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Mixed Martial Arts was coined sometime in the ‘90s, but its following is still rapidly expanding.
Ever heard of Ronda Rousey or seen a boxing ring with an octagon-shaped cage around it? That’s MMA.
Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) has been on a steady rise to prominence within the crowded world of martial arts due to its quick rounds and sometimes brutal full-combat nature.
One of its best-known stars, Ronda Rousey, has become a touchstone for women in combat sports. But how does it feel to take up the sport as an average Canberran woman?
We caught up with Karabar local Christine Rampling—who competed in her first MMA bout this year—about fear, integrity and overcoming chronic pain.
How did your MMA journey start?
My journey started with Synergy Self Defence in Hume. I stumbled across a poster advertising a women’s self-defence course at the gym and signed up. I clearly remember the distinct moment during that course, that something inside me was ignited.
It was a simple roll of my wrist that could break someone’s extremely tight grip, it felt like a magic trick. The whole lesson was simple and practical tailored to the scrappy reality of a real-life attack.
Despite being an already fit and active, confident mostly extroverted person, I hadn’t realised there was this huge part of my physicality missing for me.
Sometime after, not really knowing what I had bought tickets to, I attended the Wimp 2 Warrior finale fight night for an earlier series.
I saw women just like me, engaging in their first-ever amateur MMA cage fight and I knew I wanted my own moment in the cage. I registered for the next Wimp 2 Warrior Canberra series.
What was your fitness and sporting background before MMA?
As a child I wasn’t really sporty, I was active though and always outside, in my teenage years I did a lot of horse riding. I’ve always enjoyed running medium sort of distances and was a good sprinter all through primary and high school.
As a young adult, I played for a local soccer team for a few seasons but found I wasn’t really into team sports.
Fresh out of high school I took on a career in horticulture and arboriculture which had me doing a whole lot of manual labour including hauling myself up trees and using machinery like chainsaws and hedge trimmers for hours on end.
I’m 65kg, 5’8 tall and built like a teenage boy so for me this was hard work and it kept me quite fit without having to step foot in a gym.
What was your inspiration to learn how to defend yourself and learn MMA?
There was a powerful draw to the sport for me. I wasn’t clear why I wanted to do it; I just knew I had to. I’ve since identified the source of my desire to learn MMA and to fight in a cage however, leading into the experience it was just this foggy sense of urgency to participate.
I’m carrying a lot of injuries, mostly from horse falls, and these injuries have held me back in pursuing anything athletic that was purely for play. Due to my job, it became essential for me to protect my body from new or further injury in order to continue working and be able to earn a living.
I was sick of living like this. Whilst I am an able-bodied person, I felt so restricted, so ripped off, so frustrated with the chronic pain and just sick of the heavy sense of responsibility that went along with self-preservation. I wanted to overcome the pain and mainly the fear of my own fragility.
I began to also see how much men scare me. I discovered that I carry with me a constant fear of being overpowered and harmed, likely due to some shitty experiences in my teens and early adulthood. What better way for me to face that head-on than grappling on the ground BJJ [Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu] style with an exceptionally fit and strong man?
I’m most certainly not recommending this as an alternative to professional psychology, but something happened for me over those weeks. I developed a sense of freedom or assuredness perhaps, something that I really can’t explain.
Describe your training process—how did your lifestyle and mindset change?
At Wimp 2 Warrior we would train three times a week in mixed martial arts and twice a week in strength and conditioning. I entered the program quite fit already so the strength and conditioning days quickly became my favourite part.
I loved pushing my heart and my lungs and the days I completed an entire work out to specification without modifications for my various injuries were particularly satisfying days.
As my confidence and understanding of the martial arts basics grew, so did my love for the MMA mornings. By week 14-15 of the program these had become my favourite days to train. Grappling, much to my surprise, became a super fun element that I looked forward to.
Outside of the formal program I would run hill sprints at the lake, run up Mt Jerrabomberra roughly once a week and walked my dogs every day.
I just got more organised. I formed a more effective household routine and for the first time in years, I actually packed my lunch every day, prepped some meals in advance. My house is tidier and I’m less stretched and stressed.
I think it’s the practice of operating with integrity. I’m not referring to the heavy moralistic type of integrity like ‘being a good bloke’ but the powerful one that enables your life to work.
In order to have a fun and satisfying sparring session, I needed to have a good sleep. For a good sleep, I needed to get to bed earlier and for an early bedtime I had to have my dinner earlier and my lunch packed the night before so the groceries had to have already been done.
One thing flows into the other so that foundation of integrity is what results in that workability. It is now easier for me to be organised and being organised doesn’t occur to me as a total drag anymore.
I’ve had a huge reduction in my chronic pain levels. The most recent issue being a hip reconstruction. When I started the program I couldn’t squat and holding someone down in a side control position was excruciating. I can do both of those things now and I’m not in constant fear of injury.
For example, I was walking my dogs at the river just this morning (in thongs) and slipped in the slimy mud. I felt my left knee over-extend in the wrong direction and pull sharply, causing me pain.
Somehow, in that split second moment of fright and pain, my old pattern of thinking slipped back in and my salary, sick leave, private health insurance and savings flashed before my eyes but was quickly followed with ‘you’re ok girl, you’ve been punched repeatedly in the face and kicked in the stomach. A little bit of mud isn’t bringing you undone’.
Training MMA challenges that old feeling of helplessness. I could provide a hundred surprising examples of how my training has filtered out into my everyday life.
How did your Wimp 2 Warrior finale fight go? How did you feel afterwards?
My fight was awesome. The walkout was so thrilling, I felt like a total rockstar. The lights, the smoke, the music, the crowd, my friends and family all there, it was such an epic moment, almost like it wasn’t even real.
When the referee gave the signal to begin the fight the little voice in my head was like ‘it’s happening, this is it, this is it, oh my god, here we go, shit this is really happening’ but after the first couple of strikes were thrown I settled into the most exhausting challenge of my life and loved every second of it.
In my fighter profile, I was listed as fighting out of Karabar, NSW which is where I live. Karabar is one of the lower socio-economic areas of Queanbeyan and has a reputation for higher rates of crime and anti-social behaviour.
A few rowdy members of the crowd were yelling ‘come on Karabar!’ which I could hear from inside the cage.
This was so amusing for me and really helped spur me on some more. The fight finished with me submitting my opponent in a rear naked choke which my workmates have renamed ‘The Karabar Cuddle’.
It was the best fun and such a huge adrenaline rush. Some women approached me in the crowd afterwards and told me how impressed with me they were, they were in awe of what I’d been able to achieve. This lit me up.
It’s important for me to empower other women to step outside the normal stereotypical realm of what’s possible for us. I was so stoked to have had this impact on those women.
Do you think you’d like to fight again in the future?
Two words: Hell yes.
You can find out more about MMA and Wimp 2 Warrior via the website. Keep your eyes out for more information on the next Wimp 2 Warrior bout on 22 February.