Blog of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research

Boxing and Bleeding

December 2nd, 2011 by Elizabeth Kissling

Robin getting her hands taped at Heavy Hitters Boxing Club (Photo by trainer Jay Morales, used with permission).

Guest Post by Robin Percyz

In the boxing ring, droplets of blood are often an indication of triumph.  In fact, if you’ve ever had the opportunity to fight, seeing blood on an opponent’s face will often evoke a primal, animalistic pleasure.   Boxing is, arguably, one of very few scenarios where bleeding is encouraged.

In this sport, the notion of blood is a funny thing, depending on where it’s coming from.  When I sit in my corner after Round 2 of a fight and stare across the ring at my opponent’s bloodied face, my trainer encourages me with zeal.  He’ll boast, “Look at the blood, mama- you’re hurting her!! GOOD!”  Even my own blood, running down my nose and into my mouth is somewhat appealing, reminding me of the “beast” I am trained to be.

At my boxing club, the carpet lining the ring is stained with visible traces of bloody bouts and sparring.  We can point and laugh at whose blood is whose and remember the victory and triumph that resulted from those stains.  However, that blood-induced pride would quickly dissipate had it resulted from menstruation.

In the gym, menstruation is held to a sort of “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.  You would be right in assuming that female boxers are the minority in this culture.  As such, my monthly menstruation is never the topic of the day, nor will it ever be discussed.  “Menstrually” speaking, we want our women to have healthy cycles, yet we generally regard menstruation as disruptive, unspoken, and above all, disgusting.  In the boxing community, we encounter a clear and evident divide between that of “good” and “bad” blood.  It’s as clear as this:  Blood from the nose – GOOD!  Blood from between a woman’s legs – BAD and, further, DISMISSED!

As a female boxer, I think about my “blood” on a fairly regular basis.  Bleeding is something that should innately occur to my system every 28 days (more or less).  However, like many female athletes, my menstruation has taken a hiatus for some unknown amount of time.  They call it amenorrhea, symptomatic of the female triad.  This is all fancy jargon that basically communicates one simple fact: I don’t get a period – ever.

Boxing is an interesting sport in that it exercises much more than physicality.  As fighters, we are expected to fight within a certain weight class.  For many competing athletes, this often means excessive physical exertion on top of brief bouts of starvation prior to fighting.  Smart?  Of course not!

After some time without a menstrual period, I certainly began to experience some psychological hypersensitivity.  Am I woman?  Where did my period go?  These were the kinds of thoughts running through my head prior to each bout, when the doctor would ask me, “When was the last date of your menstrual period?”  I don’t know.

As women, we associate our first menstruation as a coming of age that says “I AM NOW A WOMAN!”  The loss of a menstrual cycle would, reasonably, mean that you are now LESS of a woman.  Or, perhaps, am I woman at all?

It’s just blood.  I wondered why blood between my legs would have anything to do with feeling like a woman.  After all, it was annoying to have to worry about it for four to seven days out of the month, not to mention training with it.

It then occurred to me that “training with it,” or the essence of boxing, was at the core of my desire to bleed.  My menstruation was a metaphor for power!  By bleeding, I was staking my claim in the ring, or as a woman.  My inability to menstruate was like an inability to win or fight.  Assuming I wanted children, my amenorrhea certainly was a symbol for an “inability.”

Recently, my period found me again!  It was like finding your favorite pair of jeans that had been lost for several months.  I shouted, “oh my god,” exactly the same as the 13-year old girl I was when I first menstruated!  This was “good” blood, for sure.

The power of menstruation on the psyche was unconscious for me and I strongly believe that every woman does feel this power – fighter or not. Perhaps the societal urgency to silence women’s menstruation causes this pseudo-menstrual movement; presumably, the same pride that causes menstrual anarchy (well, that’s another blog in and of itself!).

Personally, I am a woman and a fighter.  I bleed innately and I often initiate bleeding.  Is my menstruation regarded any differently here, in the ring, than in most other avenues of my life?  After analysis, it became obvious that my menstruation carried the same stigmas that they do in every other facet of media, society, and life – shunned and silenced.  It was only on a personal level that bleeding became a form of self-empowerment, and this revelation was a result of years without a menstrual cycle.

Menstruation is a personal thing, as you might have imagined.  No two cycles are the same and, evidently, no two opinions are the same.  However, I have found that boxing has evoked a sense of pride and an “I am woman, hear me roar” persona!  The blood from my nose, deemed masculine by society, oddly induces a sense of femininity within me.   It was truly natural for me to feel this hubris-stained triumph when my menstruation commenced again.  I believe that most female boxers understand this juxtaposition of masculinity and femininity.  Our blood is at the very core of this juxtaposition.  Facially, some might regard our blood as a sense of masculinity.  However, it is undeniable that “menstrually,” we are all women.

Robin Percyz has been pursuing a side career in amateur boxing for 2 years.  She trains and fights out of Heavy Hitter Boxing Club in Bohemia, New York and is currently training for this year’s New York Daily News Golden Gloves Tournament.  Robin’s career highlight has been competing against a National Champion, Camille Currie, whom she regards as her biggest mentor inside the ring.  Her highest  goal is to win the 125-lb “Featherweight” Golden Gloves Title in this year’s tournament.

In addition to regular bouts in the New York area, Robin is a content writer for a website design company in Huntington, New York.  She enjoys all things food, fitness, and writing about food &fitness.

  

2 Responses to “Boxing and Bleeding”

  1. Laura Wershler says:

    Robin,

    Thanks so much for this personal story of menstruation lost and found. As you know, this blog is the antithesis of shunning and silencing menstruation.

    I’ve heard many women, of varied ages, say that losing their menstrual cycles was a catalyst for valuing them, myself included. The amenorrhea I experienced in my mid-twenties (back in the 70s) when I went off the Pill forever changed my perspective. I’m almost glad I didn’t know then what I know now: That all those months without cycles was very bad for my bones. I knew at the time it was bad for my psyche.

    I believe it is easy to silence and shun menstruation when its true value to women’s health and well-being is not understood or acknowledged. This can happen on both societal and personal levels. You’ve discovered this personally. Thanks for sharing your story.

  2. Robin Percyz says:

    Laura,

    You’re VERY welcome! It was an absolute pleasure to share my story, from a leisure and academic perspective.

    Isn’t it always the “loss” of something that truly ignites a desire for for that very thing?

    Thank you for your commentary as well. I would love to guest post again!

    :)

Leave a Reply

Readers should note that statements published in re: Cycling are those of individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Society as a whole.