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Leave it all in the ring

Thursday November 22, 2012
Eabematoong First Nation member Roxann Shapwaykeesic (right) scores a point during the Toronto Opens Taekwondo Championships November 10th, 2012.

Submitted photo

Pacing back and forth in front of my ring coach Bill, I could feel a great anticipation in me. The two of us had fought in tournaments for a few years now. We recently started travelling alone to extra tournaments representing Thunder Bay Thunder Dragons to test ourselves. This time we were at the Toronto Opens, a very large gathering of gyms from North America. We decided to coach each other, since we trained together, supported each other’s ambitions and knew our weaknesses and strengths.

“Leave it all in the ring, leave it all in the ring.” I said aloud before the first match against a very impressive adversary. This woman was eager to get into the ring, willing to, “fight all day” as she mentioned in front of the other four women gathered around the referee. To win this, I would have to fight three women of similar age and belt category, mine being a blue belt (two belts away from black).

Luck of the draw had the ambitious one and myself first up in the ring. I was in red, she was in blue trying to stare me down with a mean look. I met her gaze, she didn’t know that this was my tenth or so tournament, and that I was used to the antics. She didn’t know that I had lost a fight in Minneapolis a month ago, and another in Winnipeg seven months ago. She didn’t know I was ready to win again. And she certainly didn’t know I was undefeated since 2009 before that.

I had lost something in the last year. I had lost my will to fight. Literally.

After a series of recent upsets and setbacks in my life I imagined that the reason it was happening was because of me. Instead of fighting back, I took a step back and let it hit me over and over again. I let it take the win over me.

My mind had started to believe what my doubts were telling me. Things like, “I wasn’t good enough.”

Something like that doesn’t happen quickly, but over time.

I had forgotten the greatest lesson I had ever learned: not to feel sorry for myself. I believe that it’s not what happens to us, but how we deal with it. Friends and family all go through hell and back, we all have our tests. Our tests prepare us for the future. We’re all surrounded by energy, we choose how we use it, what we do with it.

I needed to make a decision. I had lost my resolve to win.

The vision of my ambitions had blurred in my life and the ring.

During the commute to the tournament I reflected on my past achievements. The victories had not come easy. They pushed me every time to give more than I thought I could. Before each fight I used to say, “I don’t care if I break my leg, I’m getting a gold.” Something I stopped saying.

As the bus travelled closer and closer to the arena a wave of realization hit, I came to know that I had the ability to win if only I had the want. If I wanted it bad enough, I knew it was achievable. The trick was not to take losing as an option. To go all out no matter what the cost, no matter who I was up against. The only person stopping me all this time was me, I was the only person with that power.

It was then I had resolved to win, to give it all I had. That’s when I decided to “leave it all in the ring.”

Tears started falling to the cold floor.

Hundreds of people packed the fitness arena. It was late in the afternoon and I had just finished my final fight. My left leg could barely move. I slowly took off my sparing gear and saw that my shin was swollen and purple.

I sat on the ground in my sweaty uniform and my matted hair, overwhelmed with the emotion. Not the pain I was feeling, but the victory I had accomplished. After six rounds with three talented women, I had overcome and won the gold.

I felt like I was back.

The first day returning to the gym we displayed the large golden trophies for our coaches. They had trained us from day one and supported our desire for more competition.

Our instructor Kelly Fossum told us she had some news for us. It was time for Bill and I to start training for our six-hour black belt exams next spring. Not an easy feat, but something that is achievable with resolve and the will to try harder and longer than you thought possible. You get what you give, give it your all and your rewards will be great.

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