I’ve recently been introduced to boxing by my personal trainer, Ginger. I had a feeling I would enjoy punching and kicking, but had never tried it and was a little afraid. It turns out that I LOVE it!
We have a heavy bag at our gym, so today I donned boxing gloves and spent 30 minutes punching, kicking, kneeing, and otherwise abusing the bag. I worked up a great sweat, my lungs were screaming for air, and I had the biggest smile on my face imaginable.
What probably won’t be a surprise to any of you is that I’m not much of an athlete. My parents got me involved in basketball as a kid, which you’d think I’d be good at since I was the tallest kid around. But, no… Unfortunately my tallness did not include athleticism, but rather a lack of coordination and balance. It’s hard to be balanced when your upper body is short and your legs are long. It didn’t help that I had an irrational fear that someone would put my eye out in all the scrambling around for the basketball, so most of the time while trying to rebound or shoot my eyes were CLOSED.
Let me just add to that the total embarrassment I felt at basketball games. My very enthusiastic father was probably at 100% of my home games, which I really appreciated. I think it was probably a family affair, although he’s the only one I remember being there. I remember because in his enthusiasm, he attempted to coach me from the sidelines. He yelled very good things, like “Keep your eyes open!!!” I should’ve listened to him, but all I could think of was how mortified I was to have such a loud father. And I COULDN’T keep my eyes open because then someone would poke my eye out!
I have also attempted running, water skiing, snow skiing, tennis, softball, volleyball, golf, and roller blading. All have the same results. I can sort of do them, but there is nothing remotely talented about me when it comes to them. And there is nothing I want more while trying these sports than to *please* stop and pick up the book I’m reading or have a good conversation over a cup of coffee.
I hope that helps you understand how highly unusual a situation it is for me to find myself sweating, out of breath, and in a little pain – but smiling and happy. My arms and shoulders ache. My knees and legs feel like dead weights. My abs will probably hurt tomorrow. I’m so exhausted from boxing today that my hands are shaking as I type. In spite of all that, I feel great.
I’ve been trying to figure out what it is about boxing that makes me so happy. I had no idea I was a violent person. But the acts of punching and kicking are violent, even if the violence is aimed toward a heavy bag. I don’t have to picture anyone’s face on the bag while I hit it (although it’s a good way to relieve stress to think about a person who’s bugging me while I punch and kick). But the thought that goes through my head the entire time is, “Don’t mess with me.”
Don’t mess with me? Huh? Who’s messing with me? Why is that the automatic thought that goes through my head?
The thing that I’ve come to realize is that I had no idea how much fear I live in. The idea of being attacked in a parking lot or while on a walk is often in my thoughts. When I take walks through my middle-class, fairly nice neighborhood, I not only take the dog (a 50-lb black lab), but I also take a heavy flashlight, pepper spray, and my cell phone. Before I walk out the door, I make sure I’m as prepared as can be. I even think through what I’ll do if someone approaches me. I’ve never taken a self-defense class, hit a person, or called 911. Part of the fear has been not knowing how I would respond in that kind of situation. Part of the fear has been feeling weak and incapable of defending myself. Even if I tried to kick or punch, would it even knock the other person backward a step or would they laugh at me?
I don’t think I’m alone in this fear. I’m not sure how men feel, but as women we are taught to be extremely careful and conscientious everywhere we go. But who gives us the tools to defend ourselves? Keeping alert is a huge part of self-defense, of course, but is there more?
I think that’s why I’m enjoying boxing so much. Even though I’m very aware of my weakness, I feel powerful when I’m kicking and punching the bag. I’m still very new at it and I need to get stronger, learn better techniques, and become more confident, but I’m doing it. I’m learning what it feels like to hit something hard with the force of my fist or shin. I’m learning to properly judge the distance I need to be from the bag in order to hit it correctly. I’m learning to adjust to the movement of the bag. I’m learning what I’m capable of and that I’m not as weak as I once felt.
I’m learning that I am stronger than I think.
This experience is a joyful thing for me. I don’t ever want to use it outside the gym. But I if I need to, I can. I’m one happy girl.