What Cris Cyborg’s Pinkbelt Fitness Means for Women in Sport and Fitness
What the heck is Pinkbelt Fitness?
- A bunch of girly girls thinking they kick ass?
- Cyborg fangirls?
- Women fighters trying to rub elbows with the popular kids?
Well. Sort of. Not Really.
My time at Cris Cyborg’s Pinkbelt Fitness, August 2015
I attended the August 2015 Pinkbelt Fitness, hosted by Punishment Training Center in Huntington Beach. A mix of sweat, sweetness, and determination filled us all with the help of Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino (Santos) and her fight family on Tito Ortiz’s home turf.
Let’s start with a little herstory
Women in sports have been fighting tooth and nail to be seen as professional, interesting, and worthy of the public’s time since forever. They don’t get a lot of visibility when it comes to hockey, softball, rugby, or even soccer, unless they are vying for the main event. I don’t even want to get into their pay. Did you know there’s at least 7 Women’s US leagues for Football? Yes, that football.
Girls are informed at a very young age: You’re not strong. You’re slow. You’re not good enough, too fat, too skinny, too bulky. You run “like a girl.” there’s a lot going on in Western culture that says the ladies can’t throw down. When women do achieve recognition, it’s either when they are at the top of the heap or mouthing off. Or when they’re hot, skills and hard work be damned. Nevertheless, women and girls toil onward with their chosen sport, be it running, swimming, volleyball, the hammer toss… you name it, women do it!
With all that in mind, one that is garnering more and more attention in the American fighting sport world is Cristiane Justino, also known as Cris Cyborg. Let me tell you something about Cris: she’s a nice lady and a class act.
Training with Cyborg
Cris and her crew of trainers, teachers, and athletes all came together for one thing a few weekends ago: train women who are interested in mixed martial arts and make them feel welcome. Holy crap was it welcoming. Cindy and Christie were on it greeting newcomers and returners alike straight from the get-go. The gals, aged 14 to, well, I couldn’t tell, all came to train alongside Cris, and were chatting with one another when in walks the lady herself.
With her buddy Fedor in tow of course.
In the offchance you haven’t yet seen Cris’ fights, she is cutthroat. She’s a brawler. It’s amazing to watch her seamlessly move from one combination to the next. She’s quoted as saying “I like punching people in the face.” Her brain is wired to move, push, analyze, and take down. And here she was, in bright neon pants, training capoeira alongside a bunch of ladies from all sorts of backgrounds and fitness levels, hopping onto bosus and weaving through cones, and explaining how exactly we choke out someone in a basic luta livre move. A person internationally famous for her ruthlessness in the octagon was giggling along with us, unafraid to be wrong, enthusiastic to spend time with nonprofessionals with a penchant for punching.
With all this bonding and empowerment, we did actually get work done. Our first day started with an hour of conditioning with Cris’ physiotherapist, Ivan Carmosino. He and Alexandre Sangue coached our group along with our pinkbelt star. Cris was sweating alongside us, egging on and encouraging each woman to work harder, keep going, you got this. She was plate sliding with me through the banana bags — worst exercise ever, we decided.
After a break, we went into capoeira with Felipe Werdum, who started and ended with music, teaching us a couple Brazilian songs useful for sparring rhythm. We covered basic movement that included side to side transitions, slipping, and crazy ass spin kicks. He was very sneaky at easing us into the spins. The best part? He had us laughing the whole time, and everyone, I mean everyone tried at least once to do that crazy spin kick that involved ducking, footwork, and jumping.
After Capoiera and a lunch with our fellow classmates and instructors, we moved to Muay Thai with Rob Emerson. We started with partner pads work (YAY KNEES) with a bit of conditioning drills, then combos with Rob, Ivan, Alexandre, and Cris filtering through the bags, giving us form corrections.
We moved to luta livre conditioning, side control, and switching guard. The more exceptional explanations and breakdowns were from Alexandre and Cris, who extensively broke down our chosen combination, then walked around giving us tips along with everyone else.
Steve Hanoian was welcomed instantly has he walked into the gym with his massage table. We were ready for that! Before we got the professional treatment, he gave us a great assisted stretching routine to work on each other after a full day of training. We then got our very own time with Steve, working on our problem spots, preparing for day two.
Our evening was full of food and chatting while Cris’ hairstylist friends came gave us blowouts to really let our hair down. After a full day of training, relaxed after welcome showers and massage, we all got to get to know each other better. This round’s Pinkbelt had mothers, teenagers, heads of household, homeowners, mixed martial arts enthusiasts, fighters on their way to pros, all under one roof. Everyone had their own story to share, pictures of family and fights to show off, and our community really began connecting. It was very relaxing.
Day two started bright and early with a run to the harbor. Broken down into three groups based on speed, we got our run on with Punishment leaders in each group (Cris, Cindy, and Christie.) Though a few of us got a little lost, the magic of the phone internet got us where we needed to be. Yes… I was one of those people.
With a bit of coaxing, we all made our jump into the harbor and swam out to our pink flag with kayaks on standby for anyone having trouble in the water.
After our final set of pictures — of course we had to get a group pic! — we got our ride back to Punishment for snacks, showers, and açai bowls. It was a yummy end to an empowering weekend.
We said our good-byes, made sure to get all up in everyone’s social media and phone numbers, and we have been chatting ever since. Facebook photos, texting, instagram tags; while we may not all live close to each other, we’re still growing together, cheering each other on. We’re asking each other for advice on different aspects of our lives while still sharing pictures of our pets and families. A few gals are on weight loss journeys right now and update us with their progress.
Pinkbelt’s potential is strong
Our world is constantly infantizing grown women and ignoring those on their way to better health and wellness until they have a picture perfect result. Some women are afraid to be seen in public without their makeup on, let alone have their picture taken. I believe that Pinkbelt is helping destroy those ideas and building better personas of women athletes and a more positive view of getting out there and welcoming the chance to try something new. We never actually talked about any of these feminist topics, we lived them! Our coaches treated us with respect and care. Not once did I hear someone make fun of another person’s appearance or athletic ability. All levels were truly welcomed. Everyone was offering each other encouragement or taking pictures of one another or just listening to their stories. Cris and her people added conviction to each of our journeys.
After spending a weekend with the internationally famous fighter and a group of new friends, my faith is renewed in the state of women in sport and fitness. They’ve got the itch to be better, whatever their better is, and finding ways to do it without worrying about looking like a yutz. Pinkbelt creates a safe space for women who may not get that sort of positive reinforcement when it comes to their health anywhere else.
With that, here’s what the still young Pinkbelt Fitness is:
- A bunch of women knowing they kick ass at any level.
- Ladies getting the opportunity to spend time with a genuine human being they admire who happens to be an athlete.
- Women fighters training for the next bout and learning from professionals.
- Mothers, business owners, ex-military, human beings creating a better community for women.
It’s a great idea, and I can’t wait to watch it grow.
If you are interested in learning more about Pinkbelt Fitness, follow the instagram page to keep updated on their next workshop.