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Helen Von Mott

Helen von Mott

All photographs are reprinted from the WEB site "Virago Wrestling"

Русская версия

Helen von Mott with the friends of our club - Shannon Logan (left) and Erin Toughill (right)

Von Mott and Shannon Logan Von Mott and Erin Toughill

Von Mott

Combative composition

Helen Von Mott, USA, 35. World Famous submission/BJJ wrestler (5'8", 155lbs), video producer, writer and wrestling enthusiast operating the internet resource "Virago Wrestling". In addition to twice winning the US Open in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as well as the Arnold Classic in BOTH BJJ as well as Submission Wrestling, during the late 1980's she wrestled and performed on the TV program "Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling" (GLOW). Since that time, she has wrestled for numerous video production companies and web sites including, Ken Starr, Joan Wise, Athena 2, Belgian Fighting Women, FEMWIN, Lilith Productions, Grappling Girls, Les Femmes Fatales and others. Currently, Helen owns a martial arts academy in the San Francisco Bay area where she teaches classes in various grappling arts. She also uses the space for private sessions, both playful and competitive, between class times.

What is your personal reason why you choose the submission style of wrestling?

In 1997, I was hired by a wrestling video production company (Lilith). The type of wrestling featured in their videos was all submission style (though the holds they taught were, for the most part, techniques that I would consider too dangerous to use in any of my matches today). Anyway, at the time, I wanted to start training in submission style wrestling, but I couldn't find any Academies that were teaching it. The closest thing to it available was Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

What is the difference between BJJ and regular submission wrestling?

The main difference between BJJ and submission wrestling is the "gi" (martial arts uniform). The gi is an important tool for training because it slows everything down and forces the student to rely more on her technical skills rather than on her speed and power (which come with time and practice anyway). The gi also allows you to use certain moves and holds (collar chokes for instance) that are impossible in submission wrestling. Because of the uniform, there is a wider range of holds available in BJJ without having to resort to the use of neckcranks and footlocks, which can both easily injure your opponent. Submission wrestling allows both, though they're illegal holds in BJJ. Without the gi however, competitors get so sweaty and slippery that securing other types of submission holds can be really tricky. Even if you get one locked on, the other wrestler can often find a way of wiggling out of it. Neckcranks (headlocks for example) and footlocks are both fairly secure holds and difficult to get out of, even when both opponents are slippery with sweat.

Why the submission style is far behind the freestyle, as far as the international and Olympic recognition is concerned?

I think that there's a general misunderstanding about the sport as a whole. People tend to think that submission wrestling is about really injuring the other person rather than controlling them. Ironically, from everything I've experienced, the WORST injuries all seem to happen during the take-down phase of a wrestling match... and that's pretty much all Freestyle.

Which of two styles is better specifically for women (in general)?

This isn't really a fair question. I mean, of course I'm going to be biased.... I'm a submission wrestler! From my perspective however, I think submission wrestling gives women a better shot at beating a male opponent simply because it's a lot more reliant on leg strength than it is on upper body strength. In Freestyle, the reverse is true, though both styles are primarily based around techniques based on the movement of the hips (though this might be said about every martial art on the planet as well...)

When you compete in wrestling, is not it scary to be thrown down, choked or gripped? Have you gotten serious traumas?

Every injury I've sustained over the years (save one) has happened during training, not during tournament competitions. As far as training being scary... yeah, it is. I was really claustrophobic when I first started, and I would often panic when I felt trapped underneath someone - especially if my head was caught up in their gi, or if I was having hard time breathing for some reason. A HUGE breakthrough in my training happened once I started to learn how to control my breathing during the course of a match. Once I could do this, I stopped panicking so much and was able to start THINKING about how to work my way out of the various situations I found myself in. It's actually a great skill to be able to call upon even in everyday life. Novice wrestlers tend to jerk around a lot and use a lot of power. Even when they actually know some technique, there's this idea we all have when we start out that we need to move really fast or the holds wont work. It's not true. A well performed technique works no matter how fast or slow it's done. Once you learn to move slowly and not worry so much about what your opponent is doing, everything becomes a lot less scary. Of course, I never wrestle anymore with people I don't trust either. If I think that a potential opponent really WANTS to hurt me or cause me grievous physical harm, I won't wrestle them. Not even if I'm sure that I can beat them. It's just not worth that kind of risk.

As far as injuries... yes, I've injured myself a LOT over the years; but remember - I train a LOT too. I've learned much better ways of studying this art, but unfortunately, a bit too late to avoid chronically injuring myself. I have two bulging disks in my back, chronic tendonitis in my lower arms, I've torn ligaments in BOTH knees, broken my tailbone, broken my nose FIVE times, broken so many fingers and toes I've lost count, dislocated my shoulder multiple times, popped the cartilage in my ribcage, and driven my bottom teeth through my lower lip. I used to train WAAAAY too hard. It wasn't good for me. I would have been a lot better off, not only in terms of health but also in terms of learning, if I had just relaxed a little and not worried so much about winning every time I stepped onto the mat. I try to teach my students this now that I have my own school. Hopefully they'll be able to learn from my past mistakes.

We regret for your injuries but the long list of your injures is very impressive - you seems to have more injuries than a skilled Ancient warrior might had. Have a fury ever arisen against the opponent? Have you ever had a personal conflict with your wrestling opponents?

There have been a couple of opponents who I had issues with. It's extremely unpleasant for me to wrestle anyone who I don't actually like as a person. Having that kind of intimate contact with someone I find repugnant on any level, just takes all the fun out of a match for me. I don't think of a match as a 'fight'. I think of it more along the lines of a non-verbal conversation. Who wants to have a conversation with someone they don't like?

Do you protect breasts when wrestling?

I wear a sports bra, but I don't bother with plastic cups or anything like that.

Why indeed the submission style is much more popular among women, practicing wrestling privately and amateurishly?

That's easy... the rules are fairly simple to understand, you don't need to keep track of points if you don't want to, and there's never any doubt as to who the winner is. Also, some of the holds are so basic and easy to learn as to be almost instinctual. (The waist scissors for example).

Is there any difference in technique or style between male and female wrestling?

No. There shouldn't be at any rate. The techniques are all the same no matter what gender you happen to be. You wrestle with your arms and legs, not with whatever happens to be between them.

What is your opinion about women practicing in punch/kick contact sports, like boxing, kickboxing, mixed martial arts, etc.? Did you try them too?

I've studied both American boxing and Muay-Thai kickboxing when I was training to compete in MMA/NHB type events. I enjoyed both, but I value my body more than that, not to mention my brain. Taking that kind of damage just isn't good for anyone, regardless of gender. If someone wants to do that with their own body however, I don't think that anyone has the right to tell them that they can't.

Why boxing happens to be much more popular and well-paid sport than wrestling, even though wrestling is much more wide spread?

Boxing tends to be a lot more fast paced. It's also easier to see what's going on in a match and therefore has more audience appeal. At the turn of the 19th century, submission wrestling was the most popular sport in America and wrestlers would take on challengers at County Fairs across the country. Frank Gotch, considered to be the greatest wrestler of his era, was the most well paid athlete of his generation. Submission wrestling kind of fell apart when legitimate wrestlers started 'working' their matches in order to cut down on injury for the athletes and make things more exciting for the audience. That was the birth of 'pro-style' wrestling in this country...and the death of submission style as well. Only now, with the introduction of the UFC and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, is submission style wrestling becoming popular with a wider audience.

Based on your own experience in private mixed matches, why do men like wrestling against women? Is there anything besides sexual driving? Why men are ready to pay a lot of money for "private wrestling" sessions? Are these activities just for men, or women are also interested in them?

Well, there's ALWAYS a sexual/sensual element in the context of a session wrestling match - even if the match is 100% competitive. If there wasn't, then why wouldn't a guy just go wrestle with another guy at a BJJ school? There can be other factors in why a guy wants a session however. Sometimes a guy may have just always wanted to wrestle but is too intimidated by the aggressively macho attitude inherit in most BJJ or submission wrestling academies. For these guys, it's a real gift to be able to wrestle and just have fun without worrying about fellow students thinking less of them if they don't happen to be very good at the sport itself. As far as why are men willing to pay a lot of money... well... it's really, really, REALLY FUN! Not only that, but not every woman out there can DO this sort of thing. Most women are intimidated by just the thought of it. They don't want to get hurt and they don't want to be put in a position where they feel powerless or weak, so they just won't wrestle at all. Every woman on the planet could, if she absolutely needed to, sell herself as a prostitute in order to make a living. We all have the right equipment for the job... The same can't be said about wrestling however. A girl either has what it takes, or she doesn't. Most do not. That's why we get paid what we do.

What is fantasy/domination wrestling?

Fantasy/domination wrestling is like having a session with a dominatrix, only instead of whips, chains, dungeons, and leather, the motif is wrestling. Verbal teasing and various sensation threshold techniques are all incorporated into the session just like they are in traditional BDSM scenarios. For me, the main difference is, the client in one of MY domination sessions is allowed to fight back if he wants to. It's not that much fun for me if the guy just LIES there. Where's the domination factor in THAT? Also, I tend to think of using restraints as 'cheating'. I know that they're a crucial part of the scenario for some guys, so I have used them on occasion; but I'm more than able to completely immobilize a 200 pound, struggling, male, using nothing more than my own body. Really.

And why all the same, men consider combating women as an erotic show?

Well, honestly, most women just don't really know how to wrestle. OF COURSE, guys are going to view it an erotic show! If neither competitor knows what the hell she's doing, what else is there for a guy to look at? I mean, who's going to watch a bunch of guys who don't really know what they're doing, play soccer for an hour? In any true athletic event, the fans congregate in order to glory in and marvel at the advanced skill levels of the players. A boxing match between two amateurs, neither of whom has any knowledge or experience of the technical aspects of the sport - nor any formal training - is just a brawl. It's the same for wrestling. If women want to be taken seriously as athletes, then they should TRAIN like serious athletes do. If they do that, then it doesn't matter what they wear, or where they wrestle, or what company they wrestle for, when you ARE a serious athlete, people are going to treat you like one.

Quite personal and ticklish question. When two persons wrestle, they have very intensive close body contact. Have you ever felt kind of sexual arousal when wresting (with men or with women)?

Yes of course! That's often what makes a session 'electric'! Just because I get turned on in a session doesn't mean that I'm going to ACT on those emotions. I don't need to. Instead, I bottle them up and use the energy to add fire and life to the session. Wrestling is also a HUGE turn on for me in my personal life as well. At this point, I can't really imagine having a relationship with anyone who wasn't every bit as into the whole wrestling thing as I am myself. I'm on the mats so much, when would I even find the time to hang out with someone who wasn't a wrestler?

How does an average mixed wrestling male enthusiast behave? Did you experience any manifestations of aggression beyond wrestling competition?

There is no 'average' client. Everyone is unique and everyone's fantasy is unique. As far as clients being overly aggressive, for the most part I'm able to tell who someone is and what they want out of a session just by speaking with them over the phone. It's almost impossible for an asshole (pardon my language, but if the description fits...) to pretend to be anything other than an asshole. If I do meet a client and I think he's being dangerously aggressive, he gets ONE warning before I ask him to leave. If however, I get the sense that the guy is out for blood, he doesn't get a warning... he just has to leave. The only time I've ever really felt as if I were in danger was in Paris. The guy turned out to be the husband of fellow session wrestler who didn't want anyone else doing sessions in 'her territory'. I'd rather not go into a lot of detail about this here, but if anyone wants more info they can check out the story in the 'Pulpit' section of the Viragowrestling.com website.

What is the main difference in feelings in "wrestling against men" vs. "wrestling against women"?

As a rule, women generally smell better. Also, I know that when I wrestle a woman she's going to give EVERYTHING she has in order to try and submit me. Guys vary a lot when it comes to the amount of effort they're willing to exert in order to get the win. Women on the other hand, will almost kill themselves trying to get me in some kind of hold. It's not unusual for me to talk to my female opponents in the middle of a match, in order to try and convince them to calm down so that they won't end up hurting themselves via their own strenuous efforts. Men tend to give up more easily.

What is the approximate percentage of men having competitive private sessions with you who are capable to over wrestle you? What is a usual man's reaction to losing to you in a competitive match?

It's been YEARS since a client has been able to out wrestle me in the course of a private session. I'm not invincible or anything - I get submitted by guys I train with all the time. I've reached a point in my skills however, where it's just not very likely that someone with less training than I have is going to be able to get me to submit. I just know how to defend against anything they're likely to come up with. After all, I've been studying how to do exactly that everyday, for the past EIGHT YEARS.

Usually men claim they prefer tender delicate women as wives or girl friends; however, a lot of men enjoy women's combative activities - from athletic boxing and wrestling to catfighting and brawling. How would you explain this confusion? Whether or not the fact that a woman is a skilled wrestler makes her more (or less) attractive for men (as far as love or marriage is concerned) or it's irrelevant?

Obviously, you and I aren't hanging out with the same men. From what I've found, while men might find living with more passive, subservient women to be easier and more comfortable in terms of a long term relationship... it's the hard-headed BITCHES who really 'turn them on'. Passive people, in general, are just kind of boring. There's nothing to 'push off against' in terms of a conversation. Nothing new is ever introduced into the relationship equation. Things tend to get boring if you don't have anyone you can fight with and not worry about it too much.

Do you agree with the opinion that female wrestlers might lose femininity (at least in men's eyes)?

Well, I guess that depends on two things: 1) How you define 'femininity'. 2) What man you happen to be talking to at the time. For me, the question itself doesn't make a lot of sense. I mean... I'm female and I'm a wrestler, therefore any wrestling I do is, by it's nature, 'feminine'.

Do you consider yourself as a special woman standing out among ordinary non-combative women? Is it visible for other people that you are a wrestler? Are you a virago?

I consider myself special - or at least 'different', but that's not simply because of my combative nature. I've just sort of always had a bit of a different approach to the world than most other people seem to have regardless of whatever gender they happen to be. My dad is one of the most egalitarian people I know. He didn't teach me how to behave based on the fact that I was a girl. Gender simply was never an issue for me when I was growing up. Even now, preconceived notions of 'feminine' and 'masculine' I find to be terribly confusing. I'm female - therefore anything I do is, by definition, 'feminine'. I certainly can't live my life or define my values based on other people's opinions about what is and what is not 'appropriate' for me. My character isn't defined by my chromosomes.

Most people who meet me don't guess that I'm a wrestler right off, but it's fairly obvious that I'm some kind of athlete. Many people come up to me on the street and ask if I'm a bodybuilder, or just assume that I am and ask how long I've been competing.

Do you consider wrestling as an appropriate activity for an average woman or she must be extraordinary for practicing wrestling?

If a woman is interested in wrestling, then for that woman, it's an 'appropriate' activity. It helps if you're naturally strong or large or course, but those things certainly aren't necessary in order to succeed in the sport. One of the students I'm currently working with is a 45 year old Catholic school secretary who never did a single push up in her life before she started training with me. It isn't always easy for her, and it's going to take a bit longer for her to be able to submit a male opponent than it did for me, but eventually she'll get there. Anyone with enough drive and desire for knowledge can learn how to wrestle. It takes some people longer than others, but that's fine. I was the slowest, clumsiest person in class when I first started out...and that was true for YEARS. Believe it or not, I was NOT a natural at this sport (or any other...), and as a matter of fact, as a child was diagnosed as having a 'gross motor learning disability'. Tenacity is every bit as important - MORE important - than inborn talent.

Why the non-athletic women come to your school to learn how to wrestle (like that 45 year old lady)? Do they want to have skills against attackers or just enjoy wrestling itself? By the way, are wrestling skills good against male attackers?

All predatory mammals on the face of the Earth WRESTLE with each other. Yes, they do it in order to learn hunting and fighting skills, and to increase their strength and body awareness, but the reason they are compelled to do it at all is because it's FUN. I believe that wrestling is an instinctual need, genetically encoded into our DNA, which has been perversely suppressed by the demands of 'civilization'. Time and time again, I see the same look on the faces of clients and students alike, regardless of whatever gender they may be. The look states 'Oh my GOD! This is SO wonderful! How could I have gone without this in my life for SO long?!?!?!' Non-athletic people need the wrestling in their lives even MORE than athletic people do because they don't have any other outlet for their combative energies. And yes, some wrestling moves and holds are very applicable to self-defense. However, I don't teach 'self-defense' classes, as I think that by using that term a woman automatically identifies herself in the role of the 'victim'. I prefer to use the phrase 'joyous aggression'.

A month ago, a downcast scared girl wrote a message on our Forum asking for an urgent advice and help. She was challenged for a "duel" by another (physically heavier) girl over the first girl's boy-friend. For some reason, she considered the duel unavoidable, which would occur, in form of hand-to-hand (cat)fight. The girl had not had any fighting experience (neither her rival seemed to do) and desperately asked how she would act. A couple of opinions appeared on the Forum (unfortunately, we lost all Forum branches for the past year including this one). Someone advised to use punches and kicks, whereas the other one advised her to aggressively take the lead over her opponent: to clutch her neck, to take her down and to keep holding the neck hard until the rival asks for mercy The adviser claimed that she would stupefy the opponent by that simple move and if she had not paid attention to her opponent's awkward confused disorderly jostling, she would have won the battle, even without fighting experience. The girl later briefly replied that she followed the later advice and managed to defeat her rival (even though not easily and with minor injuries). What would you advise her if were asked?

My first thought is that it was most likely a BS post written by a guy living out his wrestling fantasy on-line. There are a surprisingly high number of those I've found...

My opinion is that the woman should have NEVER agreed to the match in the first place. (Give me a break...NO match is 'unavoidable'. Puh-LEEZ. If you've got the cojones to step on the mat in the first place, you're not going to think twice about just saying 'Nope. Sorry, but I'm just not interested', and leaving it at that. What's she gonna do? Call you names?!?!?)

Seriously - think about it...Two novices, one of whom has a significant weight advantage, wrestling in a match in which emotions are running at peak, neither one of whom likes the other, and where there's no knowledgable referee?!?!?! I mean...come ON. There is no WAY that this match happened without someone getting seriously hurt. A broken finger, toe, or nose MINIMUM. With no ref, and most likely no well thought out or understood rules of engagement, what's to stop the larger woman from just picking the smaller girl up off of the floor and slamming her down over and over and over again, were the smaller wrestler able to attain such a hold as the one described? (Most likely a 'guillotene choke-hold' done from 'standing side' or 'guard' position, from what I can ascertain from your description). Slams are what newbie wrestlers almost always resort to when defending this type of hold, but they're so dangerous that hey're barred from use in all but UFC/No Holds Barred type events because slamming poses a SERIOUS threat of injury to the victim's spinal vertebrea. Combine that with emotional violence and an uneven weight distribution and what you've got is a recipie for disaster...

Violent fantasy-match crap like this always pisses me off. No offense intended to you or your readers - you weren't the one who posted this BS, pretending to be a female urgently in need of aid after all... I hate liars who hide behind the conveniant mask of anonymity that the web provides. I really do.

The thing is, a wrestling match is NOT a fight and should not be treated as such. If you don't actually LIKE and RESPECT the other person, you have no buisiness being on the mat with them in the first place. PERIOD. The concept of wrestling as being about hurting and/or humiliating one's opponent is a very MALE idea and has absolutely NOTHING to do with the reality of how women behave when they actually wrestle one another. Unfortunately, most women don't realize that and because they don't know any better and so actually believe these false, inaccurate, combat fantasies/emotional-rape scenarios described and depicted on various websites, as well as other media formats, they tend to have very negative... as well as very FALSE ideas about wrestling in general. No sane woman WANTS to risk her physical safety like that - the only reward being the degradation of another person. Or worse yet - the tacit approval of her lover - but only for the Victor. Geez... talk about HUMILIATING! Nor would anyone but an abject sociopath take any sort of pleasure or satisfaction in REALLY injuring her opponent. Anyone who WOULD enjoy doing so shouldn't be allowed to wrestle in the first place. I'm one of the best in the world, and even I won't step on the mat with someone like that.

It's because of these violent, male-fantasy inspired images of female wrestling that it's SO difficult to get most women to even CONSIDER stepping on the mat at all. Can you blame them? In thier minds, wrestling = injury/pain + humiliation. From that perspective, where's the 'up side'? Don't get me wrong... Combat inspired, and even rape related sexual fantasies are FINE with me. I think that the whole combat/dominance thing is integral to our sexuality on a very basic, primal level. To pretend otherwise, is to cripple any real attempt at understanding human nature. That said - when fantasy is served up as IF it were reality; when someone LIES, and pretends that fiction is truth simply to serve his own unfulfilled desires, he (usually unwittingly) does a HUGE disservice to the world because he WARPS other people's understanding of whatever it is that he's lying about and THAT can have surprisingly serious and far reaching consequenses, the likes of which no one could ever predict.

Anyway... THAT's what I would have told the 'woman' had the query come to ME... Even if this were a real inquiry, (and I assure you, it was NOT) I honestly wouldn't give ANY 'technical' advice to someone who allowed herself to be manipulated like that. The only advice I'd give her would be 'Ignore the loud-mouthed, annoying bee-atch, and dump that schmuck boyfreind for having the audacity to put you in that position in the first place.' Voila! Instant victory!!!

Why women never participated in combative activities during centuries but all the sudden they just burst into the world of physical combat?

Well, there actually WERE female gladiators back in the Roman days, but they were they exception of course. I think that for the most part women weren't really ever ALLOWED to do very much. When I was in high school I tried THREE TIMES to get onto my school's wrestling team, but every time I was told that girls weren't allowed on the team.

Do you really believe that women should do whatever men do?

I believe that a woman should do whatever the hell she wants to do with her own body and her own life, regardless of whether or not men happen to be doing it too. I don't believe that women should feel compelled to do something simply because men do it, but neither do I think that they shouldn't be allowed to participate just because they happen to be female. In general, I think people give issues of gender far too much weight.

Do you consider physical superiority of men over women acceptable and natural? Would you imagine that your husband or boyfriend is weaker than you are?

I would want my husband/boyfriend to be an athlete, and preferably a grappler because that happens to be my personal aesthetic. As far as the notion of men being innately physically superior to women, honestly I haven't found that to be true AT ALL. Some men I'm stronger than, some men I'm weaker than, but you know what? The same thing can be said of other women!!! Not only that, but I've known athletes who could bench press insane amounts of weight, but who couldn't even do the most basic somersault without hurting themselves. I'm sure I could kick Lance Armstrong's ass if he ever chose to step onto the mats with me... but put us in a bike race and I'd be helpless as a kitten. Strength, weakness, and physical ability are all really relative concepts and, like every other issue concerning gender, are given far too much consideration. Especially in light of the fact that the terms in general are so poorly defined.

Do you think a man still must be gallant and attentive toward a woman (even if the woman is a wrestler)?

Of course! What does being a wrestler have to do with whether or not you're treated well?

Since women and men are (or should be) physically and socially equal, isn't it humiliating or degrading for a woman if a man attempts to treat her differently (even better) than he would treat a man in a certain situation? For instance, he gives a hand to support her when she is getting off a bus or let her go first through a door... There is a strong opinion among feminists that such a men's behavior is the last resort of male chauvinism: "Since I am not disabled, not visibly pregnant, why do you attempt to help me getting off the bus? Men have lost all superiority over women, so the only advantage they may importunately demonstrate is a physical advantage and they take an opportunity to demonstrate it". What do you think about such an opinion?

I didn't say that men HAVE to be gallant with women. I just said that I happen to like it when they are. I don't think of a man being gallant as him catering to me because I'm WEAK. If he liked weak women, he probably wouldn't be hanging out with me in the first place. Instead, I think of gentlemanly consideration as a special kind of courtesy that extends itself beyond the norm that a man shows to a woman in order to show that he CARES about her and wants to make sure that she's comfortable. There's nothing wrong with it. I think that women that take offense to being treated really, really well have got to have self-esteem issues or something.

We thank you from the heart for the smart, frank and witty answers. We wish you a successful career and long happy personal life!

November 20, 2005

Exclusive of the Female Single Combat Club

All photographs are reprinted from the WEB site "Virago Wrestling"

Brazilian jiu-jitsu training

Von Mott

Submission wrestling

Von Mott

Mixed wrestling

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Helen and her 9 year old daughter TJ
(she is 10 years old now; her height is 5 feet and weight is 91lb)
Von Mott

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