health sisterhood

Why I Fight (or; This Boxing Feminist)

by JoAnna — February 5, 2018

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Cheney looks forward to library conferences & laundry while JoAnna prefers to look ahead to getting punched in the face, boxing. To each her own.

I am such a late bloomer a friend once told me I have a ‘spirit plant’ instead of ‘spirit animal’.

“You’re a rare genus of orchid that blooms a handful of times a century. Found in remote swampy areas, you’re this tenacious, sculpted and delicate plant that takes years or decades to grow. The long time frame, while annoying, is an important part of your journey because when you eventually blossom…”

I’ve thought a lot about her assessment and determined she wasn’t far from the truth in some ways. Often last to the parade, I am the person who plays a song on repeat a year after it was a hit, or adopts a fashion trend three seasons out of date, or reads the #1 book on the New York Times bestseller list that changed everyone’s life.

Five years after the mass transformation took place.

The only thing I’ve been on time for is being in motion. Sports have saved me, time and again, throughout my life. They’ve served as an escape from countless things. It is no surprise then that my most current, and fashionably late, arrival involves an activity that pushes the physical body to its limits. In the last year, I have become wedded to boxing in a way I could never have imagined.

boxing, JoAnna, sport, feminist, punching bagboxing, JoAnna, sport, feminist, sparring

This holy union almost didn’t happen because of several in my midst. I countered (and still face) many who argued combat sports are for men or, at least, younger women.

“Should a woman your age box?” an older acquaintance asked as he laced up his cleats and prepared to storm the pitch.

“You might break your nose!”

“What if you get hit and can’t have kids?”

“You can get knocked into a coma, you know.”

“Isn’t it better to do pilates or something less intense?”

But although these are valid points I am too intrepid to heed the warnings. This body of mine has always craved movement and still wants to run. That said, I’m not surprised by the demotivating feedback—having been athletic for as long as I can remember I was too tall, too short, too thin, too old, too young, too good, or not good enough.

Thankfully, I filtered out the noise and developed modest basketball and track skills in my teens. In my 20s I played volleyball at amateur and pro levels. I ran my first half-marathon at the age of 27. In my early 30s I spent time in India where I became a certified yoga instructor. With each new exploit I might have been older in terms of numbers but my body only seemed to be getting faster and stronger.

Along the way, I tried on the ill-fitting garments of soccer, cycling, and swimming. I dappled with a couple combat sports as well. Yet, the game changer was finding boxing over a year ago. (Or, existentially speaking, boxing found me. Who knows?) In the last quarter of my 38th year I, in the spirit of Alice, fell deep down the rabbit hole. I bought a jump rope, gloves, and boxing shoes. I secured headgear.

And I get in the ring every week, rocking the learning curve and sucking more wind than I ever have before.

But I do it all willingly. When I wrap my hands it is of my own volition. I slip on my gloves when I’d rather lie on the floor and take a nap. Each week I show up to learn the exquisite art of fighting: how to dodge punches, take hits, and move deftly on the offensive. Things every fighter, regardless of age, ought to know when they plan to enter the ring and find out what they’re actually made of.

I test the boundaries because of the lessons to be learned. Yes, the workout is great but boxing has helped me stare down innumerable demons. In less than twelve months it changed the way I think about life outside the ring. Knowing I can break and not shatter is beyond empowering. It is freeing.

I box because this body is more than capable.

I fight because I can. I don’t need any other reason.

boxing, JoAnna, sport, feminist,

Follow JoAnna’s adventures in boxing here: Not Made of Glass – Too Much/Not Enough


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