Earlier this year, I rejoined taekwondo classes as a “regular” (i.e., not private lesson) student. Prior to that I’d been taking private lessons for over a year and had added back in yoga classes, weight lifting, and occasionally swimming to round out my exercise routine.
More recently, I’ve gone back to Body Combat classes at the gym, a kickboxing aerobics class that derives inspiration from various martial arts. I needed more cardio and wanted something that didn’t have the pressures and nuances that taekwondo class does. As a bonus, one of the Body Combat teachers happens to be a black belt trained by my former grandmaster, so at least one person is in the know when they’re leading the class.
I started taking Body Combat classes at the gym in 2018. I was curious about the class from a martial artist’s point of view and figured it would be a good work out. Plus, I’d become very disillusioned with my dojang and left in September of that year. I needed something to fill the void. For three years, until the pandemic and a knee injury forced me to stop, I was at the top of my game. I was also kind of annoying.
Thank God that ACL tear didn’t happen at the gym when I was prancing and high kicking at the front of the line in class. I’d have to change gyms.
Fast forward to now, as I happily transition from pretty ingénue to a swamp hag content with her looks, even though my partner doesn’t like when I refer to myself as a swamp hag. I couldn’t care less what I look like when I exercise. I’ve mostly broken the habit of body-checking myself in front of a mirror, something I didn’t even know was an issue until the psychologist who diagnosed me with anorexia brought it up. Rather than pushing my way to the front, I stay to the side so I blend into the crowd and have quick access to my water bottle and towel. I also don’t mentally compare myself to other people–noting whether I’m bigger, smaller, fitter, etc. As for my body–I’ve noticed my Achilles tendon is less irritated in that setting (wearing socks, shoes, and moving on a hard floor) than it is in taekwondo. On the other hand, my knee sometimes fatigues more quickly at the gym than it does in the dojang.
At my most recent Body Combat class the only thing I noticed in the mirror was how good my freshly threaded eyebrows looked on my red, sweating face. I did one good jump sidekick just for fun (and only if I could land with my left leg) but otherwise stayed grounded both in body and mind. I contentedly jogged lightly and did squats when the choreography called for more joint-tormenting movements. I’m there to exercise and practice some technique basics, not show off.
I don’t have anything to prove anymore, and that feels great.