Amy Stufflebeam: From Baby Deer to Finding My Fight Within
Posted on April 14, 2017 by Society Nine
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Amy is a kickboxing enthusiast and licensed esthetician living in Atlanta, Georgia. She enjoys strength training, piña coladas in the rain and hanging with her two grumpy cats, Italics and Buckley. When she isn't hitting the bag at VESTA Movement or hanging out with her cats she is working on her feminist lit series, the Bleux Stockings Society (you can check it out on Instagram @bleuxstockingssociety).
This is her story.
I’ve always been more of an indoor cat; I have zero hand-eye coordination, I was picked last for team sports and I failed gym because I refused to dress out for an entire semester. Given the choice between a friendly game of Red Rover (which, let’s face it, is a total oxymoron) and being grounded for a week, I’d happily take the latter. My mother, a lifelong fan and participant of every sport, was baffled at this alien child she’d somehow created, but supported my bookish tendencies anyway. With the exception of a short stint on the neighborhood swim team, I successfully avoided sweat-inducing activities my entire childhood.
This worked out okay until high school. I picked up smoking when I was fifteen, a habit that would take ten years to break. I learned to rely on junk food--particularly chocolate--to get through a bad day. Once I turned twenty-one, I practically lived off of pub food, cheap beer and a pack a day. No surprise, I felt terrible all the time. I didn’t sleep well, my energy was low and my skin was sallow and parched. So long as I maintained my weight, I didn’t care.
It continued on like this for several years until I was just too tired to keep going at the same pace. I finally quit smoking when I was twenty-five after months of concerted effort. I was ready to get my life on some kind of healthier track, though I had no idea what that looked like. I tried gym after gym, but never found the motivation to go more than once or twice. That Christmas, I stepped on a scale at my family’s house and almost passed out from shock: I had gained thirty pounds. Don’t get me wrong, I knew I’d added on some weight and I felt terrible about my body, but I had no idea I’d let it get so far. Desperate and freshly out of holiday leftovers, I signed up for my first kickboxing class.
The only way I can describe my fighting “style” in that first class is “newborn baby deer.” I had no idea how to throw a punch, let alone a kick. Basic footwork was a total enigma to me and I’m sure I looked like a world class idiot, but damn if I’d ever felt better in my entire life. I was pouring sweat, grinning from ear to ear. I felt like Rocky Balboa. (Or in my case Rocky GALboa.) I felt strong for the first time and I knew I could never go back to my old ways.
After that, kickboxing took over my life. I couldn’t stay out too late drinking because I had a class the next day. I couldn’t eat as much garbage, because I’d lose the progress I had made so far. I bonded with my community of lady fighters, and we encouraged each other to push ourselves to the absolute limit, to be better each and every day. Months passed and I began to feel more and more confident in myself. The bad habits (and extra pounds) just melted away. Muscles started forming where none had ever been and when I threw my elbow into the bag, I did it with gusto.
I was addicted to the challenge and endorphins that I got from kickboxing and I wanted more. I started doing everything I could think of to chase that feeling: swimming, running, weight training, etc. The more I did, the better I felt. Of course, I had some bad days where my progress felt slow or I couldn’t quite land that kick, but my supportive instructors encouraged and guided me back to a good place. With their help, I gave up on the idea of giving up.
My entire life I’ve felt weak and small, but I’m proud to say those days are over. I’m so grateful for kickboxing for making me stronger and for giving me a sense of purpose. It has so markedly changed my life that I don’t think I can picture a future without it. I have dreams of becoming a personal trainer, of running a marathon and of being the best possible version of myself. I’m a fighter now and always will be.