When I was a kid, I watched ALL of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes. All of them (I still do). And the movie. And I read the graphic novels and the terrible novelizations. Why? Because she rocks. Buffy. Sarah Michelle Gellar. Kristy Swanson. Even Faith/Eliza Dushku pre- and post-her being evil, and Willow/Alyson Hannigan pre- and post-her being evil (why were practically all of the women on that show evil at some point? I’m going to have to get into that later).
My point: it was awesome watching ladies kick ass. It made me want to be able to do it, too. I wanted to be able to do the things Buffy did. I wanted to be able to do flips or jump off stuff and kick people. I wanted to be able to do single-arm hand stands flawlessly. I wanted to rock killer outfits with great hair and clear skin and perfect makeup. I wanted to fight bad guys and save the world and look great while doing it.
Whatever. I don’t know if it was from watching those badass women fight people, but I wanted to be a badass woman who fought people. Well, not really. Mostly I’ve wanted to simply kick box. Nix the whole actually fighting people, but I wanted to be able to fight people. I wanted to be strong as shit.
But I never got into it. For years, I wanted to take kickboxing classes, but I was always too intimidated to go to any of them. I’d see the big punching bag, but I’d be too nervous to even get close to it. I’d see martial arts school and get curious about what was inside. Some of my friends would tell me how they were taking karate classes or something else like that, and I’d get jealous. But I didn’t take the next step of doing it myself until I turned 30.
I turned 30 last summer, and that night I called a martial arts school to start taking classes. A few weeks prior, I took a class at a different school with a great reputation. I took a 45-minute Muy Thai kickboxing class, and I was bored as hell. I didn’t even start to sweat. We did simple drills, barely moving our bodies, for forty-five fucking minutes. Honestly, if that’s what Muy Thai is about, then I want nothing to do with it. (Heads up, it’s not. It was just a weird class. Or maybe just that day was weird. I dunno.)
After that first weird class, I got really discouraged. I thought martial arts just weren’t my thing. But I kept looking. I thought maybe I should try jujitsu or something. I looked into other schools. I googled other places. It was really confusing, because I honestly don’t know the differences between all the different kinds of martial arts. Should I try Tai Kwan Do or join a boxing gym? The reasons why I tried Muy Thai:
- I heard that it was the best type of kickboxing.
- They offered a free one-week trial.
- They had a ladies only class, which, at the time, made it seem more accessible for me. (Turns out, fighting dudes is really fun).
When that school didn’t work out, I didn’t know where to turn next.
Then I found my school.
On their website, they had a bunch of pictures of people fighting and taking classes. They had pictures showing people who had passed their belt tests. Serious looking dudes stood in what I now know is horse stance with their fists raised like they are permanently ready to fight a wall. It all seemed a little silly to me (and, honestly, it still is. And, full disclosure, I’ve totally had my picture taken doing that pose. I could barely keep a straight face). So, I decided to try this place.
The first thing I did was go inside. I went on a Saturday with my partner, Johnny Lovely, to just look at it. I wanted to see what it offered. I was not super impressed. It’s a small school. The first school I went to is huge in comparison. But the guy who showed me around was cool. He used to be a trainer at a big chain gym where I used to go, so that gave me a sense of familiarity. I’d never talked to him before, but the familiar face was nice. And he was nice. And he told me two cool things: before I could start taking classes, I’d have to take an introductory course of 4 or 5 one-on-one sessions to make sure I liked the school, and, if I decided I wanted to join the school, I could come in anytime I wanted, take a small training room to myself, and shut the door. Privacy. YAS.
Side note: I’m a solo person. I hated the gym because there are too many people. I don’t like going to the park near my house because there are too many people. I love to run because you can do it all alone. Alone is the best. The idea of being able to practice martial arts alone was beautiful to hear.
After doing that walk-through of the school, I decided I’d try it out. I loved the idea that I’d get to do a one-on-one introduction to the school before committing to anything. And then I promptly forgot that they required that. Which is why, on the 30th birthday, I called to see if I could come in for a class. Mark #2, the guy who answered the phone when a called, not Mark #1 who did the walk-through of the school with me (yes, they’re both named Mark. And that’s not even the weirdest part of that story), told me that I couldn’t come in on my birthday. Instead, we scheduled a one-on-one, and that’s how Mark #2 became my coach.
Two weeks later, I got my first introduction to Kenpo. It was basic. Mark #2 was nice. The next week he introduced me to boxing basics. That’s when I fell in love. I was boxing you guys! I got to hit stuff! It was great. Soon, I finished my intro sessions, and I began to take classes.
Second side note: I have hella anxiety. As I explained in a previous post, I get panic attacks. I get scared easily. I’m super sensitive to my surroundings—noise mostly. It’s sometimes really difficult and really shitty being me. This anxiety is one huge reason why I’ve never taken a martial arts class before. The idea of it really freaked me out. The only group classes I’ve ever done were Zumba, and the only reason I did those was because I was with my sister. She’s like my real-life safety blanket. I can be brave when she’s around. Alone? Nopers.
This is to say that the idea of group classes at my school really freaked me out. Honestly, walking into the school for my private lessons freaked me out. Every time Mark #2 and I started my private lessons it freaked me out.
It was more than just anxiety, though. It was sadness, or a profound sense of being alone. Third side note: I have depression. Turns out, lots of people have anxiety and depression together. It’s super common. So, on any given day, I’m either freaking out or barely able to function. I also have ADHD. I get distracting very easily. I can’t sit still. Plus a whole bunch of other stuff (it’s what I affectionately call my bad brain). Once again, really shitty being be. I’ve found out that staying active helps me feel better. But just walking into school gave me anxiety. Once I got there, I felt so lonely I wanted to cry and run away.
Why the fuck did I feel lonely? I have no idea. I felt weird. I felt alone. I felt like I didn’t belong. I’d get a pain in my chest every time I walked to the front door of the school. I’d feel like crying while waiting for my class. Then I’d get in class, and I’d feel great. I felt strong. I felt like I was learning. And martial arts are tough, guys. I really struggled at first. I don’t do well with struggling. Usually I don’t do hard things, but I stuck with kenpo.
In fact, as alluded to above, I passed my fricking belt test! I’m an orange belt now. With the help of Mark #2, and my dope skills, I learned new stuff. I learned and improved my kicks and punches and blocks. And I learned cool moves like the Sumo and Striking Asp and other ones that I can’t remember what they’re called. I also learned Kata 1, the Four Shields. I hate katas guys. They’re hard. Whatever. Moving on.
Martial arts or kenpo or my school or Mark #2. They all helped me with my anxiety. I still have anxiety, but walking through the door isn’t as hard anymore. I attribute a lot of this to Mark #2. He’s helped me when I was feeling weird. He’s told me (many times) that I don’t have to be perfect. I’m just starting with this new practice, so I’m going to mess up. I’m going to get it wrong. I’m going to fall over or not get a move right. But I’ll get better if I keep it up. It’s been a big boost for me.
Which is why it seriously sucked when I learned that he was moving. It has something to do with his wife being awesome and getting a new job. There’s more to it, but bottom line, he’s no longer my coach. The way he phrased it: it’s not bad news, but…it sucks.
Really, it’s cool. His wife getting a new job is rad. Blah blah blah. I don’t care. I miss that goofy guy. I felt a sincere sense of support from him. I felt like he understood my bad brain. He was pretty patient when I’d get too in my own head. He knows, even in a small way, my struggles with anxiety. And he’s super supportive.
When I found out he was leaving, I wanted to cry. I wanted to leave the school before my private lesson. I’d gotten there early to warm up, and instead I was freaking out in my head. In our lesson, I couldn’t think. I even talk at first. I didn’t know what to say. I only started to loosen up when we got to some boxing drills.
On my way home, I tried to be okay with it. I made it a few minutes. Then I started crying. I didn’t sob or anything, but I let some of my shit out. I understood that, in addition to simply missing Mark #2 because he’s a cool guy, and honestly being upset because I just met him and now was he’s leaving, I felt like I was losing the person who helped me with my anxiety. Even if it’s just to small degree, I’m a better person. I can walk into my school and not feel totally overwhelmed. I still feel weird and lonely sometimes when I’m inside, but I’m working through that. Now I’ll have to do it without him.
Now I get to practice with Mark #1. It’s great. He tells great, sometimes long-winded, stories and is supportive. Hopefully, he’ll continue to push me to continue to work through kenpo and my bad brain. Maybe it’ll be good for me. So, I guess it’s not bad news, but…damn, it made me cry.