When I started working on Society Nine two years ago, I remember feeling so silo'ed in what I was doing. Tinkering with my team, in coffee shops, Skype and the phone, meeting with local Portland women in their gyms and getting feedback on our prototypes and ideas - there were so many moments of self doubt where I kept asking myself, am I simply wasting everyone's time on this experiment? Is it going to go beyond this very moment?
Fast forward to 2016, we have graduated from a Kickstarter project to a full fledged company. To celebrate this, Meghan and I felt like we needed to get back out into the community and let them know that we are with them. No matter where they are in their own journey, we were there to train, sweat and struggle side by side in solidarity.
With A LOT of ground to cover between Orange County and LA we dove deep into social media to identify gyms with strong female fighter communities. Creating our daily agendas was no easy task; taking into account classes, times, locations and of course LA traffic we somehow managed to squeeze in 2-3 sessions a day at different gyms. Hopping on that plane last week at 7am we had a lot of nervous energy, uncertainty, but pure excitement.
We jokingly told our friends and family that we're either going to come back totally ripped or in body bags - after all, we were packing in 2-3 gyms a day. But, we firmly believe in what we preach in our brand philosophy: that the fight lives within every woman, and that includes Meghan and me. We didn't care what discipline or style was thrown at us, we were there to learn - and more importantly, learn side by side with these women.
When we weren’t in a gym we were still being surrounded by amazing stories and women and even got to sneak in a private screening of our friend (and 2015 National Golden Gloves Champ in Masters) Jill Morley's documentary, Fight Like a Girl, and participate on a panel with her and Maureen "The Real Million Dollar Baby" Shea.
We've had some time to reflect (as well as spend lots of time stretching and foam rolling) and wanted to share some of our biggest takeaways from the tour, as well as highlight some of the people we met and trained with along the way:
1. We uncovered a ton of #HeForShe heroes.
What do I mean by that, exactly? We were blown away by all of the male trainers who were so genuinely hyped on women getting into combat sports, not only for fit and physique reasons but especially for self empowerment, self defense and confidence reasons. We were also so humbled at the support we got by trainers who were proud of us for working hard to serve these women with quality products. In fact, Chris Camacho from Gloveworx Santa Monica even said to us, "I've been following you guys on Instagram since last year, what you are doing is so dope and needed!" (Thanks Chris!)
Julian Chua of Wild Card West / Wild Card Boxing was an incredibly rewarding training experience. Talk about a tactician. He let us jump right in and got us to work immediately. His dog, Dempsey, was also a great welcoming committee.
David Huerta at Robot Fight and Fitness had practically an entire women's tribe in his Muay Thai class, all of whom could kick anyone's butt. Not going to lie, we were all pretty hyped at the fact that they all were Society Nine fans too and rocked our gloves!
2. The stories...all of the stories.
It gets me emotional as I write this, but again when I think back to the journey we started with Society Nine, the mission from the very beginning was that, from a tactical level, we are producing quality, beautiful functioning gear that respects the athleticism of these female athletes. But Society Nine has a deeper motivation - we serve a tribe of fighters in life and sport, far and wide.
The women we trained with shared stories of adversity and triumph - from losing 100lbs, to losing loved ones, to enduring physical abuse in childhood, to overcoming physical disability. And then there were the moms who got up every morning at 4am to do BJJ because they were inspired by their kids who take it!
No matter the tragedy or the victory, they show up, day in and day out. It was an honor to have these women share their stories with us and there was no better way to unite together than through sweating it out together, doing the very thing that empowers us and that we all love.
We spent a lot of time chatting with the women at Box N Burn Brentwood before and after class. They were great at motivating each other, and us too as visitors! There was even some laughs inbetween the exhausting drills BNB trainer Stephen Cain has us do.
Muay Thai fighter Marie Choi taught a great Muay Thai striking fundamentals class at the UFC Gym headquarters in Torrance. She was such an inspiration to us and a positive role model for all the women who were there. It was so cool to learn from someone like her, who has had to overcome her own adversities in a male dominated sport to gain legitimacy. Not to mention, her energy was infectious!
Cindy and Reyna at Brazilian Top Team blew us away - they both started doing BJJ because their kids train competitively in it and inspired them to start. As moms who have to wear a million different hats, they get up everyday at 4am to roll! Not to mention, they tack on Muay Thai in the evenings as well. Talk about badass. They gave our rashguards a spin and gave us great feedback and put together a cool collage for us!
3. Intimidated to start training? Don't be!
Are you reading this and thinking about trying out a gym near you, but are nervous to walk in? Don't be!
Meghan and I walked into a bunch of these gyms, in cities or areas we had never been before, 100% cold. Sure we maybe have followed some of these guys on Instagram before, but all in all we knew mostly nobody.
The best way to break barriers is to be open to learning, not take yourself seriously and strike up a conversation with someone. While you're getting your hands wrapped or stretching, maybe think about introducing yourself and ask others how long they've been training, what they like best about the gym or the class you're about to take. After that, be open minded and have FUN! Remember, none of us are trying to be Holly Holm, Miesha Tate or Ronda Rousey over night. You are there for you!