As a teenager, I hated Physical Education lessons. I was not very good at sports, and I hated team sports because I always felt like I was disappointing the rest of the team. I was always making up excuses to get out of lessons. During these years, I sometimes felt disconnected from my body, like only my brain was ‘me’ and my body was just a vehicle for carrying my brain around.
When I started university, I decided to try kung fu. To my surprise, I loved it! It was a friendly and casual club, and in my first year most of us were beginners. I used to go two or three times a week to train. Because it is not a team sport, I didn’t feel guilty about not being very good. And because it is a combat sport, you train in pairs, which means that you get to meet people and talk to them. I also appreciated that the focus of the classes was on getting better at kung fu, rather than exercising to change my body. I think that advertising puts us under an unhealthy pressure to change our appearance. When I was doing kung fu, my body did change – I got stronger and quicker – but the changes were a side effect of the sport, instead of the goal. Unfortunately, in the last year of university I was too busy to do kung fu most of the time.
When I moved to Italy this year I decided I wanted to start doing a combat sport again. I found a great local club that does mixed martial arts and I love it. The club is more serious than the one at my university and we do lots of sparring (practice fights). I think that sparring is like chess, but much faster and much more fun! If your sparring partner tries to punch you, you have to decide in an instant how to react. You could dodge, block or even catch their arm and then throw them to the mat.
When I was a teenager, I would say I just wasn’t a sporty person and that I just didn’t like sport and never would. Now I think that everyone should try as many sports as possible because I believe there is something out there for everyone! I feel connected to my body and I am happier and have more energy when I have been doing sport. I think a lot of people don’t enjoy basketball or football at school but maybe they would enjoy yoga, rock climbing or volleyball.