Femininity tends to go out the window when your main concern is avoiding kidney punches from your 16-year-old sparring partner who just discovered how to fight dirty. However, by incorporating a few simple changes and healthy practices into your martial arts lifestyle you can enjoy the fruits of your physical labor while not looking like a lumbering swamp beast.

1. Nutrition:

Other than pizza on the weekend, sports nutrition goodies (Gu, Powerbar, Clif, the triumvirate of manufactured tastiness), and the occasional sweet I’ve cut out most processed foods. I feel as Outkast would say, “so fresh and so clean.” You’re an athlete. Your temple needs fuel. Do it justice.
green juice
I am the danger.

I am the Heisenberg of juices. After many trials and errors including an unpleasant run-in with beets I’ve finally perfected my home-pressed juice recipe. Basically I cleaned out the fridge and got lucky. Juicing provides nutrients that we don’t get if we typically reach for potato chips over vegetables, plus it’s good for your skin and sense of self-riteousness. It’s sweet with a hint of gingery bite, and smells like freshly cut grass, which isn’t necessarily a great thing, but it means I get it all to myself since no one else will touch it.

Green Belt Goddess:
-Green apple
-Ginger root

Shove them into the juicer and watch the magic happen. (Tip: line the pulp catcher or whatever that thing is where all the refuse goes with a plastic bag so you have one less item to clean)

2. Eyes
Several years ago I was having dinner with an Indian couple. “Have you ever tried eyebrow threading?” the wife asked innocently after gazing intently at the spot right above my eyes. I took the hint and her referral to the nearest threading salon. Aesthetically shaped and neatly groomed brows give your face instant yet understated glamour, like Jackie O going to the gas station. You might be splotchy and dripping with sweat, but your eyebrows are job interview-ready. Once in a while I’ll leave my mascara on as a pathetic attempt to hold onto some semblance of beauty, as if long black lashes could detract from my hair being plastered to my glowing red face. If you must dress up your eyes try a liquid-based liner and waterproof mascara. At minimum groom the eyebrows so you don’t look like a martial arts Muppet.

muscles mascara

3. Skin
See my juicing recipe. Don’t worry if you have a pimple; if you’re in taekwondo you’re likely working out with a lot of teenagers so you’ll fit right in. I use a gentle moisturizer with SPF (the Simple brand is a welcome newcomer to the market) or sometimes splash my face with a glycerin and rosewater mix before class and after the post-workout shower. The Yes to Carrots brand makes a great make-up remover wipe that doesn’t sting my eyes or burn my uber-sensitive skin. I still look like a wrecked 10-years-older version of myself after class, but at least I don’t have sweaty gross foundation seeping into my pores.

gym makeup

Don’t be That Girl–you know, the one who goes to the gym with an inch of makeup caked on and can therefore only muster a slow spin on the recumbent bike while reading People magazine. You’re going to sweat, stink, and turn bright red, at least if you’re putting any effort into it. Deal with it or get out of the dojang. I’ve been tempted to sneak on a little lip stain, but that’s just an invitation to smear itself on my white dobok. I stick with a beeswax-based balm to prevent my lips drying out from all the yelling and heavy breathing. Be sure to wash your hands immedately after practice and shower the moment you get home. If you can smell yourself I suggest stepping away from the screen and jumping in the shower right now.

4. Hair
Unless you’re rocking a pixie cut or you are a 6-year-old girl who can pull off long curls and a giant bow, you will have to come to terms with hair management. My hair is straight, fine and when provoked it’s also fuzzy, so after a few jump roundhouses I start to look like the cat lady from The Simpsons. If I have time I’ll slick back my hair with Garnier Fructis gel. If not I’ll secure flyaways with clips or slip on a stretchy elastic headband. I have learned from experience to put my hair in a low ponytail rather than a high one. If you’d like to see how I learned that lesson put your hair in a high ponytail and do a turning back side kick…..hurts when your hair slaps you in the eyes, doesn’t it? Talk about a blind study. Don’t even try a purposefully messy topnot. It will fall out halfway into your first spin kick. If you have a body like Meisha Tate’s knock yourself out with the schoolgirl pigtails. If you don’t…well then…just…don’t.

Let’s see what they look like AFTER a few rounds with a foam sparring helmet squashing their heads.
5. Nails
Your feet get nasty in taekwondo, even more so if you’ve had your feet in pointy heels all day before letting them “breathe” in the dojang. Give your feet a good exfoliating scrub once in a while so the person holding your leg up in partner stretching doesn’t have a malformed hoof in their face.Long nails are not allowed for safety reasons, so at least keep them short and clean. I like to round mine off and buff them to smoothness. Sometimes I paint them just to have a little color, plus it’s kind of funny to see dainty red nails on a little foot slamming a side kick into a practice pad.Forget about professional manicures and pedicures. (1) I’ve never found nail polish that doesn’t chip (at least on my fingernails) the next day after application so I might as well do it myself and save money and (2) while polish on the toes seems to last longer they’re probably going to get some black smudges and scuffs from kicking pads and people….but you’ll have some street cred.
If you have found a polish that doesn’t chip just by looking at it please let me know. Seriously.

“Is that OPI Get Cherried Away?”

The best manincure I’ve ever seen in the dojang was on a 17-year old girl who joined a few classes at my school to prepare for her black belt test. Her long delicate fingers were topped with smooth oval-shaped nails that were impeccably painted a matte shade of ballet slipper pink. I managed to squeak out a compliment before she beat the living hell out of me.

6. Pre-workout Fashion
The martial arts gym isn’t a catwalk, but if you just have to work it from the entrance of the building to the locker room stick with a lightweight jacket or sweatshirt, a fitted dri-fit shirt, slim-cut shorts or stretch pants, and functional but attractive slip-on shoes. I have a pair of closed-toe and very supportive flats from the yogawear brand Ahnu, and they are adorable…well they were until my boyfriend told me the name of the shoe sounds in Spanish exactly like a body part we all have but would rather not talk about.

But can you believe she’s a fourth dan?
7. Fitness
Unless you go to class 5 days a week and consume nothing but Green Belt Goddess juice your TKD workout may not be enough to help you maintain your happy weight. Cross-training not only keeps you on target for bikini season, but it helps you strengthen your endurance, core, balance, strength, and flexibility, all of which are crucial to kicking it TKD style. TKD can be pretty taxing on anyone who’s well past the voting age. You need to strengthen your muscles and bones to protect your body from injury. Your joints are vulnerable, your muscles stiffen up, and unless you’ve been running 15 flights of stairs every day for the last 20 years your first sparring class will make you feel like you’re going to die.I balance out my TKD workouts with swimming, weight lifting, and cardio, which helps me improve my explosive power and sprinting endurance.Yoga has proven to be one of the best complementary exercises to TKD. On the physical side you’re heavily focused on balance, strength, and flexibility while on the more meditative side you can stay calm and focused. Plus I smoke all the boys in push-ups.

Yoga poses for TKD power:
Big muscle burners: Warriors I and II, deep lunges
Hip openers: cobbler’s pose, happy baby, half pigeon, triangle
Balance: tree, that thing where you grasp your toe in your “peace fingers” and stretch your leg to the side (yeah I know, “peace fingers”), Warrior III, balancing half moon
Upper body: cat & cow stretch, chair, downward dog, plank, crocodile (if you have the opportunity to lead the class incorporate these into the warm-up and literally hear grown men cry. It’s glorious.)Bonus poses
Recuperating after class: plow, child’s pose, supine twist, corpse pose
Keeping your cool: mountain pose, seated meditation
Freaking out your instructor: eagle, side crow, eight-angle pose, shoulder stand. Eagle gets a double take and an eye roll every time.

When the class does push-ups for punishment she shouts for joy.
Once you’ve mastered basic grooming and healthy habits your only dilemma will be how to rock a sundress with ugly shin bruises.

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