Martial arts are codified systems and traditions of combat practices, which are practiced for a number of reasons: as self-defense, military and law enforcement applications, mental and spiritual development; as well as entertainment and the preservation of a nation's intangible cultural heritage. Whether it be martial arts, pain management, or muscular rehabilitation, this dynamic woman has found inspiration that is worth fighting for.
Girlz B Sweet reserved a unique opportunity to interview a true martial artist in the field of massage rehabilitation. Heena Patel, a licensed massage and bodywork therapist (LMBT), is well versed and diversified in the field of therapeutic massage and bodywork therapy. Originally from Boone, NC, Henna currently resides in Winston Salem, NC where she owns and operates a pain management and muscular rehabilitation practice. When she is not working, she enjoys Brazilian Jiu Jitsu training, hiking, and playing with her mini sheepadoodle.
In our interview, Heena explained that she has been involved in martial arts since age 16 and has developed a deep passion for the sport. Her knowledge base of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is constantly evolving. "Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was developed to help the smaller, weaker person defend against the larger, stronger person." This could inspire individuals who may have insecurities about their size. It potentially gives them courage that they may not have had before.
Heena told Girlz B Sweet that there has been an influx of girls and women in competition, including women in their 40’s and 50’s. "You don’t win every day, but the better your partner gets, the better you become. You have to have a good training partner." Her team's competition motto is "You either win or you learn.” Heena emphasizes, "Don’t be afraid to lose. You learn from it and get better with it, and I found the same thing to be true in business. You cannot be afraid of failure."
Heena enjoys her work as a massage therapist, a pain management and rehabilitation specialist with a focus in oncology massage, post op treatment, and sports massage. She has been able to work with many athletes in the areas of track and field, cross country, MMA, and football at all levels. She has even treated a few NFL clients in her career. Recently, Heena has provided therapy at the World Masters Track & Field Championship events. "When your body functions a little better, you can come back with a win." Heena's therapeutic techniques helped an athlete secure a win. She also assists high school female cross country runners with getting in shape for scholarships opportunities.
Although she runs a successful practice, she holds a strong passion for world of martial arts. She is part of a large women's team and said that the most important aspect is teamwork. "When I first started there weren’t that many women involved in martial arts. Now there are more and more who are joining. These young girls are so bright and brave on their own. I’d never seen that growing up. Also, growing up in a traditional Indian family, they don’t do stuff like that. I did my first international tournament in NY. After competing, I was walking back to my team and a stranger approached me [a coach from another team]. He was impressed by the fact that someone from my cultural background was participating. He stated that they don't really see that many Indian women competing at such a high level."
Girlz B Sweet asked Heena how she got to where she is today. "I started martial arts at 16 years old, and it has had a big influence on me. I learned massage and body work and made it a career. I never would have thought I would have been a massage therapist. I was an athlete (basketball, volleyball, baseball) and participated in any activity that involved sports. I also played many sports with my brother." Heena noted that there was a teacher in martial arts who encouraged her to have a skill, even outside of martial arts. "You have to have a skill in life, and you have to contribute in life and to society." When she's not training or working, you can find Heena volunteering her time in the hospice setting and donating her gifts to assist athletes in triathlons, kids' races, and 5K races. It is evident that her heart is with her community.
In many cases, inspiration starts from a young age. Heena told Girlz B Sweet that her parents were her first inspiration. "My parents are from India, and I'm a first generation born US citizen. They are both from small villages – no running water or electricity. My parents always said that we [her brother and herself] need to take advantage of the opportunities here in the US. It’s about choices, really." Although her father passed away when she was 8, she remembered that he was always hands-on. He was understanding when things were hard but encouraged her to “do it anyways.” A combination of values from her parents and the martial arts training gave her inspiration in her youth.
We asked Heena who inspires her now. "I take little bits from everybody that I interact with - people I meet in the coffee shop, teammates, clients, relationships with people. Sharing stories and learning from each other inspires me. The random person you meet and have a conversation with is inspiring. Expand your bubble because you learn so much more and gain more perspective."
Heena has a message for young girls who need motivation to achieve. "Even if you’re scared, do it anyways. If you have doubt, do it anyways. Listen to your instincts."
To close out the interview, Heena added, "Life is hard, but find joy and if something doesn’t work, try something else. You’re going to have disappointments in life, but press on. A little reality is good, but remember to move forward one step at a time."
The type of inspiration that Heena possesses is definitely worth fighting for.
Learn more about Henna and her work in the field of massage therapy at forpainandstressrelief.com