Training female muaythai fighters is not an easy task. To be a good trainer is truly a gift that not all individuals possess.
In actual fact, when training any fighter regardless of their gender, a trainer is required to set aside their fears, ego and personal issues to develop their fighters to their full potential.
The role of a trainer is varied and can range from instructor, friend, mentor, counsellor, supporter, motivator, and the fountain of all knowledge.
There is an unspoken bond that exists between a fighter and their trainer. In most cases the trainers spend more time preparing their fighters than spending time with their own family.
Female fighters are continually pushed to develop greater resilience and respect in order to achieve a level playing ground with their male training partners. While, in the gym, women have numbers in the minority, it is becoming increasingly common for a fight team to be comprised of both female and male combatants. Nonetheless, female fighters present trainers with additional challenges that not all are willing to adapt to.
I would say my trainer, Andrew Parnham, knows me better than I know myself.
He has the ability to effectively decipher verbal and non-verbal cues in order to push his fighters accordingly. More often than not he knows what is going on in a fighter’s head, even when they do not.
“It’s a crazy world in the mind of a female fighter” he says.
Men will never fully understand women. With that said, I continue to believe he has the ability to analyse my mental and physical state accurately.
When questioned about female fighters, Parnham acknowledges that training women is an art form in itself that can never be perfected.
He adds that “female fighters are in some ways tougher than the males due to the physiological and psychological stresses fighting presents.”
“Women also juggle work, relationships and the added pressure of trying to remain beautiful in their own eyes and according to the prevailing societal perception of beauty.”
Danny Jones of NSW finds it easier to train girls over boys. “I find they are better listeners,” he says.
Numerous trainers of female fighters have agreed that their class structure is no different, regardless of gender. Indeed, we do not get special treatment. After all, within the gym we are classified as fighters, not as male or female.
WA’s Darren Reece discloses that he experienced many rounds of pad-work with a female fighter in tears for no explicable reason.
From personal experience, we are more sensitive and at times break down for no specific reason, rather a build-up of emotions.
My Thai trainer Singpayak believes that training a female is more challenging due to the ‘care’ factor.
“You can physically push men a lot harder than you can a female,” he explains.
“For example, the force of a teep [front kick]. Some days you can push them too hard”.
Yes, thanks to our physiology, we get cramps and pains every so often and a good old teep or knee to the abdominal area is a ‘destroyer’.
Trainers are required to take a different approach when motivating females as, at times, ‘suck it up’ concept does not work. Women are generally not driven by ego, so attacking their ego to get them to work harder can fail.
Females may be driven by praise or the guilt of letting their team down.
I admit to unintentionally adding obstacles for my trainer to overcome leading up to each fight.
In general, women have moods, hormones and physical restrictions at times. Being more in touch with our emotions, does mean that we are more sensitive. Often I am faced with tears due to nothing more than cyclic hormonal changes.
Energy levels, mental state and muscular fatigue change depending on which stage of the cycle we are on. However, don’t be fooled into believing that our training is modified based on the previous mentioned facts. We need to dig deep and push through it all, regardless.
To all trainers with female fighters on their team, hats off to you as you rise to the challenge or re-framing your thinking to include the female factor.