Fitness is a fickle thing. You either avoid it at all costs, or spend every spare, waking second doing some kind of activity. There is rarely a middle ground. Those of you who have found it can stop reading and email me your secrets. Seriously, I need help.
For me, I feel great when I exercise. I mean, while I am moving. Being in the middle of something active where you are rocking it and everything works and sweat is running down your back. Ah! It’s just awesome! But then you have to go home, and take a shower, and get something to eat, and somewhere between walking through the door and waking up in the morning someone wrapped a painful straight jacket on the voodoo doll of every major muscle group. That part sucks. And that is when all the excuses start. “I’m too sore to workout today.” Or, “I need a rest day to let my muscles recover.” Or, “I’ll workout hard tomorrow.” Yeah, right.
The trick at this point is to drag your sorry butt back into the dojo, back onto the mat, and start again. That is when the magic happens again. You start moving and your muscles warm up and suddenly you feel a bit sluggish but great! And you push harder. And it feels amazing! Then we do the nightly routine again with the same end result. “Holy mother of GOD, why do I do this to myself?!”
The truth is, I do martial arts not to be a badass, although that is an awesome perk. Nor do I do it because it is the end all be all of my existence, admittedly it is damn fun. I do it because I want to learn. I am a perpetual student. I want to learn everything about everything. Especially if that knowledge could save me or someone else. Martial arts as a genre of study is one of the few things that guarantees you have a better chance of escaping an attack. Anything, any amount of training, gives you a greater chance of success. And, as much as I hate thinking the worst of people, or thinking that it could happen to me at some point, I am not willing to leave my fate up to chance.
I have trained in multiple styles of martial arts. I am not a master of any art form. But I have enough knowledge to stand up in a fight, take it to the ground, and do enough damage to get my happy ass the hell out of dodge. In a society that turns a blind eye to sexual harassment and women’s rights, I find this to be an extremely important skill set to have.
The sad reality is that women still aren’t seen as equals in society. We aren’t respected, admired for our intelligence or talents, or given the same opportunities as men. Though life for us is much better than it ever has been, we still are seen for our bodies and what they can, or can’t do. What they look like, or what standard we fell short of. Truth be told, I am a chubby, asthmatic, 33 year old mother. I am not a model. I am not a fitness sex icon. I’m a real woman with a real figure. And I eat real food. I am lucky to be surrounded by people who see me as the intelligent, creative creature that I am. But anytime I separate from that core group, I am subject to someone else’s preconceived notions of what I should be. And I almost always fall short. I don’t mind. Their opinions are as wrapped up in their insecurities as mine are entwined with confidence. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt. It doesn’t mean that those looks, and the whispers, and the hidden insults don’t cut at me. They do. I just have the sense of self to let them go.
I train in martial arts to protect myself. Just like wearing a seatbelt. You rarely need it, but when you do if it isn’t strapped across your body, it’s too late. I train on the off chance someone thinks they can violate my boundaries. I train because it is good exercise. I train because some of my best friends in the world are there. I train so I can protect my son if I ever need to.
I highly recommend everyone get some basic self-defense training. But understand that one class once a week for a month is NOT enough. If you have never sparred before you don't have a concept of how intimidating it is. How your mind goes completely blank. How horrifically scary it is even when you are decked out head to toe in protective gear and facing someone you trust with your life. One class will not cure you of that insecurity.
I had a breakdown in boxing class after a round of sparring. My coach pulled me aside and said, "it's not a natural thing to get hit in the face, but you need to suck it up." Harsh, but he was right. It takes a lot of practice, a lot of bruises, a lot of getting hit in the face before your body knows how to move. THAT is the effective training I'm recommending. No, you don't need to be the best fighter in the world. No, you don't have to set your sights on the UFC. But everyone needs to know how to escape an attack. And that doesn't happen overnight from one class.