s a dangerous way of thinking. “The moment we start talking about wounded women,” she writes, “we risk transforming their suffering from an aspect of the female experience into an element of the female constitution.” So I started fighting. But even as I felt the surge of physical accomplishment, something else became clear: MMA fighting was also a spiritual experience.
Each time I landed a punch or kick or succeeded in a takedown, I felt a surge of courage and purpose. As Timothy reminds us, “God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control.” God doesn’t want me to live in a state of fear. He wants all of us to recognize the strength that is possible through him. Practicing MMA has helped me to cast aside timidity, embrace strict self-discipline, and love my body the way God has always loved it.
This has baffled many people I know. I once proudly described to my roommate a Jiu-Jitsu move I’d mastered while she dabbed blood from my split lip. She interrupted—“How can you enjoy something so violent?” I remember my father cringing when I described a basic escape technique called the “mount, buck, and roll,” in which you use your hips to thrust an attacker off your stomach, roll on top of them and secure the dominant “mount.”