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Grace Virago Wrestler

Watching Grace from Berkeley wrestle post 2013 seems to be a rare sighting.

To be rare in the human species may be viewed as a unique compliment.

When it comes to being placed on the endangered species list, being rare is a terrible thing.

Take for example this sad story about the white rhinoceros shared through an educational article published by the Mother Nature Network (mnn.com).

Several species of rhinoceros are critically endangered, but none is on its last legs like the northern white. These magnificent beasts once roamed vast territories in sub-Saharan Africa, but their numbers have rapidly declined over the last century, mostly due to poaching.

Their population in the wild was reduced from 500 in the 1970s down to just four in recent years. Unfortunately, not even these last four could find protection; they have vanished and it is now believed that poachers got to them as well.

This means that the only northern white rhinos still alive are the seven held in captivity. Two of them live at the San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park, one resides at the Dvůr Králové Zoo in the Czech Republic, and four are part of a captive breeding program at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, in a last-ditch effort to revive the species.

Without humor, prior to the 1990s women’s fully competitive wrestling was extremely rare save Ms. Judell Dulong’s efforts where she influenced everyday women, mothers and housewives to wrestle which some would say had an underground feeling to it. The vast majority of female wrestling was categorized under apartment bikini wrestling, catfights and the scripted fare of the lady pros in the squared circle. It is not surprising that when the term women’s wrestling was expressed in polite society, the subject was often met with disappointment, repulsion and scorn.

It was virtually never respected nor taken seriously.

A group that formed in the late 1990s named Virago would change and greatly influence the future of women’s submission wrestling forever. The stars were led by the well-known San Francisco bay area female wrestler Helen Von Mott. It was one of the first times that mixed martial arts was blended into the women’s wrestling repertoire that greatly enhanced the skills of her fighting team.

In an interview, Ms. Von Mott expressed, “When I founded Virago, I envisioned it more as a video company than an agency. I actually didn’t even know about doing sessions at the time. I started doing sessions myself, and when I found out how fun they were, I invited the other women who had done videos with me to do sessions at my space as well. I like doing sessions more than I ever liked videos, as I all I have to do is be myself; I don’t have to worry about production. I like that the wrestlers out there have the option of working with me instead of more…untrustworthy people in this industry.”

In terms of her resume, as of 2003 she explains, “I hold 11 championships in submission wrestling and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.”

The competitors that rose to submission wrestling prominence were Grace, River, Amy O and Yana who would be visited at times by other top serious female competitors. If it could be argued that DWW set the bar in Europe, Virago certainly raised it in America.

My favorite competitor was Grace.

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[pullquoteleft] All things excellent are as difficult as they are rare.
………….Baruch Spinoza[/pullquoteleft]

According to research, Grace hailed from Berkeley, California and if you had the privilege to meet her, she seemed like a perfect Cal Berkeley demographic prototype; intelligent, understated, contained, mellow and quietly charming.

The more Berkeley changes the more the spirit remains the same.

The enticing website visitberkeley.com expresses yes, Berkeley is a spirited city that may surprise those who still see it as the counter-culture icon of the Sixties. The Free Speech Movement and flower power are forever in the city’s “DNA,” but Berkeley has evolved into a culinary and cultural travel destination with a “green” soul. Chances are that you’ll still see more tie-dye per capita in Berkeley, but a closer look reveals a small yet dynamic city that is consummately Californian in setting, international in outlook, and filled with superb theaters, restaurants, and shops.

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Set on sparkling San Francisco Bay, Berkeley is a city of diverse districts and great discoveries, where visitors come for the culture, stay for the food, and depart with their imaginations, taste buds and memories fully engaged.

[pullquoteright] I feel very happy to be living in Berkeley because there are a lot of people who are politically active here.
…………….Alice Walker[/pullquoteright]

Berkeley begins a beeline east of the Golden Gate Bridge. With the SF skyline in the rear-view mirror, it travels along tree-lined boulevards and the park-like UC Berkeley campus before rising, with topographical drama, into a forested foothill range. Across its 18 square miles, Berkeley offers a cultural and culinary bounty: music and performing arts, great local shops, restaurants, and outdoor recreation.

Thank you visitberkeley.com.

The foundation is provided by Wikipedia which states Berkeley is a city on the east shore of the San Francisco Bay in Northern California—in northern Alameda County. It is bordered on the south by the cities of Oakland and Emeryville, and on the north by the city of Albany and the unincorporated community of Kensington. The eastern city limit coincides with the Contra Costa County border, which generally follows the ridge line of the Berkeley Hills. The population was 112,580 at the 2010 census. The city is named after Bishop George Berkeley.

At Female Competition International we can attest to the great restaurants in and around the Berkeley area having covered several women’s wrestling shoots there and as our custom afterwards, as a group we descend upon a local delicious culinary sit down eatery.

It seems to suit Grace well.

This writer met her at Jackpin’s 2008 Women’s Wrestling Convention Masterpiece. She was elegant, soft spoken, strong and observant. In the ring very little changed as she took care of business there as well meeting Frankie Zappitelli from Canada, Krissy of Pennsylvania from Ringmaster Girls fame and Julie Ginther from Oregon; a very formidable guest list at any fine women’s wrestling party.

I’m certain she was driving a Volkswagen Beetle Bug. Beautiful young women seem to love VW Buggies.

Her battles at Jackpin’s convention were a small introduction to a resume that includes some of the best female wrestlers on the planet. She of course has faced her own family at Virago but great female grapplers do not live by sister fights alone.

While Grace has met some of the best here in America, particularly in California matching up against Kristie Etzold, she has ventured to Georgia and fought in Renee’s formidable house along with her legendary warriors at the Haven. Probably her most eye opening adventure as to how tough women’s submission wrestlers can be when they are nurtured and developed with an expert hand was when she traveled to Europe and courageously matched up against mountain high Daniela in a tournament that featured the sizzling blonde terminator, Luzia as well.

As both Grace and Amy Lewinski (Amy O) found out, DWW IS FOR REAL.

It would be great if far more money was made available to female wrestlers to keep them busy in the submission wrestling industry but too often the pay days are far and few between thus a great focus even at events is on sessions where they primarily wrestle male customers in fantasy matches.

In some ways it’s as though Grace has disappeared.

When I was a top level amateur tennis player in my local city, I contested against players who clearly were not getting paid but given the fierceness of the matches you would think we were. We played at all the public and private courts as well. We sought out the best, dominated the pretenders and had little mercy on each other. Private demons aside, we loved the game.

It’s my observation there is something of a departure from this way of thinking in the women’s wrestling game. I initially thought the competitors wrestled for the love of the game. Maybe many do but for as many that do there is clearly a sizable number that participate as long as the money is there.

Once the money is gone, so are they.

Nothing wrong with that.

For whatever the reason, Grace of Virago fame doesn’t seem to be wrestling as much. I hope she makes a decision to participate extensively again. We would certainly welcome her back with open appreciative arms. In all fairness, those arms should be filled with money.

We are working on that.

Very little has changed from our opening Mission Statement published back in January of 2013. We are doing everything in our power to create a corporate friendly environment to demonstrate that fully competitive women’s wrestling in a dignified environment is the basis for a great company sponsorship.

These are the facts.

Among the younger generation, virtually all girls, including female submission wrestlers are attending junior or four year colleges (See FCI: Gender Reversal Trend). The female submission wrestling population (See website WB270) and the girl’s freestyle collegiate wrestling community are extensive travelers and are constantly on planes. The related industries like hotels, auto rentals and restaurants greatly benefit from the residual effect.

Our hope is to continue to influence a movement where dignified women’s wrestling will be sponsored by corporations. Given the growth at the high school and collegiate level along with a clear mandate from the Olympic Committee to expand the role of women’s wrestling at the Olympics these is an evident energy in the growth of women’s wrestling.

The challenge is to harness the swelling dynamics into something organized that can be financed so that the improvements are permanent.

If that endeavor is successful, able competitors listed on the women’s submission wrestling endangered species list will be fewer and watching highly skilled competitors like Grace grapple will no longer be a rare sighting.

~ ~ ~

[alert_yellow] Sources: Brainyquote.com, WB270.com, Femwin, mnn.com, visitberkeley.com, Wikipedia, interviews/helenvonmottinterview.htm, Sensuous Sadie is the author of It’s Not About the Whip: Love, Sex, and Spirituality in the BDSM Scene, usatoday.com/story/sports/olympics/2013/09/08, fciwomenswrestling.com, photos thanks to Wikimedia Commons and Femwin.[/alert_yellow]