I joined a kickboxing/self defense class at the beginning of the school year. YEP! This was my year to become stronger mentally and physically.
Eager to soak up all the new kick moves and punching combinations, I arrived to a kickboxing gym that reminded me of the one in the Napoleon Dynamite movie. (Does anyone remember that scene? REX-KWONDO?!) Anyway, my three teachers were three, 60 year old townees. I thought, “Oh wow! YAY! I am out of the JMU bubble!”
Then, the class began with them explaining that they would teach us how to not punch like girls anymore.
UM ex-squeeze me? Strike one. PUT ME BACK IN THE BUBBLE WITH MY PEOPLE!
As the class continued for a couple more weeks, though I was becoming stronger, my mind was being beaten down by constant unintentionally toxic comments made by my teachers. My teachers would not let me partner with a boy due to the fear of the boy being “too strong for me” or that he would hurt me. When I argued against this, they finally allowed me to work with a male but whispered for him not to use his full strength on me, but that I may punch him as hard as I could. When they walked away, my partner assured me that he would not punch me; however, I argued that if he did not practice fully that I would find a new partner.
My teacher made comments that I, as a woman, was not able to keep my hands up to protect my face because my natural instinct is to protect my “chi-chis.” Strike two. Sensei, with all do respect, please shut the hell up.
We ended the class every day with core exercises and pushups, but the girls were reassured that they did not have to do push ups the “correct way” and that boys were to do it perfectly or be shamed. As my arms shook in the push-up position and I would collapse onto the ground every class, my teacher would stand over me and reassure that I had done good enough. Then, he would move to the boys behind me and yell at them for finding the workout to be difficult.
All of these comments made by my teachers started with “no offense.” (As if that makes it excusable????)
Everyone always counters these stories with the fact that I should just brush off these comments due to their age and them growing up in a different time; however, if we let it go, when does it end? Did I just allow them to say these things to the next group of college girls looking to better themselves but end up getting pushed down? At what point do we stand up and decide to correct those who are unaware? Why is it so hard to stand up to those in power?
I started the course off excited, eager, and wanting to better myself, but ended the course stronger, yes, but annoyed at the constant comments that took place during my time there. These men are teaching girls to learn how to protect themselves physically from men on the outside, when in actuality it was the men on the inside of the gym that were beating us women down.
Keep being tough.