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Why I Practice Martial Arts

Why I Practice Martial Arts

Monday, May 12, 2014 - 6:12am

Angela Meyer. Photo credit Drew Xeron photography.

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After my first experience with Martial Arts I had fantasies of being Million Dollar Baby. I would hear “Eye of the Tiger” at Whole Foods and dream of being a champion. I was living in New York City at the time without a lot of money to spend on expensive Martial Arts gyms. In order to afford training, I applied for a job at an underground Boxing Club, holding pads for wealthy members who wanted to sweat.

In the job interview, I was punched in the stomach, almost puked, and challenged way beyond my physical limits. I mentally endured the trainers attempts to break me, as I did the thousandth burpee in my lululemon yoga pants. To my surprise, they invited me back to the second round of auditions. I was determined, relentless, and kind of pathetic.

As the only woman, I think the trainers were getting a kick out of my passionate incompetency. Needless to say, I did not get the job, but an internal fire was ignited to keep pursuing different creative avenues of training in Mixed Martial Arts.

I am a 5’2 experienced yoga instructor, Masters of Theology grad, former Lululemon ambassador, hospice chaplain, nonprofit champion, who has always advocated for social justice, building community and making the world a more healing place. Why would I be interested in martial arts? Here are 10 reasons why I practice martial arts.

  1. Because it’s the best workout I’ve ever done:

Just for pure vanity reasons, martial arts will get you fit. I was a college soccer player and lifetime runner. I am the Regional Director of Group Exercise for the YMCA and former Group Program Manager at Vida Fitness. At 36, I am fitter than I have ever been in my life, and I attribute a lot of that to martial arts training. I define “fit” as not just physical, but also mental, emotional, and overall “wellness.”

  1. Because I want to face my fears:

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.Eleanor Roosevelt

When sparring with someone, I always have a heightened sense of fear. In a training environment, my partner is not out to harm me and my teacher would never put me in a situation I cannot handle. Even still, a primal fear arises as punches are flying at my face or I experience the helplessness of being pinned down and not able to get up. I am often afraid of “losing” or not being enough. I am forced to experience fear and take action, instead of shutting down or running away. I am constantly reminded that training is not about “beating the other person,” training is about being your personal best and always challenging yourself to achieve greatness.

  1. Because I am constantly growing and learning about myself.

I remember one early morning training session…I spent thirty minutes with my partner, doing an Escape from Back Choke drill over and over and over. When it was time to put the drill in action, my partner sunk the rear naked choke from behind and it was my job to escape. My first reaction, was to quit, to make some excuse as to why this was not going to work, it was too hard. My teacher was yelling at me, “You know how to do this! Get out!!! Slow down, breathe, you’ve got this!!!” It was in that moment, where my ears opened, I listened, relaxed, remembered the technique, and escaped the rear naked choke. I was immediately reminded of how many times in my life, my first reaction to a visceral experience, is to make excuses or get angry and leave. Through martial rtas training I am constantly able to practice a different way: stop, listen, breathe, remember what I know, trust myself and act.

  1. Because it makes me feel strong and empowered:

I feel more confident and safe as I am walking down the streets of DC. I speak, act and carry myself as a woman who can hold my own. Not only am I physically stronger, martial arts also cultivates a mental and emotional fortitude.

  1. Because it’s the perfect balance to Yoga

I am always seeking balance in my life, even though I often fall short. For many years, all I did was yoga. I love yoga, teach yoga and practice yoga on a daily basis. Yoga offers me a container in which I can breathe, move and find alignment, not just within my physical body, but also emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Martial Arts allows me to sit on the opposite end of the see saw. It still provides a container to breathe move and find alignment, but this container is constantly under stress. In yoga, I am pretty much alone on my mat. In martial arts, I am engaged, and forced to act in a state of “conflict.” I think the practice of yoga and martial arts are the perfect blend to keep my mind/body/spirit, agile, fluid, integrated and whole.

  1. Because it’s really fun and more than just exercise.

I love being active. Martial arts is one of the most fun ways to be active, learn something new, and constantly grow and challenge yourself. I never get bored and there is always room to progress to the next level of development. Within Mixed Martial Arts, there are several modalities to train and mix it up.

  1. Because it’s a great container to unleash my inner beast.

Many years ago my therapist suggested I try martial arts. My response was, “I don’t have time for another activity.” Looking back, I understand his recommendation. Training in martial arts is the perfect outlet for me to “unleash the beast.” I can release my angst in a controlled and safe environment. I can channel my inner warrior in a creative and non-destructive modality.

  1. Because it’s an alternative to happy hour:

Training in martial arts can be intimate and social. You are forced to be vulnerable, build trust and engage with other human beings. I am not knocking happy hour, but this type of training has offered an alternative to my “DC bar rat days.”

  1. Because I am forced to ask hard questions:

I have thought about competing in an MMA fight. In contemplating "fighting", I am forced to ask myself hard questions. I do not think that I could punch someone in the face and make them bleed for sport. I am forced to look at my preconceived notions of “violence” and start to break down any of my stagnant ideas. My teacher's advice on the subject, “The person you are competing against agreed to these terms, why do you feel the need to take that from them? Why do you feel the need to take care of them when they did not ask for that?” A very valid question, and as a serial caregiver, I have to ask myself why I feel compelled to take care of others? Am I taking away someone else’s dignity and independence, by overly asserting my needs to nurture? Although I don’t have answers, training in martial arts is continuously challenging my concrete beliefs around violence, and for that, I am grateful.

  1. Because there are hot guys.

It’s the truth. I had stereotyped martial arts guys as unintelligent meatheads. As I began to train and get to know men beyond the stereotype, my perspective changed. I’ve made some great guy friends through training who are smart, sensitive and dedicated human beings. Just as yoga is still typically female dominated, martial arts is still typically male dominated … just saying ladies.


Angela trains in Mixed Martial Arts with Krav Maga Black Belt and MMA World Champion, Chris Torres at the Downtown DC YMCA's. If you are interested in trying out a free kickboxing, Krav Maga or Jiu Jitsu class, contact angela.meyer@ymcadc.org

Also, check out the following June workshops:

Want to add a whole new dynamic to your striking and fight movement? 
Join Chris Torres and Angela Meyer for a
KICKBOXING PAD HOLDING WORKSHOP
Saturday June 7th 12-3pm
Meet at YMCA Anthony Bowen, then head to Meridian Hill Park (weather permitting)
Only $10.00

WOMEN’S ONLY SELF DEFENSE WORKSHOP
 with Chris Torres, Krav Maga Black Belt and Angela Meyer
Saturday June 21st 12-3pm
YMCA Anthony Bowen
Learn the basic skills necessary to protect yourself. You’ll get practical and hands-on self-defense techniques, tactics and strategies while also exploring how to avoid dangerous situations. what it means to you in your everyday life. This training will be safe, informative and physically demanding… prepare to work!
Only $20.00

 

To register or for more information contact:  angela.meyer@ymcadc.org

About the Author

Angela currently teaches Yoga, Budokon and Self Defense full time at 202Strong, Flow Yoga Center, Yoga Heights, Vida and George Washington University.  Her vision is to create a community of Everyday Warriors through movement and psychology, who are equipped and motivated to face their Everyday fears and cultivate courage and resilience. As a leader in the Women's Self Defense Movement, she inspires women to be physically strong and safe, while also creating  paradigm shifts in how we see ourselves in the world. She  leads Yoga Teacher Trainings and Budokon Academies throughout Washington DC. She has a Masters of Divinity, is a certified End of Life Care Counselor, studied Buddhist chaplaincy through the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care, and worked for 12 years at Joseph’s House AIDS hospice. She is a competitive Martial Artist in Muay Thai, Jiu Jitsu and MMA. She also knows every 80s Monster Ballad and loves high alcohol content beer. 

Check out her programs:  www.warriorwomanrepublic.com  

Register at: 202strong.wodify.com ~ sessions ~ Women's Self Defense

Follow Angela:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/angela.meyer.3760

Instagram: @budokonangela