Shareefa Energy is a poet and lover of martial arts. She says Muay Thai and boxing has helped her through an incredibly difficult period with her mental health and self-esteem.

‘I was always passionate about martial arts since I was a child, and I trained in karate and kickboxing,’ Shareefa tells Metro.co.uk.

‘I carried a lot of trauma from an unhealthy relationship that impacted my mental health. Muay Thai gave my mind focus and discipline, so unhealthy thoughts were sieved from my mind during a session when focusing on breathing.

‘I wanted to be proactive with my mental and physical health and Muay Thai and boxing help me do that.’

Fitness and training has supported Shareefa through PTSD and the stresses of life. There are moments she feels she wouldn’t have got through if it wasn’t for the physical release of martial arts.

‘It is a healthy outlet to maintain balance and gave me the tools to be able to support myself to channel my energy healthily,’ she tells us.

‘I used Muay Thai and boxing as a tool to release trauma from my body, whilst recognising the importance and the need to be allowed to be “violent” in a safe space.

‘I feel violence is sometimes necessary when processing emotions’ (Picture: Shareefa Energy)

‘To be allowed to hit something when processing the immense loss on my doorstep, when the Grenfell fire happened and I was witnessing the negligence of the local council.

‘Training at the Brixton Street Gym and Muay Thai Masters Academy really supported me to not carry so much pain and anger inside me. Training is proactive therapy for me, alongside talking therapy.’

The Tottenham Kickboxing Club where Shareefa sometimes trains has a slogan; ‘The Right To Remain Violent’ – it’s an idea that she thinks is vital for women to take on board.

‘I feel violence is sometimes necessary when processing emotions, and having the safe space to express, rather than suppressing,’ she explains.

‘It’s an alter for my masculine energy. Men are always perceived as withholding anger and “violence”.

‘Encouraging women to channel their anger, pain and frustration, whilst acknowledging the need for space for it, would also create a healthier society – without placing behavioural expectations on women.

‘I recognise strength in women through character, rather than solely being able to pump weights’ (Picture: Shareefa Energy)

‘Training has equipped me with the knowledge that I have the power to step out of my mind and into my body, especially when it gets overwhelming.

‘Even when I may fall off when other commitments demand from me, Muay Thai is the lover I always go back to. Balance is everything.’

Shareefa says the great thing about martial arts is the diversity – she often sees other women of colour training and participating in her classes.

‘However there is usually an attendance of more men,’ she adds. ‘I do see an increase in more women of colour accessing martial arts across the scene.

‘I have performed poetry for the Safari MMA competition in Luton, which was filled with predominately women of colour and Muslim women attending and competing, which was great to witness.

‘More women should get involved in martial arts as there is so much power in it, women need to take up this space and overcome their fears of patriarchy and violence.’

‘Training has equipped me with the knowledge that I have the power to step out of my mind and into my body’ (Picture: Shareefa Energy)

For Shareefa, the term ‘strong woman’ relates to a strength of character.

‘Women who may be afraid to fail but still try, women who dare to dream and have a vision for themselves, women who aren’t intimidated by patriarchy and take up space, women who can hold their own,’ she says.

‘I recognise strength in women through character, rather than solely being able to pump weights. Strong women are great alchemists, transforming their struggles into power.’

In her poetry, Shareefa writes about the experiences of women of colour. Her new collection; Galaxy Walk, is inspired by what she sees around her and delves into the complexities of storytelling.

‘I write about my experiences of living in the diaspora as an Indian woman, challenging institutions, holding injustice to account,’ she explains.

‘I express what I feel most passionately about as I maneuver this human experience, the poetry alters. I give my heart a voice when it demands it.’

This poem is about what Muay Thai and martial arts means to her:

The Science of Eight Limbs

Hands slip into gloves,

Velcro-fastened,

shoulder to chin,

hundred per cent focus,

the science of eight limbs,

stresses left outside.

 

Yoking back and forth,

elbows ready to strike

punching pads, kicking bags,

trauma and stifled blues released.

 

No space for a mind to drift.

Focus on your breath.

Knees a shock to the ribcage,

may get kicked in the stomach,

resilience built for life’s hurdles

– escaping a clench.

 

Pads pulled over shins,

heel to toe, ankle rotation.

Determined to develop strength.

Physically. Mentally. Spiritually.

Pushing past limits, advancing levels.

Resisting, succumbing to pain.

 

Kru Lionheart says, Are you a master of yourself?

Are you your own enemy?

Collective therapy,

no longer a victim,

a victor takes responsibility,

lessons transition,

commitment, consistency.

Stay present with yourself.

Shareefa Energy, Galaxy Walk



Strong Women

Strong Women is a weekly series that champions diversity in the world of sport and fitness.

A Sport England study found that 40% of women were avoiding physical activity due to a fear of judgement.

But, contrary to the limited images we so often see, women of any age, size, race or ability can be active and enjoy sport and fitness.

We hope that by normalising diverse depictions of women who are fit, strong and love their bodies, we will empower all women to shed their self-consciousness when it comes to getting active.

Each week we talk to women who are redefining what it means to be strong and achieving incredible things.

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