Posts Tagged ‘Miles Davis

13
Nov
11

In celebration of the art of boxing.

In celebration of the art of boxing.

Mischa and Kristina

My schedule has been hectic and fraught with the conflicting needs of family, job and thesis writing, so getting to the gym yesterday felt triumphant.

Lennox Blackmore and I had miscued on our time which meant I did most of my work out on my own starting off with my usual four round sets: shadow boxing, heavy bag, double-ended bag and speed bag.  When Len arrived, I pulled out four more on the pads working my jab-jab-right combination plus the right-left dig, left hook combo.  My last was to work my way through 80 ragged sit ups — but they did count.

The point of writing about it is less to “crow” about boxing for a solid hour — and more about the work itself and the work of everyone in the gym.  ‘Talk about inspiring, everyone and I mean every last person was pushing themselves and hard.  That meant young kids, older kids, men and women of a “certain age” and everyone in between, not to mention the boxers sparring with speed and tartness prepping for upcoming bouts!

It got me to thinking that with all the controversies of late whether it’s bad refereeing, bad judging, obnoxious fighters mouthing off unnecessarily or the specter of female athletes wearing short mini skirts in their debut at the 2012 Olympics, the other side of boxing, the miraculous side is all the time spent in the gym, working.

That is what boxing is, isn’t it? At its essence? The magic of aligning the mind and the body to perfect exacting movements so that when a boxer enters the ring there is an opportunity to soar as an improvisational artist at the height of his or her craft.

As with jazz musicians who spend hours a day practicing scales and sonorous trills to keep their lips, fingers, hands, arms, legs and every other part of the body in condition, so does a boxer spend hours at a time perfecting the body and the subtle movements necessary to ply the art.

That doesn’t only mean round after round of throwing the intricate combinations, but understanding the subtleties of the pax de deux — after all, boxing is not a solo sport, but an intricate dance. No tag team, it is a one-on-one battle of skills, stamina, ring knowledge and what we all call heart. It is also performance art as there is that extra shot of adrenaline that happens precisely because it is a competition on a stage bounded by the four sides of the storied boxing ring.

And that is part of it — despite the hype and the crappy stuff that seems to accompany the professional side of boxing and even the amateur side; the ring itself is an arena of magic. It is the place where all of those hours of gym work and road work and mental work thinking about boxing gets played out in the brief snippets of time between the bells.

I know that boxing can be a heartbreaker — as terrible and cruel as any indifferent lover, but it is also a place of work and pride that at the end of the day every practitioner can feel triumphant about.

So yes, while the split decision of the latest Manny Pacquiao versus Juan Manuel Marquez championship bout may feel like ashes in the throat to some, we should also celebrate the hard work of boxing, it is after all what brought those two remarkable athletes into the ring in the first place.

13
Apr
11

Time and the clock

Time and the clock.

My daughter’s alarm clock is blaring through her door as regular pulses reminiscent of the loud echoing blasts announcing a prisoner escape.  How she is sleeping through it amazes me.  Her strategy is to have multiple devices yell at her land of nod until one or another pierces the veil of her dreamscape enough for her to join the world of the awake.  She then stumbles up and out of her room towards the bathroom and the beginning of her morning.

It puts me in mind of how much of what we do is regulated by time.

We have the “masters” of the industrial revolution to thank for that one; having invented mechanized devices as the means of production, they needed a “regular” workforce to man and woman those machines.  Hence our alarm clocks which still beckon us (more like rip us) from the delicious warmth of bed and dreams into the world of work and dare I say a bit of drudgery???

Not so the boxer’s time clock!  Least ways not in my estimation.

Those intervals of time feel more like the explosions of musical notes with three minutes to blow your ax before resting and blowing again.

Shadow boxing around my living room gets to feel like an improvisational dance, throwing punches this way and that as I circle my way left then right, hop skipping forward or to the side, my arms flailing at the air to their own rhythm.  Then the dead s-t-o-p before repeating it all again — and yet different.

A jazzed solo, the improvisation of a boxing performance has all of the nuanced grace of a horn pushing out its notes in a staccato rhythm all its own and yet timed and lovely and full of melodic undertones, the dance of the body fluid and full of the momentum that pushes it from one posture to another for three full minutes before the ding of the bell signals the end of the round.

21
Dec
10

Miles Davis and me

Miles Davis and me

While I used to listen to my mother’s John Coltrane and Miles Davis records when I was a young child, I discovered jazz for myself when I turned 12.  My grandmother had given me a small portable AM/FM radio and fiddling with the dial I came across the radio station WLIB.  This was 1966 — and at 4:00 each afternoon, Jazz pianist Billy Taylor opened his show with Herbie Hancock’s Maiden Voyage.

What I waited and hoped for each day though was the chance to hear something by Miles Davis.  Billy Taylor usually obliged with tunes from Miles Davis’ ESP or Miles Smiles albums or a song like So What from such newly minted classics as Davis’ Kind of Blue album.

Years and years later training with Johnny Grinage down at Gleason’s, Johnny used to talk about Miles the boxer.  I’ve never really heard the speed-bag in his trumpet, but I still love the thought that the staccato of his solos could have come from his days of training in the ring.

13
Dec
10

Bird

Bird

 

Charlie "Bird" Parker

I stopped into a shoe store with my daughter on Saturday afternoon on our way home from her Aikido practice when I heard Charlie Parker’s rendition of “Just Friends.”  It got me to thinking about Bebop and the improvisational nature of boxing.  Watch boxing at its finest and one finds not only the dancer’s art, but the improvisational character of a Charlie Parker solo.

For those who may not know, Charlie “Bird” Parker was an alto saxophone player from Kansas City, Kansas who along with Dizzie Gillespie brought a new lexicon to Jazz interpretation called Bebop.  Like many talented musicians of later eras, Charlie Parker’s tenure on earth was brief — all of 34 years, and yet the legacy of his music lives on today.

“Groovin’ High”

“Yardbird Suite”

PS – Catch a young Miles Davis on trumpet on both tracks.

26
Oct
10

It’s good to hit things

It’s good to hit things.

I shadow boxed at home last night.  I put on 16 oz. gloves and boxed around the room for a couple of rounds before I pounded away at my closet door.  “Get this girl back to the gym,” seemed to be the refrain from my family who thought I was crazy.  I kept thinking how good it felt to hit things even though I wasn’t releasing much power or hitting very hard.

Hitting things is always my ultimate secret about boxing.  I love it.  I love how it feels to connect.   I love the physicality of working out on a big heavy bag and pushing in with my shoulder as I practice upper cuts.   The double-ended bag gives me a place to workout as a rhythmic dance.  It doesn’t have that da-da-da, da-da-da rhythm of the speed bag, but after a round or two, the timing is such that it starts to have its own distinctive beat.

Sparring is something else again.  It has its own magic that for me isn’t about the hitting so much as working through the space as a physical manifestation of a chess game.  Each jab is a feint, a loyal pawn that makes its way forward establishing pace, rhythm and control to set-up all the other punches, bobs and weaves in the arsenal.   To spar is to be in a pas-de-deux with my opponent as improvisational as tap dancing or trading eights with Miles Davis’ trumpet licks.

To hit something at the boxing gym is to come face-to-face with the truth.  You can’t hit and hit hard without that commitment or the emotional depths that get mined every time a punch is thrown.




May 2020
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© Malissa Smith and Girlboxing, 2010-2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Malissa Smith and Girlboxing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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