Float like a lead balloon, sting like a flea

Kapow Things have gone up a gear at kickboxing, for the most pathetic reasons.

I was perfectly happy in my rut at the Monday beginners class with my trusty partner V. She was petite and light on her feet while I lumbered and failed to distinguish left from right. But we made a good pair – always urging the other to hit harder and kick higher; both in love with the faux violence.

Then V said she fancied adding in the Wednesday night Intermediate class, did I want to come? Her pal M was going to start too. Alas, I was in the midst of Moonwalk training and didn’t have enough legs to fit it in.

That was my first twinge of panic. What’s wrong with our cosy wee beginners class? Why would you want to join the scary class with the scary chicks with the fancy team trousers?  And you’ve found someone else to go with too? Am I not enough for you?!

It tore me up inside, knowing V was learning new moves without me. But I played it cool. Sorta. I joined the Wednesday class as soon as my Moonwalk wounds had healed.

But then! Then she had to go and buy the fancy trousers! The bright blue team dacks with the white stripe up the sides. Once you get the trousers, you mean business.

And then! V said she wanted to get into sparring. That’s when you start thumping actual people. Now I know some of you lovelies out there are proper martial arty types who do proper fighting, so please don’t laugh at me. It took me six years to graduate from punching the air at Body Combat class to punching a focus pad, so I wasn’t planning on punching people for at least seventeen more.

V was placing a big order at our favourite online martial arts shoppe and asked did I want anything? I ordered the protective puffy hat, the shin guards, the gum shield and the padded shoe thingos with no intention of using them. But if V and M were ordering sparring gear then I had to at least create the illusion of interest so I wouldn’t be written off altogether.

People ask me all the time, "How do you stay motivated?" Well, you can spur yourself on by sticking an unbecoming photo on your fridge or training for a charity event… but don’t underestimate less noble motivations, such as:

  • jealousy
  • fear of abandonment
  • desire to not look like a sissy in front of your friends

They fire me up just fine and dandy.

It may sound negative on the surface, but they compliment the other side of my personality: the lazy, complacent underachiever. Sometimes it doesn’t occur to that I could be pushing myself harder until I see someone else pushing themselves harder and then, frothing with envy, decide that perhaps it’s time to up the ante.

So in addition to the Wednesday night class, last week I graduated to the Monday Advanced class, again because V and M were doing it. It was so intense I almost spewed all over the mirrors and that was just the warm-up. I’ve never felt so incompetent in my life. I’m paranoid that I shouldn’t be there and the proper fighter chicks want me dead.

But I kept up. I need to remember that I was hopeless when I started the beginners class too, and hopeless when I started Body Combat in 2001. Baby steps, etc etc.

I’ve also had a wee sparring session. To psyche myself up I put on all my gear – puffy hat and gloves and gum shield (we call them mouthguards in Australia) – and asked Gareth to hit me.

Honestly, the tiny tap to my well-padded noggin was about as powerful as a mosquito’s fart but I shrieked, "You’re a prick! I’m calling the police!"

It is hard to describe the gut-wrenching alarm of seeing a punch coming at you for the first time. You spend your life avoiding that kind of thing, so it’s unsettling and unnatural to deliberately seek it out. I had a big sook, ripped off all my gear and vowed to eBay the lot.

But a few days later I rocked up to the class to try it for real, not wanting my pals to think I’d gone soft. I had to ask V to tie on my padded shoes for me because I was panicking too much to figure it out.

Finally, ready to rumble. V and I touched gloves. Immediately every technique fell out of my brain. Kick? Punch? What? Where? How?

I could not connect my brain with my arms and legs at all. Instead I muttered, "Shit! Shit! Shit a brick!" and turned into a human punch bag.

Just when I thought I couldn’t possibly be more shit, I had to swap to one of the experienced chicks. I was so intimidated, despite her being so polite and only using 2% of her actual fighting power. She was literally instructing me how to attack her, but my legs and arms just froze up and said, WE GOT NOTHIN!

At the end of the session I had to spar with our instructor. Arrgh! Honestly, you’ve never met a bloke so encouraging. He has built up a safe, friendly atmosphere and a great team who are so supportive of each other – even clods like me. He shuffled round saying,  "Just go for it! Don’t be polite!" But I felt so bloody uncoordinated and embarrassed and wanted to go home and eat toast. He wouldn’t let me give up though. Eventually I managed to loosen up and connect a few moves, thanks to him pretty much standing there and telling me exactly what to do.

Oh yes. Champion in the making.

But still, at least I had a go. There is a perverse satisfaction in doing something that scares you. I thought the biggest fear would be the Flying Fists and Feet but I was too busy being consumed by the Fear of Looking Like A Dickhead. When it comes to physical activity my mantra has always been, to butcher a phrase: It is better to stand still and be thought a fool than to move around and remove all doubt.

So this is uncomfortable ground but I am going to keep trying. I was overdue a change in routine and I know that many things great things in life start out feeling awkward. Better to be filled with dread and nausea as you explore new frontiers than languish in a rut. Besides, I gotta at least pretend to keep up with my mates for awhile before I go waving a white flag.

39 thoughts on “Float like a lead balloon, sting like a flea

  1. Haha, I loved your less noble motivations πŸ˜€ I’m so with you on that.

    Actually I was just telling my mom yesterday on the phone that I’d be interested in taking up kickboxing. She agreed with me that my feet could probably be considered lethal weapons in many jurisdictions. I’m not sure what she meant by that.

  2. Great post πŸ˜€ I’ve tried learning a couple of martial arts in my life, but never stuck with it. Good on you for getting in there and sparring. I completely understand about not wanting to look like an egg, but with sparring, the only way you get better is by doing it.

    Keep with it and I think you’ll really start to enjoy it.

  3. Oh that post just made me smile so much. Your honesty is really refreshing. Hope you’ll be kicking and punching the crap out of people in no time (in a good way of course!).

  4. Oh, Shauna, you’ve made me laugh for the first time today. I love, and relate to, your mantra. I’m taking part in Pedal for Scotland next month and just can’t get around the fact that I look like a big, round, black lyra clad blimp when I’m sitting on my bike.

    But really, does it matter too much what motivates you, as long as you put down the pizza and get off the couch?

  5. I’m SO proud of you :-). Will try to follow your example as soon as i’ve run out of excuses (…). But seriously, well done. There is nothing scarier than breaking a habit, changing your routine.

  6. hey….

    i like the sound of this….

    kicking people…..

    kicking REAL people????

    and getting away with it???

    hmmm….. perhaps all these years of suppressed rage may come in handy! and be good on the weight loss front too…..

    or maybe i’ll just stick to the girly classes like body step!!

    but i do body pump!! not a girly class!!
    so my biceps of aluminium (not quite the steel variety) do come in handy!!

    this post really made me laugh shauna!

    I agree with you on your reasons for being motivated. Proving all those bar stewards (!?) wrong is high up there for me…

    Along with the desire to no longer be the “fat friend!” (which I’m not bTW!!)


  7. Oh hon, you made me laugh so hard there – mostly because I know exactly how you feel! There’s just nothing that can prepare you for the total alien-ness of sparring, and how different it is from hitting the pads, but if you give it a chance and don’t ask miracles for yourself, you might come to enjoy it. It just takes some getting used to, is all πŸ™‚

    Go you! Well done for being so brave!

    S x

  8. I am intrigued by the idea of kickboxing, but my gym only has lame-o kickboxing, where you neither kick NOR box (I’m actually not sure why they call it kickboxing at all). I’m not sure about hitting people, but I’d be all for hitting a bag or something. I hate bags.

  9. Way to go…I’m there with you…I love punching, but not sure how I feel about being punched?…You’re my hero…so keep on the not being a Dickhead mantra…it works for me…and I doubt anyone could think anything bad about lovely you!


  10. Ha!

    There I was, over the course of the Olympics, giving Alaskaboy all these great training hints and basically coaching him on how to improve his fitness immeasurably…and this week I said to myself “You dickhead! why aren’t you doing that shit tooo?”

    I felt all superior helping him correct his technique and living vicariously watching him train like I used to…I didn’t want to watch my flabby bits and very unfit muscles struggle along.

    Now I have a footprint on my rear from my Inner Coach. She’s a bitch!

    kickboxing…I took all the return punches personally the one time I did a boxercise class. Luckily, when I lost my temper, it was only a punching bag that was returning my blows else I could’ve seriously fucked someone up. No more aggressive classes for me. LOL

  11. I totally agree with your motivations! Mine are pretty well the same.

    At my gym there is a boxing room – a punching bag, speed bag, other bashing type of equipment. I’ve been holding off asking about the boxing classes until I loose a bit more weight. My face gets really red with the exercise I do now – I imagine my trainer will think I’m about to keel over if I ever attempted one of the boxing clases.
    But – with all my repressed anger – I’m really looking forward to bashing away at something! Hopefully – soon!

  12. Shauna, I just discovered your blog last week. I can’t tell you how much it’s meant to read about your transformation. I think it has been the trigger that I needed. Since last week I have just quietly decided it’s time. No hysterics. Just a calm decision to regain control of my life. Mind you, I haven’t got up the nerve to step on the scale yet. I’m sure I’m over 300lbs. I have a long journey ahead of me, but I have to start somewhere. Thanks for gentle push.

  13. Have you ever tried fencing? You use a weapon, so you’re not smashing someone directly. It’s more about calculated stabbing. And it’s a hell of a workout, bouncing around in a squat and lunging.

  14. Oh gawd, this post took me back to my (failed) attempt at karate – I had to spar with my brother, a good six years younger than me, I clocked him one in the shoulder, and he burst out into tears! Guess who was grounded for a week, NOT COOL.

    Loved this post, at least in the scary intermediates class with the team pants there won’t be anyone crying during sparring sessions! [you are a braver woman than I]

  15. “Better to be filled with dread and nausea as you explore new frontiers than languish in a rut.”
    YOu’ve just summed up my whole approach to exercise better than I ever could. Advanced kickboxing? You legend!

  16. OMG!!! I am scared just reading it. I must say you have blown me away with your determination to fight tough.


    Mrs L xxxxxxx

  17. I would have exactly the same fear that I’d be too polite to hit anyone. So I think you’re very brave.

    Apparently this is a big problem with women who are attacked; they don’t defend themselves because we’re all trained that hitting people is bad…

  18. Looking like a dickhead is a perfectly valid fear – I suffer from that one too, and it’s stopped me from doing many things in my life. Bah!

    Good for you, for having the guts to do it anyway, whatever the motivation. If I can bare (almost) all on stage with the really fit and muscular chicks (who hopefully won’t notice THAT I’M A FAKER AND DON’T BELONG THERE), then you can master kicking and punching people.

    We rock! *high fives you*

  19. “Jealousy, Fear of abandonment, desire to not look like a sissy in front of your friends”… you just listed what are probably the real reasons I have done almost anything in my life! πŸ˜‰ But seriously, you should be proud, I don’t think I would have the guts to spar. Actual hitting and kicking doesn’t sound fun to me. Well, at least not right now… it might sound good in a few hours though after I lose my mind doing these stupid spreadhseets and invoices!
    Oh, and we call them mouthgaurds in America too!

  20. howdy ho folks, thank you for the comments!

    and special thanks to you sarah, that’s nice to hear from a fighter chick like you πŸ™‚

    Nicole – lovely to meet you and good luck with it all comrade

    M. – fencing does sound good, one of my pals back in oz was right into it. i’m a bit wary ofthat big pointy stick though!

  21. I love reading about your kickboxing adventures! In fact, you first inspired me to try the Kickboxing class at my gym months ago, but I haven’t had the guts to do it yet. I’ve lost about half of the weight I need to lose but still feel so out of shape!

    But if you can do it, so can I (hey, it worked with Body Pump, which I now love after reading about it on your blog!).

    Thanks for the continued inspiration. Seriously, every time I need a diet related (or heck, life-related) pick-me-up, I can always count on your blog!

  22. Thank you for sharing. I needed this good laugh and was literally shaking with tears running down my face! You are awesome.

  23. You are so much fun πŸ˜€ kickboxing sounds awesome! I wonder if there is a street fighting class that uses broken bottles and such. Happy punching mate πŸ™‚

  24. I took a karate class once and Jesse hated it because I would come home and beat up on him. Hopefully you’ll be pounding the tar out of Dr. G. in no time flat.

  25. thanks for keeping it real and admitting that new stuff can just scare the crap out of a girl, but the thrill of trying is so much more powerful in the end..

  26. haha.. I remember when I took up Aikido a couple of years ago..mainly on the strength of my ex and his mates joining. I had the white pyjama suit and everything.

    Quite enjoyed the beginning, all the warm up moves and learning the defensive tricks and whatnot. In fact my mus-kles useed to ache the next day. However I soon spotted my downfall…fear of pain and being attacked! My ex and I had to spar one day and he threw me over his shoulder and I thumped down on the mat on my elbow. If it had been anyone else I would have probably been able to get back up and carry on. But because it was my bf I promptly burst into tears and just wanted a cuddle… oh the shame.

    Thinking that embarrassment was over, the next week we were required to run at the Sensei and he would proceed to chuck you across the room and then wait for you to get back up and come back for more… NO THANKS!!

    I think I quit shortly after that. The closest I have come since is Body Combat and even then I felt like a twat doing roudhouses into thin air.

    I should really start up something like that again. I haven’t been to step aerobics in over a year.. in fact I spotted my instructor at the shops before I left the UK, and she had a baby! Clearly way to long an absence!! whoops!

  27. Great post! I hear you about being motivated by less than noble things. I always thought I was more motivated by the carrot than the stick, but recently found that no, the stick (Type 2 Diabetes…really, really BIG stick, with rusty nails in it) is what it took for me to finally get myself motivated to get healthy. But getting healthy I am, and it’s blogs like this one that are inspiring me on my way (and providing some good laughs too.) Thanks!!!

  28. At least you make your misery hysterical reading for the rest of us. Too funny, girl.

    I’m sure in 6 months (or less!) time you’ll be regaling us with ass-kicking tales from the super advanced class.

  29. I can relate to that post, there’s nothing worse then looking like a plonker eh. I have to talk myself into situations when I push more, ie go up a level in mil fit. Mind you I’ve gone back down as I just enjoy it more with the Blues (easiest team), I am at the top of that group rather then the bottom of the reds.

    Bet you’ll be a champion sparrer(?) in no time. Just like you are a champion at everything thing else you have put your mind to.

  30. Oh! I mean “och!” You are so BRAVE. I am terrified by the idea of hitting or being hit, I’m certain I would burst into tears. It’s not even that I’m afraid of being hurt, it’s just so… ACTIVE and COMPETENT. You are my hero!

  31. Good for you! Stick with it, and it’ll be a very exciting way to exercise. Sparring (when you’re really going for it) is super exhausting, so soon you’ll get to try fighting when you can hardly lift your arms!

  32. At the risk of sounding like a weird cyber-stalker, I heart you. Your honesty and humor are wonderful.

  33. Made me laugh too and vivid memories of putting myself on a knee board at a water ski park and the absolute terror and pain of being dragged round by a pully system. The only thing that kept me going was that I was with my boyfriends very sporty family and if I fell off I would have to swim miles back. My arms ached for a week but I did it!!

  34. Haha, I really related to the ‘less noble reasons’ for exercising…
    I just recently went through a rather bad break-up, and when I found out that he had quit smoking and was running regularly, I took a vow that whatever he was doing, I would do BETTER. So I started running, quit smoking, joined a gym and decided to cycle about 25km every day. Besides that I’m eating super healthy food every day and I’m loving it.
    To be honest, if it wasn’t for pure spite I probably would have caved in the beginning…

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