The presence of women in various aspects of martial arts is increasing every year, especially in Asia. The increased participation is due primarily to the pioneers and new human inspirations that seemingly arise regularly.
There are so many women making a huge impact and lighting a fire for young kids. Here are five of the most prominent ones.
“The Panda” Xiong Jing Nan (China)
Xiong Jing Nan is a wonder. No martial artist in the world is more admirably representing their country. The ONE Women’s Strawweight World Champion has broken the mold in a variety of ways. Xiong’s athletic career began as a weightlifter. Though she’d had success with that sport, she became taken with boxing and then later with mixed martial arts.
Most little girls in China do not grow up with heroes like Xiong, but because of her, that may be changing soon. Xiong embraces the responsibility that comes with being a role model. It would appear Xiong and ONE Championship are the perfect combination because of their similar objectives with martial arts.
“ONE wants to show the world the true values of martial arts, and I want to be part of that,” Xiong said. “We want to showcase everything that is good about martial arts – that’s why we fight. I want to be an inspiration and show Chinese women where hard work and sacrifice can take you, and I want to make my family proud.”
Xiong’s signature performance happened in March in Tokyo at ONE: A NEW ERA. Facing what looked like inevitable defeat, Xiong came back to pull off the upset win over ONE Women’s Atomweight World Champion Angela Lee. The match was a champion-vs-champion affair with Xiong’s title on the line.
“Unstoppable” Angela Lee (Singapore)
Xiong isn’t the only inspiring woman in that budding rivalry. ONE Women’s Atomweight World Champion Angela Lee has been one of the promotion’s biggest stars, and one of the most recognizable athletes throughout Asia ever since she made her initial impact in the sport of mixed martial arts. Her base is grappling, but throughout her career, her striking has improved vastly.
She began her career with a perfect 8-0 record. However, Xiong handed her the first defeat of her professional career in the match mentioned above. Unfortunately, Lee experienced another setback in her next match against Michele Niccolini.
Last October, however, Lee turned in perhaps her greatest performance yet. She avenged the loss to Xiong, finishing the Chinese warrioress via 5th round submission to retain her title.
Together, Xiong and Lee are establishing something that hasn’t existed in female mixed martial arts before. This could be a legitimate rivalry that will do wonders for both women’s popularity and influence.
Mei “V.V” Yamaguchi (Japan)
Before Xiong or Lee made a mark in mixed martial arts, Japan’s Mei Yamaguchi was already assisting with establishing the foundation for women in the sport. This was especially the case in Japan where she didn’t really have a ton of prominent predecessors.
Yamaguchi moved to California from Tokyo when she was a young child. Being the new kid in the United States, she experienced bullying and soon turned to martial arts to give herself confidence. Today, she is one of Asia’s top martial arts talents.
Yamaguchi is usually the shorter competitor in her matches, but she hasn’t allowed that to limit her effectiveness. Yamaguchi has twice unsuccessfully challenged Lee for the atomweight title. Each time, however, she has pushed the Singaporean star to her limit.
If you’re looking for the most influential female mixed martial artist in Asia, you can’t make a shortlist without Yamaguchi.
Stamp Fairtex (Thailand)
No other athlete in ONE history has held a world title in two different sports. Stamp Fairtex stands alone on that mountain. What makes her presence in the world of martial arts all the more inspiring is the pursuit of a world title in a third sport. Stamp is already the ONE Atomweight Kickboxing and Muay Thai World Champion, but she is now looking to add gold in mixed martial arts.
Even at such a young age, and so early in her career, Stamp’s potential is unfathomable. She’s a bonafide star in Thailand, and is making waves all across the Asian continent with her incredible performances.
Stamp’s message to fans is that they do not have to be satisfied with what their environment sets as their limitations. Stamp is not only doing what many women from Thailand haven’t done, but she is also stretching herself to achieve even more than most martial artists regardless of gender.
When you consider she is just 22 years old, it only augments her impact on little girls who see her as a role model.
Janet “J.T.” Todd (Japan)
One of Stamp’s former opponents is also a trailblazer. Janet Todd is born of a Japanese mother and American father, and she was raised in the United States. Strangely enough, Todd found her way to an affinity for Muay Thai.
Todd isn’t your average martial artist though. She’s unique in the sense that she has two full-time jobs. When she isn’t kicking the pads and striking the heavy bag, Todd works a nine-to-five as an Aerospace Engineer, developing modern technologies for use in space. Isn’t that cool? We thought so too.
In the ring, she’s as awesome as they come and is an inspiration to many. Todd has run off a list of achievements in Muay Thai, which is noteworthy. Moreover, Todd’s life and career prove that a well-educated woman can also compete in combat sports.