Metamorphosis: From a couch potato to a Krav Maga instructor

by Paula Niederland, Staff Writer

I have zero natural athletic ability and this is no exaggeration. My roommates make fun of the way I look when I run and I am probably one of the most uncoordinated, unathletic people you will ever meet—that’s why all of my friends laughed when I told them I was hired as a fitness instructor (for children) at a kickboxing and Krav Maga academy.

Throughout my childhood, the activity I hated the most was running.

No, scratch that.

I hated anything that required me to move beyond what the average American moves. I never liked gym class in school, and yes, for every game of kickball I was usually one of the last few to get picked.

Fast forward to a random Tuesday in September when I had extra time between classes. At the time, my bank account balance was so depressingly low that I would actually procrastinate checking how much money I had.

Therefore, I felt it best to use those 10 minutes between classes to search for jobs. That was when I stumbled upon a Craigslist job advertisement targeting enthusiastic, friendly applicants who are somewhat athletic.

I felt I fit the description, especially because I happened to wake up at 7 a.m. that morning to go for a jog.

I quickly drafted an email to the employer. I stated reasons why I should be hired, attached my résumé and walked into Storm Hall immediately after for my Spanish class.

The employer responded to my email and I came into the academy a couples of days later for an interview. I had gotten the job and was invited to a kickboxing class followed by a Krav Maga class later that week to see if I would like working there.

That brings me to Sept. 25: the first kickboxing class I took in my life.

By this point, I am a sophomore in college who no longer hates moving.

In those 45 minutes, I did combinations consisting of a jab-cross, hook punch, round kick and push kick. I successfully completed the kickboxing class and I was surprised at how much pleasure I felt hitting and kicking a stationary cylindrical bag.

I left the class feeling confident, as if I could conquer the world.

Fast forward to the second kickboxing class I had ever taken: the class where I incorrectly round kicked the punching bag, resulting in my self-diagnosed sprained toe.

Conquering the world becomes quite the challenge with the addition of a swollen, blue and grey toe.

Despite the embarrassment and minor pain the injury caused me, I stayed for the following Krav Maga self-defense class that began five minutes after the kickboxing class.

There was nothing that felt more foreign to me than Krav Maga.

As a 5-foot-3-and-a-half-inch tall, rather vulnerable looking, girl I didn’t have any knowledge of fighting nor defending. The class was full of men significantly older than me and certainly stronger than me, and I was expected to learn choke defenses, how to escape a headlock and so on.

No wonder my friends laughed.

Nonetheless, I continued to train in both the kickboxing classes and the self-defense classes. After all, it was my job to instruct kids’ martial arts classes.

Fast forward to today.

I have been working at the academy for over two months now. I assisted in well over 60 martial arts children classes and Saturday marked a new stage for me.

At 9 a.m. last Saturday, I taught my very first kickboxing class… for adults!

One may interpret this story as Paula Niederland’s way of humble bragging to The Daily Aztec readers of San Diego State, but this tale is meant to be lighthearted, humorous and inspirational.

Although athleticism never came naturally to me, there is a whole realm of possibilities out there. However, these possibilities only exist if one shoots their shot.

My arms noticeably gained definition and I am positive that if I were to be assaulted and forced to fight my attacker, my attacks would have a greater impact than it would have had two months ago.

With 2017 approaching its end, please remember to follow your dreams, particularly the ones you didn’t know you had.

More importantly, believe in yourself, even if it means shrugging off your friends’ disbelief and laughter.

Lastly, try something new, especially if it means getting a sprained toe somewhere along the way.