Deep in the backskirts of cities across the globe, illicit and cut-throat female fight clubs are drawing blood. In many ways, the battlegrounds parallel Roman Polonsky's classic 1996 novel by revolving around themes of chaos, violence, identity and order.
In Berlin, female bodybuilders compete against black belt jiu-jitsu fighters; in Mexico, women brawl as a form of ritual to the Rain Gods; and in New York, all-women fight clubs are where some throw down to survive.
Berlin: determination is all that matters
In a rented room in East Berlin, German bodybuilders Anna Konda and Red Devil hold an all women's fight club where participants can focus on the thrill of pulverizing one another. The fights are not categorized by height nor weight, but instead, on how determined each fighter is to take on any one opponent.
There are no official rules to this fight club and no judges. The events usually last several hours and are made up of interims of both bloody knuckle fighting and mingling among the fighters.
Participants of the fight club vary from beginners to professionals and range anywhere from ages 20 to 50. And for the audience of this wildly unconventional all-girls-gathering, it's mostly men, but for the women on the mats, this is a place for them to shed any number of burdensome or boring roles they play outside.
Mexico: throwing punches to call in the rain
In the small Mexican village of La Esperanza located in the southwestern state of Guerrero, seasonal drought is driving women to brawl.
Practiced by the indigenous peoples of Mexico and El Salvador and descendants of the Aztecs, the Nahua as they are known, see blood spill as a form of ancestral sacrifice to their gods.
Every May, women from across the region gather in the village to begin an annual ritual intended to usher in the rain before dry and humid summers. The ritual is simple; they do this by beating one another to a bloody pulp.
This female fight club of La Esperanza Mexico also coincides with the planting of new crops. So while the women are brawling one another, the men of the village toil away in the fields.
On the day of the official ceremony, ladies wake early to prepare a massive pot-luck of cultural dishes including an assortment of turkey, chicken, rice, boiled eggs and tortillas.
At noon, villagers meet at Cruzco, a sacred place where a spring is found and the people gather to offer flowers, food, copal, waxes, prayers and music to their deities. Then in the afternoon, the people of the village head towards the main event. Once prayers and offerings are given to the deities, the fights begin.
Matches are undertaken by any able-bodied woman from the community of any age. The fights are by nature extremely violent and bloody, with the participants completely unconcerned with wins or losses, but with appeasing the gods of nature by offering as much bloodshed as possible.
New York: fighting to make ends meet
In Brownsville, Brooklyn, women are scrapping in the ring as a means of survival and sustenance.
The Brooklyn Girls Fight Club was founded by Samson Styles after he was released from state prison. Styles was inspired to conduct these loosely regulated brawls after realizing the community's already active fighters.
Speaking to Sportsgrid, Styles explained, "We've got some known females in the community causing havoc and involved in these fights, so we said 'look, why don't you do it for some money?'"
Many of the women involved in the Brooklyn brawls live in low-income housing, straddling or falling below the poverty line. For them, the fight club is a means of providing for themselves and their children.
As Styles points out, in some cases, the women have been able to use the funds earned during the fights to move out of assisted housing and toward safer communities with better jobs.
The fights take place in a secret, windowless garage where roughly 100 people gather around to watch. At any moment, the cops can come busting in, but that doesn't keep the women or the audience from showing up.
The rules: No biting, no scratching, no hair-pulling and no weapons. Other than this, it's all fair game on the mat for the women splitting their lips and bruising their bodies for the hustle, for the rain or for the release.
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