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14 Secrets Women Who Fight Will Never Tell You

Curious about women who kick ass? Peek inside the minds of these fierce fighters.

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1. There aren't enough women who fight.

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Even though boxing, MMA, and various forms of martial arts have become more popular with women in the past few years, the community is still very small. It's difficult to find other women to fight, meaning "a lack of competitors, sparring partners, and the overall spirit of competition," says New York-based boxing coach Sabrina Cohen.

2. They can take fights personally.

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Then again, so do men: "I've seen guys act viciously in and out of the ring. I've also seen them be cordial. Women are the same way," says Cohen. But more often, you actually share a kind of strange bond: "You were both in the trenches. You know how hard your opponent worked. You have respect for them if they fought clean and they fought well."

3. They spar with men all the time...

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Practice makes perfect. But since there aren't many women who fight, a woman often spars with men just to "work with a moving target," according to Cohen. "It's important to spar with people your size, ideally, and with a variety of ability levels," indiscriminate of gender. After all, anything men can do, they can do better.

4. ...but they still have to deal with sexism.

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Sparring with some men is more like battling their egos. "Sparring is about practicing and improving skill, not pride," says Brazilian jiu-jitsu fighter Margaux Genoff. "But some men feel like they have something to prove even when they spar; they're still afraid of losing to 'a girl.'"

5. They might have something to prove, but it’s not to anyone else.


Most new fighters are as tough on themselves as they are on their opponents in the ring. They are quite literally fighting to conquer fear and grow in confidence. "I wanted to know I could step into the ring without being afraid. I wanted to prove that to myself," says Cohen.

6. How you handle getting hit is what makes you a fighter.

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Many train, but few fight. What's the difference? When you fight, you're not just punching -- you're getting punched back. "Once you get hit," Cohen says, "you can’t start the pity party. You have to think, She hit me. Let’s see how I can hit her back."

7. Fighting is more psychological than it is physical.


Cohen claims that fighting is 80% mental and only 20% physical. "You have to be mentally tough. You have to be someone who can take a hit and keep going, rolling with the punches literally and figuratively."

8. "Gymcest" is commonplace.

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Both Cohen and Genoff date men who also practice their sport. Despite her best efforts to avoid the taboo practice of dating within the gym, Genoff's partner is a member of her jiu-jitsu gym. Shared passions and similar lifestyles can be great for relationships, so "gymcest" doesn't seem like the worst thing.

9. Fighting is massively empowering.

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Unsurprisingly, learning how to defend yourself makes you feel more in control and more empowered. "I feel empowered because I am safer, because I am stronger, because I can handle situations, and because I have the support of my community of fighters," says Genoff.

10. It doesn't matter if men baby them while sparring.

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Because these guys might get seriously worked if they do: "If you handle me with gloves because I'm a woman, I will think, How dare you?, and then I'll do my best to make sure you don't do it again," says Genoff.

11. All different kinds of women fight.

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With women gaining visibility in professional MMA and boxing, more women are interested in fighting, themselves. According to Genoff, "There are women who are bubbly and friendly, but there are also serious types who just want to train." The thing they all have in common is: "We want to better ourselves. We want to fight."

12. They're proud of a black eye or two.

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"You're proud if you've earned it. It's like a battle scar," says Cohen. It might be a little strange to explain the first time, but once your friends and co-workers know you're a fighter, they'll stop questioning your bumps and bruises.

13. "Girls" are much tougher than you think.

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"As girls," Genoff says, with unmistakable irony, "there are so many cultural things holding us back, but at the same time, women have a higher pain tolerance and more flexibility. It's just about making sure that you capitalize on those differences."

14. And they are sick of hearing that they have to be pretty.

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Even though respect for women in the sport is growing, there is still pressure for those in the mainstream spotlight to be stereotypically attractive. "I'm still hoping to see a shift where women are more valued for their skills in the ring than the pictures they take," Genoff says. We agree!

Watch the women of BKB ​battle it out on April 4 in boxing, one of the realest sports around.

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