Tag Archives: Philippines

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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Jakarta Traffic

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Imagine Jakarta now, in your mind. It’s definitely crazier and more frustrating at times than you’d imagine. It’s also become to me, a fascinating place where I can amuse myself over the idiosyncrasies of Indonesia. It’s become a sprawling hot mess I am starting to learn more about, albeit it from the passengers side of a car. Would I trust myself to drive here? No. Never. Well unlikely. Only by force or emergency. Traffic here is crushed to say the least. From where we live, in a suburb of West Jakarta it’s an almost statutory hour to town if not more. Once when we drove the Taman Safari, we literally didn’t move for over 40 minutes in a queue. Turned out they closed each side of the road alternately to allow the huge backlog move from one side. However for 40 minutes or more, one side is at total gridlock. Not the ideal situation.

Jakarta traffic - Image from web.

Jakarta traffic. Image from Jakarta Post

To drive here is to accept danger, know many people do not care for the road rules as I do and that  red lights just starting are signs to continue right through them for another minute. People here, generally seem to have no fear of danger when it comes to the roads. Huge heavy trucks are everywhere blocking the roads and gradually destroy and create huge chunky potholes. Police intervention has been to pull trucks off the road for an hour when they see them. You also have to learn to deal with the busy bee swarms of motorbikes and scooters full of entire families, babies carried in their mothers arms. Scooters ridden late at night along a long empty road by youth full of courage and bravado, screaming their scooters in dangerous stunts. Scooters which will at every point in your journey irritate you when they weave effortlessly through the traffic whilst you are yet again stuck behind heavy traffic. The only consolation I have had to this irritation is that now it is Monsoon season, I can smugly sit in the car, dry and cool watching giant puddles splash furious motorbikes. The motorbikes are ubiquitous and noisy.

I parked a car here once, once we were in the parking lot. I could deal with that. No crazy roads. It was a much bigger car than my Ford Ka though and I did find it a little harder to handle. Everybody here seems to have an enormous car! Would you believe it, there are even cars with automatic slide open doors. Wow thats pretty flashy. Ha and even more hilarious is that in every parking lot there are signs for ‘ladies parking’! I was wondering the other day what would happen in the UK or the US if a company introduced a ladies only parking spot with larger spaces and closer to the door. I imagine the cause of feminism would react furiously to the suggestion they could not park as well. There would be indignation. Here, it’s convenient and a total non plus!

That reminds me of a time in the Philippines when I was persuaded to drive Darryl’s car back to the house. I met Kerry and Darryl in the Philippines with their two gorgeous kids, Chloe and Keaton. What a wonderful family and I know after all the experiences we have shared including our daring escape from the Philippines, we will remain wonderful friends for a long, long time. It makes me giggle now thinking about the time I drove this car. So basically, it was a rented car that Darryl had hired for the day from a guy at school. We went swimming at this hotel in town (wait for it, Angeles City) and basically Darryl asked me to drive the car back. I was very reluctant. I did not want to drive on the roads of Angeles! However, finally I was persuaded and in the dark of night I drove the car back luckily without accident but with pure trepidation and fear of driving on the crazy roads! I did feel a little daring but will not be repeating this experience again unless as previously said, in emergency!

A true journey every day moving around in Jakarta.