Last Woman Standing

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I actually got called to interview for this BBC programme. I didn’t get onto the show itself but I did make it to the last 50 from hundreds of applicants. I was reminded of this after catching the programme on TV this evening and every time I see it, I think, ‘Wow, what an amazing opportunity that would have been.’ If you haven’t seen it, it was a show described by the BBC as a ‘Series which follows five British athletes from different sporting backgrounds as they take on the challenge of a lifetime – travelling the world competing with women from remote tribes and cultures’. The girls who competed took part in amazing adventures and sports you could only dream of trying. They were as diverse as Water Buffalo Racing in Sumbawa, Indonesia and Bamboo Raft Racing in Coron, the Philippines to my favourite kind of sport, fighting! This wasn’t just any kind of fighting, there was Kali Stick fighting in the Philippines as well as Huka Huka Wrestling in Brazil. Wow. How amazing would that have been?!

Last Woman Standing Image from BBC

Competitor Anna Kali Fighting in LWS

I’ve actually trained in Kali sticks .. although not in such an intense environment .. re- watching LWS this evening brought back painful memories of just how much it hurts when you get struck by one of this sticks. I was lucky enough to be able to train in Kali Sticks in the Philippines with Norma, my Teaching assistant who luckily liked Martial Arts as much as me. How amazing is that, to have trained in the very country where the sport originated! It’s actually a very technical sport and I tell you this much, someone coming at you thrashing a very hard stick is enough to terrify you. Luckily when I trained, nobody was that vicious. People tend to have this assumption that martial arts are very aggressive sports. I’d beg to differ. You’re trained, you’re skilled and you’re using technique and a high level of skill and endurance in a controlled fight. You’re using controlled aggression (and a huge bag of nerves) to fight. If I wasn’t nervous before a fight, I know something would be wrong. Being nervous shows you care and you want to win. My Kickboxing instructor always told me ‘Go into a fight with the attitude ‘I will win’. You go in there thinking you might lose and you probably will.

Practising Technique - Kali Sticks, Philippines 2010

I’d describe myself as hugely competitive. I put this down mainly to a dreadful PE teacher at high school who quite literally hated me (although thinking back, she was probably justified – I was a pretty irritating student, one of those ones who constantly talked back, chatted throughout lessons but whenever asked a question such as ‘Kielly, what did I just say?’ I always knew the answer. I had an ability to hear and talk at the same time. As a teacher now, I understand how irritating this must have been. One of my physics teachers actually wrote on one of my reports ‘Kielly and the whole class would do better if she stopped talking so much.’) Anyway, I was desperate to be on a sports team, to be involved. I liked sport. I loved hockey although I thought netball was pretty pointless if I couldn’t move once I got the ball. My PE teacher never once put me onto a team and it frustrated the hell out of me. Eventually she put me on the Cross Country team because I could vaguely run from a selection of girls who could definitely not. I hated running but being so desperate to be on a team, I pushed myself every race to do my best despite throwing up from the exertion and pain everytime I ran in the cones to the final line. When I left school, I threw myself into Martial arts, determined to prove that I could be good at sport. And I was. Luckily I found an amazing team, Team BSBB and I enjoyed every minute of being there, despite the pain. My Kickboxing instructor, Rick Burns also said ‘Never try to be better than anybody else, Try to be better than yourself’. Training in a club environment and being competitive, I found that so hard to get but once I got it, I found myself improving much more than simply trying to be better than somebody else.

Team BSBB, one of my favourite places to be!

My first fight was horrendous. I lost all my nerve and after that it took me over a year to get back into a competition to fight. My instructor pushed me and told me ‘Kielly, you’re good. Stop working yourself up about it.’ So I got back in the ring, fought and won a silver medal which gave me back the confidence in myself, my ability and skills. After that I fought again in the next competition . I remember saying to my friend, Michelle before getting up for my fight ‘Oh my goodness, If I win, I have to fight again …’ I did and I fought again and I won again! I was in such a daze, I couldn’t believe it. I remember Rick looking at me and saying ‘Kielly, you did it, you won!’ and I just mumbled ‘Uh huh’. That gold medal gave me a place in the English title fight and I trained so hard in preparation. On the day, I was ridiculously nervous and had to watch other younger fighters, some were really young, like 8 years old and I told myself ‘If they can get up in that ring, you have to Kielly!’ I remember going out there and climbing into the ring just thinking ‘You can win this. You will win this.’ And I did! Honestly, one of my favourite memories ever.

Being announced the winner - Pure exhilaration and adrenaline

However, no matter how well you do in competitions, your medals are only worth as much as the people you fight. There’s always somebody out there just as good as you, many of them better than you. Mental attitude plays a huge part in it. How you approach the fight matters. A few months later, I fought in an International competition and lost totally and utterly to an amazing Italian fighter. I concentrated solely on using my legs and this was not the strategy I should have used. She was very responsive and I couldn’t seem to land a single kick. Looking back, I was totally predictable in my approach. Nevermind, after that I worked hard in class to improve my punching technique having relied heavily for so long on my quick and accurate leg kicks. I wouldn’t go as far as to say, my punches are amazing but I can definitely say I improved hugely. I had finally realised just how imbalanced I was a fighter only relying on my leg work and kicks. If you never come up against anybody who makes you realise those kinds of things, you’re never going to improve.

Thinking back to my opportunity to be on Last Woman Standing, as amazing as it would have been, would it have been as good as I imagined? Is any opportunity that we missed out on as attractive as we think or do we think so because we wish we had done it, had the opportunity? Being on TV would have presented huge challenges in my life. I would have had my personality splashed all over a TV show without any control over the editing and how I was to be presented. I would have moaned intensely when faced with the endurance running challenges! I hate running! I would have had to explain to the whole nation why I have scars all over my arm.

Would my life have changed? Yes. Would I want it now any other way? No. If I had been successful in getting on the show, I doubt very much I would be where I am in my life now. Things happen for a reason and our life follows unpredictable paths. 3 years ago, would I have imagined I would be living in Indonesia working as a Kindergarten teacher in a job I love, facing new challenges all the time and learning and evolving as a person as I am now? I really struggled in my teenage years with my identity and seeing where I am now makes me proud of the journey I have been on and how I have come to where I am now. I wouldn’t change a thing. I am who I am now because of the events I have been through, the journey of life which has taught me strength, courage, endurance and will power. It’s taken me a long time to get here, but boy am I glad I got here. Never would I want to go back to the things I have lived though but I love my life now and I am thankful for the opportunities I have had to grow as a person. I have accepted who I am and am finally proud of being ‘Kielly’.

I’ll leave you with a video of one of my proudest moments .. doing my Kata (A Kata is a series of moves, designed as if you are fighting an imaginary competitor. It’s an opportunity to show off your skills and technique) in the English Title. I actually created this Kata myself ti show off my best moves (my kicks!) In the end, I didn’t win but so what?! Watching this again reminds me of all the things I should be proud of.

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4 responses »

  1. You’ve written another very readable blog. Finishing with you doing your thing is a nice touch because all through the blog I was wondering what your martial arts really looked like. You pirouette like a ballet dancer!

    • Thanks Mel! I’m totally outta practice but I’ll get my sister to bring my gear (kickpads etc) when she visits in March so we can do some at the gym 😀 I seem to remember last time we did, you were pretty good anyway, a natural! Also, please come to the Muay Thai with me! I know you’ll love it!! We’ll all go, you, Win and even Ameer too! Am sure he’d love it!

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