Inspired by Be Enough Me, I started thinking about when I am most me. That's a hard thing to define, given that there are so many different definitions of me. What side of me shows depends on the specific situation in which I find myself at any given moment. There is a lot of me in my job, working with young children as a speech therapist, and of course I pour almost all of my me-ness into parenting Lilah.
But one thing that is just for me is my martial arts practice. I am so very me when I am riding a wave of endorphins and sweating it out alongside my classmates. Perhaps it is because, through martial arts, I get in touch with my more macho side; the side that doesn't feel the need to deflect a compliment and walks with a bit of a strut; the side that is less inhibited and more self-assured.
It is incredibly liberating to set aside many of the expectations of my gender for a short time. As I change out of my own clothes and into my gi (uniform), I also shrug off much of my femininity and the social "obligations" that accompany it.
While the number of women joining various martial arts seems to me to be increasing, the ratio of men to women is still far from equal. Now that I have moved up to an intermediate level Jiu Jitsu class, there are fewer women to partner with, but I really don't mind being a female in a mostly male class in a decidedly male-dominated sport. There is a certain code that is followed by martial artists, male and female alike. Humility is valued, everyone starts from the bottom and works their way up, and it's best if you check your ego at the door, but that doesn't mean you need to indulge in self-deprecation so as not to appear too cocky (as women so often do). Because self-confidence is just as valued as humility is.
In my Jiu Jitsu class, I take great pride in holding my own against 200 lbs (give or take) of sweaty man. If I can just last a full round without being submitted, I feel I have accomplished something. As I gain skill and confidence, there are more of those moments when I am able to leave behind the self-doubt and just be.
In my Muay Thai class, I am often the only female out on the sparring floor. And again, I kind of like it that way; being able to hang with the boys. They usually take it easy on me for the first minute or so. But once I have landed a searing leg kick or slapped them lightly across the face with my foot, they start to view me more as an opponent and less as a girl. And that is my moment of truth.
That is where I find a whole lotta me.