When I started training Muay Thai (Thai boxing) I never believed that I would have what it takes to fight. Not that I didn’t want to get in the ring, because deep down I did, I just didn’t think I could ever train hard enough to get to that point. Or be good enough to get to that point. I remember watching fight shows years ago and I was fairly in awe of the fearlessness and strength of the fighters and imagined what it would be like to be up there under lights, with the adrenaline, and the rawness of it all. Imagined in a naive and glorified sense, that is, as at that time I didn’t understand or appreciate the hard work that goes into fight training and the sacrifice that goes along with it.
Fast forward to now and I am training for my 8th professional fight. I have been fortunate that with my work I have been able to dedicate a lot of time to my training, and for the last few years my life has sort of worked its way around my sport. I am grateful that I have had the opportunity to do something that I am so passionate about.
After one of my fights at the end of last year, I was a bit banged up. I had lost on points, felt a bit disappointed and looked a bit rough with a black eye and really swollen shins. Someone close to me confronted me and said that I was crazy to keep putting myself through this. “It’s not your fight, Talia. Why don’t you fight for something that matters. There are real fights out there – wars, deaths in custody, homelessness. These are the things you should be fighting for. What you are doing isn’t right for you, it doesn’t make sense.”
At first this offended me. And then it infuriated me. Now it doesn’t bother me. I still think about those words, although now in a more reflective sense. Sure, there may be more important fights out there but I’m still fighting for something that matters. In my own way. I don’t think that anyone can really understand why someone chooses to get in the ring except for that person. It is an individual thing.
I know people who fight because they have been abused and this makes them feel strong. I know people who fight because competition is the ultimate showcase for their skills and hard work. I know people who fight because of a deep love and respect for the sport. I know people who fight to put food on the table for their family. One of the reasons I fight is that it quiets the inexorable pull of self-destructive behaviour that takes over when I don’t have a focus, when I spend too much time caught in my own thoughts, and when I experience hurt or heartache. Maybe this is not everyone’s way of dealing with these things but for me, the training is my solace, and it makes me a stronger and a better person. I guess its my way of fighting against those things that bring me down.
Maybe to some people it doesn’t make sense. Even when I think about the training we go through for a fight camp I think it is a little crazy myself. I’ll admit there are times that I start to question why I do it. The hours spent in the gym, working on technique, pad work where 3 minutes is made to feel like 3 hours, sparring injuries, other injuries, pretending you don’t have injuries, running in the dark, running in the rain, running running running, body aches when you wake up in the morning, bruised ribs, bruised shins, dieting, scrolling through instagram dreaming of the things you’d like to eat some day, saying “no” to everything social, getting home and being too exhausted to talk, falling asleep at work. Writing this list out now is even making me feel overwhelmed so I’m going to leave it there.
Despite all of this, the people who I train with have become my family. I have seen my idols become my peers – women I saw in fight shows or followed on social media have become training partners. I have done things I never thought I was capable of. I have given my energy to something I am passionate about. I have felt that feeling when the final bell goes. Through becoming stronger, I have inspired others to do the same. And despite all the sacrifice, that is what keeps me going.
Although it is my way of showing strength, you don’t need to get in the ring to fight. It is true that there are many fights out there and of the most powerful and meaningful things in life is to find something that is worth fighting for. Something that you believe in and would give your heart and soul to. This month at the Queen of Lean we are fighting against domestic violence. Our Lift Against Violence day on 24th November is a charity day to foster awareness around domestic violence and to help those women in our community who are affected. We have such a strong group of women who work and train at the Queen of Lean and it means a lot to me that we can band together to help the women in our community that need our help and support the most.
Together we are fighting against the statistic that on average, 1 woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner. We are fighting against the statistic that 1 in 2 women have experienced sexual harassment. We are fighting against the statistic that 1 in 4 women have experienced emotional abuse by a current or former partner. We are fighting against the statistic that one of the most dangerous places for a woman is in her own home. Domestic violence is a community responsibility and I invite you to come and join our community as we fight to end this.