Ana Julaton

Ana “The Hurricane” Julaton is one of the quickest featherweight boxers ever to win a World Title, having fought merely five professional bouts before winning the IBA Super Bantamweight Title. Born and reared in San Francisco, Ana studied Martial Arts through her childhood and, while in college, entered into Boxing. In 2004, after just two weeks of formal boxing training, she competed in the San Francisco Golden Gloves and won the Silver. By her third season, she was taken under the wing of legendary trainer Freddie Roach at the Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood, California, training alongside Manny Pacquiao. In a male-dominated sport, Ana is the first Filipino-American boxer to win the Women’s WBO Super Bantamweight and IBA Super Bantamweight Titles. She is the only elite athlete competing at the highest levels in both Boxing and Mixed Martial Arts, and for this, Ana earned the 2014 Special Achievement Award by the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame. The 5’4” Hurricane talked with _PRACTICE about her storied career and how yoga has offered her a new way to train for an unforgiving sport.

THE DISCIPLINE

I started doing Tae Kwon Do when I was ten years old. It taught me the Olympic style of using my legs and kicking with my feet. But in my early twenties, I wanted something more. I ended getting into Kenpo Karate – it emphasized a lot of the discipline needed for self-defense. Being a small Filipino girl, living in San Francisco, and having late night shifts to put myself through college, I’d be getting off work at 2 am. This was over in the Castro area, and just walking out to the parting lot, there was a lot of stuff going on in a city that never sleeps – and it was real helpful to have some self-defense skills.

I ended up meeting my boxing coach, Angelos Reyes, at the Karate school. He’s also a black belt – and he wanted to transition from traditional Martial Arts to something a bit more modern. He chose boxing – and that’s how I got into boxing. He developed an amazing school of a lot of positive self-disciplined, successful people. My coach had me work my style, being a busy fighter, throwing combinations, doing a lot of quick footwork. Being a woman in a male-dominated sport – I got a nickname, “the Hurricane.” It sort of rhymed with my last name Julaton (pronounced Hulaton). People would come see me fight, see my busy style, and they’d say, “Now, I know why you’re called ‘the hurricane!’”

Back then, there wasn’t Olympic boxing for women, so I turned professional. When I turned pro, I learned from the tutelage of Freddie Roach who is also the coach of Manny Pacquiao. It was an amazing time. I learned from one of the best coaches of this era while having also having the opportunity to learn and watch Pacquiao during his fight camp. When I came out here to Vegas, I started training at the Mayweather gym and then had the chance to work with Roger Mayweather, Floyd Jr.'s uncle and coach, and was able to watch a couple of Floyd Jr.'s camps too. It’s been really awesome, not just as a competitor, but as a student of the game, to watch people like Mayweather and Pacquiao, athletes who are serious about their craft and constantly working to try to get better.

RECOVERY

Yoga came at the perfect time in my career. I was getting over an injury, finishing rehab, and trying to get back into a camp. When you’re recovering from an injury, you lose a lot of your endurance, a lot of your muscle – and you have to start from the bottom up and regrow yourself. That’s when yoga came. At first, trying to break the poses down and having to be patient, was really frustrating. I almost had to relearn my body all over again. My flexibility was just out the door. It took me back to the basics of the martial arts where you focus and only think about the moment. When you’re learning something new, you should only focus on that, don’t getting into the emotional – don’t be negative on yourself, and say, ‘Oh, I should be doing this,’ or ‘why can’t I do this,’ or ‘I’m a failure’ or any of that. It was frustrating to me, because I would hold a pose and I could really feel the tightness. It was humbling.

With martial arts, I always had a certain understanding of the breath but until I did yoga, I never really counted in how many breaths I could hold in, and then using my lower abs to pushing the breath out. With yoga, it’s all about the breathing. I would focus on my breathing and I would just hold it there, just enough and then I would release.

Back then, when I was beginning, I couldn’t even do a basic squat. Now I can. I hadn’t kicked in years, and holy smokes, after just a couple of sessions, I was sparing and I threw these kicks – spinning kicks and kicks to the head. I think yoga magically somehow opens your body up and whatever tension you had, it reverses it and gives you that balance. Yoga reminds me to always stay in the present especially when you have a lot of things going on in your life – and at that time, recovering, I think yoga just brought me back. Doing yoga just brought me back to home base.

CAN YOU HANDLE IT?

Fight Sports are a parallel to life. You have to go through a lot of adversity especially in fight sports. When boxers compete, they are putting their body at risk. You can have a good run for your first couple of years but how do you deal with it when personal problems come up? How do you deal with health issues? Or things that will just come up naturally in life? It’s like walking on that tight rope, trying to balance your self out, trying to get from one end to the other.

You know, at the end of the day, you have to ask yourself, Are you happy with what you have? With whatever is in front of you, Can you handle it?  

For me, I just feel really lucky to be around some really awesome people who support me pursuing this because I see the value of me understanding myself and being happy, every day, whether it’s a good day or a bad day, being present, and appreciating life. I’m not trying to sound corny but I really feel that way. It’s easy to take a lot for granted. You see it all the time. And I can see it go right back to yoga. You take that one breath – and that might be your last – so make it worthwhile.

I think in the heat of the moment if I’m in the cage or I’m in the ring or I’m in a bad position and I need to work my way out of it, I think that’s where it counts most. The breath. Just zone in, focus, and ask yourself, Are you breathing?