What is a time of joy for many women was my darkest hour.
My husband and I are students. As students, it’s pretty easy to let fitness take the back burner. Since we are just working for the summer, we decided to join a kickboxing club together in order to kickstart some healthy habits before we go back to school in the fall.
The instructors are great, the other people in the class are helpful and, even though the majority of my classmates are men, they never treat me any differently because I’m a woman.
The first class went OK. Hardly anyone was there and a man in his late 60s, who was much more advanced, worked with me one-on-one throughout almost the entire session. He was really encouraging and made me feel a little less nervous about my next class.
After my second class, I burst into tears in the car on the way home. I hate crying, especially in public, but there I was, blubbering away in the passenger seat while John (my husband) tried to console me.
Even though I love to fight. Even though I have taken self-defence classes before. Even though I come from a large family that constantly wrestles. I wanted to quit so, so badly.
In my head, I replayed every mistake I had made and counted all the reasons why I should never go back. Unfortunately, all reasons why I wanted to quit were also important reasons for me to stay in the class.
1) I hate sucking at things
I hate it so so much. Somehow, I’ve managed to avoid many of the things I hate (like math) for most of my adult life. While it makes my life a whole lot easier, it sure hasn’t helped me develop perseverance. I look up to my husband a lot in this area because he has pushed through his struggles in order to become successful in areas that aren’t his natural gifting.
Because I rarely involve myself in things I am terrible at, I am not used to receiving constant correction. In kickboxing class, like most physical classes, your teachers are going to tell you what you are doing wrong until you do it right. I know this is a good thing, but in the moment I really hate it.
I don’t know if I am really terrible at kickboxing, or maybe it was because I was apologizing all the time (see number 2), but throughout my first few classes I was constantly being corrected.
At one point, my Sensei asked me to stop stepping back so far when my partner went to kick the pads I was holding. Apparently, if he tried to kick the pads from too far away, he could break a toe.
Obediently, I took a smaller step backwards for his next kick. Of course, his foot perfectly connected with my boob. The kick was so hard my eyes automatically began to water (this may have contributed to the crying that happened later).
However, I held it together and waited for my next instruction, which was of course, “maybe step back a little further than that.”
2) I hate that I apologize constantly.
I apologize approximately every 10 seconds in a kickboxing class: “Oh, I’m sorry, I should have stepped back more quickly,” “Sorry, I was probably holding the pads wrong” or “Sorry, I thought it was my turn” (It was my turn). I think my apologetic nature is partially due to being Canadian. I want to be polite, and besides, I never want to come off as an jerk to the other students in my class. But my apologies are often completely unplanned.
They just pop out, often when something isn’t even my fault. I’ve begun to wonder if part of the reason I am constantly apologizing is because I’m a woman. My husband doesn’t apologize constantly. The other guys in my class don’t apologize when they do something wrong.
Maybe I apologize because I feel like I don’t belong. Maybe I apologize because I think my very presence is bringing down the skill level of the class. That brings me to my third point.
3) I hate that I feel like an impostor.
My husband and I wrestle all the time. I used to take Brazilian Jiu Jitsu classes in high school and I absolutely loved it. I’ve also taken ladies self-defence classes and used to be an avid follower of Billy Blanks' Tae Bo work out series (hey, it counts!).
While I’m not an expert in anything, I’ve certainly thrown a punch before. My husband often tells me that my skill exceeds several of the men in our class who are still in the beginner stage.
However, every time I walk into that kickboxing class I feel like an impost0r. Every time we are asked to pair off into partners I feel a little panicked that I will be chosen last (especially since my husband is considerably taller and usually ends up paired up with one of the taller guys). And every time I am asked to correct a skill, I wonder why the hell I am even trying anymore.
When I left that kickboxing class, I hated myself. I hate that I didn’t naturally have the strength or skill of the more advanced fighters. I hated that I acted meek and apologetic during class, even though I am aggressive and confident when sparring with my husband. I hated that I felt like an impostor, despite having experience.
Luckily, as much as I hate all those things, I also hate letting those things beat me. I hate feeling like I’m accepting my role as “the weaker sex” rather than challenging it for all it’s worth. I hate feeling like I’m giving up because it’s just so hard.
So even though for my first few weeks I really hated my kickboxing classes, I kept on going. And guess what? I’m starting to enjoy myself. More women come to the class now.
In fact, they’ve been coming for years, and just happened to be gone for my first two weeks. These women are far more advanced than I am, but they are incredibly encouraging and aren’t afraid to deck me one, if it helps me work harder.
So I don’t hate kickboxing anymore. Kickboxing doesn’t even make me hate myself. Instead, it makes me feel strong, capable, and ready to stop apologizing.