My name is Kabilan Mohanarajan, I am 22 years old, Tamil, and an amateur kickboxer. I have never seen the word ‘Tamil’ and ‘kickboxer’ in the same sentence and I think that is one of the reasons why I wanted to become one. Ever since I was young, I knew I was different. Being a minority at school, meant that I was picked on. What made matters worse was that I was smaller than most other kids. But that only fed my hunger to dominate; to prove that I was different in ways that made me stronger, faster, and smarter.
This inferiority complex allowed me to excel in school, which made my parents happy. They had high hopes that I would become some sort of doctor or lawyer and tried to further this idea by sending me to a tutor (no surprises there). But I had different plans for myself. I wanted to enroll in the martial arts and become like the heroes in the cartoons I would watch religiously every Saturday morning. The ones that would beat up the bad guy, save the day, get the girl, and finish off with a witty joke. That’s what I wanted to be when I grew up.
My parents would say the same thing over and over again: “Please just focus on your studies and we will be happy.” But I couldn’t—I didn’t want to be defined by school. Eventually I spent less time doing homework, and more time trying new things. I took up martial arts and stuck with Muay Thai, a type of kickboxing originating from Thailand. Once I began, I couldn’t let it go. I endured many nights of training to the point that my whole body ached; being so tired that I couldn’t sleep. The words, “I will be great one day. I will be great one day” played repeatedly in my head. I took my bruises and kept going. After a year of training, I made the fight team.
From then on fighting became my life. Eventually my sensei offered me the chance to compete in a provincial tournament. For my fight I entered a gymnasium filled with people. I had my gear on; my hands felt heavy. The only light in the room was the spotlight on the ring. I walked towards it; spectators on either side of me. I blocked out everyone, hearing only the announcer introduce my name as I stepped in the ring. When the bell rang, I felt a surge of power mixed with bloodlust. I heard cheers as I connected with body shots and an uppercut. The round ended and my coach was in my corner telling me to keep it up, that I would win the fight. But that explosion depleted all my energy, and my opponent took control of the fight. I came home feeling depressed. My mom asked how my fight went and then, having heard its outcome, told me I should quit training.
Recently, I had my second official fight for the Ontario Winter Games in Collingwood. Going into this fight I felt more confident, but that was short lived once I learned that my opponent was 9 pounds heavier, had competed in 15 fights and had been on the National Kickboxing team. I didn’t want to make excuses though; I had to show everyone that I deserved to be there. In the end, I still lost; the other guy had better timing on his combinations.
I came back home from Collingwood and left the medal I had won from the fight on my desk. The next day it wasn’t there. I began to look for it everywhere. I couldn’t find it. Discouraged, I headed to the living room where I found my mother watching TVI. I asked her whether she had seen it. She raised her hand. My head followed her finger and I saw my two medals from my fights hanging on the opposite sides of the mantle. My Dad had hung them up beside our family pictures.
I walked out of my house feeling something that I hadn’t felt in a long time. I felt proud. I had two special people to believe in me. And just like that I felt ready to find out what it would take to get the world on my side. —Kabilan Mohanarajan