A new year and a new mindset

What you are reading now are the words of a more determined, more disciplined me. As 2012 came to a close, I was in Brighton with my honey, and I welcomed in 2013 with my folks. It was a calm, quiet holiday, and it was lovely.

The first kung fu class I went to this year made me feel amazing. I think it was a combination of things. Firstly, because this happens every year, after a couple of weeks of hardly any classes, and around a week of none at all, that first class draws me out of the languidness of the winter holidays, pumping adrenaline and dopamine around my body like an express train, no matter how tired it makes me feel. Secondly, the trip to London that evening was a nightmare, people everywhere apparently not knowing where they were going, dragging those irritating fucking suitcases behind them on long handles so I was struggling to avoid tripping over the bloody things. I was in a bad mood when I arrived at the university where we train on Fridays, but in just a short while, I had perked up immensely. Also, that day, I had written a few hundred words before I left, having forced myself to start on a new chapter, part of my resolve for this year, to write daily. I’ve had a couple of lapses, but we’re still only ten days in, so I don’t feel too awful about it, just determined to do better from now on.

Last night’s class, also, gave me a boost. I realise I’m saying this as though I’m a beginner, unused to it, when the truth is that I’ve been training for almost five years and am learning 5th pattern, which officially makes me a senior student (the idea of which exasperates my instructor, I’m sure, but he has the patience of a saint!). This feeling shouldn’t be new to me, and indeed it’s not. But it’s a feeling I never, ever get tired of. If I’m down, it lifts me up, if I’m pissed off, it alters my mood significantly, and if my muscles feel tight, it loosens me up physically. If I’m loosened physically, my mind feels freer and I begin to feel more like me again. Only a better me, a more confident me, a stronger me.

Which helped me when I had a moment the other night. In the light of that poor Indian girl who was gang raped on a bus and later died of her horrific injuries, Laz found an article online about another rape, this time in America. A group of college boys took advantage of a girl’s stupefied state having drunk too much (or did they engineer it? Who can tell?), picked her up by her arms and legs, and raped her, one after the other, while she was unconscious. What made it worse was that these guys were completely without remorse. There was a video at the end of the article, with one of the witnesses to the ‘event’ explaining how fucking hilarious it was that his friends had raped this poor girl. I couldn’t watch. Laz sent me into the bedroom while he watched it, but even he couldn’t stomach it all. And I broke down. The only reason these girls, in America and India, were raped was because they were women. That’s it. No other reason. Nothing they could have done. They were women.

Now, it hasn’t escaped my notice that I’m also a woman. So where does that leave me? I’m glad I do kung fu, but the fact is I shouldn’t feel I have to, at least not for that reason. The very concept of feminism would never have come into being were it not for the fact that women have been marginalised almost from the word go and we feel we have to fight back. I’m very glad, every day, that I’m with the most wonderful man, with whom I feel truly loved and at ease and safe. He gets wound up about feminist issues, too, but he understands that he can’t possibly be as angry as I am about such things, because he’s a man. That’s not to belittle him in any way, but unless you’ve had experience of what that feels like, it’s impossible to imagine. However, I believe he understands more than a lot of men, even most men, because of his racial background, and he will have felt marginalised because of that. That night, we discussed some of those things in depth, as we often do, but the one thing I wanted more than anything else was a close hug, to feel enveloped, and Laz was happy to provide it. Hugs are one of the things he does best.

I don’t always get so het up about feminist issues, but the more I see, the harder it gets to keep my temper in check. Certain websites (I shan’t give them credence by linking to them here) tell men in great detail how to conquer women, how to ‘get more pussy’, or inform them that women are oddball creatures that need to be tamed and controlled, even giving examples of how women have treated them unfairly. (And how did they treat those women? Ah, with respect and kindness, clearly…) So I hate the fact that I’ve found myself looking at men differently. As a woman, I’ve always been on my guard. Always cautious. Thankfully, I have had generally positive experiences of men, with one or two exceptions that every woman has (just ask – there’ll be something, I guarantee it). I shan’t bother talking about my last relationship, because I’d rather, frankly, forget. I have some lovely kung fu brothers, with whom I can laugh and joke, and when I partner with them in class, yes, I feel safe. It’s a great environment, because there’s an enormous amount of trust between us. But as I was leaving, last night, on my way to the Tube, yes, it crossed my mind. Be careful. Remember what you’ve been taught. Remember not all men are so nice… Remember you’re a woman.

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