Posts Tagged ‘working it out on the bag



07
Jul
12

Taking it slow …

Taking it slow …

I am at Gleason’s Gym.

The sounds and sights the same.

The ring clock.

The bop-bop, bop-bop-bop of the heavy bag and trainer’s mitts.

The words of encouragement and plaintiff yells shouted into the ring.

I miss this world a lot. The sweat and feeling the power of my body torquing towards a finite point beyond as I smash into something. In the ring with Len, pushing off when we’re in close, the brava feeling of popping him right down Broadway on the nose. I like the close combat; hate the feeling of being overwhelmed and not knowing what to do when I’m swarmed and getting banged on and am aching for the bell so that I can collect myself again.

Ring clocks and rest periods and those three-minute intervals for pushing at the limits of endurance: I love the discipline of it. The finiteness. The I-can-do-this challenge of throwing punches fast and furious with no let up even as my muscles begin to ache and start in on begging as if to say—if you let me stop I promise you relief and easy breathes and lots of time to sit around doing nothing eating chocolate. But it’s not how it goes. I keep at it, digging in deep, screaming out “are you kidding me?” as the punches continue to flurry, to hit hard, my hips turning with each straight right and uppercut, yelling out “sorry” when the throw isn’t true, when I’m more pitty-pat than fiercesome warrioress mindless of my 58 years on the planet or achy breathlessness.

Ding. Time to breathe. To gulp down a sip of water. To let Len dab at my brow with my towel, to take the sweat out of my eyes, to hear him say, “that’s good girl, very good,” the only accolades I really live for. The acknowledgement of my work, my effort, my push through the rebellion that is my body urging me to ease up on a nice comfy couch with nothing but endless British police procedurals to watch for hours at a time.

One armed and restless, my right shoulder in a bit of an ache as I listen to the sound of the heavy bags straining against the weight of so many boxers pounding them, I can think of nothing greater than getting the all clear from my surgeon to return.

Six months from now, a year from now, I’ll wander in with a smile that cuts through me to take my place again at the mirror. My body out of boxing shape, needing to take it slow and easy, I’ll find my way—starting at the beginning with my stance, my jab and the first few tentative throws of my right arm. It’ll be back to basics then. An old dog relearning tricks I used to take for granted; protective for sure of my shoulder and of harming it again, I figure it’ll give me the chance to box that much better, to seek out a sort of perfection in the mechanics the way pitchers find theirs after injury. And that is what it is about anyway. Second chances. Ways of making things better after you’ve been down for a while. Leastways that’s how I see it. I have a rebuilt shoulder so that I can rebuild my boxing—smarter, tauter, tougher and ultimately easier.

That is what life is about. Working through the hard stuff to find a simpler way around as one peels back through the layers of interference. In my case a lot of junk and lots of tears mucking up the movement of my shoulder, but clearly more about the business of life where we all tend to lose site of things till we’re cloudy and full of obstructions that make movement nearly impossible.

Thanks to my very great surgeon, I’ll have full use of my shoulder again, an assist I appreciate and will take full advantage of once I’m healed enough to move forward. As with most things, we need a helping hand from those around us. What I appreciate so much is that I’ve had more than my share leaving me blessed in ways I truly cannot yet fathom, but feel so humbly grateful for.

02
Jun
12

Fighting the good fight…

Fighting the good fight …

Singing “We Shall Overcome,” Summer 1967

Back in 1992, I traveled half way across the world for a rambling six-month journey through the Far East and South East Asia.

The trip was seminal in my life at a time when I really needed something of that magnitude to set me straight.

What made it easy in many ways, once I’d actually bought the round-the-world ticket was the blessing of a particular friend who knowing me for a lifetime had quietly urged me to break through my own barriers even if it meant facing a chasm that seemed mighty large indeed.  She’d also offered me sanctuary in her home in Texas, one I did not need, but appreciated more than I could ever say.

My friend Geneva and I met when we were twelve.

It was the summer of 1966 and we were both campers at Camp Webatuck–a bright star in the firmament of “red diaper baby” camps that accepted all comers with open arms providing an integrated, non-denominational, non-sectarian oasis in the heady days of the civil rights movement. We became instant friends and in the intervening years between our three fabulous summers together hung out when we could, taking long subway rides between the Upper West Side of Manhattan where I lived and the far reaches of East New York, Brooklyn where Geneva lived.

We also talked on the phone whenever we could–sharing out secrets, our fears, and our love for this or that song or rock star.  When we were 13, Geneva introduced me to the music of Laura Nyro–something we have shared ever since, uniting us into a small coterie of New York women of a certain time and place that “got” everything she had to say and more.

In the ensuing years ours has been an odd friendship of close flurries of daily contact interspersed with years of silence until one or the other of us had a eureka moment and dialed the phone or dropped a letter in the mail–as if mid-stream in what has become our lifelong conversation.

Geneva married young and had a son–while I married late and had a daughter.  This last also gave us the shared experience of motherhood to link us–“finally,” she was to say.

We’d also both had struggles, illnesses and the like–but Geneva in particular, having become a geologist by trade and moving down to Texas of all places, fought through more it seems with a life threatening surgery that left her a little disabled, but never broken, and in fact had given her the temerity to embrace even more of what life had to offer.

We managed to see each other several years ago when I was able to swing a business trip down to Houston–and to say that joy reigned is to understate the obvious.  We’d been communicating ever since with emails, letters and occasional calls — and finally this past Christmas she’d made it back up to Brooklyn to see family and me.

Our day together was great a one, yakking up a storm, eating good food, nosing around bookstores and taking in a movie. To me it meant that nothing had changed in the long arc of our lives as friends as our time together was vintage.

Out of it we planned a trip to Portugal, an entire week walking Lisbon and Faro–two old friends basking in the images we would trade as our eyes feasted on the architecture, art and people we encountered, not to mention the particularities of every bookstore we happened upon.

Geneva, however, won’t be making it.

With her usual understated and competent aplomb she is battling the demon of end-stage lung cancer with little chance to live out the month.

If a life can be said to be a battle where only the fiercest hearts are honorable and true, than Geneva’s course has been the exemplar of such understandings.  She has walked her walk with her head held high–pushing back at the injustices of the world to ensure that it can be the sort of place she could be proud of.

As she has put it, “I am a black woman in Texas…what do you think that is like?” Still she perseveres, pushing, fighting, cajoling, talking back to television sets, Huff Post headlines, random conversations she overhears on the street, and the stupidity of narrow thinking she gently goads in the people she calls friends.  And then there’s the classic Geneva in the constancy of her refrain: “Just because it says so in the newspaper, doesn’t mean it’s actually true!”

What she never does is complain.  Not ever.  Not about her spinal surgery that left her unable to turn her neck and in varying degrees of pain, nor about her diabetes or high blood pressure or the myriad of other health issues that plagued her over the years.  No, everything has been taken in stride–even when she couldn’t walk along her beloved rocks any more that stand as monuments to the miraculous in the deserts of the southwest.

“My mind is my camera,” she’d say. Her way of acknowledging limitations.

I think now that she had some prescient knowledge that was impelling her to visit places she’d never been — and in their absence to consider the meaning of those places as so many individual strands in the warp and weft of a lifetime.

I’d been thinking a lot about our friendship in the run-up to our trip.  We’d spoken a month or so ago about it. Sorting through which places we’d go to and which we wouldn’t. It got me to thinking that our lives are journeys with certain souls joining us with their presence for brief moments, while others manage to ride the bumpy waves of change that make up the complexities of the full ride. That we’d managed to persevere is something impossibly wonderful as she is always a true fellow-traveler who makes my life better every time she says “Hi, this is Geneva.”

Just as she gave me Laura Nyro all those years ago, Geneva is now giving me her death.

She is intoning the rituals of a brave, lovely soul fighting the good fight to her last. Would that any of us could show such grace as we embrace our end.

07
May
12

“A Boxing ‘Ohana” – a documentary in the making …

“A Boxing ‘Ohana” – a documentary in the making …

A Boxing ‘Ohana, Sonny Westerbrook and The Kona Boxing Club, Credit: Sasha Parulis

A Boxing ‘Ohana is a documentary in development by the New York based filmmaker, Sasha Parulis. The piece will be a short film about Sonny Westbrook and his gym, The Kona Boxing Club. Set on the big Island of Hawaii, Parulis envisions her work as a tone poem to the hard work of the gym and Sonny Westbrook’s efforts to create an ‘Ohana or family among his young fighters.

Sonny Westbook is most known for his recurring role on the reality show, Dog The Bounty Hunter. Sasha Parulis met Sonny two years ago during a visit to Hawaii and was moved to begin her project. “He is a kind soul,” she said, “People need to know who he is. He is also a mentor to a lot of kids.”

Shalei, The Kona Boxing Club, Credit: Sasha Parulis

It is his role as a mentor to troubled youths that most impressed Parulis. As she notes, while we may all think of Hawaii as a honeymooners’ paradise, the island is beset with the devastating effects of methamphetamine on the community. This has torn families apart and has left a generation of kids with nowhere to turn. What Westerbrook has attempted to build is a place where upwards of 15 young people can go to feel safe and through the discipline of boxing, find a way out of their troubles. In the words of the filmmaker, the story of The Kona Boxing Gym is at heart a story of “transforming the survivors of troubled times into warriors.”

Parulis also sees her film “as an educational outreach tool,” one she hopes will prove inspiring to everyone who watches. She will be returning to Hawaii soon to continue filming with an eye towards having a finished product sometime next year. The following is a clip of her project so far.

For further information the website link for the film is as follows: www.aboxingohana.com

20
Mar
12

Early spring grumps …

Early spring grumps …

Okay, I admit it.  I have a case of early spring grumps.  We’re talking ridiculous, right?  There it was 70+ degrees when I walked out of work yesterday and was I happy?  No.  I was decidedly grumpy.

Okay, it wasn’t terminal grumpiness or its cousin irascibility and certainly hasn’t drifted to chronic grumpiness, at least not yet, although the cat might think differently after getting soaked with the water sprayer this morning after waking me up at 5:00 AM, yet again.  I know, I know, I should love the little kitty and say, how cute as she scratches at the dresser with her paws to say, “wakey, wakey!” … but really, 5:00 AM?

That little discomfort aside I do admit to craving chocolate cake and bags of potato chips: two seriously never, ever eat again foods in my lexicon of things to eat and things not to eat.

Saying it, however, doesn’t mean I have to like it. And while I “get” that in the immortal words of Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca, “… the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world,”  aka, my larynx, my esophagus and my stomach, I still want to complain.

And that’s the rub.  The complaint thing.  Sometimes I just want to complain!  You know, the old, “why me?” or a personal favorite around my house, “it’s your fault.”

So, meanwhile, back in the real world, the antidote is, as always, those sixteen hard pounding rounds at Gleason’s Gym where lately, the workout has come to mean that space where I can truly say my two favorite chestnuts:  “its good to hit things” and “work it out on the bag.”

In the scheme of things, my out-of-sorts mein will right itself (say by the end of this post?), but the space for working things out will remain and whether it’s in my own head, on a walk where I pause just long enough to recognize that 70+ degrees in the middle of March is truly great (while forgetting the climate change thing that could get me to spiral backwards again), eating a truly delicious stalk of asparagus (of the fresh spring farmer’s market variety) or pounding on the double-ended bag, life really is a miraculous experience — even when the grumps get you down.

08
Mar
12

Engaging in the ring on International Women’s Day!

Engaging in the ring on International Women’s Day!

I grew up in the sixties and well remember my father informing me at the age of 13 that since I was now “liberated” I could pay for my own lunch.

Bra Burning, Atlantic City 1968, Credit: Media Myth Alert

That was in the late 1960s and while I admit to some confusion when I watched images of college women burning their bras or heard about consciousness raising sessions where women would meet to talk about how to become “unoppressed,” I suppose I could say that I reaped some immediate benefits — well sort of …

When I was 17, I was literally chased around the desk by a lecherous office manager and subsequently fired for not being “friendly.” A woman at the unemployment office took pity on me and figured out how to “stick-it” to the company by giving me the unheard of sum of $75.00 per week for my troubles.

That was how my consciousness was raised: don’t get mad get even.

Doris Day and Rock Hudson, Lover Come Back, Credit: Leo Fuchs

With the blissful joys of late 1950s and early 1960s sex romps filling my head — those Doris Day and Rock Hudson gems which were “teaching” me how to get a man, you know, lie, cheat and don’t put out on the first, second, third or even fourth date, well a few kisses maybe but that was it — didn’t exactly prepare me for reaching my “womanhood” in the disco world of the early 1970s in NYC!

Not to mention, of course, that Rock Hudson was famously gay and Doris Day the victim of spousal abuse and a renowned animal rights activist beginning in the 1980s.

The point is we all change. Whether through “consciousness raising” or time, but when it comes to women, some things don’t seem to change.

We in the United States may assume ourselves to be “enlightened” when in comes to women’s rights — you know, we can drive, support our families, even box, and heck, there are more women graduating from architecture school than men these days so that’s equality, right?

Scratch that surface though and we find the political rhetoric of this year’s Republican campaign season attacking women’s health and birth control! Birth control?!?!? I mean really, what is up with that?!?!?

(Dare I mention that most women on birth control are married and that a good percentage take the pill for non-birth control reasons — despite what certain radio talk show hosts have stated!)

Women are also still assaulted in record numbers by spouses and boyfriends, trafficked for sex right here in the old US of A, and while women have made inroads in the Armed Forces, the “dark side” is the spate of sexual crimes against women — right smack dab in the middle of the theater of war where they proudly serve.

To my way of thinking, we are all in the ring all the time, duking it out for things like adequate child care for our children because let’s face it “choice” is not an option for most women — it’s work or starve — which brings up issues like maternity rights (nothing like leaving your 11 week old baby to go back to work, I know, I had to do it) and that old chestnut equity in pay (still!).

Ask ANY female boxer in the United States if she can earn a living as a fighter and she’ll give you a litany of jobs she has to have to “support” her professional boxing career. Oh, and then ask her about how much respect she receives for plying her trade … think Christy Martin who boxed in pink for years to seem more feminine and therefore a lot less threatening.

I could go on and on — but will end my rant by standing and raising my body into a huge cheer for Christy Martin and Mia St. John who will enter the ring of combat on June 19th for the WBC Super Welterweight World Championship.

To my mind this is the best antidote to feeling the blues about how much further women have to go: two f’n warriors giving it their all in a ring they claim as their own.

And at the end of the day, that’s all it’s about: what Virginia Wolfe famously coined, a place of one’s own to just be without all of the ugly crap that gets heaped on in piles pushing you down.

In the parlance of my childhood “rock on sisters!” — and have a great day!

12
Sep
11

Boxing and me …

Boxing and me …

I’m at the official start of writing my thesis today.  It is the culmination of my course of studies towards a Master’s Degree in Liberal Studies.  I bring it up because my thesis topic is Boundaries in motion: Women’s Boxing.  The study will  take a look at how women’s boxing is changing notions of the meaning of being “female” or in other words, what women are and what they are capable of.

Having been born in the mid-1950’s in the era of girls wearing dresses all the time — and I mean all the time — the idea of athleticism, muscles and so on were a seeming anathema. To the extent that there were “Lady” athletes that were at all visible to my young eyes, they seemed to only be slim-hipped tennis players, figure skaters, skiers and gymnasts — and while there were women’s roller derby, softball and bowling leagues, those sports were barely a blip on my consciousness.

Muscle-bound women were certainly viewed as something other — and in remembering back to my early childhood years on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, organized sport itself was entirely non-existent except for boy’s basketball and boxing at the local Boy’s Club on Avenue A and 10th Street.  The sports I played, such as they were consisted of punchball (with a spaulding ball or a pinkie), Newcomb (with a giant red playground ball), King (or Chinese handball), bottle caps, stoop ball (a pinkie bounced off a stoop, with a “base” counted for each bounce before the ball was caught), playing catch, riding a bike, roller skating (with metal skates attached to my sneakers) and general chase games.

The fact was, these weren’t even considered sports. These were things we just did either during recess (punchball and Newcomb and chase games) or as general play on the block.  My only experience of “organized” sports was at camp, and having gone to a “leftie” summer camp, our idea of sports was groaning through hot afternoons on the sports field playing pathetic versions of baseball (and fighting off the gnats), with some passable basketball thrown in, albeit mostly among the boys.

Getting back on topic, as a young girl, I loved boxing, but had no clue that it was ever something that I could actually do. I didn’t get to watch the sport much, so as a substitute, my brother and I watched professional wrestling with the likes of Bruno Sammartino and Gorgeous George.

By the mid-1960’s I was a confirmed boxing fan of Mohammad Ali and remember names likes Floyd Patterson and Sonny Liston as icons to be venerated though I never actually saw them fight until much later.  I just liked the idea of them and learned names from the snippets of conversation between men and boys on my block.

Fast forwarding to what seems like a million years later, it took me until 1996 to actually walk into a boxing gym. Having done so, and like many men and women before me, I fell in love with boxing almost to the point of tears at just thinking about it. In those early forays, I used to keep a log of punch counts (so many punch combinations x so many repetitions per round) and would get all sorts of heart fluttery every time I got near the gym.

More to the point, it began to change how I felt about myself.  I was 42 then — and in decent enough shape for someone who’d never been athletic except for stints of hour-long runs a few years before.  Beyond the improvements in physical conditioning, it felt great to feel my own power, something I’d spent a lifetime denying.  The most liberating sensation, however, was the physical act of hitting — and I mean really hitting with all the force and torque of my body. That was something I’d been denied all my life — the freedom to let things go with an explosive pop accompanied by a guttural grunt of release.

That certainly wasn’t in the manual of things girls could do when I was growing up and how extraordinary that I was 42 years old before I was even aware of having missed out.

Female boxers in Afghanistan, Credit: Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Los Angeles Times

In thinking about my own experience, it occurred to me that other women, younger or older, athletes or non-athletes, may also undergo transformative experiences as they box.  Those experiences have multiplied times all of the women who participate in the sport whether as professionals, amateurs or recreational boxers like myself.   Somewhere buried inside of those experiences are the transformations that affect how everyone sees and thinks of women who box and whether those interpretations are positive or negative, the changes that women make for themselves are here to stay.

Maybe that’s why I smile so much every time I read about the Afghanistan Women’s Boxing Team.

10
Aug
11

Wordless Wednesday, 8/10/11

Wordless Wednesday…

All Female Boxing Clinic, Gleason's Gym, Spring 2011

Wordless Wednesday is a group of bloggers who give words a rest once a week.

11
Jul
11

Getting “back”

Getting “back”

I worked out hard on Saturday — giving it my all so to speak through my sweet 16.  I even got Len laughing when he asked me if I’d eaten my Wheaties!  Mostly it felt great to sweat and to realize that my stamina was such that I could start to maintain speed — not to say that I was rabbiting through all 16 rounds, but the four with Len felt right except perhaps for the last part of the fourth round when I could feel myself flagging.

Back on the double-ended bag after coasting a round I did forge through with speed again — all of which is allowing me to officially proclaim to myself that my goal of gaining some conditioning is finally being met!

For a 50-something out of shape person, knowing that one can get pretty much “back” to conditioning at the six months mark of training is excellent. I can actually throw myself into a jog without dying and when it comes to gym time finally finding some speed is a truly remarkable feeling.  Len even had a little bit of a wince when I threw a left jab at his body followed by the right to the pad — and not that I’m necessarily evil or anything, but that little tiny push back made me feel like a million bucks.

On top of all of this, I finally had a diagnosis for the coughing!  It runs out its something called Laryngopharyngeal Reflux or LPR.  Often called the “silent” reflux, symptoms and signs include coughing, thick mucous at the back of the throat, “postnasal” drip, throat irritations/throat clearing and even sore throats that seem to resolved after a day or two.

The mechanical action is the acid from the stomach backs into the esophagus through the upper esophageal sphincter.  For people who suffer from heartburn, the acid hangs around in the esophagus, however, with LPR the acid actually backs up into the voice box and the back of the throat.  Hence the symptoms!

I went in for a scope of my nasal passages and throat and low and behold, what we found was an enlarged larynx that showed evidence of having had LPR for some time. In speaking with the doctor, he told me that patients do indeed experience breathing problems upon exertion — and that is one of the reasons patients seek medical attention.

As for treatment — the primary one is a change in diet with several huge no-no’s:

  • caffeine, cola beverages, citrus beverages and mints, alcoholic beverages, particularly at night, cheese, fried foods, eggs and chocolate.
  • no eating a minimum of three hours prior to bedtime — and no large meals at night.
  • a primary diet of green veggies and non-acid forming fruits (60%)
  • weight loss.

I’m also being put on something call a proton pump inhibitor (PPI) — a class of medications that essentially prevents the stomach from forming acids.

I still have a few more tests to undergo to rule out a few things, but figure the diagnosis is pretty solid — now it’s just up to me to give up coffee, tea and chocolate 😦 while noting that a mostly veggie diet will certain aid in my weightloss campaign.

For more information on LPR, here are a couple of sites.

14
May
11

Waiting for the end to come.

Waiting for the end to come.

Today was one of those gym days when if found myself waiting for the end. Whether it was the end of the round, the end of the set, or the end of the training session, my entire body seemed to be keeping rhythm to the “why are we here?” mantra.

We’re talking muscles yelling at me, head throbbing from a migraine, lungs shouting “wtf!?!” and legs that refused to bend.  Len (bless him) was a sweetheart about it and aside from a half-hearted, “wake-up, wake-up” during our first round on the focus pads, figured it was best to just go with the low-flow of energy.

Still, I did manage to get through the entire circuit, and even picked up some energy towards the end of my last couple of rounds on the double-ended bag and during my speed bag rounds.  By then I realized that by working it all out on the bag, I was finding a way to push through the physical morass and even found myself working a little past the bell on the last two rounds.

On the sit-up chair it was pretty much more of the same, but at least the head-throbbing was gone by then, and now that I’m home and adequately “coffee’d”,  I’m actually starting to feel a smile coming on.

So, what does it all mean?  I guess to haul your booty out the door anyway even if you’re feeling like dog-doo.  In my case, because I’m on a once-a-week schedule, I really feel that I have to go regardless — and let’s face it, while I’m still not at 100%, having made it through, I feel energized if only because I did complete the circuit. And who knows, I might even find the energy for a run later in the day.  I’ll see how it goes.

19
Mar
11

Why I love women’s boxing!

Why I love women’s boxing!

Afghan Women Boxing, Credit: AFP/Katherine Haddon

I came across an amazing piece about young Afghani women training for the 2012 Olympics entitled, Afghan women boxers eye Olympic knockout!  We’re talking from the Taliban to the ring — in a country where girls and women still struggle for the right to leave the house or attend school, never mind don boxing gloves to learn the intricacies of the sweet science.

As Katherine Haddon put it in her lead graph, “In a gym at Kabul’s main stadium, where the Taliban used to publicly execute women accused of adultery, female Afghan boxers hoping to make it to the London 2012 Olympics are practicing their jabs.”

This is why I love women’s boxing.

Sure there’s the “game” side of it and the frustrations of attempting to make it as a professional — but at its heart any woman who boxes has an opportunity to push herself past all of the crap of gender construction in whatever society she is in to work it all out on the bag.  As a case in point, pick any ten random videos of a female boxing match on YouTube and read the vitriol, if the comments aren’t sexualized then they are some nonsense about how women “shouldn’t fight …”  And those comments are written here, in the U.S., so what’s that saying???

Meanwhile, back at the gym, girls and women box anyway because they have figured out it’s a beautiful way of moving beyond that sort of thinking into a realm of physical and mental strengthening.  And whether it’s an Aikido dojo, Tai Chi in the park or young Afghani women with an Olympic dream, taking those steps — and providing opportunities and encouragement for other women, young or old to take those steps is what will ultimately knock down the barriers that still keep so many women locked up inside.

YouTube also has a link, however it will only play on their site.  I recommend it highly!  You can find it here.

09
Mar
11

Losing is no fun

Losing is no fun

As with many experiences, sports can provide terrific highs as well as terrific lows. Heartbreak losses in the ring can be devastating to one’s morale, never mind that recovery from injuries sustained is made that much tougher when the fight ends up in the loss column.

One can listen to all the jibber-jabber about being in the game for the sake of it, but there is no feeling like winning whether it’s an amateur bout, a chess game or acing a paper. What particularly stings is when the winner takes that extra moment to grind in one’s loss whether it’s trash talk in an interview or some snide comment in an email. Whatever it is — one can cry in one’s proverbial beer or get into gear for the next something head held high for having tried in the first place.

It’s the latter that feels the hardest — especially when plans have to be adjusted, strategies rethought and importantly, the inevitable shoulda’, coulda’, woulda’s have to be worked through.  I’d offer up Grandma’s advise again — about having a good cry, washing your face, and moving on — but sometimes that doesn’t quite reach the moment.  Sometimes the “screaming-mimi’s” need to take over with a good dose of the “it’s-not-fairs” before one can begin to approach anything resembling the acceptance that leads to moving on. And that’s where the heavy bag comes in handy — ’cause in those moments it’s really good to hit things as a way of working out feelings of anger, sorrow and plain old disappointment.  The point being to find you’re inner heavy bag, that space where you can release all the feelings you have without taking them out on others or expressing them negatively on yourself — and thereby find your way to getting where you need to go whether it’s sending your latest work onto another publisher, having your team scream “rematch”! or quietly working your way back into the gym to fix whatever technical flaws you found, say dropping your left when you counterpunch, that leaves you vulnerable to attack.

So have a good cry and get back at it ’cause deadlines have a way of reappearing before you know it!  Oh and remember what my old therapist Ralph used to say, “happiness is the best revenge.”

 

 

 

14
Jan
11

Your all the way for right now

Your all the way for right now

These days I can get to the boxing gym on Saturday mornings.  That’s a step up from the fall when I rarely put in an appearance and definitely better than the summer when I didn’t go at all.  At the time, I was agonizing over missed opportunities. Say during the weeks that my daughter was at summer camp! What I couldn’t get to, however, was a way of not thinking that gym time could only mean a three-day a week minimum.  Anything less didn’t feel like “training” and so I ended up blowing off the whole thing!

I’ve come to a an easier agreement with myself.  I’m going the distance with what I’m doing — on the best terms that I can set for now.  For my gym time that means, I can go on Saturdays for upwards of one and a half to two hours.  And if I show up on a Sunday or some evening during the week, so much the better, but the deal I’ve made with myself is for Saturday.

In practical terms it means that I’m a lot less stressed about it — and can actually gain the benefits of my gym time without that agonizing inner dialogue about not doing enough.   The truth is, I’d like nothing better than to put in a two-hour boxing workout every day, but that is just not possible.  What is possible are the things I can commit to on real terms — and attempting anything else is just plain silly because it won’t get done.

I call it the six-pack abs thing!  Sure, they’re there — but like digging for gold, they’re underneath the surface!

My body will never, ever, ever have a visible six-pack, but …. what I can have is a body that is strong, fit and healthy with enough stamina to get through a Saturday workout without panting.

13
Jan
11

Lights on

Lights on

"The Fighter"

What with the critical acclaim of the Micky Ward biopic, “The Fighter” and FX channel’s new series, “Lights Out,” one could think that boxing’s gone mainstream again.

After all, there was a time when Friday night fights were as ubiquitous as Friday night football in  big towns and little towns across America.  The recent renaissance of small venues coupled with the play that MMA is getting on local and national television, however, does seem to be fueling a groundswell of renewed interest in the sport that has been growing since the phenomenon of “White Collar Boxing” in the 1990’s.

More to the point, boxing continues to be a “working class” story.   Talk to any young boxer trying to make it and hear a story as old as Horatio Alger:  young man or young woman determined to “make-it” through the sweat of his or her brow.  In boxing, however, that’s a literal thing.  It literally takes sweat and a lot of it to gain the conditioning necessary to fight a round of boxing never mind 12 — all while being pummeled with the ever-present threat of serious injury or worse.   Those are some kind of odds — and yet boxers take them.

As “The Fighter” shows, the desire to “make it” can also be “fought out” against the dynamic of family madness or personal demons.  Ask anyone why they like to hit things and believe me, you’ll get a story.

Melissa Hernandez

What’s interesting is that the kind of “truth” that’s being explored in the latest media incarnations of the sport are attempting to work through the genre elements to arrive at a statement about who we are and where we are as a people at this particular point in time.  A lot of our old middle-class dreams are falling away — and in that instance, what’s left?  Strip away mortgages, high-priced dinners and all the other trappings of the middle-class life and one is faced with a sort of raw truth of life on the margins: of making it or not based on family relationships and one’s own gumption.

A return to boxing seems to imply a reglorification of the ring as a stand-in for our own sense of what we’ve lost and what we can find.  Boxers as heroes and demi-Gods has a potent place in the mythology of the sport — and as a pointer for the new reality of folks facing displacement from their dreams, it offers an alternative stream of what life can offer.  That’s certainly good for all those young kids preparing for the Golden Gloves this year, and as a marker for the “grown-ups” in the crowd, offers a kind of hope for redemption from the ills of economic debacles and all the rest that happens when dreams fade and die.

03
Jan
11

Alarm clocks and the bell

Alarm clocks and the bell

I’ve been hit by the iPhone alarm clock bug.  Yep, my trusty morning wake-up call pooped-out of me this morning — and so my morning is already 45 minutes late.

As someone who loves boxing, I am otherwise bound by life in three-minute intervals: the boxing clock.  The typical timer has three flavors.  Green, yellow and red.  Green is lit-up for two and a half minutes before it dings and turns yellow for a further thirty-seconds.  The next bell is usually a fairly loud racket that signifies the turn to red and a sixty-second rest period.

At the gym yesterday, I used the “yellow” period to quicken up my pace as I trained.  My training consisted of nine rounds on the double-ended bag and a further three rounds on the speed bag before starting the abs torture.  This is not a typical training session, but that’s the beauty of a Sunday, it gives me a chance to challenge myself on different aspects of boxing.

Yesterday was all about lefts and upper-cuts as three-minute exercises.  First lefts, then left-left-right combinations, followed by left-left upper cut combinations and finally, right-left, right-left, right-left uppercuts finishing with the left jab off the left uppercut.

When I train throwing nothing but lefts for some part of the boxing clock or the entire three minutes, I hear trainers in my head talking about how such and such a fighter won a 12-round fight with nothing but lefts.  Hyperbole aside (although I swear someone did do that), challenging oneself to the equivalent of nothing but lefts as a timed exercise has a lot of benefits.  I used to do it as a writing exercise, setting an egg-timer for five minutes and writing down whatever entered my head without letting the pen off the page.

Yesterday’s workout was a variation on that.  Working on speed, agility and most importantly stamina.  By my last three speed-bag rounds I was pretty much “done,” however, I did try to use the last thirty seconds of each round to pound away without stopping on my alternating left hand and right hand 8-count, 4-count, 2-count, 1-1-1-1, speed-bag rhythm.   I was mostly successful and did feel that I earned the latte treat from Starbucks afterwards.

I’ll never get back the 45 minutes I lost this morning — that’s 15 rounds of boxing or nine timed writing sessions.  Oh well.  There’s always tomorrow.

04
Dec
10

I want to live

I want to live

A dear young friend of Girlboxing has been diagnosed with an aggressive breast cancer.  Barely 30 she is facing the kinds of challenges and life or death decisions that no one should ever have to face, never mind a person as vital and full of life as she.

It reminds me that all of us face deeply troubling and difficult problems that can be as debilitating emotionally as they are physically or quite frankly, the other way around, wherein feeling crippled by loss or depression can lead to a physical manifestation of suffering.

Cure alls for these sorts of troubles are near-on impossible, but there are ways of coping that can help find a place for laughter and smiles along side the hugely daunting task of getting through a difficult time.

So of course you know where I’m going with this in the sense of “working it out on the bag,” but more so, finding the “daily something,” the space that’s yours and yours alone can be a source of inspiration and hope to keep you going.

My Aunt was just such a person.  She had every serious and debilitating disease one can have including four different cancers (one breast each and two lung cancers), two heart attacks, three strokes and kidneys that managed to function despite no registry on her blood tests, oh and the diabetes she managed to “cure” through changes to her diet.

Her philosophy for coping was simple.  She’d wake up everyday and tell herself “I want to live.”   This became her mantra:  “I want to live.”  She said this often and always, and most particularly to her doctors who got to thinking that she must have inherited the spirit of several cat colonies because she kept using up lives and coming back.

With each new diagnosis, she’d yell it louder:  “I want to live.”   And the same with each day after radiation treatments, chemo treatments, blood transfusions, midnight schleps to the hospital, or day-long waits in the ER.  “I want to live,” she’d call me and say as we worked through the choices she had to face – all the while never missing a hair appointment or her weekly manicure.  And taking care of those details, walking into her doctor’s as decked out as she could muster gave her something to twinkle about – and that made it infectious.  Her doctors took on her mantra saying, “She wants to live,” thus rallying around her and giving it their best to ensure that she’d have that chance.

When she did finally pass I felt a deep and abiding sadness, but knowing that she had pushed herself to the limit of what her body could take and then some gave me a peaceful sense that she was ready to be where she needed to be.  I also understood that her “daily something” was her effort to stay alive; to give herself the energy and pluck to fight each and every round to its fullest.

As well, I know that we all have that in us.  It’s just a matter of finding that one space that helps us work things through no matter if it’s a potter’s wheel a double-ended bag or a simple one line statement.  So whatever it is: writing a journal entry, walking a mile, learning something new or throwing nothing but lefts at a punching bag getting ready for the Golden Gloves; while your daily something won’t cure you, it sure will help to see you through.

 




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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