Turning "I can't do that!" to "How can I do that?" for Brandon grapplers - The Story of Lisa McMaster

By Elyce Pereira

Lisa McMaster didn't start participating in mixed martial arts until after she had her children, when she was looking for an interactive way to get back into shape. As a child, Lisa was involved in gymnastics and Girl Guides. She always wanted to get into martial arts, but her mother did not think that it was a sport for her daughter to be in. It was not very 'ladylike'. She allowed Lisa to play baseball instead.

This desire for her involvement in grappling sports did not fade with time. As Lisa began training in a basement martial arts gym with only male members, her love for the sport only grew from there. This is where she met with Chris Kading, the owner and founder of the Winnipeg Academy of Mixed Martial Arts (WAMMA) Brandon. Since their meeting, she was able to experience a higher-level training in grappling and sparring.

Now, eight years later, Lisa is the Executive Administrator and has seen the wealth of growth that WAMMA Brandon has gained in the last few years. Lisa has pride in her job, and makes sure to continue to provide the members with an open and inclusive environment that everyone feels comfortable training in. They highlight from day one that every athlete needs to "respect the tap", and to trust and support their fellow athletes.

The sport of Mixed Martial Arts has become a great equalizer for individuals, as everyone that walks into the gym may have vast socioeconomic backgrounds, age, weight, and skill levels. Lisa's priority is to make the gym and its programs into a neutral and welcoming space for all of the athletes. WAMMA is "continuing to grow the programs so it feels more accessible to more and different types of people", which motivates many of their staff members and athletes to stay involved in the sport. Every person that enters the gym comes in with the understanding that every athlete is there to learn and try their best.

The value of respect and boundaries is taught to WAMMA's athletes at a very young age and continues to be a main component within their growth through the program. With this priority placed on values, WAMMA has many different youth programs that their athletes can be involved with, and will help them further their success in sport, and in everyday life. In the beginning, there was only one youth program with about 15 athletes, but now there are six individual classes with about 100 athletes participating on a consistent basis. One of the very successful youth programs is the Bully Safe Ambassador program, which is a built-in leadership initiative for the kids to work towards. Within the program, they "focus on developing mentality, character, and grit", and they start this by helping teach the younger students and assist with seminars and public demonstrations.

"Being a leader and role model for these kids while working with WAMMA Brandon and training in martial arts has enhanced literally every other aspect of my life." Aspects like learning to be a better parent or having more open relationships with friends and family members. It has also helped with developing enhanced mental strategies of how to cope with things in life, which is just one lesson that the coaches at WAMMA Brandon hope to instill into their young athletes.

These lessons are things that everyone involved with WAMMA Brandon and mixed martial arts as a whole hope that their young athletes will carry with throughout their lives, both in sport and in life in general. Lisa's story demonstrates that you are never too "old" to start something new. If there is a sport or activity that you want to try, there is no better time than now.

For more TRC87 stories like this one, please click on the links below:

NAIG: A Coach's Ultimate Starting Point - The Story of Mike Taylor

Agoojin: She Hangs in the Sky - The Story of Jayme Menzies

You Just Might Surprise Yourself - The Story of Starlene Keno

Fight Through the Fire - The Story of Noel Harding & the Brandon Boxing Club

Brothers to All - The Will of Two Gives Opportunity to The Children of Cross Lake


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