Recently I’ve been listening to a female survivor and boxer talk to guests about trauma and all things related. Her name is Tiffanee Cook and her podcast is “Rolling with the Punches.” It is excellent. She talks a lot about why she was drawn to boxing and what she felt like the ring represented to her. It made me reflect on why I’ve been drawn to boxing and what fighting was like.
I think I always wanted to fight, but more than that, I think I always wanted someone to punch me in the face. I remember backpacking overseas when I was 19. Our first stop was Amsterdam. We took a lot of drugs and it was a crazy time. I went with my brother and his two friends. After three days, Chris, one of my brothers friends declared he was leaving. He missed his girlfriend. He was going home! All the way back to Australia. I got back to the backpackers stoned out of my head to find out the news. Everyone was walking him to the train station so he could get to the airport. Well I wouldn’t have a bar of it! I walked along badgering him, rambling off all the reasons why he should stay and continue travelling with us (we were off to Egypt, Tel Aviv and South Africa… we’d only just begun!). I started ranting, calling him a pussy, telling him it wouldn’t last, on and on and on. Finally we got to the train station and he yelled at me to stop and pinned me against the wall. I looked at him square in the eye. “Go on, do it”, coaxing him to punch me. I wanted him to regret it. He backed off and left and we continued our travels on without him. The relationship with his girlfriend didn’t last long. We never spoke when I got back. I remember wanting him to hit me so badly. I wanted to get hit the way my sister got hit by my father, I wanted external scars. I wanted to feel the pain and for people to see the effect on the outside.
Years later, in boxing, I found it hard to hit back. I wrestled with the feelings that I deserved to be hit, I deserved to be beaten. At times I did hit back, of course, and it felt good, but I mostly felt like I was the victim, not the aggressor. It’s changed somewhat as my skill has developed, but it’s still not as instinctual as it might be for others. I’m less scared for sure.
I wanted to be in the ring so people could see me getting abused. So people could see me beaten. I think I wanted sympathy.
Now I’m just free writing tonight so this is just coming out. Is it really how I feel? I don’t know. Did I really want such patheticness to be on show? Surely I wanted to be strong and a winner? I never felt like a winner. I didn’t have a boxing persona. I didn’t want to put on a charade anymore. I think deep down I knew it was all false and I just wanted to show up in the ring and be truthful. And I guess that meant I was deeply afraid and vulnerable. Maybe I just wanted people to see it. To mirror it back to me.