Virginia Woolf once stated, “Anything may happen when womanhood has ceased to be a protected occupation.”
Time has proven her right. That “anything” now includes many things with the exception of a few taboos which are hard to shake. (I will spare you the history lesson.) Whether females should fight in a cage, or on the front lines for that matter, is still a hotly debated topic. Fortunately for women everywhere, detractors are losing ground in that fight with every passing event.
Women’s MMA is still relatively small but growing as bouts like the crowd-pleasing battle between Miesha Tate vs. Julie Kedzie are becoming more common. Also, I think it would be impossible to write an article about female fighters and not mention Ronda Rousey. Her Olympic level judo, aggressive nature and yes, her looks, have put Women’s MMA on the front burner.
The growth isn’t all in the spotlight, though; female enrollment at Mixed Martial Arts academies is up across the country. Some schools even have their own female teams. The Jungle MMA and Fitness in Orlando, Florida is among them.
The practices are led by Felicia Spencer, a life-long martial artist. The female team is still in its infancy. Felicia says, “We grow and change in order to meet the needs of the students. We are experimenting with class structure and have found a good balance of stand-up and ground work.”
Felicia and a few of the other standouts on the female team, including Jamie Moyle and Ilana Rivera, are just as accomplished as their male counterparts. Felicia has won multiple grappling tournaments and holds a black belt in Taekwondo. Jamie Moyle was a competitor in the first-ever title fight for women in the state of Florida, and Ilana Rivera was a Florida state wrestling champion for Lake Brantley High School.
“Every woman considering taking a class should know that they belong in the gym just as much as anyone else. If there are women out there who are inclined to try it, I encourage them to do it because nothing is better, in my opinion, for their confidence and well being,” Felicia said.
For Ilana, it is all about the competition. She is currently preparing for her first amateur MMA fight with the intention of eventually going pro. “MMA has become such a huge part of my life. Just like my fellow ‘Jungle Ladies,’ I put in hours of training to better my game.”
It is clear that Rhonda Rousey, Miesha Tate and Julie Kedzie are not alone. There is a whole generation of women fighters who refuse to allow womanhood to be a protected occupation and they are doing it in spectacular fashion.