It’s been a minute since we’ve had a community spotlight. But this particular spotlight is a special one – as it comes from one of our coaches. A long read, but well worth it!
Hey Champs fam! My name is Sarah Dharshi, I’m a coach at Champs (duh) and this is MY #ThisIsWhyIBox story. Let’s bring it back to the beginning of my Champs journey. On November 17, 2017 (my 26th birthday), I sent in an audition video to Champs Boxing Studio. Some background information about me – I had NO prior boxing experience. I had never considered myself athletically inclined, especially in terms of contact sports and I really wasn’t at my best at the time. I was however, a professional dancer and choreographer so my natural aptitude for movement, coaching and music (in addition to my competitive nature) gave me the confidence to push my insecurities aside and just GO FOR IT, especially considering the personal battle I was fighting at the time. After receiving an invitation to audition, I met Jelena, Melissa, Farha and Brooklyn (yes, I was terrified), attended said audition on November 24th with an open mind and a fire in my belly and gave it EVERYTHING I HAD. On November 26th, I received the much anticipated email inviting me to instructor training, or as we coaches fondly called it, hell month. Yes, I am talking about all of us putting in roughly 12 hours a week of training for over a month that tested us not only physically, but emotionally as well. After that month of triumphs and tears, our little family came together as Champs finally opened our doors in January 2018. Although we were nervous, we were trained up and beyond ready to jab, cross, hook and uppercut our way into Edmonton’s fitness scene.
I am often asked, “what led you here?” “why Champs, why boxing?”. Well champions, now that you have become my second family that I am passionate about creating a safe space for, it is only fair that I come clean about why exactly I box. In October of 2017 (only one month before I began pursuing my Champs journey), I made the most difficult and rewarding decision of my life when I decided to leave my three and a half year partnership with someone I trusted, someone I thought I could spend my life with, someone who made me a statistic, as 1 in 5 women in Canada are victims of domestic abuse. If you know me outside of the studio, you know that I own and operate a dance company founded with the mission statement of empowering women and giving them a platform to stand in their truth, so how is it possible that I, Sarah Dharshi, feminist killjoy, social justice warrior and self-proclaimed bad bitch, found myself in this position? Let’s keep it real. Domestic abuse doesn’t always start out physically and does not only happen to “weak” people. It starts with insecurities, mental health issues and dissociation on the abuser’s end. It slowly moves into name-calling, gaslighting, slut-shaming and other forms of emotional abuse. You find yourself trapped; blinded by the love you have for your partner, reassuring yourself that the “good times” outweigh the bad, blaming yourself for each incident and hoping things will get better, all of which just aren’t realistic, unfortunately. For some (like me), emotional abuse moves into physical and manifests itself in the form of bruises, black eyes, broken bones or worse. This carried on for the last year of our relationship and resulted in me becoming extremely secretive and introverted as I was NOT willing to talk to family or friends, especially since I have a history of depression and anxiety. After one violent and dangerous incident (of many), my friends and family both were made aware of what had been happening all along and it’s safe to say they were HEARTBROKEN. I stayed in the relationship for several months, even after my support system learned the truth, until one day, enough was enough. I was sick of feeling SUFFOCATED by the guilt to stay – it was time to take back control of my life, it was time to be that bad bitch, the woman that my dance students had been looking up to for over 10 years and it was time to value my physical and emotional safety over his. With the help of my support system, I was able to successfully leave and completely cut off my ex-partner and I immediately took a long trip to Vancouver to clear my head and reevaluate my life- it was there when I first saw anything Champs related on socials and this brings us back to the beginning of my journey.
Regardless of what I’ve been through and what I still go through to this day, learning self-defense and technique from Jelena and Robbie while being able to empower myself and others through boxing and fitness has saved my life and when I say that, I MEAN IT. I will NEVER allow myself to be in that position again because Champs taught me that I am not a victim, I am a SURVIVOR. When I step into the darkroom, get that music pumping, mic up and get my gloves on, I am not just there to lead you through a workout or introduce you to some fire hip-hop tracks. I am living in each moment WITH YOU; doing everything I can to help you push past every physical and emotional obstacle in your life, helping you see EXACTLY how resilient you are (even in those little moments where you feel like being strong is impossible) and helping you crush your goals (whether your goal is as small as toning up your arms or as big as leaving a toxic situation behind). Fast forward to now, its been over a year since my Champs journey started – I am back in school full-time pursuing my dream career, I am in a healthy and beautiful relationship with a partner who supports and loves me unconditionally, I am working each day to become the type of coach and boxer that can make my mentors proud and I have fostered the most incredible relationships with the other coaches and staff members at Champs who are the true MVPs of my story as they continue to help me work through my trauma to this day. It is March 2019 and I’ve made it this far – that to me is a WIN. I survived, I saved myself, I changed my life and I am so much stronger than ever before. I am a FUCKING CHAMPION and there is no doubt about that. So for all of you wondering, THIS is the real me, THIS is why I box and THIS is why I will never stop fighting.
**If you or someone you love is currently experiencing any form of domestic abuse, please visit https://www.alberta.ca/family-violence-prevention.aspx for more information on how to proceed or call 780-482-HELP today.