2016 – injuries, moving countries, and the times I wanted to quit.

It’s no secret that this year has been more challenging than the first two I had spent abroad.  But when everything happens in so many small, unconnected incidences, it’s quite confronting when someone forces you to look back at the challenges you’ve faced.

I always try to be positive and move forward – always looking for new opportunities if I believe I can be doing better – doing more.  That is, after all, how I ended up in Berlin.

My time in Thailand has allowed me to become a complete master in compartmentalizing my emotions.  Don’t get me wrong.  I have my moments – hell – I have my days.  I cry, I throw tantrums, I feel sorry for myself and I just want to throw in the towel.  The problem now is that I am so used to burying my head and pushing forward that sometimes that I fail to take the time to acknowledge the challenges I have had and the impact they have had on me mentally.

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This year started out in pretty bad fashion and was a constant roller coaster of injuries, let downs and questions over my own personal motivations and if I could justify to keep going down this road.

After changing gyms at the end of 2015, I was so hopeful and optimistic moving into 2016.  I was training under James McSweeney at the newly opened Unit 27 Technical Fight Factory and the year was full of promise.  After taking some time off for treatments to my knee and shoulder I came back ready to rock and roll.  Not a month into training, I was kicked in the hand and my 5th finger snapped at a 90 degree angle.  It took 3 months of xrays and visits to the surgeon to ensure that my finger and the fractured bones inside had healed enough to put my hand back in a glove.

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Before my hand even had a chance to heal our gym was shut down.  I remained diligent in my responses to the reasons behind the fall of UTFF but my friends close to me know that I experienced one of the biggest betrayals in my career to date.  My coach vanished – moved to another country and never said a word.  He left behind an entire fight team who were relying on him and because I had been training with him the longest, everyone turned to me for answers.

Fast forward a few months and I was happily back at AKA.  I had joined the MMA program and although far behind in certain technical aspects, I was still managing to hold my own and earned the respect of my fellow team mates.

Just as I had gotten back I was struck down with a random viral infection that had me out for a week.  A few trips to the clinic and lots of IV bags later, I was slowly getting back into training.

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Not long after this, I was finally settling in to the program at AKA and it was there I suffered my first ever concussion.  As per most training incidents, it was a complete accident.  I was in the midst of preparing to be matched for a fight though so stopping wasn’t an option.

2 days later I am called to fight Muay Thai on short notice and after much deliberation, I decided to take it.  I hadn’t earned any money in 6 months.  And most of all I was hungry.  And fed up.  I just wanted to fight.  So I took a fight on 24 hours notice after already training 4 hours that morning.

The next night I fought and walk away with a win, a second concussion and 5 stitches.

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Yes.  I can hear you all now.  The eye rolls.  The head shakes.  The ‘oh what a silly girl’.

None of you are wrong.  I still roll my eyes and shake my head when I think about it.

Luckily the stitches alone meant a week of rest which I happily took.  The head trauma was extremely noticeable so I was happy to take some time to relax.

The problem in Thailand is that no one checks on you or makes you see a doctor.  No one checks before you fight to make sure that you are ok.  No one questions when you decide to return to training, it’s almost expected that you just will.  And for someone like me, who has been such an active fighter for these years, these things make for a bad combination.  The fact that I could find myself justifying training like this will haunt me forever.

At this time I was having issues with my left ankle.  I suspected stress fractures as this was an injury I had suffered on numerous occasions before and everything about the injury felt familiar.  But I pushed forward, still hoping for my first MMA fight to come.

About 2 weeks after the Muay Thai fight, I suffer a third (yet mild) concussion.  Mostly a direct result of not resting for long enough.  It was an unfortunate accident in 4 ounce gloves that landed me out again for another week.  During this time off I went to visit the doctor to have my ankle looked at.  Xrays showed I had stress fractures in my left ankle that were approximately 3 weeks old.

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I was set to very limited training for a few weeks following meaning no fights, only light boxing and no weights or Muay Thai.  I tried to use this time to continue to work on my appalling boxing skills, but unfortunately my limited movement made sparring extremely difficult.

Finally I received the all clear to resume, but in my time off I had booked a 6 week trip to Europe to reassess what I was doing with my career.

I ending up booking a fight 2 days before I was due to fly out.  Naturally I took it on 8 days notice.  It was a local Queens Cup event but I felt it was a good way to end out training before taking a big break.

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After a solid win, despite being incredibly unfit, I ventured to Europe where I travelled, ate good food, tried out different gyms and cities and eventually found my new home at Spitfire.

When I look back on things, I should have cut my losses and gone home.  I had many moments where I wanted to.  I spent most of the year in complete angst over the time I had spent chasing what seemed like a ridiculous and impossible dream.

I was so unsure of myself and my ability to make good decisions moving forward.  The only thing I knew was that my time in Thailand had come to an end.

I had spent two weeks in Berlin on my holiday.  1 week enjoying the sights and the nightlife and another week of training in what was to be my new training home.  It didn’t take me long to realise that a change in pace and scenery was just what I was needing.

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The European circuit is full of competition in my weight class and I figured it was a great way to fulfill my lifelong wish to live and travel in Europe, and also take on a range of new opponents both in MMA and Muay Thai.  K1 also remains an option and experience for the near future.

I’m now a few weeks in to my time here in Berlin and I am loving it.  Unfortunately though, I have since suffered my 4th concussion for the year in a freak BJJ accident.  (a post on this to come).

It was a truly frightening experience for me because I know that there are only so many times that this can happen before it ends my career.  I remember just lying on the mat with a stream of tears rolling down my cheeks.  I couldn’t stop it.  In that moment I felt so useless and defeated.

I’m certain everyone thought I was physically hurt, but the stress of another hit was a little more than I could bear at the time.  Moving countries, leaving all my friends in Thailand and Australia and being benched again.  I was at my limit.

After a night in hospital under observation I was released and took a week off to rest.  (I was actually banned from the gym but let’s call it rest ;)).

I’m finally back into training, with the year coming to a close.  No rest for the wicked though as I have now been cleared to spar and fight pending a second doctors check once I get matched.

It has been a weird and refreshing change to be in a gym where my well being comes first.  Not just to my manager and trainers, but even to my training partners.  “Health comes first”.

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Being in Berlin, starting my life all over AGAIN.  It’s not without it’s challenges.  But I definitely feel good about where I am.  Even though I am so new, I have been so supported over the past few weeks and the knowledge that the fighters in my gym have to offer is just incredible.

Bring on 2017.  I’m ready to take things to the next level.

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