Mixed martial arts (MMA), a once male-dominant sport, is increasingly becoming popular among women in the Philippines.
“Una, fitness talaga kaya ako pumasok dito [At first, I only wanted to be fit that’s why I enrolled in an MMA class],” said Hazel Manuel, a trainee at Hybrid Yaw-Yan in Cubao, Quezon City.
“Lalakas ka sa martial arts at self-defense talaga [You will get strong and you can use it as self-defense],” Manuel added who is training for at least for a year now.
Manuel cited the many benefits she experienced after several months of MMA training, “Dati, everytime na lumalabas ako na naka-shorts natatakot ako. This time mas okay na dahil alam kong kaya kong i-defend ‘yung sarili ko [Back then, I was afraid of going out wearing shorts. But this time, I felt confident knowing I can defend myself if I have to].”
A lot of female MMA trainees are inspired by top women fighters in the sport among them Ronda Rousey, Gina Carano, Miesha Tate and Cristiane “Cyborg’ Santos.
According to veteran fighter and coach Henry Kobayashi, owner of Hybrid Yaw-Yan, which he established in 2000, there are more female than male trainees in his gym today.
“Nung una self-defense talaga rason nila. Pero ngayon dahil nauso ang mixed martial arts, idol nila si Ronda Rousey, gusto nila mag ala-Rousey [Their reason when they started was they want to learn self-defense. But now, because of the popularity of Ronda Rousey, they wanted to be like Rousey,” Kobayashi said of the 20 female fighters in his school.
One of Hybrid Yaw-Yan’s most active female fighter is Mary Angeli Bulaong. The other two are Andrea Mangamapat and Denese Cabanag.
In her recent fight, Bulaong with mere three months of training under her belt beat a more experienced foe.
To date, Bulaong has won two MMA championships and has five jiu-jitsu titles under her belt.
Kobayashi described Hybrid Yaw-Yan’s curriculum as progressive and diverse.
Yaw-Yan’s hand techniques were derived from the movements of arnis, the Philippines’ weapons-based national martial art. It’s grapping techniques also include buno, which is Filipino native wrestling.
Compared to other martial arts and combat sports, Yaw-Yan is multi-directional and offensive. Kobayashi said that it has no blocking and 90 percent of its strategy is based on offense
Hybrid Yaw-Yan’s basic and advance programs are both comprised of 36 sessions. If a trainee decided to become a fighter, he must undergo at least three more months of training.
Kobayashi said that for the last five years, he has not promoted any of his fighters to instructor level. He explained that to become instructor, the candidate must win five championships and must possess a good character.
The Hybrid Yaw-Yan gym is located at the fifth floor of Karen building, no.9 Annapolis St., Cubao, Quezon City.