Venum Team: Gloria Peritore, on Kickboxing & Domestic Violence
Publicado el noviembre 01 2022
Gloria Peritore, on Kickboxing & Anti-Violence
Tell us about your childhood, growing up in Sicily. What kind of child were you?
I had a happy childhood, I grew up in the gym as my mother had a gym for women only in the small town south of Sicily. I remember that when she was teaching, I would stand next to her and want to imitate her... I was about 5/6 years old. I was an introverted, shy and very sensitive child. At school I was quiet, reflective, I liked writing a lot. With sport, even as a child, I always found my freedom of expression. At the age of 9, I started playing handball which I played until 18. Sport has always been at the centre of my life and has always guided me even in difficult moments.
"I started kickboxing at a very bad time in my life: I was coming out of a toxic relationship and a period in which I was suffering a lot emotionally, I was a slave to anxiety and panic attacks..."
You began kickboxing in Florence. How and why did you begin?
I started kickboxing at a very bad time in my life: I was coming out of a toxic relationship and a period in which I was suffering a lot emotionally, I was a slave to anxiety and panic attacks due to my bad experience. After leaving handball, I felt the urge to play sport - I missed it deeply.
Inside, I had a longing for revenge, after coming out of this dangerous relationship I felt weak, drained, lacking courage. So, one afternoon when I was alone in my room, I started looking for a gym near home that did combat sports. I didn't know the rules of kickboxing; it was intimidating! But I felt the need to find something that would allow me to find my courage and to exercise it. So I decided to go, at the age of 21, to start kickboxing.
"I remember that the first time I tried to enter the gym I turned back because of a panic attack."
The second time, I managed to bring myself to enter. That was the first step towards my freedom. I never stopped working out again and when I came home after training, I would workout in the mirror in my room by myself, because I wanted to get good. I fought after only six months of joining the gym.
At what point did you decide to quit your profession in marketing and follow fighting as a career? Was it an easy choice?
There was a time in my life when I started facing the strongest athletes in the world, everywhere. On weekends I was fighting, on Monday mornings at 9 o'clock I was in the office, in a tough environment like the fashion industry. I was doing a job I really liked, I had studied marketing at one of the best schools in the world to get it, and sometimes I found myself after a fight going to work injured, on crutches.
"On weekends I was fighting, on Monday mornings at 9 o'clock I was in the office."
After my first Bellator World Championship, when I went back to work, I felt very sad. I had lost by split decision, I knew that defeat was due to my mental condition. I was not mentally prepared enough, I could no longer work eight hours and train. I already had sponsors, including Venum, to support me as an athlete. One day, a Spanish TV proposed me to start working with them, as a testimonial and I was supposed to go to Madrid often. I should have refused because of the work. I felt caged.
One morning I woke up and I was very sick. I was sitting at my desk and my head was in the gym. I was doing my job and my sport badly. So I decided to follow my heart, to quit my job and pursue kickboxing. To leave a certain future in marketing. When I decided to take this step, the only ones who believed in me were my sister and my parents. The others took me for a fool, saying 'in Italy it is not possible to survive doing kickboxing'. I had courage and I did it. I suffered for a couple of years, but I built a lot: collaborations with sponsors, internships, I specialised in mental training, I founded a combat sports and anti-violence organization. I know the road is difficult, but I would rather fight for my dreams than stay safe and content.
"I know the road is difficult, but I would rather fight for my dreams than stay safe and content."
How would you describe yourself as a fighter?
To me, the ideal fighter is a fighter who has a maximum capacity to adapt to all situations. My nickname is 'The Shadow', because I move around a lot in the ring and usually take very few blows, I like to dodge and not target my opponents. I love unpredictability and cunning, changing my game in the process. I think my greatest quality is speed and adaptation: in the same round I can change strategy several times. I don't like static fighters who focus on power: kickboxing and boxing are first and foremost about intuition and strategy, intelligence.
You are currently the >52KG ISKA (Kickboxing) World Champion - what is your next goal?
My next goals are clear: I want to make my debut in professional boxing. Very few Kickboxing champions fight in boxing, I want to be the first to pursue a career without kicking.
In kickboxing, I want to defend my two belts: ISKA and WKU. My certainty will be to compete at the highest level, I will always be ready for a call in promotions such as One Championship or Glory, in which there are several of my opponents, such as Meksen or Fernandez who I beat in Spain in 2018, just to name a few.
When you are not preparing for a fight, how often do you train? What do you do each week?
When I don't have a kickboxing match in sight, I always train five times a week, once or twice a day.
My approach is different: I dedicate myself more to physical preparation, and I usually slow down the sparring part a bit to avoid injuries. Right now, I have a leg injury and I am doing a lot of boxing and weight training. In addition, I started playing handball again a month ago because I enjoy it. And at the same time, I can optimise work on sprints and running, which is usually the part that bores me the most.
What would you tell a young person about kickboxing, to encourage them to try?
I would encourage young people to try kickboxing by saying that it is one of the few sports that takes a lot out of you mentally and also has a therapeutic effect on stress and self-esteem.
When people do combat sports, they discover sides of their character that they ignored or that they have no way of expressing outside: courage, determination, resilience, concentration. Being an individual sport and one that forces you into confrontation, it can improve the person in many ways.
Moreover, on a physical level, kickboxing is one of the most complete sports in the world, as it trains not only the muscles, but also reactivity, reflexes and flexibility.
I would say to first choose a good coach and then trust him for a few weeks.
How did you start to be involved in activism against domestic violence and cyber bullying?
I started being active in this field when I had the courage to start talking about my past.
The first time I started talking, at a school where I was a guest and then during some interviews, I realised how my experience could help and give courage to many other women. I realised that all the pain I experienced could be useful. Sport helped me to become stronger, to not tolerate any form of violence, not even psychological.
My achievements in sport have come from my desire for revenge in life. This sport trains courage, which is then reflected in life: many women and people are afraid to denounce, to ask for help. I want to inspire people to fight for their freedom, to take everything they deserve. Over the years I have done many projects, many speeches to teenage girls.
"I want to inspire people to fight for their freedom, to take everything they deserve."
What are some of the key ways we can help to reduce domestic violence and cyber bullying?
I think we need equality of education at the grassroots. There is still a lot of paternalism and I think society, without realising it, continues to normalize men's violence against women and bullying as 'playful behaviour' as boys, for example. Even murders are explained with the 'reasons' of 'love madness' or being 'mad with jealousy'. Suicides of bullying victims are dismissed as because 'he was laughed at by his peers', greatly downplaying the heavy and repeated behaviour that victims receive.
We have to start with young people, men and women, together, we have to put them face to face. I do not agree with anti-violence campaigns that are only aimed at women; they make little sense.
Combat sports like kickboxing are a great way to let people experience first hand what it means to respect the other, it can be a good metaphor: having men and women (or boys and girls) train together, it's very educational compared to other sports where there are only male and only female teams."
Learn more about Gloria Peritore and the Shadow Project at gloriaperitore.com.
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