Kicking the Air With a Bunch of Retirees Is the Only Thing Keeping Me Going
During the pandemic, I discovered the life-affirming magic of learning mixed martial arts with your family
Shortly after sunrise every Thursday and Sunday morning, I log on to Zoom and learn mixed martial arts for an hour with my retired parents, aunts, and uncles. Tuesdays and Saturdays are slightly softer: We practice hip-hop, jazz, and Latin dance.
We are not a particularly fitness-minded family, and we are not especially good at mixed martial arts or dancing (although my sexagenarian dad’s Brazilan samba footwork is impressive, and my upward elbow strike is rather vicious). Nevertheless, we keep showing up. My 33-year-old cousin Trish, a palliative care doctor on the front lines of the pandemic, participates too. In fact, it was her idea to get everyone on a weekly workout schedule, presenting it as a virtual Christmas gift to the family. It was a joke at first, and yet here we are, ready to jab-cross-uppercut-cha-cha our way into the spring.
One of the most welcome surprises I have experienced during this pandemic is the unwavering dedication of all eight members of the group (Trish takes attendance; it’s near-perfect). Nothing in our experience as a family would have predicted this level of commitment. Contemplating this unexpected outcome has itself become my personal form of meditation and healing.
The greatest impact Covid-19 has had on me and my family is forcing us into isolation, and for that I am grateful. Much worse could happen. Still, the psychological burden has been great. Reporting on the pandemic day in and out for a year, on top of my existing job, has hollowed me out. I struggle daily to find the motivation to do it or anything at all. Kicking the air with my family helps. Why?
It goes without saying that the physical release is a good reason to keep showing up. When faced with yet another day spent crouching over a laptop in a tiny, overheated New York bedroom like a dehydrated snail, the opportunity to punch, to sweat, to dance — it is a marvel to salsa in a pandemic! — is precious, even if it all happens in the same tiny room.