Punching through hard times
April 26, 2019
The daughter of a Vietnamese refugee says fight sports have helped her punch back from a dark period in her life.
Graphic designer Jemma Lam, 27, was assaulted by a male colleague at her workplace and as a result she suffered from an anxiety attack.
Soon after, she joined Wellington-based fight gym The Lion Pit and took up fight sports.
Fight sports involve one-on-one combat and contestants win by scoring more points than an opponent or by disabling them via submission or knockout.
She admitted one reason she got into the sport two years ago was so she could learn self-defense skills.“I had a friend who had been training at the Lion Pit and she told me to check it out.”
In March, Lam had her first fight against another woman from a Lower Hutt gym called Cage Fight Academy. “I was pumped,” she said.
Lam won the three-round-bout by a unanimous points decision.
The fight was part of a charity event which aimed to raise money for New Zealand champion kickboxer Ra Redden, who was paralysed during a fight in December last year.
Lam said she trained seven days a week to stay fighting-fit.
Her training sessions went for two hours and ranged from runs up Mount Victoria to skills training and sparring. “Sparring can be emotional,” Lam said, “you’ve got to be mentally tough.”
She said she would love to see more women in fight sports, but acknowledged that walking into the wrong gym could intimidate women.
“Find a gym with a good vibe,” she recommended.
Lam moved to Wellington four years ago from Whangarei where she had grown up. Her mother was a refugee from Vietnam and her father, now estranged, was a Kiwi.
“My mum is tough,” she said.
Lam explained that her family did not have much money when she was young. Her mother, who was a solo parent for most of her life, did not have the money or time to get Lam into sports.
“When I got older I wanted to try new things,” she said.
Lam is one of 20 registered female fighters at The Lion Pit, which was opened on Vivian Street two years ago by fight sport enthusiasts, trainers and friends Pou Sefesi and Ata Fakalelu.
Sefesi said the Lion Pit had more registered female fighters than any other fight gym in the country.
The gym offered classes in boxing, kick boxing, and mixed martial arts.
He said that all of the females at his gym trained with all of the males. “Some guys get humbled by the girls,” Sefesi said.