Posts Tagged ‘working it out on the bag

29
Sep
19

What does it all mean?

What does it all mean?

I guess you could say I’m in a mode.

My personal world is rife with complexities and when I look around me to the world at large I feel roiled by the political landscape, our deeply troubled future as citizens of a rapidly changing environment on a planetary scale, not to mention, the myriad of problems associated with poverty, sexism, racism—and in fact all of the –isms.

Yet I am still here as we all are.

Here and facing choices as simple as what to wear to work or how to fit in the gym time—to the bigger questions we tackle related to the health and well-being of our families, our neighbors, and those extensions of ourselves that we count as having the same importance of those near and dear to us.

Perhaps I am thoughtful because on the Jewish calendar of my heritage it is the eve of another New Year.

This one, 5780, feels big.

Perhaps it’s because it ends on a round number – or perhaps it’s because this year is particularly big in my own cycle of new years having turned 65 this past June.

So yes, it’s loaded.

Loaded with my personal turmoil as I contemplate what my future looks like and the meaning of getting older—while tinged with that ever hopeful patina of faith that the future will bring about a better world no matter the challenges.

The sages of Jewish lore deemed the period of the New Year as a time to set the past aside to move forward to what is fated for the coming year. The High Holidays are thus an interregnum of sorts: a liminal world of becoming bounded by the foibles of one’s life on the one hand and a future state of more perfected beingness on the other.

That perfecting process, that transition to being one’s best self can take many forms. It can be as simple as casting aside one’s sins in the water as so many crumbs of bread—or the challenges one encounters on a deeper dive into one’s psyche where in a determined fashion, one truly examines one’s crimes and misdemeanors and devises a plan of action to face the meaning of those truths in order to move forward.

Both are easier said than done as we are all very, very good at cheating at solitaire. And it is that instinct to cheat. To not work through the necessary stages that is the most hurtful of all to ourselves.

In my late 30s I went through a time of deep spiritual crisis.

In those years I could not fathom what it meant to be.

In my search for meaning I clung to many things as a symbiote: my job, my relationships, my feelings of despair, even my own suicidal ideations as some sort of badge of singularity in the world.

I was able to work through that period of my life with a mixture of luck, a very deeply buried survival instinct, excellent psychotherapy, and an awareness that all the cheating, all the time I’d spent burying my demons were what was causing my crisis in the first place.

As I dive into the liminality of another New Year process, I carry with me a remembrance of that period in my life. And while it is distant and remote to the person I became afterwards, I know that in shedding that skin, it still remains a part of who I am. The difference is that in facing the truth, no matter how raw and awful it is, one has the chance for redemption and a forward momentum into the next part of one’s life.

So even though I have my doubts for the future, the work itself is one’s purpose, what I like to call the daily something. And while getting it right is a moment to moment thing, playing out one’s hand without cheating makes it all worth while in the end, even if it seems you never can “win” the game.

 

26
Feb
17

Boxing as lifeline

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

img_7451


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.

 

10
Jan
13

If I can do it, so can you …

If I can do it, so can you …

Superwoman!

Don’t you just love those words?

Meant as a motivator for the under achieving couch potato that lurks in all of us, it can cut like a rapier.

Still, it can have its place — if the underlying, “you are such a slug” is left out it and the words are more action than anything else, without the accompanying censoring glare!

For the one who says it though, there can also be nothing but the best of intentions. All of us knows of someone who hours out of cancer treatment skips her way to the gym for a good workout and though she may excuse herself for a moment to puke her guts out in the bathroom, she none the less returns to the weight room with a freshly glistening brow, worse for wear perhaps, but no less game.

This brings me to the point.

What if we change that around a bit to an if you can do it, so can I, sensibility. The competitive aside (which motivates in its own way), we are all in this together. Certainly that’s the way it feels at Gleason’s Gym where each and every person sweating and grunting their way through a work out is cheering the hard work of their fellow gym rats.

We also all have our stories; those things that thwart our best intentions and no less tangible than a friend’s cancer, shoulder surgery, ACL tear, too many obligations hitting into limited time or the feeling of inertia that comes when you haven’t hit the gym in a while and need to push yourself out of bed to get there again.

I know for myself, I’ve had all sorts of things that I’ve used to not go to the gym some of which leave me with no choice but to stay home and others of which are more of the mental variety.

Having recently started back on a schedule after recovering from shoulder surgery, I can attest to the myriad of feelings that go into missing the gym and returning. If you’ve been a regular, it’s like missing family, plus that intangible sense of identity that comes of regular practice. During my rehab, I’d find myself going to Gleason’s for an hour on a Saturday, not to box but to do my exercises. Still, it was a bittersweet feeling. I wasn’t boxing, I was stretching and even though I was there, it was hard to feel a part of it.

Ultimately, though, it shouldn’t matter. Any work done is work accomplished, and while it might not be at the peak of the performance you are capable of, you’ve made the effort.

So, while you might go through periods when you are confronted with your decided lack of superhuman capability, give yourself a break and be aware of what being superhuman really means.

If you are say, 58 years old, I can assure you that your hand speed will NEVER match that of an in shape 20-year-old, but when it comes to heart, you might well get to wear your Superwoman T-shirt to the cheers of everyone who sees you!

One of my oldest pals is fond of saying, there are no dress rehearsals ‘cause the only life you have is this one. That might get an argument from some New Agers, Buddhists and Hindus who figure you can cycle through again — for the majority of us though, this is it.

In other words, you really do only have one shot so why not give it your all, whatever that means for you and realize that by following through, your example is making it possible for someone else to say … if you can do it, so can I!

31
Dec
12

Of endings and beginnings …

Of endings and beginnings …

2012 USA Women's Boxing Team

As is inevitable for this time of year, we relive our triumphs and disappointments and much like the wisdom espoused by the rituals of the Jewish High Holidays, may even set about examining those aspects of our lives we are most proud of and those we may be at a loss to explain.

In considering my own 2012 I certainly ran the gamut from graduating with my master’s degree to emerging from surgery on my shoulder with a pathetic wing that has taken months to set right.

Meanwhile, my own highs, lows and in-betweens are graced by the luxury of lots of comfort, a loving family and a Brooklyn home that experienced nary a sprinkle during Hurricane Sandy.

I’ve also gotten a book contract, my straight right back and a husband who even squired me to the movies two days running over the weekend!

Counting myself among the luckiest of the lucky, I also keep in mind the triumph and trials of my pals at Gleason’s Gym, the thirty-six young women who courageously took up the gloves to box at the London 2012 Olympic Games and another year in the history of women’s fight for equality whether it be in the boxing ring or the hope that a bus ride home in New Delhi doesn’t result in a brutal gang-rape and death.

Maybe it’s the latter that saddens me most.

I’ve been around a long time and the fact that a woman still isn’t safe whether it’s in New Delhi, Johannesburg, London or the Bronx reminds that me that for all our female bravura at embracing martial sports, the fact remains that there is always some part of what we do that is informed by our need for self-defense.

Talk to my thirteen-year-old about it and she’ll regale you with how to leg sweep a potential attacker or such street savvy stratagems as using big glass store front windows to check on who is walking behind her. The operative thing here is that she is thirteen and has already experienced men saying gross things to her on her short walk between school and home. And while her martial art, Aikido, is defensive in nature, it hasn’t stopped her from figuring out that sometimes the best defense is offense: that and the sense to scream, act crazy and run like hell.

So if we are talking New Year’s wishes, mine is to end assault with the first toll of midnight … that said, keep up the fight to claim the boundaries of the ring as your own, whatever your ring happens to be.

Happy 2013!

 

30
Nov
12

Shelito Vincent keeps it perfect …

Shelito Vincent keeps it perfect …

Shelito Vincent, 11/29/2012

From the moment Shelito Vincent (6-0) walked into the ring at the Twin River Event Center in Lincoln, Rhode Island, the night was hers.

The hard-fighting bantamweight who trains under the legendary Peter Manfredo, Sr., dominated her opponent, Canadian fighter Rosie Sherine Thomas who had sported a 2-0 record before entering the ring.

Shelito Vincent making it 6-0, 11/29/12Vincent, showing a savvy, ring acumen and lightening speed took the win with decisive scores from the judges who easily handed her the decision 60-54, 59-55 and 59-55.

This was Vincent’s first six-rounder having previously fought in four round bouts.  This is also her second win in as many months having walked over Louisiana native, Ivana Coleman (0-3) by decision, taking all four rounds.

For Shelito, however, keeping her record perfect has another meaning.

Having struggled early in her life, each day represents another kind of win. It is a triumph over personal demons, run-ins with the law, and a young-adulthood steeped in troubles. Boxing has been part of her recovery — and what a recovery it is for those who have watched her not only defeat her challengers, but the many challenges that have plauged her life.

Way to go Shelito!

 

 

20
Nov
12

Waking up in the darkness …

Waking up in the darkness …

Waking up in the darkness is like greeting an old friend. I am up before the day begins. Showered, dressed and at the ready with the coffee brewing enough before 6:00 AM to be able to accomplish something.

Much of life is like that. Encountering our habits and our dreams as so many disassembled actions which when put together mean something. I’m guessing that intention is what rules. The intention to place meaning on an action. To rise to write or shadowbox or to go for a run, the predawn activities of garbage trucks making their rounds along with one’s fellow denizens of the early morning: workers hastily making their way to 6:00 AM shifts, the Starbucks crew stocking the cases with morning buns, thin, but meaningful crowds of sleepy people breathing just a little bit heavier as they finish their climbs from the subterranean world of the F train.

As with many of us, my days are punctuated by the necessities. The having to be somewheres, the hours of interstitial comings and goings that amounts to bits of drift time lolling on subways, smart phones in hand or going old-school with newspapers or books, or the quiet expanse of thoughts held together by the glue of sudden awareness as stops enter and exit from view.

All of those hours culminate in being tired, in rounding out the day with making dinner and talking across the table with family before running out in all weather to walk the dog or pick-up a forgotten quart of milk. It is time spent hounding children about homework and taking a shower and reminding them to brush their teeth before finally collapsing in front of the television, the brain addled with too much of the day before drifting into uncomfortable bits of sleep, the pants for work crushed in the odd patterns of couch pillows and wondering how it got to be 10:14 PM and an episode of Hawaii 5-0.

Not that today will be so much different, but rising before dawns affords another construct of time. It is a period that belongs to me alone. One that allows me my own intentions before the chore of waking up my daughter begins. I can open the door to her room and call out “time to wake up” knowing that I’ve already accomplished something. While it is not exactly cheating time, as after all it is my sleep that I have curtailed, it feels like a win. A timeout from the usual routine to shake it up somehow. I’ve even managed a minute or two of throwing my arms into the old familiar patterns of a jabs, straight rights and hooks, if only to wakeup the somnambulant boxer who still hides inside my shoulder as I continue PT.

Perhaps because Thanksgiving is almost here, I’m feeling that sense of gratefulness that hits me every year. Luckier than lucky is how I think of myself … and here once more before morning to celebrate.

19
Nov
12

The first time …

The first time …

Boxing at Gleason's Gym. Credit: Malissa Smith

The first time I walked into Gleason’s Gym in January of 1997, I had a feeling of trepidation mixed with excitement and a healthy dose of exhilaration. This was a real boxing gym complete with the sites, sounds and smells I’d gleaned from a mixture of old boxing movies and my imagination.

Having lived on the Lower East Side as a child, I’d grown up watching men play dominos, so as my eyes took in three enormous boxing rings, my ears were honed in on the thwack of a domino clicking on a small table with three men, each looking like someone out of central casting for the part of boxing trainer, animatedly playing the game.

From the sounds of the dominos to the rhythmic beating of heavy bags, speed bags, focus mitts and bodies, each to its own beat punctuated by the loud dings of the ring clock that kept time at three-minute intervals with a warning at two and a half minutes and a ding at four minutes to start the clock all over again, I was hooked.

The sounds alone were an improvisational cacophony worthy of the best of John Coltrane or Rahssan Roland Kirk — still I felt a bit intimidated asking myself why in the world I was there and what had possessed me to think that I could actually box in a real gym. Sure, I’d taken a boxing class at Eastern Athletic Health Club in Brooklyn Heights and yes, I still remembered the old one-two my uncle had taught me when I was twelve, but this was different. This meant that I’d have to be serious, that the years of watching boxing and thinking about boxing were culminating in my taking those first concrete steps up to the second floor of the Gleason’s Gym building in DUMBO long before it was trendy and filled with cute coffee bars and babies riding around in eight hundred-dollar strollers.

If I’d thought I’d have a fight on my hands as a women crossing the divide of what even I thought of as a male domain I was mistaken.  Quite to the contrary, I was greeted by Bruce Silverglade, the owner of Gleason’s Gym who touring me around made a point to make me feel welcome.

I’d come that day to actually box having brought handwraps and a pair of boxing gloves and while I didn’t really know what I was doing yet, wrapping my hands that afternoon was the beginning of a physical and emotional journey I could not have imagined.

Within a week of that first visit, I’d been taken on for 7:30 AM training sessions three days a week with Johnny Grinnage, a trainer of the OLD old school who didn’t believe in new-fangled things like focus mitts or even the speed bag. His idea of training was beginning a workout using a broom stick for stretches before jumping rope for three rounds. From there it was onto a wall bag to learn how to throw a jab, a straight right and a left hook for three rounds. Those early weeks we’d end the training with three rounds walking up and down the slip rope and it had to have been a least two months before I actually hit a heavy bag.

After those first training sessions I took to writing out my punch counts and found myself punching the air and slipping whenever I could. I also found myself tearing up at the oddest times finding in the extension of my body a connection to a physical power I never knew I possessed–one that left me feeling bereft at the years and years of having never understood how much strength I actually had.

It was the first of many lessons boxing taught me and continues to teach me and while I’ve had an on-again off-again relationship with boxing in the ensuing sixteen years, Gleason’s Gym remains my home and the sport still gives me a warm glow that courses through me when I need a dose of something wonderful.

18
Nov
12

Finding the heavy bag …

Finding the heavy bag …

Whether its writing a blog piece after weeks of not touching the keys of one’s laptop, throwing jabs at the mirror after having been away from the gym or finding one’s way back to any of the myriad of things that are important but have seemingly slipped away, all it really takes are those first steps.

In my case it feels as if I’ve been in a mighty slog!

Okay sure, I’m working full-time and hitting PT three days a week for a couple of hours plus, not to mention family, the high school hunt with my daughter and the fact that she just turned 13, but that’s just part of life.  What happens is it gets in the way of those parts of one’s life that count outside of the everyday stuff or the intrusions of say a Hurricane.

So what I’m up to now is finding my way back to the heavy bag. In this case, the heavy bag of whaling on my keys to write the words of daily blog pieces and the words of chapters that’ll eventuate in the completion of my book on the history of women’s boxing.

As things go, I’m in clover–I have health, the blessings of a great kid and loving husband, oh yeah, and a great job–what I also I have is the chance to share it all with you.

Today marks day one of fighting my way back with the hope that all of you are similarly blessed with the opportunity to work it out on the bag.

Thanks for listening!

Girlboxing

20
Aug
12

Summer …

Summer …

Maybe its because I’ve had a weird bunch of weeks recouping from shoulder surgery, but this summer just feels slow and uninervating. Yes, of course there was the incredible HIGH of seeing the debut of women’s boxing at the Olympics, but now that it’s over, I feel as if I’ve fallen off a cliff!

I was in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont for a week. It had a restorative feel and my husband and I reunited with our prodigal picking her up from camp. Still, back in Brooklyn, the weather kind of humid and unappealing, I’m hard pressed for motivation and as much as I am loath to say this, I’m ready to put an “amen” to summer.

What I’d like is a hard workout at the gym to wake me up.

Like a huge jolt of high-octane joe, hard-core gym time rocks my world with an instant shock treatment to the body and the brain. Perhaps it’s all the sweat pouring the accumulated junk out of my pores or the sudden remembrance that things can be done despite feeling otherwise. I’m not even talking endorphins here because that seems to come over time–what I’m after is the boom, boom, boom of going at something 100%.

It’s the reminder that your bones, young or old still have something in them. I forget that I have it in me from time to time, but like any shift, all it takes is a bit of movement to get going again.




July 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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