Thursday, February 19, 2015

Why I Fight

I’m looking at my right index finger, and it is throbbing and stiff at the knuckle, which I have just noticed is pushed down into the joint. Barely a knuckle at all. I knew this would happen.

I need to get wraps, I say to myself mumbling over sugarless coffee that is laced with coconut oil and honey. I have already devoured two nearly raw eggs like a rabid dragon and am still hungry. I will wait another hour, once I have finished my coffee, for “second breakfast”. What you all might refer to as a coffee break. It could be a giant bowl of raw spinach with olive oil and any kind of nut imaginable and more eggs. Maybe some cheese and flash sautéed carrots. I try to make it all count.

But who am I kidding, I’m still shoveling it in like the excavator on Bob the Builder.

Sugar makes me shake a little. Junk food gives me heartburn (always has, but now it’s just a torture not worth even a taste) and booze gives me acute insomnia.

Also, I am usually covered with bruises.

“What in the fuck happened to your elbows?!” That was the general inquisition at Thanksgiving. I hesitated and gave a desperate look to my daughter, who knew exactly what happened. She had similar purple/yellow markings on hers.


“What class?”

“Fight class.”

The disapproval hung in the air just for a second before the turkey came out. It was nothing compared to the tension in the emergency room a few days before Christmas when a doctor with a thick accent told me that not only did I have two ruptured ovarian cysts but also a contusion on the left inner wall of my abdomen that went from my ribs to my…Southern States.

“Do you know what this could be from?” The doctor was really skeptical. Possibly already writing up the abuse report in his head.

“It’s that damn class!” My mother said. Despite numerous “I’m fine, I’m driving myself to the ER, Just wanted to let you know” texts, she was hot on my tail and would not leave the hospital.

“What class?”

“It’s…it’s an MMA class,” I said. “It’s MuayThai-style fighting and a lot of conditioning and…”


“Yeah. Kickboxing, but more intense. Way more.”

That was the first doctor’s note I ever received with ‘no contact sports or combat situations’ underlined in the first paragraph under the treatment category. I was out for two weeks. It was awful. I should’ve been out for four but who can stay away? I could feel myself getting weaker by the minute. I could feel myself losing the edge that I fought so hard to gain.

Also, my fight partner is my 14-year-old daughter and we are incredibly competitive. The thought of her gaining ground…on top of already being in really good physical condition…na-ah. Wasn’t gonna happen. Especially when the only thing standing between a good ass-kicking from your kid is a giant mountain of pride and maybe a little more speed.

MMA is not for everyone. It hurts. A lot. But for me, what hurts more, is sitting on all of those years where I wish I had known how to fight for real. Or more importantly, how to control the fight inside of me. Because there is always so much of it.

“You should’ve been a lawyer.”

“I should’ve been a judge.”

I’ve been fighting for 38 years, to the day. Some of them were totally unfair rounds where I was too young to even think about defending myself. I try to forget those fights. God and karma will handle those fights with those monsters. They will seem like ants in the ring…

Some fights should not have come to blows. Metaphorical or otherwise. I should’ve been the better woman and walked away or just put my hands in front of my face and recognized that what my partner needed was to throw a couple of punches and be done with it. That I didn’t need to take any swings or kick with my dominant side. I know better now.

The physical price of the training is…well, let’s just say today I’m having trouble managing flights of stairs and using my legs to get up (and down) from a seated position. That includes visits to the bathroom. My toe has a mysterious gash that won’t heal. My feet are so calloused and unfeminine I can barely stand to look at them. My shoulders, which were already wide to begin with, are ropes of muscle around bone. My nose has finally stopped throbbing from the “accidental” contact my daughter made with my face a few weeks ago.

Literally every single bra I own is too big. And I pee all the time because all I do is eat eggs and down water…all day. All night. In fact, it’s dangerous for me, this class. I take a medication for seizures that prevents me from sweating. Do you know what that does to a person in the middle of a brutal conditioning session? I can almost feel the acid taking over my blood. I’d rather sweat to death than wonder if this is gonna be the night I overheat like a 20-year-old Pinto in the middle of Vegas.

Thankfully, my fight partner recognizes the signs and even while she’s kneeing me in the chest she’s asking if I need water. Or a band-aid. Or a break.

“Do you feel sick,” she fusses, in a whisper. “How’s the sweating? Your face is getting white. Maybe you should stop.”

Each time, I tell her I’m fine, and that I really will let her know if I’m not. That is the irony of the bruises, the aching muscles, the cracked skin. I will always finish the fight in there because it’s worth it to me to know that I can do it. It is giving me the grace, slowly of course (because I’m more stubborn than an old jackass, this I’ve been told) to pick my battles once I take the gloves off. Fighting is so hard, gaining ground takes so much effort…it had better be worth it.

With a teenage daughter made out of fire and a son made out of wind, both living under the same roof with a mother made out of timber…it has to be worth it.