Dear Roxy: ‘I feel like nobody wants to spar with me. What can I do?’

Hey everyone, it’s me, The Happy Warrior! You probably all know me from my long mixed martial arts career, but I love sharing my life outside the cage as well. I’m currently working on writing my third book, which is my second memoir. I hope to release it later this year.

I get asked lots of great questions by fans and fellow fighters, and I’d like my experience and knowledge to help everyone, so I’ve decided to start a ‘Dear Roxy’ advice column. Each month I’ll take your most interesting questions about fighting, training, and life in general and answer them to the best of my ability. Hopefully we can all learn a few things along the way.

That said, let’s get to the first run of ‘Dear Roxy’!

Dear Roxy,

I’m an amateur fighter with a few fights and weighs about 110 pounds. There are a couple other girls in my gym but they’re bigger than me, and I feel like nobody wants to spar with me. What can I do?

From Small Fry

Dear Small Fry,

I get it, it’s hard being the smallest person! I think it would help to plan your sparring rounds before class starts, so try going around and asking the girls and also small guys if they can give you a round. Also specify which round. This reduces your stress of running around during the chaos of the 60 second break trying to find a partner, and then getting avoided. Then you’re the last one without a partner, and you either have to hit the bag, or go with a crazy big guy, and neither of you get good practice.

Also, it gives your training partners the chance to plan their rounds so they can make the most out of their day of training. For example, maybe if ‘Miss Fighter A’ agrees to go with you for round 3, she can plan the first two rounds to be against really tough people. That way you guys will be more evenly matched during your round. She wouldn’t mind holding back her power due to the size discrepancy. I’ve experienced both sides, and I know that as a training partner, I appreciate the heads up. It’s smart planning to be able to say, “Hey, chica, see you for round four in the left corner of the gym!”

Same thing goes if you’re a big person. Call in advance to make a reservation!

Dear Roxy,

I’m dying to train but I feel like I keep getting hurt. It’s always something. I keep jamming my neck when wrestling, my knee makes funny sounds, and my back aches. How do I know when to take a day off and when to push?

Always Injured

Dear Always Injured,

It sounds like you have things that are not really healing, but only hurting less until something hurts worse — then you notice the second thing more. You could have general weakness in those areas. I used to have incredible back pain that started with a slight bulging disk but the eventual chronic pain came from weak glutes, hip flexors, tight hamstrings, and weak lower back muscles. I hired a physical trainer and worked in sessions with him around my martial arts training. It was exhausting at first, and I had to reduce my martial arts training load for a number of months. Maybe even years. Eventually, my neck got stronger so I no longer tweak it every other week. I think you should try and seek out strength training to build up your neck and back muscles. Yoga and stretching after hot baths will really help you stretch your glutes and hamstrings, which is a huge cause of back pain in some people.

Make a plan and see what your body can do. You can still train but slightly lighter when you add in this extra stuff. Your body might feel like you’re taking one step backwards sometimes, but if you do it right, you’ll take two steps forward.

I’m afraid I’m not sure about your knee. You might want to get imaging done. Good luck!

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