When I was six years old my Mom moved me to a different school. I had been caught in an incident of school yard gang violence and I kicked a girl in the stomach when she was down. I don’t remember who the girl was that I kicked, who I was with, or what the incident was about, but I do remember what it was like to sit in the principal’s office afterwards. And I do remember what it was like that first day of Grade 2 in a new school and what it was like for the next eight years being the one bullied. Karma sucks.
I guess it was inevitable then that fighting would come back into my life and by fighting I mean Martial Arts, because I don’t do Fight Club and this time I knew a thing or two I didn’t when I was six, mainly, that it’s not cool to be a thug. So what I want to talk about today is what Martial Arts means to me, or more precisely, what Martial Arts doesn’t mean to me because having a girl talk about martial anything is often like a girl talking about cars- a lot of people still can’t understand the two being in the same sentence together. So let’s get some things straight.
Martial Arts does not mean that I watch Anime, have a collection of fantasy weapons on my wall, and think that metal underwear is somehow a good way to go into a fight. It doesn’t mean that I have forsaken my gender, or that I’ve bought into girl power. Martial Arts isn’t a fad like Zumba where I get to model cute pink boxing gloves and I get to sound tough by using words like “round house” and “upper cut” in my selfie hashtag. My fist kickboxing class was in a concrete floored room with a hanging banner which said “House of Pain” and was taught by one of Canada’s Lightweight Champions- there was nothing chick about that class.
A question was once asked to Hollywood director and writer Joss Whedon, “Why do you write strong female characters?” His response was perfect: “Because you’re still asking me that question.” I’m entertained when people find out that I train in Krav Maga or Martial Arts and they suddenly become really awkward. Some people still don’t know how to be around a girl who would rather play with a sword than a credit card and I won’t lie, I like to throw out jokes about curb stomping and throat punches to these people because it really is fun to see just how uneasy they will become. What they don’t understand is that Martial Arts answers so many of the gender issues which have arisen in recent years and that they should foster it girls and women not be afraid of it. Martial Arts means never being the victim, and it means not having to let someone else fight your battles for you. It means being strong by virtue and not from abused human right claims. And most encompassingly, Martial Arts means not letting anyone have power over you unless you give it to them.
Do I live and breath the sparring floor? No, but it is a place where I came full circle to where I began my journey back in elementary school. I only have myself to prove anything to so no more kicks to the stomach while the person is down, but I’m no longer the victim either. I just take numbers.