Carina Hendriks is a fourth year psychology major with a minor in statistics. Over two years ago, a wayward poster convinced her to join the Loyola boxing club. Since that day, she’s gone on to join the team at Izzy Duz It Fitness Boxing (IDIFB) and sweated her way into a new pastime. It’s a story that has us changing “fight like a girl” to “fight like Carina.”
How did you get into boxing? Was there anything about starting that surprised you?
How I joined boxing is anticlimactic; I saw a poster in Cuneo after class and thought it looked cool. I had asked my friends to go with me, but after they said no I promptly forgot having ever asked them.
The interesting part, I suppose, is what kept me in boxing. It was for the workouts that were powerful; I felt – feel – forceful, fierce, immensely capable. Here, amidst the buried feelings I hadn’t yet learnt how to face, I was presented with a way to allow them to move about, to dispel, in a courageous, tough, almost intoxicating way.
But I think the largest part that kept me in boxing, that makes up and continues my love for boxing, is the camaraderie. Our shared pain, sweat, and tears ally us, and out spills from it encouragement, teaching, playful sarcasm, and a pushing from care, all creating a warm companionship that swarms and livens the gym (though to an outsider our gym is only filled with a strong odor of sweat and of condensation dripping down windows). It is here that my confidence and fierceness swell because of coaches and friends that when I can’t punch back, when I’m frustrated to tears, offer comfort. I learned to feel strength while I feel fear. It is this that has kept me in boxing. It is this that I hope to act more bravely; to act despite fear, rather than devoid of it.
From my first day to now, I am surprised that I could learn to feel all that in a sweaty, dripping gym with some goofy people.
Carina with her summer coach, Izzy.
Is there anything that you’ve learned from boxing, as a woman, that’s really stuck with you?
As a girl, woman, female, whichever, I feel as if I am compelled to speak on my experience in boxing: a male dominated sport. However, I came to boxing after the time of only males, and I also came to a fair gym. On both my boxing teams, women train and compete, though I am the second woman that makes it ‘plurally’ women. So not the best hahah.
A coach I had for a while would address the competitive team as “guys”, and after a second, add ”and girls.” It made me chuckle, but I saw it as evidence of the new-ness for him – for his gyms at least – to be training women competitively. He also would only pair me and the other girl to spar, so I started asking if we could spar everyone else (as in the boys) too. Looking back, I was terrible and they were much more advanced than I. But being stubborn and defiant in my interpretation that he only paired us together because we were the only two girls, not because our skill levels matched, I had asked; we sparred co-ed a few times, but only in controlled drills. It’s hard to interpret whether small levels of interactions like this are driven by sexism or external reasons, like skill level, or possibly both.
Another coach of mine – my favorite coach – didn’t seem to think anything of me being a girl. He saw my skill level, work ethic, and pushed me much harder than any of my other coaches. A few boys, with more advanced skills than I, on our team would go easy on me, which is quite easy to tell, so I would tell them to punch me. Then I would die. But I much prefer to not be taken easy on. I much prefer to have my coach have to tell them to ease up than have nothing happen.
However, I realized that, when I started to fight them more aggressively, and with better skill, they fought back just the same. Now it is a beneficial struggle. It took a bit of convincing, verbally and behaviorally, to undo the conditioning of not hurting women, that women are more fragile, mixed with the knowledge that I was of beginner skills that resulted in them going easy on me.
I’ve been fortunate that nothing has been said to me, that I’ve been encouraged to fight, but there are little things that can still be seen, though it is something to be confronted, understood, and patient about (though I am only patient because it is hard to work through the deeper, subtle reactions we have to people based on engrained ideas without actual experience with the group the ideas are about); but I will still call out as much as I need to. With, of course, patience – mostly.
Carina boxing in an amateur fight this April. She won on a 2-1 vote.