FSCC: How did you come into the world of wrestling and grappling?
Natty Pugnatto: I started wrestling a year ago, introduced by my boyfriend and mainly with his friends' girlfriends or wives. The men like to watch while we fight for submission and it's a lot of fun. Sometimes the guys will chose outfits for us to wear like bikinis, but usually we wrestle in yoga shorts and sports bras.
FSCC: Do you enjoy this activity or you do this only for your boy-friend's pleasure?
NP: I enjoy the fighting, but one problem my boyfriend has is the trash talk. He and his friend want the ladies to verbally bash each other, apart from fighting physically. I tried it a couple of times, but we ended up giggling instead. He also doesn't want me to make friends with the other women, and thinks we will fight better if there is animosity involves. I tried telling him that it's much easier to wrestle with friends I can trust without worrying about drama.
FSCC: Please tell us about your very last match
NP: Last week I fought with his buddy's girl for more than half an hour. It was a tough and combative series of matches with not much rest and many pins and submissions. We are quite similar in size and strength, so no one was able to dominate the other and each bout was very competitive. Throughout the fight we both tried many different tactics for submission, and a variety of grappling techniques which was exciting to experience. We thought we did great, but my boyfriend and his friend got angry after it was over. What bothered them was the congratulations after the fight between me and her, when we smiled and hugged each other. They were convinced we hated each other and wanted us to keep a grudge till the rematch.
FSCC: Were you able to pretend you hated her – just to make you b-f happy?
NP: It's not possible, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I like her and we don't want to hide our friendship. Secondly, after a gruelling fight when you are panting and sweating on the floor it's good to share some sympathy with the other person who is feeling the same way. It's completely natural that we will hug each other or express some affection. But the men got upset when we exchanged kisses on the cheek. They want us to be like enemies, even after the fight. Can you suggest a good way we can explain to them?
FSCC: Have you ever fought against your b-f's exes?
NP: Yes. My boyfriend was very keen, so I had a wrestling match with my his ex-girlfriend. Actually, he had introduced her as well to wrestling when they were together, and was quite keen for me to fight her. He talked to her new boyfriend and set up the whole thing, even though I was very reluctant about it. I didn't know her at all and was worried how it would turn out. But overall, when it's difficult to find other women who like wrestling, and the fact that she was of similar size and weight, made me choose to do it. Her boyfriend and mine wanted us to wrestle in bikinis, but we chose gym shorts and sports bras instead. I was nervous about what it would be like, not sure if I could deal with all the emotions and jealousy that may come out. But surprisingly, that did not become an issue, and the fights went on for nearly 2 hrs. Once we were on the mat, all other concerns evaporated and the only thoughts were about the struggle and execution, like with any other opponent. We chatted freely during the breaks, and got more accustomed to each other's style of fighting. The matches themselves were quite close, with the results in balance throughout. Finally, I won 5 submissions to her 3 and 1 draw. Thankfully it went off very well and we both had a lot of fun. She and her boyfriend congratulated me and we promised to do it again soon. Funnily, the only person who was a little disappointed at the end of it was my boyfriend. He said he wanted me to dominate more and make her suffer. I guess there were still some resentments from him after their break-up, but I didn't know about that. Anyway, I wrestled as well as I wanted and was pleased with my performance. I was lucky that his ex-gf had a similar temperament and fought with the right spirit to make me feel safe. I wouldn't recommend it to everyone if they are not confident of that.
FSCC: Do you like watching men's fighting?
NP: I don't like watching men fight. I enjoy fights myself, but no particular pleasure in watching. My boyfriend likes to watch me fighting.
FSCC: Looks like you wrestle in the submission style. Why submission rather than free style which is less harmful?
NP: I don't particularly prefer submission over freestyle for any good reason. But freestyle requires special techniques and rules that most people don't know and a knowledgeable referee also. Sub style is easier for a self-taught or part-time wrestler, I think. Most of the ladies in my wrestling groups are without any formal training.
FSCC: What technique do you use to force your opponents to submit?
NP: Anyone that works! It depends on the situation. Of course, some like the headlock are easier than an armbar. Scissors to the neck also works.
FSCC: Can you please describe your best match?
NP: There were a few good ones.
FSCC: Do you remember your first fight?
NP: The first time in a fight I don't really remember. Maybe around the age of 6 or 7, we kids fought many times with both girls and boys. But that was during play and not really with proper rules or technique, though
FSCC: Some are claiming that nowadays girls fight more frequently than guys. Do you agree with this statement?
NP: I don't think girls fight more than guys. In my gym and elsewhere there are always more guys boxing and wrestling or whatever. That's why when I practice it's mostly with a guy since other women are very rare.
FSCC: It was probably about brawling rather than athletic contests. What kind of gym are you training in?
NP: The gym is a regular one, but they have a boxing ring and mats for wrestling/judo.
On my part, I am wondering if you have seen similar case as mine - where men want fighting women to show animosity with trash talk and staredowns. Even if this is distracting for the women involved.
FSCC: Yes, such desires from men seem to be quite common - you can find several articles on our site as well as many forum posts about this matter. Many men y experience excitement watching physical contests between women, especially intense competitive ones. Under what condition you are engaged in a wrestling match?
NP: I would never wrestle with a woman I did not trust or respect because it would be dangerous. You put your safety on the line with your opponent so it has to be with someone who trusts you and vice versa. And anyway, most of my opponents are friends of mine even if we don't start out that way.
FSCC: I totally agree with you - this is what Barbara 'the Doctor' insisted – you must trust and respect an opponent if you want to wrestle with her friendly, otherwise it would be an ugly brawl.
Can you please describe in more detail your typical wrestling match?
NP:Generally we will face off in a room at my boyfriend's house or my opponent's house. He clears the furniture and lays down mats about 6m square. As I said, we usually wear tight exercise shorts and sports bras for comfort, though sometimes the men will want us to wear bikinis. The guys will sit outside the area, there's no referee but the men will watch for a submission or step in to break us up if something goes wrong. We start by circling around, waiting for the right time to go in and grab a good hold or get an advantageous position. I try not to rush things so much now, so many girls make the mistake of charging in too early and getting caught in a surprise lock. I learned that early on, and don't like to hurry myself. The techniques are mainly standard grappling techniques once we get a good hold on each other. With inexperienced opponents I mainly go for a quick takedown around the trunk or waist. With more experienced women, the first thing is to avoid getting taken down myself and then try to get an advantage in the stand-up position. Usually the fight soon ends up on the ground and key for me is to get her back or her neck before she gets mine. Once you get a good hold from your opponents back, it's easier to control the action, whether you're on top or below her. I have strong legs and like to apply scissors to the torso while using my hands to control her upper body. A chokehold or neck/head scissors is good to finish the match if you can get it right. Sometimes an armbar or leg crank will do the job but it's more difficult and I have to think it through first before trying it. If neither of us can get a firm submission hold, I try to stay on top of her and use my body weight to tire her out. The key for me is to keep a calm mind in the heat of battle, otherwise it's easy to get too excited and make a mistake. With an evenly matched opponent, the mental side is more important than the physical prowess. It's about spotting the right opportunity and taking advantage of it.
FSCC: How you feel when you win and lose. Do you experience pain, anger?
NP:Winning definitely feels better than losing, of course. It's a big thrill and also a huge relief especially after a tough fight. Worse than losing is knowing you made a bad mistake or that you did not do your best in the match, that's when I really feel anger and pain. If she is similar to me in size and skill, I don't get too disappointed after a loss and know I will try harder and can beat her in the rematch. Sometimes losing is not so bad if I know my opponent was much better and I did everything I could have done. I once lost badly to a former Jujitsu champion, she was really strong and skilled and made me submit repeatedly in different ways. It may have looked pretty bad for me, but I tried my best and felt quite good about the effort. After the match, when she told me I did really well for an amateur, I felt so happy that I kept smiling long after it was over! Even my boyfriend was surprised since he thought I would be humiliated after a bad loss, but I was actually quite happy about the whole thing.
FSCC: Do you scream, yell during wrestling or you wrestle silently? What you tell each other?
NP: I don't like to shout or scream while wrestling, because it distracts and wastes energy. Most of my wrestling friends also don't, which is a relief since I'd go deaf if someone kept screaming in my ear when I'm rolling around with them! Besides it's important to breathe properly which you can't do while yelling. Once or twice a new girl will get a bit noisy while fighting, but they soon stop after realizing it's not much help. Generally I've seen the men who are watching make more noise cheering than the wrestlers! With my regular opponents, we don't tell each other much before a fight because we already know what to do and are familiar with each other's techniques. After the bout we might discuss how the tactics worked or how to improve our holds. With a new opponent I might go over the rules and safety first, or also show her some techniques afterwards. Our boyfriends will sometimes ask us to trash talk and bitch about each other. They seem to like this, even if they know the insults are fake and the women don't humor them always.
FSCC: Do you enjoy inflicting pain to your opponent in the heat of the battle?
NP: Yes, that's the whole point of submission matches. If she doesn't feel pain she won't submit, will she? Obviously I don't want anyone to get injured; the goal is to make her too uncomfortable to continue before she gets seriously hurt. That's the advantage of wrestling over boxing/kickboxing where the chance of injury and concussion is much higher. This way I can submit before I get something damaged. But you always have to be careful, because it's risky.
FSCC: Can you describe some awkward moments in your matches?a
NP: The scariest moment I ever had on the mat was a few months ago when I wrestled a girl from Italy. I had her in a head scissors and was cranking up the pressure on her neck when I heard a loud click. I got so scared that it might be a spinal injury, I immediately let go and started panicking. Her boyfriend heard it too and we rushed over to see if she was OK. I was virtually in tears, but she said she was fine and the pain wasn't too bad. In fact she insisted on getting back to the fight! I didn't want to take any chances and refused to carry on. She argued loudly with me, and her boyfriend, to start wrestling again but I was too nervous to go on. In fact, I refused to fight her again till she had it checked by a doctor, which she did the next day. Thankfully everything was OK, but even now, when I think of that moment I shiver a little bit! So yeah, the risk is always there and I have to be mindful of it.
FSCC: Aren't you afraid to damage your breasts or other vulnerable organs?
NP: Breasts are not really in danger with the right bra. Again, unlike boxing there's no risk of a strike or impact to damage them. The only worry about my breasts is that they might pop out of my top! But that is also taken care of with a good bra. Sometimes fingers or toes can get twisted while rolling under her body, but I've not seen that happen very often.
FSCC: Have you ever fight with other girls without men's supervision? How is it to compete without male spectators?
NP:Sometimes, we girls will get together without the guys to just practice grappling and hang out. It's a lot of fun and many of the women are more relaxed and free without their boyfriends watching. There's less pressure and nobody objects when we chat about clothes and makeup in between the wrestling! We've got a nice group of about half a dozen friends who wrestle regularly now and I hope it grows more!
FSCC: Natty, thank you very much for this candid interview, it's so good to see a girl enjoyning physical contests. Good luck and be happy!
Victorious headlock by Natty
Exclusive of the Female Single Combat Club