Girl Among Girls
In the martial art world, conflict is handled face to face: the fighting is done with punches, elbows, kicks and knees. But in girl world, conflict is handled behind another girl’s back: the fighting is done with words.
“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” is a powerful message. Unfortunately, for most people, especially young girls, words are the more commonly used and painful means to inflict pain.
In first grade, I had my first encounter with Mean Girls (which is ironic because as I was going through the entire ordeal with my classmates, the Lindsay Lohan movie of the same title came out. And yes, it is one of my favorite films of all time). The all-girls private school that I attended was filled with daughters of wealthy businessmen, foreign expats, and celebrities. The hierarchy was dictated easily by the wealthiest, most fashionable in the grade. The Mean Girls went after girls they considered “ugly”, “fat”, “tomboy”, “unstylish”, “poor”, “nerdy” or “dumb.” The victims were gossiped about, made fun of, and ostracized from the rest of the grade. Anyone who stood up for them would get the same treatment. In order not to be a target, the unspoken rule was to fit in with the Mean Girls. I didn’t like the rules of Mean Girl world, but out of fear of being bullied, I complied with them anyway.
I became someone who I was not, because I believed I had to. I did things I didn’t like to be accepted:
I wore girly clothes to be stylish
I attended parties hosted by Mean Girls and I invited them to my own parties
I didn’t participate much in class so no one would think I was nerdy
I didn’t pursue school sports because I feared I would be called a tomboy
I wasn’t necessarily in the Mean Girls’ inner circle, but the Mean Girls acknowledged me and most importantly, didn’t see me as a target.
My effort was in vain because the friends I got didn’t stay my friends. A new girl arrived and I became friends with her, despite the disapproval of the Mean Girls. The new girl wasn’t fashionable at all, she was very smart and wasn’t afraid to show it. When the Mean Girls confronted my other friend about being friends with me, she denounced her friendship with me. The new girl eventually learned how to climb the hierarchy and became a Mean Girl herself. Eventually, I had nobody.
At first it was difficult being on the outside: sitting by myself during lunch, not being invited to parties, not having anyone to laugh with in class. What’s worse than the sneering looks that I would get from my classmates, was the feeling of being ignored. I was angry in my isolation, I blamed the injustice of trying to impress others to be happy but at least I wasn’t around the wrong people. In the process of losing the approval of others, I won my freedom to be myself.
In my solitude, I eventually stopped focusing on the anger, and decided to focus on myself. What I mean is, instead of aiming for others to like me, I aimed to become a person I would be proud of: someone who excelled at what she loved.
Ever since I was a child, I loved to learn. So I aimed to excel at learning as much as I could. From middle school to high school, I was at the top of the honor roll. But I wasn’t satisfied with being an academic: I wanted to be an athlete and artist as well. I joined different teams: from swimming, badminton to flag football. I tried my hand learning guitar, drawing and painting, performing in and designing sets for plays. My schedule kept me so busy that I didn’t have time to worry about being with the “in” crowd like I used to as a young child.
In the pursuit of growing, I was surrounded by like-minded people. I eventually found good friends who didn’t care about what I wore, or whose party I was invited to. In fact, they celebrated my talents, as I celebrated theirs. I saved myself the drama that most people got themselves into because they thought they had to impress the wrong kind of people. Most importantly, my mindset of focusing on myself led me to a purpose. In the pursuit of growing, I found Muay Thai.
At first, I was looking to challenge my athletic abilities through a combat sport but I gained more than just intense training and fight experience.
Muay Thai reinforced my commitment to self-improvement and revived it with another goal: to share the same experience with others. My first two years of Muay Thai were solely focused on me developing my skill: as a martial artist and as a fighter. The more I grew physically able and skilled, the more I was able to share my growth through teaching.
I learned to improve myself first, in order to be useful to others. Muay Thai originated from a fighting system for Thai soldiers to protect their country from invaders. Despite its modern popularity as a competitive sport, Muay Thai’s origins is rooted in the purpose of protecting the community. Protecting the community can be done in two ways: by being a police officer/soldier or by teaching the community the means to defend themselves. My path is the latter.
School is a place for learning, not a place of conflict. At first, school was a place where I was in conflict with myself and others. When I used school as a means to better myself instead of focusing on the conflict that ensued from it, I became at peace. A martial arts school is no different. Although martial arts is rooted in controlling physical conflict, the process of achieving any form of mastery requires peace: with yourself, your mentors and your peers.
What I experienced as a child among other girls: the backstabbing and name calling in the pursuit of social climbing, has no place in my school. There is simply no room for drama in order to better oneself.
Replace drama with personal growth, and keep the drama in the movies.
-Poo Choi Kru Kat