I initially got into kickboxing when my flatmate was raped. She was deeply affected by the experience for obvious reasons and wanted to learn self defence and become stronger. She wanted to go and I wanted to support her, we both trained for years and made strong connections with the group, making friends, attending competitions, going to Christmas and summer parties outside of training, and some of those friendships have lasted to this day. When I took a break for nearly 10 years, my mental and physical health suffered. After having a baby I took other classes but was never as fit and felt I would never be strong again. I suffered with back problems and post-natal anxiety since the birth and thought that was it. Eventually I found a women-only class where I thought I would be comfortable and ease into my return and build my fitness. The class was run by a lesbian, not that this was relevant, but she brought it up to explain that the class was just for women (and that some people thought she was a man from behind as she was, at her own description 'butch, with broad shoulders and short hair', so I felt comfortable attending. At the first class a man, who was a regular it appeared, arrived and I instantly clammed up. This person was very clearly a man with a female-sounding name and whilst I wouldn't be sparring with this person due to height (I'm 5ft1) it changed the atmosphere and class dynamic for me. I managed the first class but didn't return as I felt very anxious and uncomfortable. I was determined not to let this stop me but I needed to be more selective so the burden of research was on me to find a truly female-only class and I stopped and started several times. I did eventually find a club which has classes at a time and location that suited me and worked around work, childcare and my husband's work.
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