I've also not made it a secret that training martial arts changed my whole world. It changed me. I went from being chubby, shy, and crippled by anxiety and depression. I'm still chubby, I can still be very shy, and my depression is as omnipresent as always, but I'm no longer crippled by my issues. I've become stronger; not just physically, but also mentally. I feel powerful, centred.
Martial arts has given me so, so much.
It was with this in mind that I agreed to teach martial arts. I was particularly interested in teaching martial arts to women. I know from experience that walking into a gym and finding it filled with men training in something that is, by design, aggressive and deadly, is horrifically intimidating.
For the people who have been told all their lives that they can't do something by virtue of their sex organs, sometimes it is enough to have them turn around and go home.
That's a shame, because I know for a fact that women are every bit the warriors men are. History is littered with examples of women who have taken up arms, from queens, to regular women going a-viking with their husbands, powerful pirates who've built pirate empires, or mothers razing cities to the ground in vengeance.
It is evident in the women who fight every day; fight to be seen, to be heard, to make their worlds better. They are the ones who continue on, despite the constant deluge of disrespect, disbelief, and erasure.
Still, she persisted.
Martial arts helped me find the warrior inside myself; the one who was screaming to be let out, who lashed out, wild and uncontrollable. Martial arts gave her a voice, a way to be seen, and the wild destruction of her rages has calmed. Anger and helplessness have transformed into strength and calm.
I wanted to give that to other women.
Last night I went out to dinner with a few of my kickboxing students. The semester is over, and one of my long-time students will be leaving us to return home. It turned into quite an emotional night, with these gorgeous souls expressing how much kickboxing has changed their lives.
I saw in their stories mine reflected almost perfectly.
It was so, incredibly beautiful to see, and so deeply humbling. Through the tears and the laughter, it struck me that I succeeded, even if only a little. I helped these women find their light. And what an incredible light!
Guys, I did good. In this at least.
It's important to note that I did not turn these women into warriors. The warrior was there already. All I did was try to help them see her.
I was too overwhelmed last night to cry, but I'm crying recalling it. I'm just so touched by these women, and their stories, and so grateful to have played a part in them. I love my ladies.
Watching these women bloom has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Hearing their stories has reaffirmed my love of martial arts, and my belief in its value. I hope it's something I get to do for a long while yet.