Jenn Reese Writer, Artist, Geek

An Ode to Bruises


Before I started studying martial arts in 2001, I lived a fairly sedentary life (where “fairly” means “entirely”). I had been an active kid, but gave up sports in high school when I had to wear a brace for my scoliosis 23 hours a day. And after the brace…? Well, staying lazy was just too darned easy.

When I stubbed a toe or walked into a table and got bruised, it was a Big Deal. I walked tenderly around the apartment for days, or cringed if a friend accidentally touched the bruise. In other words, I was a huge, unmitigated wimp.

My changing relationship with bruises is one of my favorite side effects of having a more active lifestyle. Not only do I now think sweating is a sign of a good workout (instead of “Oh, gross!”), but I love being sore. I love knowing that I pushed myself, that my muscles were torn down, and that they are rebuilding themselves bigger, stronger, faster.

And bruises. Bruises start coming so fast and furious that they’re impossible to keep track of. The other day I tweeted that “Being a martial artist means you’re always covered in bruises, but that you only know how you got half of them.” And it’s true. In class, you’re so focused on learning and practicing with intent, that you don’t register all the incidental bumps and knocks. You find them later, surprise splotches here and there, and poke them, wondering how long they’ve been there and where they came from.

I understand that many of you reading this will think I’m crazy. I used to think that, too. But believe me — everything changes. I love those bruises now. I love that even when they hurt, it’s okay. (Except for the really bad ones, the ones that are part of other injuries. Those still suck.) They’re little visual reminders that I’m getting stronger, learning how to take hits, learning not to get bogged down by a few nicks and scrapes.

Things I used to hate: sweat, aches, bruises. Things I now love: muscle soreness after a good workout, and finding a bruise I didn’t know I’d gotten. (Sorry, sweat. I respect you, but you’re still mostly gross.)

For all of you writers out there, think about rejections. People who don’t write never understand how you can survive them. They don’t understand that they are our badges of honor, our proof that we’re fighting the good fight. They don’t understand why we do that to ourselves, whereas we couldn’t possibly imagine living without them.

I really love how my perception of the world changes, and usually in the most unexpected ways.

About the author

Jenn Reese


  • Not so crazy at all, Jenn. There's great satisfaction in having full command of your body, knowing it can do the things you want it to do, and feeling your muscles obeying your wishes. Plus, there's a big difference between getting bruised like a klutz, and earning those bruises like a hero. When I get them differently, I feel them differently about them.

    It's a philosophy one can apply to other endeavors — that there's no chance for success without the risk of failure. And now you've got me wanting to pull out the free weights, and go for that burn.

    • Ha, so true about the difference in bruises — that one I get from accidentally walking into a wall is not nearly as cool as the one I get from hitting myself with my spear. :-D

  • Remember Harry Chapin? Whenever people asked about his guitar talent, he'd hold out his left hand and show his fingertips. "You want to know the secret of my success? Calluses," he'd say. "Lots and lots of calluses." Then he'd explain that you just had to keep on playing, no matter what.

    Lately, I've been realizing that another component of that success is to remain positive. No matter how painful the calluses get, just keep smiling and keep your eye on the goal.

    Calluses, man. Calluses.

    • Yeah, I am very proud of my hundreds of rejections. And my bruises. I'm more proud of the journey than of the destination… which is honestly, a very cool thing.

By Jenn Reese
Jenn Reese Writer, Artist, Geek

Newsletter Signup