The Female Fighter Project is a photographic series dedicated to the strong and amazing women who inspire me daily to follow my passion, heart and dreams.
When I moved up to San Francisco in 2003, I quickly decided that it was cheaper to learn a little self defense than to move to a better neighborhood. After training a few years in Krav Maga, I gradually tried other, competitive, hand-to-hand combat sports such as Muay Thai boxing and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. In 2007, I met world champion, heavy weight, black belt and undefeated MMA fighter, Lana Stefanac who took me under her wing. She became my trainer, manager and mentor. I started to compete in professional MMA the same year and fought in the US as well as internationally. I currently am no longer fighting MMA. However, I am still actively training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (“Road to the Black Belt!”) and turning my focus to my artwork.
To say I absolutely fell in love with the Mixed Martial Arts would be an understatement. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is now my primary love. In the beginning of 2010, I packed up my entire life and left the United States to travel the world for a year. I experienced the utmost privilege training with some of the most renowned and prestigious fighters on the planet. Beginning my journey in Rio de Janiero at Kyra Gracie’s women’s BJJ camp and ended up staying for 3 months, training with Theodoro Canal / GF Team and at Ricardo de la Riva’s academy in Copacabana. I left Brazil in the summer and landed in Tokyo, Japan to train with some of the top female fighters in the world all packed into one spectacular gym, Abe Ani’s Combat Club. Here I met Megumi Fujii and her unstoppable women’s team and was honored with some of the most hospitable and generous training partners I have ever met. Other places I trained, made art or just chilled at on my year around the world included: New York, Berlin, and out and about in Thailand, where I had a brush with death and Dengue Fever.
This all was truly a life changing experience. So much has changed for me and continues to change. However, if I had to do it over again, I would in a heartbeat. One thing I realized immediately though, was that you don’t have to travel around the world to find strong and inspiring women. As I moved from country to country, gym to gym, I realized I had one of the best gyms and women’s fight teams I could ever imagine. I have been supremely blessed to be a part of an era of female fighting in the Bay Area, which continues to thrive and fight ferociously in a less than hospitable culture.
For a fraction of the pay and spotlight that some of their counterparts receive, these women exhibit an unparalleled amount of heart, dedication and sacrifice. It has become apparent to me that it is not for the fame and money that female fighters put so much into the sports they do. It is for the pure love of it all.
This is dedicated to every women who has ever put on a pair of wraps, stepped into a ring or cage, or gotten mysterious body hair in their mouth while rolling. I hope to continue my documentation of women doing what they love to do.
With love and respect,
Shawn K. Tamaribuchi