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Marshall began training in Mixed Martial Arts in 2007, with her first and primary style being Muai Thai, also known as the ‘Art of the Eight Limbs.’ She also served as a firefighter for five years before deciding to enlist in the Marine Corps in 2011. She continues to train with Fight Club 29.

Photo by Cpl. Charles Santamaria

What I've Learned: Cpl. Catherine E. Marshall

25 Feb 2015 | Cpl. Charles Santamaria Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms

I began [exploring] the world of Mixed Martial Arts in 2007 at the Minnesota Martial Arts Academy by studying the fighting style of Muai Thai.

Muai Thai is my first and preferred fighting style. It is nicknamed the ‘Art of the Eight Limbs’ because it teaches you to utilize everything from normal strikes with your arms and legs to follow-on strikes which [incorporate] the knees, feet and elbows.

I worked as a firefighter for five years before joining the Marine Corps. After firefighting, I wanted to continue to do something where I helped people.

I was very steady in Muai Thai and I began practicing American boxing with a small amount of Jiu Jitsu when I was stationed in Okinawa, Japan.

While stationed in Okinawa, I trained with Joey Gomez, who is in charge of the Team Quest fight team. After arriving in 29 Palms, I began training with Fight Club 29 under Ret. Sgt. Maj. Mark Glecko.
Moving around in the Marine Corps has given me an open mind when it comes to fighting. When I got to Okinawa, Muai Thai wasn’t as available as Jiu Jitsu, so it made me explore other styles of fighting.

MMA has taught me a lot about humility. The key to learning new things is staying humble; if you’re the best one anywhere it’s probably not a good training facility. I take pride in the fact that I acknowledge where I need work and how I can improve to get better.

A lot of people ask if my age is a factor when I joined the Marine Corps with Marines younger than me telling me what to do, but it just comes back to humility. I never expect anything and I use my discipline to understand that I can learn from anyone regardless of age.

MMA has helped me learn to listen to people, which has contributed to my leadership style. Just like fighting, there are times when you have to take a step back, analyze the situation, and create a plan.
I haven’t participated in any recorded fights, only ‘smokers’ which are fights that are not recorded.

I remember the frustration I felt in one of my first fights. My opponent’s name was ‘Big Katie,’ she had a good five inches of height above me and I couldn’t reach her. I trained punching strikes primarily leading up to this fight but I had to change my approach to mostly leg strikes to adjust.

Moments like the one I had with ‘Big Katie’ taught me everything doesn’t always go according to plan and you have to roll with the situation.

Leading up to a fight is very nerve-racking. There is a team, but it is still a very individual sport, at the same time you think about all those people supporting you. I worry more about letting them down than I do about getting punched in the face.

My mom has always hated the fighting, but my brother thinks it’s pretty neat.

I would love to continue fighting and see where it goes. I’m going to give it everything I’ve got every day.

I currently fight at 155 pounds and my first amateur fight will be in American-style boxing.

Fight Club 29 feels like a family. One of our fighters is preparing for an upcoming fight and every time a fighter begins that process, the entire team begins training as if they are getting ready for the fight as well. It’s like we are conditioning to face the [opponent] together.

For Marines who want to pursue MMA while they are active duty, I would say they have to understand it takes commitment. You’re not going to walk in and start [over-powering] people because you go to the gym often.

Technique is learned [over time]. After seven years I still get beat by people and I accept that, because the other part Marines have to understand is humility when it comes to fighting.

On top of my normal job description I also serve as MWSS 374’s Combat Fitness Instructor. I lead Marines in the Body Composition Program and I really enjoy it because I get to help them make the weight standard while also training myself in the process, so it feels like a perfect fit.

I’ve thrown thousands of punches and it’s more than just a sport or hobby, it’s a true passion for me.

An important part of my journey with MMA while in the Marine Corps has been support from my command. [MWSS 374] has been amazingly supportive every step of the way when it has come to allowing me to train and giving me that time.

There’s still people out there who think women shouldn’t fight professionally but I’ve seen, more recently, that view has begun to change. Especially with the skill of fighters like Ronda Rousey in the UFC, and that’s awesome.

You’re never too old to try something new. I’ve got people who don’t realize how old I am and say ‘I’m too old to start now’ when they’re [only] 23 years old.

For me, age is more of a mental feature than anything and you won’t know if you’re good at something until you try.

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Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms