Thursday, August 2, 2012

Kru Kedric Fink: Jessamyn 'The Gun' Duke--The Rising Star of the TBA

I first met Jessamyn at the 2011 Oregon Thai Camp. Her feminine demeanor would hide the fact that she is a talented MMA fighter with a bright future if she wasn't 5'11" and 135lbs of lean sinewy muscle. Her movements are precise and technical while her focused gaze pierces even the hardest soul. While training at the camp alongside Jessamyn I never got to know her, nor her coach Kru Scott Elliott, but I became impressed with how skillfully she executed her Muay Thai technique.
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(From left to right: Kru Kedric Fink, Kru Jessamyn Duke, Kru Scott Elliott at the 2012 Oregon Thai Camp)
A year later, at the 2012 Oregon Thai Camp I met up with Jessamyn again. This time I had been following her career for the past year and I knew that she was preparing for her professional MMA debut in a groundbreaking new fight organization--the all female Invicta Fighting Championships.
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To support Jessamyn in her debut I hosted Invicta FC2 at my school (Jungle Miami), and after a stunning 3rd Round TKO against her opponent, Suzie Montero, I knew that Jessamyn 'The Gun' Duke was going to be a force in MMA and that we needed to know more about this future star. So, I set out to ask her a few questions about herself, which she graciously answered.
1) What was the first martial art you trained in and, since then, what else have you studied?
My very first exposure to martial arts was under my current instructor, Khun Khru Scott Elliott, with Muay Thai. I was 19 at the time and started training just for fun and fitness. Within a few months, I had expanded my classes to the grappling arts, as well as some of the Filipino arts like Kali.
2) Did you play any sports other than MMA?
Growing up, I played basketball, volleyball, and I ran track and cross country. I always wanted to stay active and I enjoy athletics of all types.
3) What does a typical training day look like?
Either running, weightlifting, or a conditioning circuit in the morning with my evening training session consisting of Muay Thai, grappling, and MMA classes.
4) You are one of the leanest female MMA fighters I know. What type of nutrition do you follow?
Early in my fight camp, my main concern with my diet is eating enough food to support my body in training. Trying to improve my strength, while at the same time trying to maintain a high level of cardiovascular performance requires taking in A LOT of calories. I try to adhere to an 80/20 ratio. 80% clean, good food, and 20% "fun" food! Once my weight cut process starts, the fun portion pretty much dissapears and I start to cut my calories back progressively. I take in just enough calories to train productively, and that's it. The last three weeks before my fight, I am extremely disciplined on what I eat. I cut roughly 12lbs to fight at 135, so I don't have much room for error.
5) Who has been the biggest influence in your life?
I am fortunate enough to have several positive influences in my life. First, my instructor, Scott Elliott, has been a huge influence in my life. He has helped me grow as both a martial artist and a person. Next, my mother, Mable Duke, has always been supportive of me, and even when I was a child told me that I could become the best at anything I set my mind to. She's never stopped believing that, and even though I'm sure she didn't expect me to pursue a career in fighting, her belief in me and her support has never changed.
6) Who is your favorite fighter?
Hard to pick just one.. but especially after training with her, seeing her fight in person, and getting to know her, Kaitlin Young is definitely one of my favorite fighters in the sport today, male or female.
7) Many of us have very different reasons for choosing to fight. Why do you fight?
Because I feel like its the ultimate test of mind and body, and that there is nothing else in this world that makes you GROW like fighting. I do martial arts because I feel like it makes me a better person, and fighting is just an extension of that. The actual fight is just the end result. Its just the icing on the cake. It's everything leading up to the fight that brings out the best in you.
8) When and where did you know that you were going to be a fighter?
I never had an "Ah hah!" moment when it came to wanting to be a fighter. It was more of a natural progression. By the time I had my first fight, I felt like that path was just meant for me. Fighting is just a result of my training...
9) Have you been treated differently than your male counterparts, and if so, how?
I've always been very fortunate to be treated very good any time that I compete. I will say, that as a female, it was very difficult to find fights. Trying to grow as a female fighter, in Muay Thai or MMA is difficult and requires a lot of sacrifice on our part. I spent a lot of time and money traveling to fight. You end up taking whatever fight, against whatever opponent you can, just so you can get SOME experience.
10) Do you think that female fighters don't get the attention or support that they deserve, and why?
I think in the past, that was much more true... but the tide is changing. With events like Invicta FC happening now, women are getting put in the spotlight more and more, and an overwhelming majority of people are supportive of it.
11) What advice would you give to other female hopefuls?
Keep training, and stay diligent. Be ready to fight at any time, so that when its your turn to get out there, you're prepared to shine and show the world why women deserve an equal stake in the sport!
12) What is the hardest sacrifice you've had to make as a fighter?
There isn't anything that I've sacrificed that makes me regret my chosen path. However, one thing I've had to adjust to is that I don't get very many "vacations" anymore. If I travel, its for a fight, a seminar, or a training camp. It's pretty rare for me to travel and not have it revolve around training somehow. But like I said, its totally worth it!
13) Do you have any plans for after fighting?
Absolutely. The only thing that can contend with my desire to be a good fighter, is my desire to be a good teacher. I hope to have enough success that I can spend the rest of my life teaching the arts that I love and that gave me so much.
14) Finally, how has the TBA helped to shape you into who you are today?
The TBA, Ajarn Chai, and his teachings are the reason we place such a high value on respect and discipline. I feel like without those things, my career in fighting would be hopeless. No one places more emphasis on respect than the TBA. That respect has served me well as a fighter, instructor, and a martial artist in general so far, and I think that it will help carry me to the top.
Jessamyn trains at AFS Academy in Richmond, Kentucky under Kru Scott Elliott. She is currently an Associate Instructor in the Thai Boxing Association, and she is the Kentucky State Director of the TBA. Support Jessamyn in her future fights. Her success is our success. Follow her, cheer for her, and if you are ever standing in a cage across from her--fear her. When she becomes a World Champion one day she will be our Champion, a TBA Champion!

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