Monday, January 30, 2012

The Queen Bee

The electricity was out at the field house, so the gym was not open tonight.  Alan called me a couple of hours before the gym was due to open to let me know.  He said he had some paperwork to catch up on, so it worked out for him.  I had to figure out what to do with my evening.  Cleaning the house?  Something I'd rather do in the daylight, and only if I'm in the mood.  Doing the laundry?  I still can't find my stash of quarters, and I'll have to buy a new roll of them.  Watching TV?  On Monday, nothing's on until ten o'clock when "Chelsea Lately" airs.

I still needed to write a Monday blog entry, but I couldn't think of what to put in this space.  Then I remembered Alan saying something last week about, "Hillari used to be the queen bee in the gym until these other women started coming in."  Yeah, I was.  I don't state that in a egotistical way.  I'm not stomping into the gym ready to start something like Aunt Esther.

Nor am I making grand entrances and airly announcing, "Look at me and be dazzled," like the fabulous Nene Leakes.

I think of being a queen bee partially because I've been there for so long.  It'll be ten years come this August.  I started out regularly showing up like everyone else, then I became a volunteer in 2006 (been a volunteer in the gym for six years as of this spring). 

I'm also a queen bee sort of like Honey West.  A bit of TV history:  "Honey West" was a detective series in 1965 on ABC, and the first show of its type to feature a woman chasing down criminals.  Honey was a tough cookie.  In just about every episode of that short-lived series, she was giving out beat downs.  But she wasn't so hard that she turned people off, and she was very helpful to everyone who sought out her assistance.  I like to think that I'm helpful in showing people that boxing is enjoyable.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Go-To Girl

While several of us waited on Alan to open the gym door on Wednesday, Leroy expressed a thought that I had heard several times before.  He said he needed to have more hours to train, but the Loyola Park gym doesn't offer enough of them.  That's one reason why Steve, the former coach, would say that people needed to do extra workouts outside of the gym.  But I can understand why guys like Leroy, who really want to compete, would want to have more time in a gym.

Jacob and Leroy sparred, and they were good matches for each other.  Jacob was really working his jab, and Leroy was answering punches very well.  Ray was giving extra instructions from the side. 

Alan told me to get ready because I had a line of women wanting to spar with me.  Abby and I sparred for one round and we went light.  She was pawing most of the time, and Alan encouraged her to put her punches all the way out.

Brandy and I sparred for three rounds and her punches seemed to be harder than the last time we were in the ring.  A few times I had my hands down, but I quickly remembered to put them back up once I was rocked with some hits.  I caught a right fist to my left eye, and several punches reached my mid-section.  I kept trying to deliver hooks, but Brandy was very good at backing up and avoiding most of them.  I got her with a jab, and her right eye blinked furiously.  "Are you okay?" Alan and I asked.  "It's just my contact moving around," she said.  Afterwards, Brandy said that it was very easy to telegraph my overhand right.  She dodged it each time.  I'm either going to practice and get it right or stop doing it altogether. 

Melinda sparred with Sarah, and she immediately threw hard punches.  Sarah returned the same, and Melinda became tired quickly.  Alan told Melinda, "If you start throwing bombs, Sarah has no choice but to defend herself and hit hard back."  Then he put Sarah in with Jacob.  Alan was saying that perhaps he should put Sarah in with guys more because of her punching power, and several others in the gym -- including me -- agreed.

Alan had his finger surgery the day before, so he had a cast on.   That made it difficult for him to help people suit up, so I was doing those duties.  It's going to be six weeks before his hand is back to normal.

Today, Pastor Roger asked if I had thought about being paid to coach boxing.  I'm often offered to coach individuals for free when asked.  Amateur boxing coaches do get paid, like the ones in the Chicago Park District system (Alan, George, Jack, Bill, etc.).  But I didn't think most who were not associated with a gym did.  "Why don't you coach both amateurs and professionals?" the pastor asked.  "I'd have to be licensed as a professional coach to work with pros," I said.  I told him I want to have one more fight, but I don't get as many fights as the guys do.  Pastor wondered if I could be a professional boxer, but I explained that the same health issues that keep me out of sanctioned amateur matches would also keep me from getting a professional boxing license. 

"What about doing MMA?" Pastor Roger inquired.  "I'm tough enough to take the knocks that I get in boxing, but I'm not sturdy enough for the take downs that happen in that sport.  If I was 20 years younger, I'd be all over that."

Monday, January 23, 2012

Ladies' Night In The Ring

In the photo above, Amanda works out in the ring.  She had attended the gym several months ago, and now she's back.  Melinda observed her on the heavy bag and said, "She looks like she's fought before."  "I think she told me she did," I replied.  Amanda was also showing Abby how to execute some punches.

I sparred with Brandy and Melinda.  Alan pointed out that Brandy executes her punches well.  She got me with a few solid bops to my stomach.  I was so busy keeping my hands up to protect my face that I forgot to cover my mid-section.  Before when I was shadow boxing, I was throwing my jabs very fast.  While sparring, I reverted back to having a slow hand.  Then a light bulb went on.  "I can throw them fast, so why don't I?" I thought.  Brandy was overwhelmed for a minute.  Alan told her to grab me by the arms to slow down the assault. 

Before I sparred with Melinda, Alan told me, "She's a bigger girl, so she'll probably hit harder."  Melinda does have strong punches, but she kept switching between southpaw and traditional stances.  "You've got to pick one stance and stay with it.  We'll work on that," Alan told her.  "I kept switching sides because I was getting tired," she explained.  During our last round, Melinda dug down and came out throwing a flurry of punches.  She knows how to block very well.  "My dad didn't teach any of my siblings and I how to fight, but he did teach us how to block punches," Melinda said later. 

I noticed that outside of Amy, none of the people who've been coming in for awhile like Jacob and Ray, were in the gym tonight.  It was all folks who hadn't been in for awhile like Paul (in the left in the picture above) and the new people.  The last time I noticed a change like that was right after Alan took over the gym, and mostly all the regulars who attended while Steve was there were gone.

I called myself sneaking a candid shot of Ana while she sat in front of the lockers.  She turned just as the flash went off.  "This is such an amazing workout, and I'm never bored," she told me.

 See the second finger on Alan's raised hand next to his pinky finger?  He has to have outpatient surgery to straighten it out.  There was a spider crawling on Alan's back, and I flicked it off.  I remembered hearing something about the meaning of spiders crawling on people, so I looked it up.  Two things kept coming up:  the presence of a spider on one's clothes means money is coming to that person or they will get new clothes.  Hmm. . .Alan did come to the gym wearing a new jacket tonight, come to think of it.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Double Dose of Boxing

Alan said to me on Wednesday, "I didn't see your blog entry on Monday."  My laptop computer has been in the shop since last Saturday.  Micro Center is taking its sweet time getting around to letting me know what's wrong with it.  I was told on Wednesday that they were running a diagnostic test.  Today is Friday, and when I called the repair shop to check on it again, their voice mail was on.  I forgot to bring my camera to the gym on Monday, and I didn't get a chance to type in what happened that night.  Today's entry will cover the entire week, and I'm using a computer at church.   The photo above is of Brandy, as she works out on one of the heavy bags.

The gym was open on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  Mike, a new guy, came in.  "I missed the first few times," he said, and I told him I was glad he came in that night.  The attendance list had expanded, reflecting all of the people who had signed up, but some people did not appear that night.  They might have thought the field house was closed. 

Because I did not have my camera on Monday, I missed taking photos of the action between Alan and Jacob, who sparred four to five rounds.  Ray noticed how Alan adjusts his fighting style to different opponents.  I also missed having pictures taken of myself sparring with tall Sarah and Brandy (blond Sarah would have taken the photos if I had the camera).  Tall Sarah and I went light the first round.  My main problem was that I was not focused enough.  The ring is no place for daydreaming, and I paid for my inattention a few times. 

The second round I did was with Brandy.  She popped me in both of my eyes when I forgot to keep my chin down.  I got her with some right hooks, one of which turned her around a little.  She kept her jab going the entire time. 

The third round was with tall Sarah again, and that turned into our usual war.  Brandy was watching from the sidelines, and she commented, "You all went hard!"  I grabbed Sarah's arms a few times to slow her down, but I still took cracks to my head.

Ray told me about a new gym that opened on Montrose and Western.  His friend Chuck, who's a pro boxer, trains there.  From what Ray told me, the place is dead serious.  "Nobody speaks to you when you walk in.  You might get a nod, but those guys are hungry.  Most of them are planning to turn pro," he said.  It's also a training ground for MMA fighters. 

At the end of Monday evening, Ray was changing out of his shirt.  "Don't admire my sexiness, Hil," he joked to me.  "Well, I'm always sneaking looks when Alan has his shirt off," I said.  "Of all people, you don't want to see me with my clothes off," Alan smiled. 

On Wednesday, two more women joined the gym, Abby and Melinda.  Their presences brought the number of females in the gym up to nine, which is the biggest number of females I've eve seen in the gym.  Melinda said she's eager to spar.  "You never know when you'll have to protect yourself," she said, and I agreed.  Abby is not so keen on getting into the ring. 

Leroy and Matthieu sparred.  Later, I heard Leroy telling Ray that he hadn't boxed since he was 22 years old (Leroy is 27). 

I did a round robin with both Brandy and Sarah again.  Before I got into the ring, Alan gave me instructions.  "I want you to adopt a new game plan.  Keep your hands up at all times and wait until she (Sarah) gets close before throwing punches," he said.  The strategy worked, because I didn't take as many head shots, and I didn't get tired as fast. 

Brandy hit harder than usual.  A sock in my mouth gave me a bruised lip.  Another hit rocked me in my left eye.  "Move your head. . .it's harder to hit a moving target," Ray said.  Once I began to move my head, I was able to avoid some punches.  I got Brandy with a few hooks, but she backed away and avoided my overhand rights. 

It was a very nice surprise when Colonel showed up.  Colonel's on a walker, and still in a bit of pain from his hip replacement operation, but otherwise, he's fine.  He explained that his son Kenny is working hard on a book about the history of graffiti in Chicago which is why Kenny hasn't been in for awhile. 

Ray and Leroy (who's shirtless) have a laugh in this photo.  Blonde Sarah tackles the speed bag nearby.

Melinda (in the light shirt) holds the speed bag for Abby.

Abby warily watches the speed bag in this photo.  She told me that she's played rugby in the past.

Sarah jokes around with Ray in this photo, pretending to give him a knockout punch.

No word yet about any coaches' clinics that will be held within Chicago city limits (for a change).  It appears that I might just have to take my chances renewing my coach's license next month without having been to a clinic if one doesn't take place closer to me.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Sparring and Strokes

I was in bed the majority of today.  I'm usually good at managing all of my health problems, but sometimes one of them decides it's going to take me for a bumpy ride.  I woke up at four in the morning, my head pounding.  Since I couldn't sleep, I took a baby aspirin and turned on the TV.  There was an episode of "Mr. Ed" on regarding the horse's objection over Wilbur accepting a bear rug from his grumpy father-in-law.  It beat watching the parade of infocommercials on the other channels.  The headache still hadn't gone away by the time the alarm went off.  I laid back down, worried about having a stroke.  Because of high blood pressure, I'm at risk.  My dad had a stroke back in 2000, and his health wasn't quite the same afterwards.  Another couple of hours went by, and I called Pastor Roger to tell him that I was going to take a rest today.  The headache was finally gone by late afternoon, and I felt well enough to get ready for the gym.   Tomorrow, I'll get my high blood pressure meds refilled.  It's my fault that I always wait until the pills are gone, then I call the doctor, who then can't see me right away.

"You're too short," Alan said, as I helped him put on sparring gloves to get in the ring with Matthieu .  It's always a little hard to help put gloves on him because of that.  He has to push his hands down into the gloves, and because I'm so close to the ground, it's not easy for him to do.  "I know.  I haven't grown since I was thirteen years old," I chuckled. 

Matthieu caught Alan by surprise with a right (it had just happened before I shot the photo above).  Alan later said, "I wondered where did that come from?"  It looked as if Matthieu has become more confident in the ring.  He did a great job of keeping his eyes on Alan and watching him. 

Brandi gleefully announced that she had a mouthpiece and wanted to spar with me.  "We'll go light," I said, which is my standard response to everyone who spars for the first time in the gym.  Brandi had taken fitness boxing before, but tonight was her first time sparring ever.  "What are the basic rules for sparring?" she asked after we had suited up.  "The idea is not to kill one another, but to work with each other and practice technique," I answered.  Ana and blond Sarah took ringside seats to watch the action, as well as several others in the gym.  Brandi was quite good.  She caught me with several shots to the body.  She blocked a lot of my punches that were aimed at her mid-section and her head.  "That was fun!" Brandi said afterwards.

Matthieu also sparred with Ian for a few rounds.  Ian often had his hands down, but he hung in there with Matthieu.

Mary came in to remind Alan to make sure that there's no one working out in the gym who hasn't paid the fee.  On Monday, Alan made that announcement to people several times.  Both Alan and I noticed the gym was not as crowded as it had been the other day.  I knew that Wayne hadn't paid, and I don't think Robert was signed up, either.  A tall, lanky guy walked into the gym tonight wondering if the program was an open gym.  I explained about the fee and directed him to Mary, who was at the front desk.  He didn't return, so I'm assuming he either didn't pay, or he paid but decided to start next week. 

I found the fan.  I thought someone had walked with it.  The gym was very hot on Monday, probably due to all the people who were packed inside it.  It was hot again today, and on top of that, I kept having hot flashes.  The fan was hiding behind a stand alone file cabinet.  I turned it on, but it was still steamy in the room. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Monday's Packed Gym

"You see that it's a full house," I told Alan as he approached the gym.  Several new people were waiting in the hall, including Paul, Robert, Jamal, Brandi, Anna and Sarah.  Wayne, who trained with Barry, came in not long after the door was open.  Matthieu, another guy named Paul who's closer to Alan's age, and Ian, none of whom hadn't been in the gym for awhile, returned.  As I feared, Igor signed up again, too. The picture above shows Ray (in the middle) talking to Robert (in the headgear) and Wayne (on the right).

Robert and Ray sparred, and it was a good match up.  Robert is a MMA fighter who's had a few bouts.  He hung in there with Ray and got some great shots off.  Ray was working Robert with hooks. 

Sarah and I sparred as blonde Sarah (who I had met before at my church) and Brandi watched.  I got one right in to Sarah's head, but the rest of the time, I went for hooks to the middle.  Sarah got me with an uppercut that made me glad my mouth was closed, and that I was wearing a mouthpiece for protection.  I was too worn out to go a fourth round.  Luckily, I wasn't hit in the nose again.  It's still hurting a little from last week when Alan popped me in it.

I asked Matthieu where was his girlfriend Erica.  "She moved out," he told me, and I said I was sorry to hear that.  Women problems seemed to be the norm that night, as Ray's wife was waiting around outside the gym door, and she didn't look happy. 

Reggie joked with Jacob about entering the Golden Gloves.  The schedule came out yesterday.  I printed a copy and taped it up in the gym.  It's uncertain at the point who among the guys will be interested in competing.  They've got a little over two months to prepare for it, if they do.  Jacob would be a good prospect, but that depends on how healed his thumb is.  Ray's in the same situation.  Reggie did well in the prelims the last time he was in; I believe he could go further this time.  Wayne and Robert would be good picks too, if they're interested. 

As I held pads for Brandi, she told me that she had taken fitness boxing before.  There were no bags in the gym she attended.  The coach worked with everyone using punch pads.  "There was only one other woman in that gym, but she never wanted to spar.  We would put mats down for the guys when they sparred.  I'm glad to come here and see several women around," she said. 

Anna, who's from Bosnia, was enthusiastic about her time in the gym.  "It's a good overall workout," she told me.  I showed Sarah how to move as she threw rights and lefts.  Blonde Sarah is unsure about sparring, and Anna had already said that she's not interested in sparring or competing at all.  Brandi might be looking at sparring.  Alan told her, "Hillari would be good to work with during sparring."  It's just a matter of time before Alan tries to convince the other women to get into the ring as well.
Alan never got a chance to workout himself Monday night because there were so many people in the gym.  That's one of the drawbacks of being a coach.  I remember Steve, the former coach, telling me that a few years ago.  But there is satisfaction in showing others about the Sweet Science.  Speaking of coaching, I wasn't able to attend a recent coaches' clinic that was held this past Sunday.  It was in Downers Grove, and I had already missed two weeks of church service due to working for the pet/house sitting company.  I'm one of those folks who still believe in regularly attending church services; scheduling things on Sunday morning is not always good.

I sent an email back to the person who's the head of USA Boxing coordination in Illinois asking if there were going to be any coaches' clinics held within Chicago city limits this time.  I don't have a car, I don't want to rely on Metra and/or Pace to get somewhere, and getting to some suburbs and small towns is difficult, if not impossible, for me.  I need to attend another clinic; the last one I went to was in Harvey, and that wasn't extremely hard to get there.  The gym where the clinic was held was around the corner from the Metra station.  There are hundreds of boxing coaches within Chicago alone, so having a clinic within the city shouldn't be a problem.  I haven't heard back yet, but I hope I do before the Golden Glove signups take place next month.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Room Before The New People Arrive

Wednesday evening was the only day the gym was open this week due to the fact the field house was closed on Monday for the New Year's holiday.  Ray was the only other guy in the gym besides Alan (the two of them are sparring in the photo above).  Sarah, Amy, and Renee came in.

Renee decided she wanted to spar, but she wanted to ease back into it.  She and I only did one round, and we went light.  I did some little movements and dancing around that I normally don't do while I was in the ring with her.  Renee caught me good with some body shots, however.  She kept asking if I was okay, and apologizing.  Finally, Alan said, "Don't say you're sorry."  I laughed and said, "That's what the former coach used to say to me all the time." 

I stayed in the ring as Renee got out, and Alan stepped in.  I had to change my game plan, and it wasn't always working.  Renee and I are about the same height, more or less.  I had to reach punches up to get Alan.  As Ray pointed out (he sparred with Alan after I was done), Alan has quick feet.  Alan got me in the nose.  It still hurts a bit as I type this, but I can breathe well, so it's not broken.  But it stunned me into paying more attention to covering up better. 

Alan got another "oof!" out of me, but he thought it was a shot to my stomach that did it.  It was a reaction to a punch I took to a sensitive spot on the left side of my chest.  There's a spot on the right side of my chest that would be sensitive if hit, also.  Think about it.  Later when I told Alan, and he apologized up and down.  "Don't worry about it.  I'm a tough chick.  Besides, I should have been wearing my chest protector," I smiled.

Ray and Alan scuffled in the corner in this photo.  Ray got in a couple of quick uppercuts, and Alan worked his jab.  During the last round they sparred, Ray said he needed to go to the men's room.  Alan joked, "I'm not going to give a 240 pound guy time to recover!"  They continued, but then Ray really needed to go, and he had to sprint down the hall. 

Renee was concerned about the amount of people who may show up next Monday.  She said she took the last open spot when she signed up for the winter session online.  "Don't worry. . .half of the people will be gone after two weeks," I said.  Alan agreed, pointing out that some sign up and only show up once or twice.  Some sign up and never come in at all.  But Monday will be packed, as it usually is in January.