Those Facebook memories, yo. Sometimes, they annoy. Sometimes, they make me sad. Sometimes, they remind me of struggles past, and how far I’ve come.
Behold a memory, 7 years ago. December 18th, 2010.
I was in my 2nd year of kickboxing (savate – french boxing, assault – point based scoring system, minimal power). This was my very first competition. I was sooooo nervous, so scared of messing up, disappointing my coach, or getting injured, or just looking stupid. I lost, but I fought really really really well. Out of my 8 years of fighting (4 years of kickboxing, 4 years of boxing), this remains one of my top 3 favorite fights. Because I faced my fears with honour. I didn’t hold back. I claimed my spot in the ring. I fought for real, with dignity.
I remember finding my kickboxing coach (“KC”) a little silly, over-the-top dramatic with his inspiring speeches, and cinematographic flourishes. “Its just savate, yo.” He’d get irritated. “No. This is life. This is passion. You are part of a team. We fight with pride. We work hard, people will know us for our skill, our style, our dedication. This is who we are.” I’d roll my eyes. I’m an accountant, not a fighter. This was just a game, play-fighting. I felt superior.
Looking back at this video, I remember the other emotions I tried so hard to ignore back then. The amazement that KC believed we were a family – that I was part of this family. The thrill of wonderment that I too, might be one day considered something approaching an athlete. That he felt I had what it takes to be a fighter. That he owned his diva showbiz side. That maybe, perhaps, I might belong. I so wanted to belong. To belong in a family that was bound by a thirst to live fully and deeply, to push themselves as far as they could, to face challenges that they might not successfully achieve. I craved this but was also scared of looking foolish.
I look back with much fondness on my years as a kickboxer. Many friendships date back to those years. Kickboxing was my therapy as I put myself through university, first as an undergrad and then as a full-time grad student while working full time as an auditor. I got my title during those kickboxing years. I grew up, somewhat, through kickboxing.
Kickboxing lay the groundwork for most of the breakthroughs and personal growth that I experienced in boxing. I did, eventually, own my identity as an athlete, shedding decades of insecurities from my crippled youth. I did explore what it means to be a fighter. I did find my family – my gym, my squad. None of that would have been possible, had I not first spent years training with KC.
I’m so grateful KC was inclined to produce these celebratory, grandiose videos. As a sport, savate (assault) might not be as impressive as boxing. My boxing friends giggle when they watch videos of savate. But nevertheless, it requires its fighters to face their fears, pursue excellence, develop mental toughness, and believe in themselves. Surely, that is worthy of grandiose treatment? I certainly think so. Had I not been introduced to those concepts in kickboxing, I would have never been inclined to step into my boxing gym.
My life would be so much less than it is.
If you have trouble recognizing me… it’s because I have long curly dark hair, and weigh 15lbs more than I do now. 🙂