Kickboxing Mamas

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My endeavor with a group of female kickboxers

Yesterday morning I mentioned to my boss, who is also one of my best friends and mentors, that I was going to my first kickboxing class. He instantly started in on me about why it was such a bad idea for me to do something so risky with my “history.” At our 9:00 AM sales meeting, he started off with one of his frequent trivia quizzes where he buys lunch for the first person to “correctly” answer some completely vague question with one of a thousand or more random possibilities. To my surprise, yesterday’s question was, “What is Nel’s new sport?” I rolled my eyes and planted my forehead in my palm. Everyone was like, “What? Janelle has a sport? Janelle doesn’t do sports. What do you mean? What exactly are you asking?” as if the whole idea of putting my name in the same sentence with the word “sport” was preposterous. Everyone was genuinely confused. Then someone yelled out excitedly, “Pickleball!”

Because he had told everyone they couldn’t participate if I had already told them directly (which was only three or four people), no one figured it out. So then he announced to everyone that I was taking up kickboxing. Pandemonium ensued. (I should explain that I’ve worked at this firm for 12 years, and we’re a pretty closely knit office, much like a family. With no reason to maintain decorum, seldom does anyone ever hold back.) Wisecracks and laughter filled the sales bay at my expense. They quickly reached a consensus and told me I should not come to work looking for sympathy when I get a black eye or a broken bone. I didn’t even try to explain that it’s a flippin’ fitness class not the kind of kickboxing where I’d be fighting another person. For the record, regardless of my health history or clumsiness, I have no interest in getting pummeled by anyone. Also, I’d like to point out that two other women at my office really have trained for MMA kickboxing, and I don’t remember anyone giving them any shit! I guess maybe that’s because no one brought it up in sales meeting!

So last night, dressed a bit like a clown in multi-colored spandex and a funky support for my foot that contains a plate, six screws, and a staple (oh, did I forget to mention that before?), I delivered my son to his martial arts class, and then I entered the kickboxing studio. (The kickboxing area is in the dojo where my son trains so we’re in rooms right next to each other during the same time-frame. It’s awesomely convenient!) As I walked into the room lined with mirrors and carpeted with foam mats, I thought to myself, “This is my time.” The feeling as I realized I was there to do something for myself was liberating. I wanted to throw my hands in the air and yell, “Towanda!” but I didn’t.

Other students started to trickle in. It was the first class for several of them as well. Everyone was so nice! I hope I seemed friendly, but I was busy in my head employing every restraint from going around introducing myself to everyone because I was afraid if I did that, I’d immediately take over the class like, “I’m so glad you’re here! Let’s do this! Let’s start with some stretches.” See, this is the first ongoing evening commitment I’ve actually made in 12 years. I had a job that required me to lead everything for eight years. I spent my evenings and weekends leading meetings and events for so long that when I finally left that job, I had developed a deep resistance to participate in any regularly scheduled events (i.e., Bible studies, exercise classes, music lessons). This has kept me from doing a lot of things over the years. So, even though I’d never been to a kickboxing class before, I had to remind myself I wasn’t actually in charge of it. Whew! What a feeling! Simply being a participant is fantastic!

The instructor, who has brought my son through his first degree black belt, came over to me immediately and asked exactly what hardware I had in my foot. I thought maybe he was going to tell me not to make any contact with that foot, but he didn’t! I assured him I’d already spoken with my surgeon/podiatrist and I was just supposed to be careful and listen to my body. He approved and promptly started class. Sweet!

Haaallelujah! Haaallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Halleluuuujaaaaahhhh! It was fantastic! I learned so much about myself in those 45 minutes. I learned that my left side is completely uncoordinated compared to my right, but I already improved in that short amount of time. I learned that my quads need a phenomenal amount of strength training but that I can power through when I really want to give up, and there is great pride in sticking it out. I learned that there is immense satisfaction in the feeling of a solid hit. But my absolute favorite thing about the class was being with all those beautiful mamas. Many of the class attendees had children in the martial arts class next door. Several of them said, “I figured if I was going to be here anyway just sitting and waiting, I might as well get some exercise.” (This was my sentiment as well.) Another woman wants to get healthier before having another baby. I admired them all. These women were the perfect mixture of beauty and grace and gentleness. We supported one another. We helped each other, especially the smaller women, roll their bags into position. We cheered each other on and flashed each other painful expressions when the burn seemed unbearable. Remember, this was the first time meeting each other for many of us. Barriers came crashing down. The first few moments of sizing each other up and feeling intimidated by each other had quickly faded. But when we went to town on those bags and the instructor’s targets, dropping into those lunges (the hardest for me), we were fierce.

I imagine many of the participants in last night’s class were probably faced with a similar degree of disbelief as I was when they told their friends and family they were taking up kickboxing. I suppose none of us really fit the ideal picture, but who cares! Even more reason to do it!  Sweat pouring, hair a mess, muscles quivering, faces red… all of us suffering and succeeding together… Every minute of it was pure awesomeness.

I can’t wait to go back. Towanda!

Xoxo

 

See more writing and photography at nelbell.com.

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