Thursday, February 25, 2010

Hitting Hard But Not Up

Carlos came in last night, but he was still battling a cold.  Adam had a cold, too.  It affected how the two sparred; they didn't do it for too long.

Plans were made for some of us to meet at Eckhert Park on Sunday to sign up for the Chicago Golden Gloves.  Carlos is in, as is John, and Jamil is planning to go.  I have to renew my coach's license; Alan is grandfathered in to the system.  Still no sign of Kevin, and it doesn't look like Ralphie is going to compete. JJ is being encouraged by the coaches he's working with now to sit out the Gloves and compete in other tournaments.

I told Pastor Roger I would miss church to go to the tournament registration.  "Playing hooky, huh?" he commented.  On Wednesday, during the regular mid-week lunch, I told people about being knocked down by John on Monday.  Paulette shook her head.   "Why would they have registration for the tournament on a Sunday?" she asked.  I guess weekends (plus having multiple places to sign up) are the best way to go to make sure everybody gets a chance to sign up.  It's not just people in the Chicago area.  Boxers from Indiana, Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin show up for the tournament, too. 

I've noticed that every time JJ is in the gym, Alan has to get into the ring with him.  Whenever Nate Sr, is in the gym, he always wants to mix it up with JJ, too.  Both men appreciate JJ's style of boxing.  Alan and JJ went for a few rounds.

Alan and I sparred for two rounds.  There were too many times when I missed opportunities to get him with hooks.  "You hit hard," he said afterwards, "but you don't always go for the head. . .why?"  "I still think that I can't reach up easily because everyone is taller than I," I answered.  I noticed that I've gone back to pawing at incoming lefts and rights again, too.  "You have a lot of bad habits that we have to work on," Alan said.  "I know. . .I feel like I throw the same punches all the time without much variation," I agreed.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Knocked Down and Bruised

"You're always the last the go in," Alan smiled.  Sparring takes place each time the gym is open for the adults.  I seldom beg off of sparring, but usually, I'm one of the last, if not the last person to do so.  Last night, I went one round a piece with John and Tony. 

Although I've become a little better protecting my head and my face, there's still room for improvement.  One of John's punches caused my neck to turn in a funny way.  "I'd better be cool or else I will be visiting a chiropractor," I thought.  Alan was on the side, saying, "Use the hook!".  Not easy to do, since John is at least six feet in height. John thought the coach was telling him that.  A right hook got me, and I fell to the canvas.  I wasn't knocked out, just stunned and caught off guard.  John helped me up.  "I'm sorry!  I didn't mean that!" he said.  "Don't worry about it.  I had my hands down," I said.  I was laughing about how I fell down. 

I knew Tony was hesitant about hitting me when he and I were in the ring.  "You can really hit her," Alan told him, and Tony's punches did become a little harder.  Tony bounced around the ring a lot, and I had to stop myself from constantly chasing him.  It is better to let an opponent come to you, instead of getting tired out running to them.  Later on after I got home, I noticed a bruise on my left arm.  I don't bruise up easily, and I don't get bruised often, so it was a surprise to me.  It hurts a little today, but it's okay. 

Pastor Roger has some vintage Sports Illustrated issues he's trying to sell for awhile.  He gave me the ones with various boxers on the front covers.  "Maybe the guys at the gym would like to buy them," he told me.  There was a little interest until they heard, "Twenty dollars a magazine."  Then Alan told me about a friend of his who has a huge boxing memorabilia collection.  He left a voice mail for his friend last night, asking him to call back if he's interested. 

Young Ed sparred with Eddie.  I was on the double end bag with my back to the ring when I heard, "Damn!  Ooh whee!"  I turned around to see Eddie rubbing his eye.  Young Ed asked, "You alright, man?"  "Yeah," Eddie said, "but damn!"  Apparently, Young Ed had caught him with a good right.  Eddie came out of the ring and sat down for awhile.

Michael, who's a year younger than I, asked me about Jeremy, who's been missing for over a week.  Maybe Jeremy's ill; a lot of bad colds have been going around.  Also, Carlos, Kevin, and Ralphie were not in the gym.  Alan said that Ralphie had gotten injured the last time he sparred, and his back was bothering him.  That might have a bearing on whether or not Ralphie will sign up for the Golden Gloves later this week.  JJ was in the gym, and I thought I heard him say he wasn't going to enter the tournament this year, but I'm not sure.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Best Two Rounds

Carlos came in, suffering from a cold.  "Sometimes I can breathe out of one nostril, then sometimes, the other nostril is clear," he said.  Alan suggested that Carlos work it off by hitting the bags after he sparred with a few guys, including St. Louis.  Acknowledging that the cold was slowing him down, Alan later told me, "Carlos wasn't himself tonight." 

Carlos still hasn't decided whether he's going to sign up for the Golden Gloves.  "I think I'm too heavy," he said.  "You'll be fine.  A lot of heavyweights run out of gas after the first round," St. Louis told him.  "You just have to keep hitting and pace yourself," Alan said.

I sparred with Jamil for two rounds, and I felt amazingly confident.  I was lighter on my feet, and I took little breaks to back up and get air.  Jamil told me that I got him with a left hook.  "I saw it coming, but I didn't get my hand up fast enough to block it," he smiled.  That was a surprise to me, because I didn't think any of the hooks I threw connected.  I was tired afterwards, but not as winded and worn down as I usually am.  I immediately got on the heavy bags.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Bullying Kind

You would think that working at a church would mean not having to deal with irritations.  There's one particular guy who gets on my last nerve.  He frequents the food pantry at church, and is always trying to scam his way around the rules.  I don't even answer his calls anymore.  Each time he calls, he's rude and disrespectful to me, mainly because I'm onto him.  On top of that, he expects me to do his leg work.  The guy never keeps up with the times he's supposed to come to the pantry.  Then he wants to know what is available before he decides to "make a long walk" to church.  The last time he did that I snapped, "I have arthritis in both of my knees.  I'm not about to run up and down the stairs to check on your appointment or give you a menu of what's down there.  If you want to know that, walk over here."  Pastor Roger is always telling me to be nice and sympathetic, as we do have several characters who frequent the food pantry that sorely try my patience.  However, my tolerance for nonsense is going down as I get older, not up. 

I don't even know what the guy in question looks like, because I don't usually go downstairs during the food pantry hours on Mondays.  Nor am I usually at church when the doors open for the Tuesday afternoon food pantry  I keep saying that I'm going to catch the guy and threaten him with the possibility of being permanently banned from using the food pantry.  But I haven't (as of yet).  I guess it's not in me to be a bully.

Maybe that's the reason behind me not always returning fire as I should whenever I spar (or during the last two fights I had).  My late sister Cindy had a talent for bullying people, and many were intimidated by her.  It's not that I won't step to someone whom I find annoying, irritating, or has threatened me.  But Cindy liked to do that, and I'd rather be peaceful most of the time.  I think that boxers have to have a bit of a bullying attitude in them in order to be successful. 

Joe, a coach who knows Alan, came in last night with Chloe, a fighter of his.  Joe can also been seen working the corners of various fighters sometimes on ESPN's "Friday Night Fights".  I sparred with Chloe, who looked to be fifteen years younger than I.  She also weighed less.  But Joe taught her well.  A right hook from her nearly floored me.  "I thought you lost your balance," Alan said later,  "No, it was the punch!" I replied.  I got a good body shot in, but like Alan noted, I ate most of her jabs with my head.  "Remind me that we need to work on some jab and catch drills," Alan told me.  Later, after I got home, I felt the rest of the pummeling I took.  "Don't get too friendly with her, because you might be fighting her down the line," Alan joked. 

I overheard Joe and Alan talking.  "She's had two fights," Alan told Joe, referring to me.  "With whom?" Joe asked.  "Meg," Alan answered.  "Oh, yeah, she's one of Bill's fighters at Hamlin," Joe said.  "She's a fire fighter, you know," Alan said.  "Really?  Meg's good," Joe said.  Don't I know it, I thought.

I lent Jamil the memory card from my digital camera.  He said he knows some people who could possibly get the videos I recorded of him and others sparring off of the card and onto YouTube.  Jamil begged off sparring last night.  St. Louis had given him a black eye the week before.  "My father saw my eye and he was trippin' about it, so I don't want to come home with another black eye so soon", he told me.

Kevin, John and Carlos didn't come in last night, and Alan and I were concerned.  The sign up for the Golden Gloves is at the end of next week.  "I hope they're not changing their minds about competing," Alan said.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Boxing Withdrawal

I did not go to the gym last night, and it was the first time I had missed a session in a long time.  I'm thinking about going back to school, so I went to an open house held by Loyola University's School of Continuing and Professional Studies.  It was held at their Water Tower campus.  I talked with the head of the Paralegal Studies program, as well as alumni.  The information I received was very beneficial.  Since no one seems to be interested in hiring support staff people these days, especially ones who are my age or older, I've been thinking it's high time for a change.  It was well worth my time to go to the open house. I'm going to check out some other schools, too. 

However, I suffered boxing withdrawal, as I told Virginia today when we had lunch together.  I hate to miss boxing for any reason, including illness.  But sometimes, schedules overlap, and one engagement has to have priority over another one.  When I do return to class, which might be as soon as this spring, my class schedule may conflict with going to the gym at times.  I hope not, but I'll have to bite the bullet if it does. 

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

News Cycle

The past few days have presented me with good news-bad news-good news scenarios.  I learned that I am going through menopause, which is news I've been waiting on for a few decades now.  Luckily, the nurse/midwife that I talked to at the health clinic had good suggestions on how to deal with the symptons that don't involve medications. 

The bad news was that another one of my cousins passed away.  My cousin Darlene passed a few weeks before Thanksgiving last year.  Now my oldest first cousin, Denise, has passed away.  I took off work yesterday to attend her funeral. 

The second piece of good news was when I learned that a trifling ex-boyfriend had died.  "The boyfriend?" Pastor Roger said, when I told him the news.  I've told the pastor about the eight years of my life I wasted on the guy.  The ex bit the dust several years before due to heart problems.  That news made my whole week. I was smirking and smiling about it for hours. It warms my heart to know that he's six feet under ground -- with the scar I put on his face with a right cross twenty years ago.  It's a long story, but I will say that my right hand cut him open but good, and this was long before I properly learned how to box. 

St. Louis, Carlos, Ralphie, Jeremy and Kevin were missing last night.  Michael returned, looking well rested after a vacation he took.  I sparred with Jamil for two rounds and took extra rounds on the heavy bags.

The speed bag was gone again.  Last week, there was a newer one up, but it was a very odd shape.  I was on it for a couple of rounds until I got tired of trying to figure out a good rhythm.  Hopefully, a better speed bag will appear soon. 

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Punch To The Music

I'm the one who usually turns on the radio in the gym.  Most of the time, it is tuned to WGCI-FM, a local urban contemporary station.  I assume that's one of the favorite stations of the kids who use the gym on Tuesdays an Thursdays.  WGCI caters to the under 30 crowd who like Kanye West, Jay-Z, Beyonce, Ciara, and the like.

Seldom do I change the dial.  First of all, it's the community radio, so all have an opportunity to switch the station (and play CDs or cassettes, if they want).  The coach has the option of not allowing the radio on at all, so the boxers can hear his instructions while they are sparring.  Also, many of the younger guys who come into the gym on Mondays and Wednesdays would rather hear the current hip-hop/rap that is in heavy rotation on WGCI.  I tend to tune it out while I'm working out.  I don't listen to that station elsewhere because I'm not crazy about most of the stuff on their play list. 

When I walk to the gym, I usually play my drug-store MP3 player on the way there.  There are over 200 songs on it at the moment.  The music mix consists of various genres.  Right now it's top heavy with a lot of slow songs.  I skip those during my journey to the gym, and play the dance, fast soul music, and rap songs to get in the mood for my workout.  I'm always playing, "Mama Said Knock You Out" by LL Cool J, "Tic Toc" by the Lords of the Underground, and "Move Bitch" by Ludacris.  I'll throw in Otis Redding's version of "Satisfaction", "What You See Is What You Get", by the Dramatics, and "You Can Have Watergate" by James Brown and the JB's.  "I Ain't Leaving Without You" by Jaheim, is probably the newest song among the 200 on the MP3. 

There's a company that insists that slower and quieter music is better for working out.  They produce CDs with such music.  I tried that one day when I was alone in the gym for awhile.  I think I tuned the radio to a classical station.  Didn't do it for me.  I had to hear something harder, faster and with a beat. 

Sparring And A Crash

I sparred one round with Ralphie on Wednesday.  It was his birthday.  I heard him say he's 31 years old, but he looks a lot younger than that. 

Jeremy begged off of sparring.  "I didn't let my wife see my shirt," he told me, referring to the blood he got on it from Monday night. 

Adam told me, "I would spar with you, but I'm meeting a girl later, and I want to look good."  We both laughed.  Jeremy was leaning up against the lockers.  "Is it hot in here, or is it me?" I asked them.  Ever since I've been noticing what seems to be hot flashes, I've been asking that question often of others.  "No, it's hot in here," Jeremy confirmed.  There were a good number of guys in the gym, and no air was circulating. 

Ed came in.  "Hillari, you've been coming here a long time.  I remember!"  Ed began boxing several years ago in Barry's class.  "Since September of 2002," I smiled.  Sometimes it doesn't seem that it has been that long. 

Alan was pulling out of a parking space at the end of the evening when he backed into a car that was double parked. He cursed as he jumped out of the car to check the damage.  Neither Alan, myself, nor the other driver was hurt.  Alan and the other driver exchanged information.  Alan had broken a mirror on the other guy's car.  "I think I'll just go ahead and pay for it.  The guy told me he's a lawyer.  I don't want to aggravate him," he said to me. 

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

What I Get Out of Punching

Many, many posts ago, I went into why I took up the sport of boxing.  I've not said what I get out of boxing.

1)  Assertiveness -- Years ago, I put up with a lot of crap all the time.  I would "grin and bear" much while stuffing down the anger and resentment.  Beginning in my mid-twenties, I got tired and began to stand up to indignities.  Boxing further pushed me into learning to be more assertive.  Just today, I got on a person who always acts rude to me when they call the church. Boxing has helped me squash a lot of disrespect directed my way.

2)  Confidence -- I was very shy as a child and teenager, which often lead to me being picked on as well as being overlooked and dismissed.  Boxing can't take the full credit for gained confidence -- singing, acting and speaking in public over the years has also helped -- but it has enhanced it.

3)  Exercise and the return of athleticism -- I was the kid who loved gym class while I was in grade and high school.  Outside of school, I was always roller skating, skateboarding. and riding bikes.  As an adult,  I became less of a fan of exercise, made excuses not to move around, and the pounds went up.  I tried aerobics, but it left me cold.  I needed something a little more intense that would hold my interest.  I found it in boxing.

4)  Camaraderie --  No matter where I've gone, whether it be a tournament, a show fight, a Park District show, or a certification class, there has been an instant connection with other boxers.  Boxers share common experiences of tough training, taking hard knocks, groaning over losses, and celebrating over wins.  A couple of summers ago, I was riding my bike in Evanston when a guy pulled up next to me in his car.  "You box?" he said, noticing the Everlast sack that was on my back.  He had boxed when he was younger.  We shared a few pleasant moments talking about the sport.  Some of the best times I've had in recent years have involved shared experiences with others in the sport.  Being excited over watching a fight on pay-per-view at someone's home, cheering on fellow boxers at live matches, laughing over something funny in the gym, meeting former and current professional boxers and listening to their stories. . . .it goes on and on.

5) Encouraging females in the sports -- The guys have a clear path in the amateurs and the professional ranks as they move their way through the sport.  Women and girls still struggle to be recognized, respected, and being taken seriously in boxing.   Whenever a new female comes to the gym, I do my best to make them feel comfortable and encourage them to stay.  I congratulate the females I see boxing at various matches, and tell them to go as far as they can.  My hope is to see more females become interested in boxing.

6) The "you do what?" factor -- I tell someone I box.  The reactions range from being impressed to being horrified.  I have people who encourage me to keep my dukes up, as well as those who continually attempt to talk me out of fighting.  I never get tired of the surprised looks. 

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Cleaning The Crimson

Jeremy sparred for the first time with Jamil last night.  I watched them during their second round.  Jamil caught Jeremy a few times in the nose.  That was the first time I ever saw Jamil bloody someone up.  Jeremy was bleeding a lot, but he stayed in the ring. 

Alan said that Barry was concerned about blood he had seen previously on the canvas.  "We've just got a lot of bleeders," Alan told me.  Jeremy's shirt was stained with crimson, and some of it did make it onto the canvas.  Near the end of the evening, I got some paper towels from the women's washroom and grabbed a bottle of rubbing alcohol off of the coach's desk.  "What are you doing?" Alan asked, as I wiped up the canvas surface.  "I figured I'd clean up the blood from the canvas.  There's a few spots," I answered.  "How much of my blood is on there?" Jeremy joked.  "Eh, don't worry about it, Hillari," Alan said.  I saw a broom in an odd spot and picked it up.  "Now what are you doing?" Alan said.  "I'm just moving the broom over to the garbage can," I said.  He thought I was going to start sweeping, which would not have been a bad idea, judging by the condition of the floor.  "There are maintenance guys for that.  We'll coach, and we'll let them clean," Alan grinned.  Jeremy had also gotten blood on the sparring gloves he had worn.  I rinsed those off in the washroom.

Some readers might be saying to themselves at this point,  "No way!  How can she do that?"  I've gotten used to it, and I'm not very squeamish.   Besides, I'm very careful when I'm in contact with blood in the gym.  Unfortunately, one has to be very careful when in contact with any body fluids these days.  The sparring gloves are used by everyone.  There have been many times, when I've put on a pair, only to discover that someone else has used them recently, and the gloves are sweaty.  I noticed a cut on my left thumb right before I got into the ring with John last night.  Before I put on a pair of gloves, I pulled out a bandaid from my gear bag and covered my thumb with it. 

I wore makeup and nail polish the day before, as I attended church and attended the church's annual business meeting afterwards.  Of course I didn't wear makeup to the gym, but I hadn't removed the nail polish.  I like the contrast of the polish on my fingernails peering out from my handwraps.  It's funny to me. 

While at work yesterday morning, Alan called to ask if I could print out the Chicago Golden Gloves registration and bout schedule and bring it to the gym.  I was in Pastor Roger's office at the time; we were talking to Pam, who expressed an interest in doing volunteer work at church.  Pastor looked at me, trying to figure out if the call was for him when I answered it.  After a few moments, he told Pam, "That sounds like she's talking about boxing stuff."  Alan chuckled when I told him about it later that evening.  "Sounds like you're making a boxing fan out of the pastor," he said.  "No, he always tells me that he doesn't understand much about the sport," I smiled. 

Alan told John that the cut off age for registering at the Golden Gloves used to be thirty-three.  Now it's 35 because the Chicago version never seems to support a Masters' division.  John is 34 years old.  "Man, that would be something if after getting all hyped up for the tournament, I couldn't get in due to age!" John exclaimed.