Steve Earle of The Waterboy’s fame wrote ‘ The Galway Girl’ at the turn of the last century. He recorded it for his ‘Transcendental Blues’ album in 2000 with Sharon Shannon. A signature Galway anthem was born. If Ben Davis, Head Coach at Shaolin MMA gym in Galway and husband to amateur MMA fighter Indra Davis, ever plans a surprise vocal performance of the tune – he may consider altering a few lines.
Black hair. Check.
Blue Eyes. Check.
So far so good. A whirl round the Salthill Prom?
Hmmmmmmmm…..Maybe a whirl round the Mat, at their gym, in the Liosbain Industrial Estate, Galway might be a more appropriate line to add.
While there is definitely something transcendental happening in Shaolin MMA, Indra Davis most certainly isn’t singing the blues.
It’s no exaggeration to say that Indra Davis is a pioneer and advocate for Women’s MMA in the West of Ireland. My words not hers. But I think her’s is a story that a huge number of women will identify with and thus encourage them to give MMA a try.
Indra wasn’t a superstar athlete as a teenager and in fact freely admits that besides a little bit of Basketball and horse-riding she wasn’t all that into sports all.
“My husband Ben is fighting professionally for years – One of the things he wanted to do was to start coaching – he founded an MMA club and started off small and through that I got into it. And also i was after having our second child and I wanted to get into some kind of sport and fitness.
To be honest I didn’t love it at the start – so I would be the biggest advocate for sticking with it through the first couples of months if you find yourself like me – you will develop a love for it.
After I was doing MMA for about a year, I started to compete in Jiu-jitsu tournaments, encouraged a lot by my husband – and i have to say it would not have been something that came naturally to me in the beginning.
Before i started in MMA, I would have been one of those people who would have thought MMA is quite violent however once i started to see the small details of each discipline, the application and focus on technique and then started competing I really, really got the bug for it and felt a lot more comfortable with it as a sport”
In the first 10 minutes of talking with Indra, I was delighted to hear someone smash a couple of myths about MMA and also a couple of fears that people may have who might be curious about taking up the sport.
The biggest takeaway i got from listening to her is that ANYONE from any age can have a crack at MMA. There is also a powerful message for women in her words.
Shaolin MMA have developed a 5 week Novice MMA course for Men, Women and Kids that covers the basics of Grappling, Wrestling, a little bit of kickboxing and a little bit on striking.
A tasting menu of the disciplines if you like. Ben and the team have put a lot of time fine tuning the course to get it spot on. In recent months Indra said that their retention of people who take the initial five week course and then move up to intermediate level training and beyond has doubled.
For the kids they pull back everything to the essentials. So for example when youngsters are wrestling – once it gets to the point that they have pinned somebody down – that’s where the coaches step in and stop proceedings.
” They pick it up so fast the kids. The wrestling in particular is something that is instinctual in kids. Our approach is about taking the most practical parts of the various martial arts and putting them together to form the ultimate self defence skill-set”
Getting back to Indra’s own journey in MMA the next step in her development was to transition from MMA in training to MMA in the cage. Having had some success in Novice competitions in Cork and I think Athlone she started contemplating the step to a fully fledged Amateur outing.
“Over the course of another year i started entering a lot more Jiu-jitsu competitions. Did well. Got a bit more confidence each time. Got the Blue Belt. I got to the point where my husband said why don’t you have a go at MMA. I had always been training MMA but only Ever competed in Jiu-jitsu.
So with a bit of pushing i took an amateur MMA fight up in Derry against a girl called Emma McGlynn, a brilliant fighter and again she is a person leading the fight for Women’s MMA in those parts..so fair play to her. So anyway i won that which was great and it definitely gave me a new level of confidence. A Confidence I’ve never gotten from anything I have ever done before “
The fight in question was at the Chaos MMA event in Derry and the video footage is freely available on Youtube. A dominant debut performance with multiple take-downs and a finish.
” When i moved to competing in MMA i focused a lot more on the striking aspect. My husband Ben is an incredible striker.. we worked a lot on it but we focused specifically on striking combinations into takedown. I think that’s where my strength lies”
Indeed a sample of the video footage would suggest her training preparation was executed in the cage more or else to perfection. Often fighters can be animals in the gym but when the bright lights shine and cage door swings shut, shrink in the spotlight. Indra Davis does not seem to be one of these people.
As life has a wont to do – not long after her successful Chaos event and with two more MMA fights booked (one with Clan Wars) Indra suffered an ACL injury at an ADCC Ireland event.This has temporarily put a halt to her MMA gallop. She is hopeful of having surgery in December and then getting down to the serious business of rehab in the New Year. A temporary pause rather than a full stop!
One of the problems I face when i’m interviewing people is a simple one. How do I accurately convey the overall demeanor of the person I have been talking to?
In this instance I’ll use the following analogy for better or worse!
On occasion I like to go for a run. At the end when i’m finished coughing and spluttering, I do normally get a few moments of quiet exhilaration. A sense of peace and a feeling of general well-being.
Indra Davis comes across like this for the full hour i spent talking to her. There is a sense of excitedness and exhilaration when she talks about MMA. Whether that be the fighting part, the coaching part or speaking as someone advocating for women to give the sport a chance.
In fact, it is that last part, advocate for the sport that I hope she develops into the future. She is a very good communicator and explains the nuances of the sport, the differing requirements at each level and the rules – in language that is easy to understand for MMA casuals.
In the times we live in, it is the casuals who need this sport explained to them. Whether that is a single mother who wants to get a little fitter and broaden her social circle or the Minister for Sport and other politicians who probably need a little education. Indra can speak easily, informatively, and indeed compassionately to all types of people. But she is especially passionate about encouraging women to get involved in MMA.
“Martial Arts gives something to everyone. When I look at Women for example. There are many women who are trying to find their confidence again. Whether they have been in abusive relationships, or maybe a negative experience in a friendship , Or if they are just trying to get fit and challenge themselves. What you find with MMA is they can develop that sense of confidence, that sense of family or friendship with their teammates.
At Shaolin and to be honest with all the MMA clubs I know, they can develop that sense of team or family, a sense of discipline and self control – they find people that will hold them up when they might feel like falling down. Even though it is an individual sport, when someone in the Gym wins we all win and when someone loses we all lose and we pick them back up and we start again.
MMA is special that way. It’s something different and can give people something much more powerful than other sports i think”
This kind of tallies with my own thoughts having followed the people in the sport for the past five years. Newbies come into MMA looking to try out a new sport and end up falling in love with the lifestyle.
Indra is now coaching the Women’s Novice MMA classes and they are just after completing their 3rd Women’s Novices course (5 Week). No doubt this side of things will keep her busy while she is out injured.
“We have had huge success with it. We have run it 3 times now and generally we have 14 or 15 start the Novice course. A few might peter off but generally the retention to the end is 9 or 10 in each class. I have 10 girls that have been doing MMA over a year and a few are starting to dip their toes into competition which is Great. I have three girls competing in the Midlands Open in Jiu-Jitsu this week and at the end of the month we have 3 girls competing in the Midlands Novice Open MMA. It’s really, really exciting for me to see how far they have come in the last year.
Something I didn’t realise at the time and is a good tip for other MMA clubs out there – most of the girls have said to me since they joined ‘ I only came in the beginning because it was a woman teaching’
My goal has always been to get the novice girls in for a 5 or 8 week beginners course, to a level where they feel confident to move up the grades and roll on the mat with the men”
This is one of the peculiarities of MMA that always Intrigues me the concept of men and women training with and against each other at full tilt. Indra explains it very succinctly
” I do think that women need to be training with guys as well. I think the guys can learn a lot from training with women.
It teaches them to use less power and strength and focus more on technique. With the girls the confidence and exhilaration of tapping out a fella for that first time – you’ll feel a whole new level of high!! “
So there you have it folks Indra Davis and Shaolin MMA – The Galway Girl tapping to the beat of a different tune.
For Information about classes contact Ben or Indra by clicking here
Fight Photographs Courtesy of Nicky Johnston – Check out her Facebook Page!!!