I am the type of person that makes lists every now and again entitled, “TEN THINGS I WANT TO DO”. I like lists and I really like lists that make me stretch way beyond my comfort zone. Way back in the fall of 1998 I made just such a list and the #1 thing on my list? Learn kickboxing. I don’t know why that was number one, but it was. My intuition was knocking and I was listening.
A couple of months later, I moved from Northern California to LA and one of the first things I did upon moving here? Took a kickboxing class. Turned out, a good friend worked at a martial arts studio that taught two forms of kickboxing: Muay Thai and Savate. Savate is a little-known style of kickboxing that originated in France. It’s not very popular here in America, but is much more widespread in Europe.
I took an intro class in both modalities and instantly signed up for Savate. Savate is known as the “ballet” of the kickboxing world and that suited my dance background-self perfectly. My instructors were both from France and both had fought competitively, so they knew their stuff. I instantly began taking classes 3 to 4 times a week. I was HOOKED. And the classes weren’t bag classes. I think I sparred the very first time I took a class. I use the word “spar” lightly as I’m pretty sure I looked like a deer caught in headlights as I desperately tried to avoid getting hit.
Six months later, I got a phone call from my coach. He left a message saying he had something he needed to talk to me about, would I please call him. I was very confused. What on earth did Michael want to talk to me about? Turned out, the first World Cup Savate Championships were being held in June of 2000 in France and Michael wanted me go and represent America.
“Uh, you want me to do WHAT??”
Sparring in class, fine. Fighting for realsies?? Like, in a ring with judges watching?? Oh, hell no!
Then I paused for a moment and thought about it. What was the worst thing that could happen? I could get hurt, obviously, but I got hurt sparring sometimes, so what was the difference? But….me?? Seriously?? I couldn’t quite wrap my head around it. I had been a cheerleader in high school and college. I wore small pleated skirts and held pom-poms. That girl couldn’t be a fighter. Right??
It seemed insane. It wasn’t even on my radar of life possibilities. Was this something I was seriously considering?
Yes. Yes, it was. And so you know what I said?
That decision would prove to change my life.
All of the sudden, my world revolved around kick boxing. I continued taking Savate classes 4 times a week, I was working with a personal trainer twice a week on strength and speed, plus I worked with my coach twice a week in one-on-one sessions. I was bruised and battered, totally exhausted, and hand wraps hung like streamers in my apartment.
My eating schedule had become regimented. I had to make weight! Instead of eating to eat, I ate to fuel. My whole life paradigm had dramatically shifted. And I absolutely loved it.
But every time I thought about fighting IN A RING IN FRONT OF PEOPLE my stomach dropped and ice-cold water ran through my veins. So, I just didn’t think about it too much. Avoidance? You bet.
The day soon arrived, though, when I had to face that ring. I had to fight in order to win a spot on the American team. I was terrified. Every single atom in my body was screaming, “FLEE!! RUN AWAY! FAR, FAR AWAY!” That whole fight or flight instinct had kicked in and my body had chosen flight. Overriding that impulse felt insurmountable.
Stepping into the ring for my first fight felt like an out-of-body experience.
But as soon as the referee said, “Allez”, that all fell away and I was fighting. For realsies. In front of people! And it wasn’t that bad. In fact, there were moments that it was really, really, really amazing.
I was obsessed. For the next six years my life revolved around Savate. I went back to the Worlds in 2002 and placed 2nd.
Like, the entire planet!! It was crazy. Unbelievable. And I never would’ve achieved it if I hadn’t stepped into the big scary realm of the impossible. I did it again in 2006 and it was epic. I had the fight of my life in that tournament. I lost again in the finals, but it was a split decision. Meaning, some of the judges had picked me as the champion.
Saying yes to something that seemed completely out of reach powerfully altered my entire life. Now I’m addicted to striving for those seemingly crazy, scary goals.
Want to quit your job? Take an art class? Run a marathon? What is that thing you’ve always wanted to do or try, but seems impossible, not doable, insane?
It’s that thing that niggles at you down deep.
Maybe you’ve never told anyone about it. Maybe saying it out loud scares the shit out of you. You know what I’m talking about.
That. DO THAT.
For therein lies the greatest reward.
Questions? Thoughts? I’d love to hear from you! Head over to my website and leave a comment.