Almost a year ago I sat in a little dive bar talking to Aveloc Twiceborn about an interview I had just done. He told me I had made a grievous error in the interview. “You told that reporter you were built to take the damage. THAT is an incorrect statement. You are here to DO DAMAGE!”
I was taken aback. I knew I was the biggest female overall, I knew I was probably one of the strongest, and I knew what the job of a center was. I stay up, and absorb the damage. But I had not taken into consideration, at the time I should also be the one DEALING damage as well.
Fast forward to this past week.
I had a long conversation with Aveloc again about my fights. His biggest concern wasn’t my style, which is much like his, defensive. It wasn’t my sword skills, which I know are improving every single day, just not nearly as fast enough as I want them to. No, his concern was my lack of confidence. That was hard to take, but I knew instantly he was dead on and I was thankful he told me how evident it was to him. It was something I knew in my head, but I had no idea it showed so much outwardly.
In my fighting, the first response I usually get from people when they find out what I do is “Doesn’t that hurt?” or “How can you let people hit you with steel weapons and not die?” Yes, it hurts but I trust my kit. Armor works…until it fails. You have to maintain your armor, your weapons, your entire kit to make it ALL work. Most of you know I got a huge bruise on my shoulder last weekend from a gap in my shoulder armor. I have another one from this weekend on the opposite side. Two gaps, in two weeks tells me, time to fix the problem before I get seriously hurt.
The same goes for my internal armor.
The day before I left for competition, I found out from a vindictive 3rd party that someone I care about & trusted had told her some very negative things about my body. Ironically enough, he was the one person who had helped me the most with my internal body image issues. So it was a huge blow to find out how he truly felt about the way I looked naked. It shook me. And it showed me I had different kind of gap in my armor.
I relied far too much on what he had told me. I let his words be my armor, even against my own thoughts. If he thought I was lovely, then it was ok for ME to think I was lovely, and it worked. Until those words were taken away. The gap in my armor wasn’t the fact that he didn’t find me attractive. Or even the fact that he lied to me, or the other woman about how he felt about my body. The gap was with me. I didn’t have any of my own defenses up.
Part of being so open with my friends and fans about my journey is being honest. Many people find it inspirational. Others see it as being conceited. I don’t see it as anything but telling it like it is. This blog is my open journal. I share the amazing things that happen in my world, but I also share the not great things too, because no matter what, no one’s life is perfect.
I know I I have never been so fit in my life. I am the happiest I have ever been. My life is pretty damn amazing. I have the most fantastic husband on the planet. I also, on occasion, have lovers. Each one has brought different things into my life. Good or bad, they are part of my world for a reason and I am part of theirs for a reason. No matter how long a relationship lasts, it’s always been good, even when there has been pain, because I end up stronger, no matter what.
After getting through these past few days I have learned a few things.
I CAN walk out on that field with confidence, even when I know I am going in at a disadvantage. It didn’t matter who was on the opposing team, I stood my ground. I went into each fight, learning something from the last one. I held up against some of the toughest, hardest hitting men in this sport. At times I got thrown around like a ragdoll, but my armor held, my knowledge increased and the confidence in my fighting gained ground, with me and with the team. You can’t get better at this sport without being IN the thick of it. That is the biggest obstacle the women are facing right now, lack of experience. The hard part of it all is thinking we are weak, when truly all we really are is inexperienced.
Every single male fighter I came up against went through the same thing. Every single NEW fighter, male or female, will go through exactly what I am going through now. You will get better. You will gain more experience. You will finally come to a point in your skill level that people will start to see you as an equal. I can promise you that. I can also promise you this; it will never happen as quickly as you want it to, but it WILL happen. And even when those around you think you are doing an amazing job, there will always be someone with more experience than you, showing you their path. That will either push you to want to follow in their footsteps, so you can get even better or you can decide to give up. Rest assured standing still is like striving for mediocrity. If you don’t have the desire to get better, what’s the point?
When I saw, in black and white, what was said about my body, it hurt. More than it should have probably. I am not happy with how my body looks either. But I can’t change it right now. I can’t take 6-8 months recovery time to have a tummy tuck & a boob job. My time in this sport is already limited due to my age.
What I can do is be happy with how my body FEELS and with what my body can do. I am strong. I am fit. I am healthy. Looking in the mirror and seeing everything I hate about my body does no one any good. And I promise you, these past few days, every single minute I stood in front of a mirror I hated what I saw. I couldn’t see past what the ever present ‘ fatgirl voice’ in my head was telling me, replaying the words that I’d read. Yet again, I allowed someone else to define the way I looked at my body. An old habit that refuses to die.
Putting on armor, stepping into that arena with men who could hurt me, who were actively trying to force me into submission with steel weapons never fazed me. I had trust in my own armor, in my own skill, in my own body, even with a fractured foot. I did it. I was taken down time and time again, but I never lost sight of the fact that I was gaining experience & learning with every fight.
Eventually I got a takedown of my own, I held my ground and I walked off that field with more confidence than I entered with. That was ALL ME! No one else picked me up, no one else kept putting my helmet back on, no one else got to feel the joy in every single moment of adrenaline that shot through my body. I was on that field because of me. And I earned every bit of it myself by not being afraid, by not giving in when I got told over and over again I wasn’t allowed to do what I loved because I was a girl.
When I stood naked in that mirror, without my armor, without anything, it was so much harder not to give into fear, because I couldn’t look past what I hated about myself. Then I looked at my bruises, and I felt pride* in how I withstood those hits, at how my body took the damage and didn’t break. That led me to realize how different my body has become even in the past year, how defined certain areas are starting to become. I could see good things in that same mirror. I still saw every flaw, every inch that made that person feel that she could attack me and win. And every flaw that made him comfort her at the expense of MY body.
But I also finally saw something else.
I had squared my shoulders back as I looked at my body, going over it with all the negativity that was floating my head. I stood tall when I looked at the damage my body had withstood, I had widened my feet and I realized I was in my fighting stance. I realized my body was fighting my mind, without me even thinking about it. That shocked me.
To see myself standing there in that stance was what I had needed. I wasn’t bowed down, I wasn’t cringing, and I wasn’t weak. Nor was I the hideous, ugly person someone else painted me to be. I was just Amy, strong, fit and healthy. I can’t change someone else’s view of me, naked or not. I learned that long ago. I’d just never applied it in certain instances, because you never think about wearing armor when you are naked, but its there. Just like finding the gaps in your armor, even when the swords are words.
Someone close to me has always told me it was my personality & my exuberance for life that makes me beautiful, which I always took as a nice way of saying I wasn’t really pretty enough to just be told I was beautiful. But each person has their own tastes, their own ideals, and their own version of beautiful. And even when I don’t like certain things about my body, I have to ALWAYS remember the good things I DO love about my body and embrace that, just like I do with my fighting. I am not where I eventually want to be with my body image. But I am getting there. It’s harder than you think, walking out into the world with nothing but confidence in yourself (which is shaky at best sometimes) as your body armor, and deal with people showing you where your armor is lacking.
But here I am.
Sometimes being your own blacksmith is the hardest thing imaginable…but it’s the only way you learn. And with a little help from my friends, I know I will get through the damage I take, but I am also confident I can DO damage along the way when it is required.
Because no matter who puts my face in the dirt, there’s always going to be someone there to smack my ass and tell me ‘Good Game’ J
*(and yes, it’s an odd commentary on this sport’s culture, bruises and wounds are actually a source of comic relief and pride in giving and getting, so please do not assume I just enjoy pain).