Posts Tagged ‘working it out on the bag

26
Feb
17

Boxing as lifeline

Gleason’s Gym has been a real lifeline for me of late.

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The surety of going through my paces so to speak, the shadow boxing, pad work, heavy bag, double-ended bag, speed bag, abdominals, stretching and combinations thereof are a balm.

img_7389Even the early mornings offer solace. Up a 5:30 AM, off to the gym by 6:30 AM, in the ring by 7:00 AM out by 8:00 AM, showering and dressing, and off to the subway by 8:20 AM or so—two to three mornings a week. Then the long Saturday morning, where I can tarry and work extra rounds, and feel embraced by the easy camaraderie of people who push themselves to their physical limits.

What I also know is that I am a little sad and a little scared and a lot angered by a myriad of issues that are whirling around me. Unpacking them is complicated by a reticence to really face up to the deeper veins of truths that I would rather not face suffice to say they always come out anyway so sooner or later the reckoning will happen.

Gym life, and boxing gym life in particular, offers a microcosm of the range and power of emotion. Just the act of putting on a pair of gloves offers up so many different strands. For one, the gloves symbolize boxing itself. On an immediate basis one can think of such things as power, ability, courage, bravery, and skill. Gleason’s Gym itself calls out those concepts on the wall of the gym and on the back of every T-shirt:

“Now, whoever has courage, and a strong and collected spirit in his breast, let him come forward, lace on the gloves and put up his hands.” Virgil, Book 5, Aeneid

And yet there are other emotions. With puff pillows for hands one cannot “do” for oneself in any meaningful way. Sure, one learns to hold on to a water bottle between two gloved hands, but one cannot drink from it unless someone has unscrewed the cap. One also finds oneself being ministered to in such intimate ways. A trainer will towel off the sweat from ones face, apply vaseline, adjust ones clothing, tie a boot, wipe one’s nose. There’s a real “giving over” to allow all of that—a trust that one puts on to others.

img_7438For me the act of putting on the gloves swirls in the duality of empowering myself and giving myself over. At once I seek a kind of perfection of movement and strength, while also allowing myself those helpless feelings: That sense that I cannot always take care of everything whether that means throwing a perfectly executed one-two combination or asking my trainer to dab the sweat out of my eyes.

It’s also how I know that I cannot magically and in any immediate way change the political nightmare I feel we are living through—except that I know that my voice can count among the many and on that basis push through, just as rising three mornings a week in the predawn light and heading to the gym is a sort of metaphor for becoming something better and stronger.

Yes. I’m in the midst of a stew—as many of us are on any given day in the cycle of life, but waking up and feeling the power of the leather hitting a heavy bag goes a long, long way towards making it all a who lot better.

17
Feb
14

A day off …

A day off …

photo 1-2

A daily something, whether it’s work, going for a run, posting a blog piece or any of a myriad of things can bring a nice bit of order to the day–or act as a set of moments for oneself and oneself alone.

Even with that daily something, it is sometimes nice to have a day off!

Yesterday was just such a day for me–when somewhere late in the evening I realized I hadn’t blogged for the day. Yes, I could have rushed it, but the truth was–it was okay.

Sometimes that break is what we need to kick start something new.

Today, my actual day off from work (the President’s Day holiday), turned out to be a gift of another kind — one extra day at the gym.

I saw friends I rarely run into — and had another chance to box at a leisurely pace, this time going into the ring with boxing trainer, Darius Forde. With Lennox Blackmoore in my corner to coach me through it, I worked through all sorts of issues in the ring offensively and defensively — plus the different looks that Darius showed me.

The rounds on the heavy bag and upper cut bag afterwards were also something a little bit new as I worked through different boxing problems I experienced in the ring.

It got me to thinking that it’s what makes the best part of any day — working through a problem from a different angle. Rather like a piece of art — we get to enrich ourselves by creatively thinking through how best to make something work before moving along.

At any rate, as official day’s off go, it was pretty wonderful.

15
Feb
14

Back in the saddle …

Back in the saddle …

Gleason's Gym - Lennox Blackmoore

After my ring melt down last week, not to mention two snowstorms and my left wrist going all carpal tunnel on me, I didn’t necessarily have high hopes for my return to sparring this morning with Lennox Blackmoore. To be honest, I was dreading it during the middle of the week, but by yesterday, my Pollyanna attitude took over and I started to think that I had a line on how to get respectably pummeled rather than the usual total pummeling!

Getting to the gym a little early, I spent four rounds in front of the mirror working on my stance before heading over the slip rope to do exactly that … slip.

My strategy was to sit lower and use my abs more to propel my legs and to hold my body taut. It also meant that my movements were smaller and I could get my hands back faster to cover up!

By the time Len came, I was very warmed up with a good sweat and when we entered the ring I felt more in control, with tighter punches and at least s-o-m-e slipping. When it came to the dreaded right hook (yep, he was fighting me southpaw again), I still didn’t know how to handle it. By the third one I just said, “let’s stop for a minute,” and asked Len what I should do.

What he recommended was that I weave under the punch to the left and set myself up to throw a left uppercut followed by a left hook.

Talk about a wow! Who knew that old bob-and-weave actually worked as a strategy in the ring! We practiced it a few times, taking us all the way through the bell, and then went back to sparring.  Admittedly I got tagged several more times with his right, but at least I tried to weave under it–and in so doing even surprised him with a few sneaky shots of my own.

By the end of five rounds I was tired, but armed with my new (old) defense, went on the uppercut bag to practice the move some more. The challenge there was timing the bag to duck under and then come up into position to set up throwing the uppercut-hook combination. It took a while, but I actually started to get it, and then used the bag to bob-and-weave on both sides. I also worked out using my “tweaked” stance to the point where my abs actually started to ache a bit by the end of my fourth round on the bag.

Old dog, new tricks … maybe, maybe not, but I certainly felt better about things. Thinking about it as I pounded on the speed bag to close out my workout, I did at least feel as if I’d pushed things along, just enough to sense that maybe, one day, I’ll look in the mirror and actually see a boxer looking back at me!

04
Feb
14

Preparing for crazy … weather wise!

Preparing for crazy … weather wise!

Winter Weather Alert

Fitting in gym visits, long runs through the park, making it to your yoga class or a lunchtime walk gets to be a real challenge when inclement weather threatens. Given that NYC is under yet another winter storm warning, I found myself rearranging my schedule to fit in a boxing workout at Gleason’s Gym this evening after work, just to make certain that I got at least one in this week.

What with 8 inches of snow yesterday, and another miserable day set for tomorrow, taking advantage of relative lulls in extremes of temperature or precipitation aka snow, ice, sleet and slush, not to mention temperatures in the single digits, means having to be flexible when it comes to keeping to a regular workout regimen.

gleasons_gym.jpg?w=655If Gleason’s was any indication–there were definitely a LOT fewer people training, nice for me because it meant I had the luxury of pounding my new favorite gym apparatus, the upper cut bag for eight leisurely rounds without feeling that I should give it up to another boxer.

Those who were working out though, seemed to be were putting a lot of extra time in too, as if knowing that with a winter storm on the way, it was a good idea to get in some licks because it might otherwise be awhile.

When the weather does hit and its either too cold, too slushy — or still coming down in a big way, you can certainly give in to one’s couch potato proclivities  (like me lately), or find another way.

One thing I’ve always had luck with are the videos I find on YouTube. For several months I was doing 30-45 minutes of Yoga every morning rotating through three or four of them, depending on my energy level, plus there are fun ones for ab workouts, shadowboxing, and of course, there’s always dancing!

I really like JT Van … and he’s designed a sweet, heart-pounding 20-minute boxing workout you can do at home with no equipment needed.

This is a decent 30 minute Vinyasa style Yoga practice — with sun salutations. Not for rank beginners, but not too complex either.

Ten minute Abs with LOTS of exercises! Nice and intense.

For a change-up — here’s nice “Salsa fitness” workout, with actual salsa music.

16
Jan
14

Old dog … new tricks …

Old dog … new tricks …

Boxing Dog, Credit: rachaelhale

When I first walked into Gleason’s Gym a million years ago–as in January 1997–my first trainer, Johnny Grinnage started me off on the wall bag throwing the jab and eventually a seven-punch combination that went jab-jab-straight right-left hook … dip right … straight right-jab-left hook … dip left … and repeat, repeat, repeat. From the wall bag, I graduated to the mirror where I practiced the same grouping of punches — and eventually went on to the slip rope and the heavy bag.  Oh, and once I made it to the heavy bag, my first round was always left-left-left hook … dip left and repeat … dip right and repeat … and sometimes for two rounds.

What I didn’t get was any time in the ring–or the sense of *why* I was practicing those punches.

Eventually Johnny added in upper cuts, straight body shots and even some shoe-shines that had me throwing upwards of 18 punches in a row wearing 18-ounce gloves and crazy wraps underneath because he had me throwing those punches on the super-heavy bag for 12 rounds. Oh–all the while listening to Johnny admonish me *not* to throw any pitty-pat punches!

Suffice it to say, I sure did get strong! And after months of that I was in shape, but I knew nary a thing about boxing.

This went on for a while–and my relationship to boxing went in fits and starts, and was more about the emotion of actually hitting something than the fine points of the sport–and I ended up taking breaks that would last a year, two years or more.

Back in the gym after a particularly long break (2 years), I began training with Lennox Blackmoore.

I basically started all over again–and came a very long way, but ring time was still somewhat light, and it has literally taken me until the last couple of weeks to realize that so much of what he has been showing me and teaching me for years has passed right over my head. I mean I listened, and became proficient at things like the speed bag and the double-ended bag, but I still hadn’t grasped in any kind of visceral way what my body was actually supposed to be doing.

Call me dense (as in ridiculously so)–but the YEARS I spent being told to slip, bob and weave, were never about GETTING OUT OF THE WAY for me because maybe there’d be a punch rending its way down broadway squarely for my nose, because I JUST DIDN’T GET IT.

I didn’t get the dance. The absolute pas-de-deux. The improvisational hopped-up bang-pow-bang of it all.

I mean it’s crazy!

It’s the danciest dance ever.

Move, throw, move some more, drift in, drift out, squeeze impossibly low, fight tall, fight small, stay out of range, jam in and jam out, shoulder roll back, throw forward, sidestep … CRAZY STUFF.

Get it?

It’s crazy tap dancing–but you can’t dance if you don’t know the steps.

DAMN. I’m almost 60 and I finally get it!

09
Jan
14

Missing the gym …

Missing the gym …

Gleason's Gym

I haven’t made it to the gym over the past few days, much to my chagrin. Between deadlines, work and a concert at my daughter’s school today, my plans to spend round upon round boxing on the the upper cut bag and slipping underneath have not come to fruition, but that hasn’t meant it’s left my mind.

Instead, in the moments of free time I’ve had, I’ve been watching heavy bag work-out videos and thought I’d share a few I’ve found that seem to have some good pointers.

1. Good instructional workout routines on the heavy bag: warmups, working lefts, head movement, outside work and finishing on the inside …

2. Advanced heavy bag techniques: working one hand, working in spot, “compound” attacks …

3. Freddie Roach Heavy Bag Training: footwork, balance and transferring feet, rolling and slipping, creating opportunities …

4. Uppercut bag workout with slipping under the bag

04
Jun
13

Speaking to power …

Speaking to power …

Superwoman!

Having gotten back into my boxing groove starting at the end of December when my surgeon gave me the all clear to whale away, my body has begun to find its power again. It’s not all the time or even some of the time, but an occasional thing when I’ll come upon something that I can lift with ease even though I know it’s really heavy, or when I’m about to finish up my light run from my house to the gym and realize that I could keep going for quite a ways.

That sense of comfort with my body or the sense that it has power is not something I’ve had very often in my life. Growing up in NYC in the 1960s meant very little by way of sports–as in punch ball, stoop ball and King, a kind of hand ball where each person had one concrete square in the sidewalk as their “box.”

At summer camp I swam and otherwise did what I could *not* to have to play softball in the heat of the afternoon in a field swarming with no-see-ums. As for basketball, I was hopeless when it came to anything but drippling the ball. The only running I ever did in those days were “chase” games and aside from tap dancing lessons at the age of 12 (for three months at Charlie Lowe’s School where I learned to use my “personality”), I didn’t do much of anything until my mid-thirties when I began to run.

Jogging in the 1970sThe jogging craze that began in the 1970s seemed to pass me by. Sure I tried it, but huffing and puffing for a block or two along the East River of Manhattan on the Upper East Side near where I used to live (and admittedly sucking back a cigarette or two), even along side a boyfriend, just wasn’t for me. Aerobics in cute white Reeboks was also “not my thing,” and if I exercised at all it was disco dancing at places like The Salty Dog, where I could happily gyrate for hours at a time.

Flashing forward to the late 1980s, my body still woefully unexercised, I decided to take up running in a bid to quit smoking. My first runs, attempts to run around Central Park were pathetic. I barely made it down two blocks, never mind to the park, while my chest heaved in pain and spasmed from coughing fits. Knowing that I needed to rid my lungs of years of inhaling junk into them, however, gave me the motivation to persevere. The remarkable thing was that by the end of the first week of daily runs, I was able to run ten blocks and by the end of a month I began to eschew distance for time having ran for thirty full minutes. By the second month my runs were taking me the full circuit around Central Park including the famed 110th Street Hill–a run that took me an hour door-to-door to cover the seven miles. Throughout that Spring I pounded my way through the Park, testing myself with brief sprints, and feeling for the first time in my life, the power of the body.  The experience was humbling, if a little frightening, because I had spent so many years in denial of my physical sphere. But there I was, running as long as an hour and a half, my legs and arms toned, and feeling for very brief moments as if I was invincible.

Life interceded and I quit running after a while, but when I found my way to boxing a decade later, the sense of myself as a physical being began to kick back in. Even now, as I begin to live out the last of my 50s, I find the body’s capacity to renew itself to be truly remarkable.

Sometimes speaking to power has to do with embracing those parts of oneself that extend out in a giant roar of confidence and well-being. My younger self would never have believed that I was capable of saying that–which tells me that whether it’s through the pounding of feet along a path in the park or the extension of a jab in a boxing ring, the magic of finding an alignment of all the parts of one’s being is always within the realm of the possible. All one has to do is take the first step to try.

 




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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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