By Machteld Jurriaans
Okay, here we go. Tonight I have to be social again.
The scenario that follows is always the same, and grows more tiresome each time.
Sally: “Come on Mags, can’t you make an exception for tonight? It’s my [insert birthday/ farewell/ I’m not pregnant-party/ spirit animal day]! Come on, I’ll pour you some punch.”
As an amateur boxer my schedules of work and social life are based around the gym and my training. I am also female and 26. Being a female fighter in the Millenial age where all my friends are chasing careers makes me different. I am no better or any less than my friends, I have just chosen a different life path.
Some of my fellow Millenials use the weekends to unwind from a hard week of work, and this is absolutely fine. This is their life, their free time and their way to relax and let go. I am proud of my career-chasing friends. However, I do not join them on their weekend shenanigans. Sure, a night out dancing until 04:00am with some random dude can be fun, but it will mess with my training for at least three days and then after those three days, it will take me another four days to get back to where I was.
For me, it is simply not worth it. Boxing is my life, my free time and my way to relax and let go. You do not see me dragging anyone who doesn’t care about martial arts to the gym so why drag me to the pub?
On a normal day, I train at least 2 hours. Five to six days a week. Yes, my body is tired but I get pleasure out of this and it makes me proud. It is the feeling that I love the most. Especially when I see progress, when my coach sees it and my fellow fighters feel it in the ring. My footwork is faster, my hands quicker, punches stronger and my stamina as swollen as my pride.
But like with most things, progress is always two steps forward and one step back. I am not a machine. My body will not always do what I expect it to do and this is normal. For this reason I need rest and to take breaks from the gym. However, I do not find this rest at 02:30am in the morning at Decodance, with beer spilled over my dress, a bottle in my hand and a random dude breathing down my neck. Nights like this fatigue me more. They make my feet sluggish, my hands unable to defend as easily, my punches weak and my stamina shot. The consequences are harsh, and I will no doubt be beaten by my opponent in the ring.
The physical pain is a punitive reminder – I catch punches with my jaw, nose and liver (still tender from the night before) because my hands and feet do not do what they have been trained to do. These types of sparring
sessions always end the same way – a disappointed coach, confused fellow fighters and a very embarrassed and frustrated me. Additionally, the knock to my confidence in the ring is a low blow, and one I will not recover from as fast.
All-in-all – a pretty bad hangover.
Being a female fighter means that you spend a lot of time in a male-dominated world, a place where you constantly feel the need to prove yourself. Female boxing only entered into the Olympics in 2012 and people are not yet accustomed to us ladies beating the shit out of each other and hugging it out afterwards. Yes, UFC (with female MMA fighters such as Ronda Rousey and Holly Holm) has changed this to a degree but on an amateur level females are not taken as seriously as their male equivalents in the ring. It is not uncommon for even the most liberal of coaches to call their male fighters a girl/a pussy/a bitch whenever they show weakness or fatigue.
But, this just makes me want to work harder in proving that owning a uterus and packing a fatal punch are not mutually exclusive. And hey, maybe I am projecting my own fears here, but I’ll be damned if I give female boxing a bad rep because of a hangover. The steaks are just too high.
So no Sally, I won’t have that drink.
You do not see me training for hours as I bleed and cry in the ring. You do not see the bruises and cuts the next day. You do not see me fighting tirelessly, not just for myself, but for all women.
This is how I choose to spend my time.
After all…I prefer my punch in the ring.
Machteld is currently training at Pride Fighting Academy in Cape Town.
Follow Machteld on Instagram @Maggie_Tyson.
Photo credits: Alan Scally and Ruud Jurriaans.