Category Archives: Kickboxing

Things I love about being home: Things I miss about Indonesia.

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So a lot has happened since I last wrote on this blog, oh so long ago! The biggest thing was that I have returned home to the UK from Indonesia where I was teaching at an International school. It’s September now and boy is it cold here in Newcastle! Brrrrr. I miss Indonesia a lot, but there are definitely benefits to being home. I’ll try to weigh them up here.

Things I love about being at home:
1) Driving.

Yes, now I am back in the UK, I feel I can climb back into the drivers seat and drive myself in a car. Did I drive in Indonesia? Of course I didn’t! Have you seen the crazy traffic and drivers there? I swear to god, at roundabouts in Indonesia, people on the roundabout give way to people coming onto it. I remember one of my colleagues at SWA described how she loved driving in Indo. She described the craziness and lack of organised rules and space as something she enjoyed and that when she went home, she didn’t like having to drive slowly and watch out for speed cameras etc. Haha. Now I’m home, I’m thrilled to be driving but gosh, the speedbumps, roundabouts and slow drivers are becoming a little painful and frustrating. In Indonesia, every day in a car or even better, on an Ojek, travelling on the road felt a little dangerous, if not very dangerous! It is kind of liberating though! I did drive once in Asia, but in the Philippines which it has to be said, had similar road safety issues, and boy was that one story. Kerry and Daryl, you’ll know exactly which driving trip I am talking about. I’ll just say being persuaded to drive back one large van to the school in the DARK was not a hugely enjoyable activity for me! I did get there goodness knows how! Still on the whole, being able to drive in England in a definite plus of being back home. I really love driving.. Except have you seen the price of petrol in England at the minute?!

2) Being close to my family and friends.

Indonesia is a long way from from the UK! Skype is great but time difference is not. Being back has been lovely and I know how relieved my parents are that I am home safe and they can see me more often.It’s lovely to spend time with family and I’ve been lucky enough to see all my cousins and Aunt and Uncle who live far south from here since I’ve been back. I’ve also spent lots of time with my sister has been lovely. My grandma has  been ill recently and I’ve been thankful to be home and be able to visit her in hospital and spend time with her enjoying her company. I am very grateful that my sister came out to visit me in Indonesia. No matter how much I could tell people from home what my life in Indonesia was like, I really felt that unless you could be there and see it, it couldn’t really be understood. I wanted my family to see Indonesia and see my life there. I loved being able to show Carla around BSD, the Gili Islands and Singapore. I’m really glad she had the opportunity to come out and see me there. I felt so lucky. I wish my parents had been able to come but they will next time I’m teaching overseas!

3) Food – Cheese – Wine

The choice of food in England is incredible. Supermarkets, Deli’s, all kinds of shops so it was super, super exciting to walk into ASDA, one of my fave supermarkets to find whole blocks of cheese for 1 pound! That’s the equivalent of about 14,000 RPH! I LOVE cheese. Good cheese is sadly missing in lots of Indonesian supermarkets. Nice shops like Kemchicks or Hero’s would have some but it was super expensive. So just imagine my glee and how much cheese I gorged on my return! Wine is so cheap here. What a novelty! Wine was so expensive in Indonesia. And not of that great quality.

4) Rocking out at my kickboxing club, BSBB.

I love my kickboxing team. Rick, the Boss who runs is is a really wonderful example of somebody who has turned their love and passion for martial arts into a successful family friendly martial arts club. BSBB is a wonderful example of a great martial arts club. When I did Karate when I was younger, I really enjoyed the discipline. I got to 1st Kyu but stopped because I found the club to be a pretty demoralising place which didn’t make me feel any good at it. One of the instructors there I remember was pretty mean to us, even as young students. So finding a great martial arts club, as an adult has been a blessing and joy. Being awarded my black belt, almost 3 years ago now, was just so special to me. I finally had that black belt I had wanted for so long! Being back at BSBB now I’m home is really lovely. I’m getting fitter and having fun. I’ve also started as a STORM team member at BSBB so I’m lucky in being able to help instruct/ teach the kids and mini dragon classes. The mini dragons are students who are 4-7, which is the age of the kids I usually teach, and its so fun to see them enjoying sport and martial arts outside of my usual interactions with students in class. I found out the hard way running an extra curricular club last year that enjoying being an active participant of Martial Arts is VERY different to teaching it. Tons of respect to Rick and the rest of the great teaching team who do a fantastic job every day at BSBB.

I also had the opportunity to take part in a Fight Night at Andy C’s tournament just the other weekend. Andy’s events are always great fun and our club really enjoy taking part in them. I have been active in entering the tournaments and competitions there for a long time, but since heading overseas on my 2 year adventure in Asia, I haven’t fought in a competition environment for almost 3 years. So being asked to step in for an injured fighter was pretty nerve wracking, on 6 days notice. And I still didn’t feel that fit! I can’t describe my sheer terror in having somebody opposite me, fighting me, who I know is going to try their best to hit me. All I can do in that blind panic is move as fast as I can, dodge or block their attacks and hope to score first. Or more often than she does. I’m fairly well advantaged in the scoring system in that I have long legs and fast head kicks which score 3 points compared to 1 point for any hand technique. A kick to the torso is worth 2 points. So if you are good with your legs you can really score well in points fighting. However, there are lots of people out there in martial arts who are extremely good with their legs too. Nat Loy, my opponent in the fight night is very good with her legs. I really enjoyed the fight and the experience, and I was buzzing afterwards. Sheer terror beforehand though! That moment where you realise you just have to walk out there and get in the ring and do it. That’s the moment I tell myself, ‘if it works me up so much to do it, I’d better try my damn best to win this’. And I  almost did! Well I made a great recovery from a poor round which ended 8-1 to my opponent, to score 15 points in the second round and even it out to a draw at 16-16. That meant 30 secs extra time. I didn’t score in that time but Nat threw, I think, 2 lovely head kicks. Never mind. Great experience. Rick always tells our team and anybody competing, that everybody gains experience from entering. And it really is true. It takes balls to get up there and walk out to fight or compete in front of other people. It’s scary. It’s wonderful when you win but you learn the most when you lose. Here’s the video of the fight.

Things I miss about Indonesia:

Hmmm, this is going to be hard. There are many!

1) My friends and work.

I feel really lucky to have made some really great friends and friends that I know I will keep in touch with and be friends with for a long time. I’m lucky that skype and email makes it easy to keep in touch with people in Indonesia or wherever they are in the world now. I miss that real face to face experience though. I miss Book Club. I miss evenings spent with friends and wine, I miss easy and friendly company from my wonderful and varied friendships in Indonesia. I would love to come out and visit you guys at some point this year. Don’t know if I will be able to though yet!

I also miss my job a lot. I really loved working at SWA. It was a fantastic learning curve for me. I learnt so much. I grew so much as a teacher and as a colleague. SWA is such a beautiful school and working in the Early Years was a really enjoyable experience for me. I miss my students a lot too! I miss having a class of my own and enjoying the work day in/ day out. Working in the UK as a supply teacher is a very different experience. To all my friends still there and those who’ve moved on, I send you my love.

2) The weather.

Wow, coming home has proven to me just how much I dislike the cold. I have one Canadian friend who spent years evading a bracing, icy winter by travelling to hotter climes. He described himself as ‘allergic to winter’. I’m starting to feel that same allergy. Wrapping myself up in bulky coats, scarves, gloves. URGGGH. I feel claustrophobic in all that gear. And you know what, it’s still not enough! I’m still cold. My feet are still wet and my socks squelch. The UK has had severe weather warnings and floods recently and Newcastle and the North did bear some of the brunt of it. The other day, I looked at the gray sky outside, the water furiously lashing against the glass and the whistling wind which whipped the trees and decided I simply wasn’t going out in it that day. So I didn’t!

Weather in Indonesia was hot and sticky. But preferable to this cold. I loved the beautiful sunshine and blue skies. I loved waking up to a bright day (rather than it starting to get light at 8am here … urgh and the end of summer time will soon be upon us). I liked that even if I was hot, I could cool off in decent AC. I liked being able to wear nice light clothing, dresses and skirts every day of the year. And NO tights. Surely tights are the most irritating item to wear ever?! I spend the whole day pulling them up and feeling them pinch my toes. NOT pleasant.

3) The Chaos.

I love organisation. I really do. I like to clean. However I’m not so good in theory. I try but probably fail often. But in Indonesia, there was no pretence whatsoever in the city being organised. The traffic was horrendous. Roads were disgusting. Everything took an insanely long time to get done or do. BUT, the craziness and liberation of living in that society was exciting and fresh. Taking ojeks was a regular highlight for me. I loved feeling the wind whip my hair and my face being blasted with cool air as we zipped around on the motorbike taxi. Dangerous? Yep! Exciting? Absolutely!

4) The Travel and the Holidays.

Yep, it had to be in there. No matter what people say about teachers being in it for the holidays, I don’t agree. I don’t teach for the holidays. I love teaching. Holidays are a highlight though. But in Indonesia, it was so easy to travel for the weekend or the half term and it was affordable enough to do so with regularity. I went to Medan, to the jungle to see orangutans in the wild … twice. I climbed Anak Krakatau, a live and active volcano. I dived in many beautiful places including Bunaken in Sulawesi which has to be up there on the top 10 dive sites in the world. I’ve snorkeled on beautiful beaches such as Gili Trawangan and swam with bundles of exotic fish in warm, clear and crystal blue water. I traveled to Singapore several times. Bali. Boracay. Lake Taal. Thailand. Malaysia. Burma. What a treat to be able to indulge in so many places and see so much of the local culture and beauty of the places and regions I was living in. I can’t see me indulging in any holidays soon to escape the gray gloomy skies of England unless I suddenly get a full time job with a monthly pay check! Saying that, I can’t wait to see the Autumn leaves and colours soon splashing themselves over the foliage and trees. That will be stunning. Always is.

5) The language and culture.

I loved learning the local language. I actually think I got pretty good. I had some help with Indonesian friends, especially my cello teacher, Asep. At one time near the end of my stay, I spent 40 minutes talking to the taxi driver in Indonesian in traffic! I think that’s pretty good. As soon as you stop using it regularly though, you easily forget. I really don’t want to. I try to speak in Indonesian at some point, normally to myself haha throughout the day but already I am forgetting words and I have to really think hard to remember them. Even simple ones I used daily. Sigh. It was my first ever really decent attempt to learn a foreign language! I also loved many aspects of the Indonesian culture. BATIK! Gosh, I love batik design and clothing/ fabric. Some of my favourite skirts and dresses I bought in Indonesia and are made of batik. Intricate, colourful and local. I also loved the Wayang puppetry and shows. The traditional music. The local schools and children. The day to day interactions of a friendly and welcoming, warm nation. I heart Indonesia.

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Last Woman Standing

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I actually got called to interview for this BBC programme. I didn’t get onto the show itself but I did make it to the last 50 from hundreds of applicants. I was reminded of this after catching the programme on TV this evening and every time I see it, I think, ‘Wow, what an amazing opportunity that would have been.’ If you haven’t seen it, it was a show described by the BBC as a ‘Series which follows five British athletes from different sporting backgrounds as they take on the challenge of a lifetime – travelling the world competing with women from remote tribes and cultures’. The girls who competed took part in amazing adventures and sports you could only dream of trying. They were as diverse as Water Buffalo Racing in Sumbawa, Indonesia and Bamboo Raft Racing in Coron, the Philippines to my favourite kind of sport, fighting! This wasn’t just any kind of fighting, there was Kali Stick fighting in the Philippines as well as Huka Huka Wrestling in Brazil. Wow. How amazing would that have been?!

Last Woman Standing Image from BBC

Competitor Anna Kali Fighting in LWS

I’ve actually trained in Kali sticks .. although not in such an intense environment .. re- watching LWS this evening brought back painful memories of just how much it hurts when you get struck by one of this sticks. I was lucky enough to be able to train in Kali Sticks in the Philippines with Norma, my Teaching assistant who luckily liked Martial Arts as much as me. How amazing is that, to have trained in the very country where the sport originated! It’s actually a very technical sport and I tell you this much, someone coming at you thrashing a very hard stick is enough to terrify you. Luckily when I trained, nobody was that vicious. People tend to have this assumption that martial arts are very aggressive sports. I’d beg to differ. You’re trained, you’re skilled and you’re using technique and a high level of skill and endurance in a controlled fight. You’re using controlled aggression (and a huge bag of nerves) to fight. If I wasn’t nervous before a fight, I know something would be wrong. Being nervous shows you care and you want to win. My Kickboxing instructor always told me ‘Go into a fight with the attitude ‘I will win’. You go in there thinking you might lose and you probably will.

Practising Technique - Kali Sticks, Philippines 2010

I’d describe myself as hugely competitive. I put this down mainly to a dreadful PE teacher at high school who quite literally hated me (although thinking back, she was probably justified – I was a pretty irritating student, one of those ones who constantly talked back, chatted throughout lessons but whenever asked a question such as ‘Kielly, what did I just say?’ I always knew the answer. I had an ability to hear and talk at the same time. As a teacher now, I understand how irritating this must have been. One of my physics teachers actually wrote on one of my reports ‘Kielly and the whole class would do better if she stopped talking so much.’) Anyway, I was desperate to be on a sports team, to be involved. I liked sport. I loved hockey although I thought netball was pretty pointless if I couldn’t move once I got the ball. My PE teacher never once put me onto a team and it frustrated the hell out of me. Eventually she put me on the Cross Country team because I could vaguely run from a selection of girls who could definitely not. I hated running but being so desperate to be on a team, I pushed myself every race to do my best despite throwing up from the exertion and pain everytime I ran in the cones to the final line. When I left school, I threw myself into Martial arts, determined to prove that I could be good at sport. And I was. Luckily I found an amazing team, Team BSBB and I enjoyed every minute of being there, despite the pain. My Kickboxing instructor, Rick Burns also said ‘Never try to be better than anybody else, Try to be better than yourself’. Training in a club environment and being competitive, I found that so hard to get but once I got it, I found myself improving much more than simply trying to be better than somebody else.

Team BSBB, one of my favourite places to be!

My first fight was horrendous. I lost all my nerve and after that it took me over a year to get back into a competition to fight. My instructor pushed me and told me ‘Kielly, you’re good. Stop working yourself up about it.’ So I got back in the ring, fought and won a silver medal which gave me back the confidence in myself, my ability and skills. After that I fought again in the next competition . I remember saying to my friend, Michelle before getting up for my fight ‘Oh my goodness, If I win, I have to fight again …’ I did and I fought again and I won again! I was in such a daze, I couldn’t believe it. I remember Rick looking at me and saying ‘Kielly, you did it, you won!’ and I just mumbled ‘Uh huh’. That gold medal gave me a place in the English title fight and I trained so hard in preparation. On the day, I was ridiculously nervous and had to watch other younger fighters, some were really young, like 8 years old and I told myself ‘If they can get up in that ring, you have to Kielly!’ I remember going out there and climbing into the ring just thinking ‘You can win this. You will win this.’ And I did! Honestly, one of my favourite memories ever.

Being announced the winner - Pure exhilaration and adrenaline

However, no matter how well you do in competitions, your medals are only worth as much as the people you fight. There’s always somebody out there just as good as you, many of them better than you. Mental attitude plays a huge part in it. How you approach the fight matters. A few months later, I fought in an International competition and lost totally and utterly to an amazing Italian fighter. I concentrated solely on using my legs and this was not the strategy I should have used. She was very responsive and I couldn’t seem to land a single kick. Looking back, I was totally predictable in my approach. Nevermind, after that I worked hard in class to improve my punching technique having relied heavily for so long on my quick and accurate leg kicks. I wouldn’t go as far as to say, my punches are amazing but I can definitely say I improved hugely. I had finally realised just how imbalanced I was a fighter only relying on my leg work and kicks. If you never come up against anybody who makes you realise those kinds of things, you’re never going to improve.

Thinking back to my opportunity to be on Last Woman Standing, as amazing as it would have been, would it have been as good as I imagined? Is any opportunity that we missed out on as attractive as we think or do we think so because we wish we had done it, had the opportunity? Being on TV would have presented huge challenges in my life. I would have had my personality splashed all over a TV show without any control over the editing and how I was to be presented. I would have moaned intensely when faced with the endurance running challenges! I hate running! I would have had to explain to the whole nation why I have scars all over my arm.

Would my life have changed? Yes. Would I want it now any other way? No. If I had been successful in getting on the show, I doubt very much I would be where I am in my life now. Things happen for a reason and our life follows unpredictable paths. 3 years ago, would I have imagined I would be living in Indonesia working as a Kindergarten teacher in a job I love, facing new challenges all the time and learning and evolving as a person as I am now? I really struggled in my teenage years with my identity and seeing where I am now makes me proud of the journey I have been on and how I have come to where I am now. I wouldn’t change a thing. I am who I am now because of the events I have been through, the journey of life which has taught me strength, courage, endurance and will power. It’s taken me a long time to get here, but boy am I glad I got here. Never would I want to go back to the things I have lived though but I love my life now and I am thankful for the opportunities I have had to grow as a person. I have accepted who I am and am finally proud of being ‘Kielly’.

I’ll leave you with a video of one of my proudest moments .. doing my Kata (A Kata is a series of moves, designed as if you are fighting an imaginary competitor. It’s an opportunity to show off your skills and technique) in the English Title. I actually created this Kata myself ti show off my best moves (my kicks!) In the end, I didn’t win but so what?! Watching this again reminds me of all the things I should be proud of.

Why I love Martial Arts

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Martial arts are one of my favourite things to do ever. Genuinely, I find being able to participate in such a fantastic sport thrilling. I’ve done many martial arts in my life … Karate all the way through my childhood, kickboxing for 5 years with my amazing club in Newcastle, Team BSBB (more about them later) .. Tae Kwon Do in China, Thailand and the Philippines and Muay Thai in Jakarta!

I can’t describe the terror that runs through my head when I’m up on the mat about to fight somebody. It really is terrifying. Somebody is trying to hit me. I will do all I can to stop them. My view is that if I can hit them first, I’m in with a good chance. Luckily I’m pretty fast and accurate with my kicks. My hands might not be so good but my legs are long, quick and honestly, I don’t even need to aim at somebody’s face, my foot just finds it. Sounds harsh but true. Re reading this, I realise I sound a little like a maniac. I am not I promise! It’s been too long since I’ve been truely involved with a great club. Which is a real shame.

In Newcastle, my home in the UK, there is the most amazing club, TEAM BSBB which is run by a superb guy called Rick Burns. (Hence the name Burns School of Black Belts). What a great club … it honestly is my second home. Whenever I am at home, I know I can head there and feel right at home, regardless of how long I’ve been away. SO a big shout out to all my amazing martial arts friends who train there and make me feel so welcome. You guys are awesome. If you live in Newcastle and are considering doing a sport, check it out .. http://bsbb.co.uk/

The day I got my black belt was one of the best days in my life. I remember just how excited I was for the final ‘test’. 3 months of hell during cycle training (3 months of punishing training as you prepare for your black belt) couldn’t have put me off.

Getting my Black belt! (With Rick Burns @ BSBB)

Other highlights of my martial arts experiences have been … winning an English Title Fight in 2009 (most amazing feeling ever … although I had to will my body onto the mat .. see above about how I feel knowing people want to hit me!) Check out the video of my fight on youtube .. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=117TXlEpBJI... Training with escrima sticks in the Philippines with my amazing friend and co teacher, Norma, learning pressure points .. lethal stuff. I remember learning and the guy teaching us said ‘No use being nice, if you want to learn how to do pressure points, practice it properly now with your partner. Boy did we learn how it felt to be stunned with a pressure point.

Escrima Sticks with Norma in the Philippines
Practising on the beaches of Koh Chang, Thailand