Doctor psyched up for mixed martial arts cage fight

Susan Arnoult works out on a punching bag in the basement, an anniversary gift from her husband.

Slight of frame and a winning smile. These are a facade that masks the inner core of Susan Arnoult, a mother of four and a physician.

Arnoult, 45, is an athlete in Mixed Martial Arts, which is a full combat contact sport. She turned a childhood love of Tae Kwon Do into the more focused aspect of one-on-one fighting. She is going to participate in her first cage fight at the National Armory in Winchester, Va. on May 11.

"I've always liked martial arts," she said. She earned a black belt in karate as a teenager, and competed in tournaments in high school and college.

Marriage, children and career detoured her participation until 2011. Then Arnoult decided to get back into shape. At first she could handle only 10 minutes of Pilates. She kept pushing herself, and when her young son enrolled in karate last April, she went back to the sport. She worked out at a school, but was knocked out when she ran into a 250 pound male opponent. She decided to get an evaluation from Josh Hummer and Mike Doaks at Tactical Combat Academy in Greencastle.

They told her, "You are not ready" but promised to coach her until she could enter a cage and fairly face another woman in the 130-pound weight class.

That time has arrived. Since September, Arnoult has balanced her family, work at MedQuest in Chambersburg, and training. When she is not at Tactical Combat Academy, she is in the basement punching and kicking a bag, running or sprinting.

Her family humors her, she said.

Husband Scott will attend her fight, as much out of morbid curiosity as anything, Arnoult said. Daughters Noni, 18, Bridget, 16, Natalie, 14, put up with her hobby, but son Wyatt, 6, watches her workouts.

She credits Tactical Combat Academy with her growth. "I chose them because other women spar there, and they are good at it."

Arnoult will enter a 750 square foot octogonal ring.

"Pretty much everything is game," she said of the rules.

The contenders can punch, kick, elbow, grapple, clench and take each other down. The bout will include three two-minute rounds. It ends if one competitor is knocked unconscious, if the referee calls a technical knockout because a fighter is dazed, or if she submits, maybe giving up in order to avoid a broken arm due to a hold.

"It doesn't take that much to knock someone out," Arnoult said. "It is not necessarily a serious injury."

Hummer and Doaks will be in her corner for one-minute breaks, if the fight lasts long enough. She won't need them "on the outside chance I knock her out."

While each bout usually results in a clear win, if not, three judges declare a winner based on points earned.

Arnoult, of course, gets the curious comments from acquaintances. "I have wanted to fight since I was a kid. God hard-wired me for this. I like to compete and win, but ultimately I believe God put me here."

She takes the Gospel with her, ready to speak of her faith if the opportunity arises.

In Winchester, her event will follow boxing and kick boxing matches.

Only a few females will be entered, but Arnoult doesn't care.

"I'm having so much fun."