On 8 March, International Women’s Day, people all around the world celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women, and continue the call for gender equality.
With the world’s best female martial artists on its roster, ONE Championship regularly sees awe-inspiring displays of strength, honor, and courage from our incredible heroines, making them fitting role models for the world to follow.
Here, we take a look at the examples of five real-life wonder women inspiring the world with ONE Championship.
Undefeated ONE Women’s Atomweight World Champion Angela “Unstoppable” Lee has been training in the martial arts ever since she was able to walk. Under the tutelage of her coach, mentor, and father Ken Lee, Angela developed an unstoppable winning mentality, and in her teenage years alone, accomplished more than many martial artists have in a lifetime.
Most impressively, at the tender age of 19, became the youngest-ever world champion in the cage when she defeated Mei Yamaguchi for the inaugural women’s atomweight world title.
However, the “Unstoppable” one’s most heroic effort came last May. A week out from her second title defense against Brazil’s Istela Nunes, Lee was diagnosed with pneumonia. Despite her inability to train and great physical discomfort, Lee was determined to compete.
That night, she overcame tremendous adversity to put in a phenomenal performance, and submitted Nunes via anaconda choke in the second round.
“This win meant so much to me because I had overcome my biggest test – not just Istela Nunes, but my own fear and doubt,” Lee says. “Not once did I think of giving up or calling off this bout. That’s not who I am. I am a martial artist, and I choose to be fearless in the face of adversity, because resilience is what leads to victory.”
“The Panda” Xiong Jing Nan captured the inaugural ONE Women’s Strawweight World Championship two months ago, and though she is a certified martial arts hero inside the ONE cage, she has always displayed heroism outside of it.
The Chinese superstar learned many lessons from her father during her childhood, but perhaps the most important one she learned was equality and justice for all. It is an ethos she has stood by her whole life.
Once, Xiong saw some city inspectors stopping elderly street vendors from selling their goods. Outraged, she did something about it.
“When I see people getting bullied, I feel outraged,” she says. “I’ll stand up for them, and protect the vulnerable. I went up to the inspectors’ car, and took those things back. I would carry things down one-by-one, and return them to those elderly vendors.”
Xiong continues to stand by the defenseless to this day, especially now, as a world champion.
She may be Thailand’s most beloved female martial artist today, but Rika Ishige was once disliked and relentlessly bullied by her schoolmates because of her appearance.
“Tinydoll” was picked on regularly because of her mixed Thai and Japanese ethnicity. Between that and her small stature, she was a huge target.
“When I was a junior in high school, I was bullied by the seniors because I am only half Thai,” she explains. “At first they made fun of me verbally, like calling me terrible names, and after that I was physically bullied. I got pushed from behind and had my hair pulled.”
That led the non-confrontational “Tinydoll” to learning aikido and karate for self-defense purposes. When Ishige equipped herself with these new skills, she also gained self-confidence, and learnt how to avoid conflict altogether by growing a thicker skin.
For those reasons alone, she is a big advocate of the martial arts.
“You cannot change others, only yourself,” she continues. “You should get physical strength by working out or practicing martial arts to protect yourself from physical or sexual bullying. Also, you will build mental strength for dealing with verbal bullying, including cyberbullying.”
Mei “V.V.” Yamaguchi always wanted to entertain the masses like her martial arts inspiration Jackie Chan, and she was driven to become a world champion. Along her journey, she found strength in her Japanese heritage, and also discovered empowerment through the female Olympic gymnasts who trained at her high school.
However, in May 2016, Yamaguchi fell just short of realizing her dream. She lost to Angela Lee in the inaugural atomweight world title bout via unanimous decision, an instant classic that was voted the Match Of The Year 2016.
Through defeat, she found strength, and discovered her mission to inspire other women.
“When the title match ended, I noticed a lot of people were really surprised. They told me I was brave and I had a lot of heart, and I thought that was really nice. That is when I felt strongly about the things they were saying, like how I am inspiring women in Asia,” she explains.
“Right now, I feel like I need to realize that more, and believe in myself that I can inspire. It is my job to give a lot of people a dream, and prove that your dreams can come true.”
As a child, Chinese Taipei’sJenny “Lady GoGo” Huang was hooked on martial arts cinema. She frequently mimicked Jackie Chan’s choreography, even leading to her dad jokingly say she should become a martial artist.
However, when she really did take a few taekwondo classes with her younger brother, the family patriarch became serious, and pulled her from the activity.
“My father thought I should be an elegant girl, and just study and be smart,” she recollects. Nonetheless, Huang’s journey continued with the discovery of judo.
The “elegant girl” turned out to be a natural at the sport, and subsequently joined the high school team. “Lady GoGo” eventually earned a black belt, and used the discipline as her base for competition inside the ONE cage. Huang has experienced quite a bit of professional success too, even challenging Lee for the world title in March 2017.
Admittedly, her parents wanted her to be “normal,” but Huang, just like Tiffany Teo and many other women in Asia, found their passion. Now, she is striving for her parents’ approval.
“This is one of reasons why I am training so hard,” Huang says. “I want to prove myself to my parents, and have them be proud of me. I want to be myself. I do not want someone to tell me who to be.”