BUILDING A BRAVE SPIRIT: WHY BOXING IS AWESOME FOR TEENAGE GIRLS
I have been training a 15 year old Turkish girl here in Antalya once a week, and she absolutely loves boxing and I absolutely love working with her. She has reminded me of the fragility of teenagers and the universal emotional hardship of growing up.
This young woman is the daughter of a single mother, a mother who wants her daughter to be exposed to all different types of activities, people, thinking and cultures (she is a very cool mum) and with no gender bias. Every week while we are training, we naturally talk about what is going on in her life - be it study pressure, how the boys are dickheads and how she is better than them at football, how much school sucks and sometimes, how her and her friends wish to be 'skinny'. These moments in our conversations often make me inhale sharply as I'm suddenly transported back to being my 15 year old self - like most teenage girls: self critical, self judgemental and wishing I had body different than what I had. These moments are important to acknowledge, discuss and for me to listen without judgement. God, I remember watching "Girl Interrupted" at 15 and writing in my diary that I wanted to be "disgustingly skinny" like Angelina Jolie....Ohhhhh did it absolutely suck to be a teenage girl (it probably wasn't a joyride being a teenage boy either).
I wish I had started boxing training when I was a teenager - to have a female mentor who could help me work through the hell-fire of hormones and emotional chaos that it entails. To teach me how to feel good about my body and understand how capable it is - to reinforce the idea that I am powerful, have a kind heart, fierce mind and a brave spirit.
Gender should never be a barrier to human potential and I wish that more Australian schools provided opportunities for girls and young women to develop their self-esteem, confidence, emotional wellbeing and resilience through boxing. Through skill, movement, confidence and mindfulness in a non-violent way as part of student personal development.
I'm not talking about teaching girls to throw elbows and uppercuts to another human body in sparring or contact (I do not condone violence), but rather using boxing, like other forms of martial arts - Karate, Kung-Fu, Taekwondo - as a means to build discipline, determination, inner-strength and to teach girls to, most importantly, honour and trust their bodies.
We should be starting this important internal work early, as being ok with ones body is a lifelong battle for many women. Claim our bodies early so we don't have to work so hard to reclaim them later in life. Perhaps a head-start regarding this understanding might help us ladies change the way we women can work together as opposed to against each other through our 20's, 30's and beyond?
*Cue thinking music*
Happy Easter y'all