This week saw Katie Taylor win the Olympic Gold Medal for Ireland in the lightweight division of female boxing. The papers have been full of praise for her success and achievement. There is no doubt that she excels in this sport and has won Irish, European and World championships prior to her Olympic success. She has the support of the crowds and has been described as displaying a genuine affection for her opponent when she makes peace with them after the fight and as the athlete you would most like to go the pub with. In other words, according to the journalists she comes across as someone warm, who can relate to people and not some cold, hard, closed off woman who is using boxing to vent her spleen.
But I ask the question, what does it take to be a female boxer? because it seems like a paradox to me, to have genuine care and affection for another, whilst at the same time, deliberately punch them physically in the head or the body? How is that possible? In coffee room conversations this week, I’ve heard people praise her skill and her talent for boxing, yet in the same breath say they do not agree with female boxing. Even the article in the Guardian states “I think this is a great day for women’s boxing, which all right-minded thinking people claimed to feel queasy about, without ever having watched.” An interesting sentence – that right-minded people would feel queasy about boxing – until they watched it, and then what? they would be converted to the wrong-thinking group and support it???
I don’t feel queasy about female boxing – but for me now it totally goes against the grain of what it is to be a true woman. I can however, relate to it as I use to attend a gym and do ‘boxing’ sessions with a trainer where I hit the pads he was holding and moving whilst calling out the different moves. I knew my hook from my jab and I could throw a good punch! So beware! 🙂 It was a tough form of exercise, that at the time, I thought was great, that it was a good way to let off steam, to punch out my anger and frustration or just to have a good workout. The sweat pouring off me and my cherry red face testimony to my efforts in exercising and punching as hard as I could muster. Of course I thought I was looking after my body in doing this, building strength, tone, definition and fitness, giving my heart and lungs as well as my muscles a good workout.
However, I have come to realise through the courses and workshops of Universal Medicine, that many of the things that we assume or take for granted as being good for us, and which society at large believe are good for us, are not in fact good for us at all, once understood energetically and with respect to our true nature. Punching with anger does not release anger – but simply magnifies it in the body. Every force has an equal and opposite force, so as we punch out, that same force is coming back into the body….so boxing, pillow bashing etc is perhaps not so clever afterall. So why do we not realise this? why do we think that it’s ok to train hard and push our bodies? Why do we think it’s ok for people to box/hit/punch each other in the name of sport? Why do we think its ok for a woman to punch and box another woman – not just ok, but to actually support it, commend it, praise it, fund it, celebrate it??
Yet deep inside, we know this is not right, we know it is not the true way for a woman to be; hence the coffee room conversations, the so called queasiness of ‘right thinking’ people. It is an unfolding journey for me to discover and uncover just how lost I have been to my own true nature as a woman, to acknowledge and realise how hard I had become, deliberately so. To understand how in that hardness, I thought it was good to push my body hard in training (the no pain, no gain school), to partake in behaviours that were not truly nurturing or caring of my body. To feel the resistance I had and still have to fully embracing a more caring and loving relationship with my body – in the determination that I would not become some weak and feeble female. I now understand how and why I developed that hard way of being and living, how the childhood hurts and events led me to building a fortress to keep others out and to keep me from feeling what I didn’t want to feel. I have used all sorts of tools to stop me from feeling or recognising what I’m feeling – alcohol, work, sport, food etc have all had a part to play in keeping me numb and hard. Whilst that is specific to me, there is usually some form of that story for each of us, as it is part of the human condition – just with our own individual flavourings and colourings along the way. At some level we all grow up ignoring, forgetting, losing touch with our true essence, and in that lostness we take on all sorts of behaviours and ideals about who we are that are based on a false story and not the truth of who we are. In that way, we can become a female boxer, we can fight and push our bodies hard, apparently oblivious to the harm we are doing and the fact that we are depriving the body of that which it truly craves – gentle touch, tenderness, care and love. I notice that Katie started training in boxing when she was just 12 years of age – before she deveoped as a teenager and young woman. I understand that for her it feels normal, just as drinking use to feel normal for me. However, I now know it was far from normal and was instead very harming for my body and health and in the same way so is aggressive exercise. We can instead develop a way to exercise that is gentle and that honours the body, yet can still build strength and fitness.
Our true nature is pure love, is tender and gentle in every way. If we are connected to that true nature, there is no way that we could deliberately choose to box or punch, both because of the hurt it would cause us and also because we could not possibly hurt another in that way, knowing that they too are that love. Are there exceptions to this? What if someone attacked me? Well I don’t know how I would actually respond until that happened but I imagine if someone attacked me, I would most likely defend myself in some way for in that moment they are not being love and it would not be self-loving to allow them to attack me. However, that is different to choosing to deliberately box/punch someone in the name of sport or where one’s wellbeing is not under threat.
For me, this is an unfolding journey from hardness to gentleness in many areas of my life, from taking on ‘doing it like or better than a man’ with bells on towards being a true woman who honours her body, her fragility and her beauty. This does not happen overnight! Years of engrained behaviours are gradually getting eroded away as I choose to be more gentle in small ways and catch myself when I go hard and push myself in the old ways. They are all works in progress and will continue to be so. There is still a part of me that wants to hold on to that tough independent streak and for whom the word fragile conjures up the ‘weak and feeble’ rather than the true strength and beauty of a woman who is able to truly honour what she is feeling and allowing that to be.
It is perhaps easy in the glow of the Olympics for people to celebrate the winning of a gold medal. But at what price does this gold medal come? The body may appear to withstand the rigours of tough training and punches now, but what are the long term consequences of this sport on the physical body and the brain in particular? The brain is like a jelly in a hard box and you can imagine what happens to a jelly when the box is shaken hard from side to side. Fact is boxing causes injury to the brain – 90% of boxers sustain brain injury according to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (and probably the other 10% do as well but just not detected yet – personal opinion). It is estimated that a direct boxing blow to the head is like being hit with a padded 12lb wooden mallet travelling at 20mph! Those injuries may be unnoticeable now but over time can lead to devastating consequences of chronic traumatic brain injury and punch-drunk syndrome. So how loving and caring is it to willingly subject one’s brain to repeated injury like that? Surely it is obvious that there is no love in it whatsoever.
In N.Ireland it was announced this week that 3 million would be put into supporting boxing clubs in this country in the belief that this helps young boys (and now girls) develop a focus, a life away from crime and hooliganism in tough inner city areas. But is this really the answer to those dilemmas? Is putting money into a sport that pits man against man or woman against woman really the direction we want to go in as a society? Three million to keep people hard, three million to keep people fighting each other, three million to keep people in separation and away from knowing who they are? Is that really an investment? When will we begin to listen to that inner voice, that knows that this is not right, that knows it is not caring or loving and begin to choose otherwise and develop programmes that teach the young how to truly care for themselves, to honour what they are feeling and not bury it in the hardness that is required to be a boxer?
Feel free to share your thoughts/feelings/comments on female boxing or boxing in general or anything else that this post raised for you.