Thursday, February 28, 2013

Round Robin Boxing in the Ring

As I approached the field house, I could see that the lights of the boxing gym were on.  Jilberto and I walked down to the gym door when I got inside.  "Oops, the coach is naked," Jilberto said.  "Naked?  Who's naked?" I laughed, as I peered inside the gym.  Alan was just pulling up his gym pants.  "There's nothing to see," he grinned.

The sparring began with a round robin between Sarah, myself, and Brandy.  I was seriously planning not to spar.  The effects of the hits I took from Brandy earlier in the week had caught up to me.  My stomach was feeling a little queasy, and I couldn't figure out why.  But when Alan looked at me and said, "Get ready," I was ready to rumble.

I didn't want sparring between Sarah and I to turn into one of our usual wars, so I was trying to pull punches.  But once I started throwing a punch of hooks and focusing on her mid-section, the action got kicked up a bit.  Sarah stepped out after the first round, and Brandy came in to give me more of her good body shots.  Brandy and Sarah sparred together during the next round.  Then I got a third round in with Sarah again. 

Walter and Reygie mixed it up.  It seemed that Walter wasn't throwing his right all the way out most times.  But then he did catch Reygie with a right.  Walter was covering up a lot, something that he's very good at doing.  Reygie, quick as ever, got in a lot of jabs and rights that landed. 

Walter was nice enough to leave the double-end that he brings in at the gym so people can use it even if Walter's not there.  I put it inside my locker at the end of the evening so it wouldn't disappear. 

Colonel keeps promising that his daughter will come into the gym.  He's always saying that she's a good fighter.  But he told her that she can't come in sparring right away; she'll have to work her way up to that like most do.  His daughter came to a match that Kenny had at Eckhart Park a couple of summers ago, but I didn't get a chance to meet her.

Kenny worked with Brandy and I on pads.  I felt like I had done better on the pads than I had in a long, long time.  If only I can make those same crisp punches when I'm in the ring!  I need a lot of practice. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Photographing The Action

In the photo above, Kevin advances towards Kenny, with whom he was sparring.  Kevin hadn't been in the gym for awhile.  He told us that he signed up for this year's Golden Gloves, so he's ready to train hard.  Reygie and I wondered what's been happening with Andre, who also signed up for the tournament.  Andre hasn't been in the gym for a minute, and he needs to come in.

Kevin gave me his phone to videotape him as he sparred.  "I want to see what I'm doing," he explained.  I managed to take a couple of shots of him and Kenny with my own camera while videotaping.  At one point, I was standing behind Alan near the ropes.  Alan kept moving into the shots, so I went around to the other side of the ring to get a better view.  After three rounds with Kenny, Kevin took a break, but indicated that he would be going back into the ring.  I trotted over to the other side of the ring because I still had my camera in hand.

Kenny and Reygie sparred.  Vachel and Amy were near the uppercut bag which is behind the ring.  Kenny and Reygie got some wicked hits on each other.

Vachel kept going,  "Ooh!  Ooh!" every time the two men pummeled each other.  Alan noticed me and told me to get ready to spar when the guys were through.  "Hillari, you're a fighter, not a photographer," he said.  "I can't do both?" I said.  I wish my photos came out as good as those people who take photographs for Sports Illustrated and ESPN magazines.  But then, I'm not working with expensive camera equipment like the professionals are.

Brandy and I sparred in a three-round session that got more intense as it went on.  I left my body wide open, so Brandy was able to throw some very effective shots to my mid-section.  I don't feel them at this moment.  It's the delayed reaction to pain thing that I've always had, but in several hours, or the next day, I'll feel them and ask myself the same dumb question I always do, "Why am I hurting?"  Alan had told Brandy to really throw the punches because I have a habit of smothering people.

The overhand rights I threw were not effective because they were not timed right.  The hooks to the head and the body shots I gave out were better.  "Now you're boxing," I heard Alan tell the both of us.  Brandy and I were in a few clinches, but I did not want to throw body shots while I was in them.  I know a lot of boxers take advantage of the clinches and do that, but I always feel like that's cheating, so I don't.  I stop and step back and away.

Paul got in the ring with Arnold, with instructions coming from Alan, Kenny, and Colonel.  Paul had Arnold backed up against the ropes, and Colonel kept saying, "Too close!  Too close!"  Paul was throwing a lot of punches, and Arnold covered up against them.

One of the punches did some damage; here's Arnold with a bloody nose.

Most of the guys have stories about having to defend themselves on the street.  Kenny told one about having to give an uppercut to a guy years ago.  He had all of us laughing.  But the story pointed out something I'm always trying to get across to some of these young knuckleheads (which includes some girls who think they're tough as well): they need not just step to anybody just because they think they can.  Some people aren't going to be intimidated or impressed.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Standing Ovation For The Women

In the photo above, I called myself catching Ben as he worked the bag.  He looked up as I snapped the shot.
I had just been wondering where some people were -- Ben, Sara, Arnold, Vachel -- and they all showed up at the gym tonight.  Josh also made an appearance late in the evening. It was a good crowd, and enough people to have several rounds of sparring action.
Ben sparred with Arnold, as seen in the photo above.  Reygie (in the light top leaning on the ropes) and Kenny (next to him in the dark top) watched the action closely.  Ben sparred with Kenny, too.  When he got finished, Ben said, "I proved I can lose well!"  "Stop it," I said, assuring Ben that he did alright.

I learned that Ben is married, and he and his wife have a child on the way.  His wife is due very, very soon.  "I want to give my child the middle name of Awesome, but I can't get my wife to agree to it," he smiled.

Alan and Kenny watch as someone else spars (I don't remember who was at that point; it may have been Brandy and I).  Between Alan, Kenny and Colonel, a lot of tips and suggestions were given out.  Kenny told me that he has tricks for dealing with southpaws.  "I want to learn those!" I told him, as I thought of how hard it was to spar Igor on Monday. 

Igor, seen here sharing the bag with Vachel, told Brandy and I he wanted to spar with us again, but not until Monday.  I was hoping to get back with him in the ring that night.  I wanted revenge for those pops to my head and stomach.

Kenny and Arnold watch some action going on in the ring.  The both of them were teasing me because I had on a pair of the shortest shorts I own.  I knew the shorts were too short when I put them on, but I was in a rush to get to the gym.  "This is the Chicago Park District!  You're not supposed to have those types of shorts on!" Reygie said.  I think Reygie said I had "coochie shorts" on.  Arnold smiled, "Hillari, you look good in those!"  I just laughed.  But I did think to myself that maybe I'm too old to be wearing Daisy Dukes-type shorts.

Brandy and I exchange punches in this photo.  We were going a bit hard.  Brandy exclaimed in-between rounds, "We're boxing now!"

Another shot of us sparring, but from Brandy's perspective.  Notice the guys in the photo - Alan, Kenny, and Igor - watching with great interest.  I was aware that a lot of guys were ringside watching, but I had to keep focused on Brandy.  She throws some really great hits when she is sparring.  Brandy never fails to clock me in my head several times.  I was popped in my right eye twice.  After the second hit, I thought, "If I don't keep my hands up, I will really need a stronger eyeglass prescription next time."  Both shots, which were quick in succession, did make me woozy, but I managed to stay on my feet.

Colonel kept telling me, "Stop throwing air punches!"  It's a habit I've had from day one, and it's hard to break.  I want to keep someone off me, so I throw anything, even though they're not close enough to me to make an impact.  But I did time one overhand right correctly.  Usually, Brandy sees those coming and she quickly averts them.  After she and I sparred, everyone you see standing outside the ring clapped.  That's the first time can I remember people clapping after I sparred. 

Brandy and Sara sparred, and it looked as if Brandy was taking it easy on her.  Sara does not spar each time she's in the gym.  But she's pretty game about stepping inside the ropes when she does.  Sara and Brandy sparred for a couple of rounds.

Alan, Kenny and Reygie watch another sparring session in this photo. 

Arnold had a cramp in his upper right arm early on in the evening.  I notice a bad bruise on his arm.  "That's from playing hockey," he explained.  He kept rubbing his arm.  "F*ck!  This hurts! What can I do to make it stop?"  "Put some ice on it, or some heat on it.  Or try stretching your arm out.  I usually get cramps in my legs, and that's what I do to make them go away," I said.  "I'm afraid it's going to hurt more," Arnold said.  I asked Alan what to do, and he suggested to Arnold that stretching his arm out would be the best way to go.  Eventually, it did get better so Arnold could spar.

When I got home, my intent was to lay down on the floor for a minute.  Sometimes, depending on what happened during sparring any given evening, that's my best course of action.  Those hits to my eye from Brandy were really potent.  But I was hungry, and I had no choice but to actually cook if I wanted to eat (shudder), so I did that instead. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

A Southpaw on Presidents' Day

In the photo above, Brandy (in the white shirt) gets a jab in on Walter.  There were not that many people in the gym tonight.  Most probably thought the field house was closed because of Presidents' Day.  But a lot of sparring took place between Walter, Brandy, myself, and Igor.  Colonel was also in the gym, but Kenny had to work, so he didn't come in with his dad. 
When Igor announced that he wanted to spar with both Brandy and myself, I had to hide the evil smirk on my face.  "I've been waiting for this!" I thought gleefully.  Igor appeared to be very eager to get into the ring.  "You'd better beat Igor's ass," Alan told me.  "Oh, you don't have to worry about that," I laughed.  Ever heard of the phrase, "they spoke too soon"?  Follow.
Igor and I started in the middle of a round.  He kept popping his right hand out.  I slapped it down a few times, got in some body shots, but Igor avoided the incoming head shots by slipping.  During the next round, Igor continued to keep that right hand shooting out.  A red flag should have come up, but I was so busy trying to get in big shots that I wasn't paying attention.  Then I got popped in the head.  Alan said, "Keep moving to your left!  Igor is a southpaw."
A southpaw?  Ugh. . . .it is so hard to fight southpaws!  I kept moving, but Igor backed me into tight spots near the ropes.  He never stopped putting his right hand out there.  I got close enough to get in some more shots to his mid-section, but when I went for the head, Igor would twist out of the way.  A couple of times he turned his back, which is a no-no.  Igor popped me hard in my head and stomach.  I was about to get revenge, but the bell rang.  Igor decided he was going to come out of the ring.  We had only done two rounds.  I was frustrated because I didn't get in as many hits as I had planned.
Brandy took on Igor next, and from what I saw, she was having the same problems.  Most fighters who use an orthodox stance usually spar and/or have bouts with other fighters who use an orthodox stance.  Then they get in the ring with a southpaw and have to change their whole game plan around. The southpaws always seem to have the advantage.
 Alan slipped Walter into the mix, as seen in the photo above.  I was waiting on the outside of the ropes, my headgear still on, because I wanted another go-around with Igor.  But Igor dashed that dream real quick when he decided not to do more rounds.  Igor claimed he had eaten too much before he came to the gym and didn't want to take a chance on getting sick.
So I ended up sparring with Walter, who has good head movement.  Whenever he'd cover up, bend low, and start slipping, I couldn't get any punches in.  I had to wait until he straightened up again.  "Work the body because that's what is in front of you," Alan told me.  I got in hooks to the body, but I had to be reminded to come back up to Walter's head.

We all got our workouts in tonight.  I had to stop and lean against the wall once I got inside my apartment.  I took more hits than I thought I had.  After gingerly removing my jacket, and changing into my bed clothes, I managed to limp over to the computer to type in this entry.  The pains will probably keep me up for a little bit -- that and the late night re-runs of "The Jack Benny Program" on Antenna TV. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Pre-Valentine Day's Training

 Reygie (working the bag in the above photo) passed a difficult test to become certified as a personal trainer.  He still has to take another test to get an extra certification, but he can now get work as a trainer.

Walter thought I was 42 years old.  People often think I'm younger than I am, but I thought to myself that I must be showing my age more these days.  Forty-two is nine years younger than I actually am.  People used to guess me to be twenty years younger.  Oh, well.  .  .the fountain of youth had to run dry on me at some point. 

Kenny did double duty, sparring and coaching.  In the picture above, he ducked as Sarah threw a left. 

He also sparred with Brandy, who got some punches in at Kenny's head.  I was watching closely, trying to figure out how she was able to do that.

You see, I had sparred with Kenny on Wednesday, too.  As usual, Alan had to remind me not to chase Kenny around the ring.  Kenny reminded me to time my overhand right to counter his left jab.  I got it in once.  "Don't walk straight in!  Work the angles," Kenny said, indicating that I should side step him, and throw hooks.  It worked once or twice, but my timing was off again after that.  "You did much better, Hillari, not as aggressive like the other day, but it was still good," he said afterwards.  "I need to be pushed more because I get lazy," I said.  "Keep sparring with fast guys like me, and you will get better.  We'll work on it," Kenny said.

Kenny also sparred with Paul for a couple of rounds.  He was giving a lot of tips to Paul in-between the punches.

The subject of the Ringside Boxing Tournament came up.  That takes place in Kansas City each summer, and they have matches available for all ages, including those of us who are over 35 years of age.  "We should get a group and go to that tournament!  Hillari could fight someone her age.  I know she would knock those b*&%#es heads off!" Kenny said.  "She fights people here," Alan said.  "Have you ever fought someone your age?" Colonel asked.  "No!"  Kenny said.  "Never.  The last person I fought was 17 years old," I said, backing up Kenny's answer.

I got excited about the thought of having a Master's Division bout.  Then later, the dream crashed when I remembered that I can't get an amateur boxing license anymore due to diabetes.  I always forget about that detail.  Sigh. . . .

Monday, February 11, 2013

Boxing and Attitude

It wasn't that good of a day.  In fact, I haven't had good days for awhile.  My mood has been in the dumpster, and this time, I can't blame it on menopause.  The eleventh anniversary of my younger sister's death was a few days ago.  I don't take it as hard as I used to do, but it still bothers me.  I've never been able to shake the thought that she shouldn't be dead, that something could have and should have happened that would have prolonged her life. 

I'm not adjusting to this "new economy" very well.  Every time I see someone on the Over 50 and Out of Work web site ( grumbling about how employers are practicing age discrimination against those of us who are middle-aged, I get angry.  I'm getting the same thing these days, and I dread sending out resumes I know will be ignored.  I'm over 50 and underemployed, and that does not mean happiness. 

Monday is always a busy day at work, and often a frustrating day as well.  One of the more annoying food pantry patrons called almost an hour ahead of the time when people are allowed to call in for appointments.  Then, they called in way later than the appointed time, after the patrons who came in person, and a few who called in ahead of them, had filled up the list.  They whined on the phone like a two-year old because they couldn't get a pantry appointment for tomorrow.  "Whoa, whoa, hold up," I irritably told them before explaining, for the umpteenth damn time, that the pantry operates on a first come, first served basis.  "Can we ban people from the pantry for being annoying?" I asked Pastor.  "Good morning to you, too," he said.  "Yeah, good morning, and these people have already gotten on my nerves.  Good morning," I grumbled. 

Later, he asked me to change the wording in an item in the bulletin reminding people that the secretary's office is not open on Sunday.  In other words, I'm there to worship, not to type, copy, or print out things that people could have asked me to do during the week.  I commented that I was tired of people rushing up to me with requests after service on Sunday.  Pastor told me to "lose the attitude."  "Well, things aren't going well for me, so this is my attitude for the time being," I snapped. 

It is times like these that I'm always grateful that I can go to a boxing gym, do some sparring and beat on the light and heavy bags. 

Kenny and Brandy sparred for a few rounds.  Colonel commented that Brandy appeared to be hitting the air most times.  "Put your elbows closer together!" he told her, as Alan watched the action intensely.  They locked up together many times, prompting Alan to call, "Break!" 

Then Brandy did something that I've only been able to do to Kenny once.  She caught him in the mid-section with a right.  Kenny leap back.  "Good one!" Alan said.  Kenny did not make the mistake of letting her catch him with something else.  He got in, made his shots, then danced away before she could respond.  "She made me look bad.  I don't like getting caught like that!" he said, grinning but serious.  "I know!" I grinned back.  Shortly after, Kenny worked with Brandy on the pads.  "I bet if Brandy would compete in the Golden Gloves again, she would come out number one," Colonel commented.

I sparred with Kenny, too, but I wasn't aggressive enough until the third round I was in the ring.  Kenny decided to fight me on the inside, which made it a little easier for me to throw the punches.  But still, none of my punches were very effective, and Kenny was good at picking his shots.  When I came out of the ring, huffing and puffing, Brandy looked at me and said, "Yeah, I know, right?"

In this picture, Walter worked on punching drills with Hallie. 

Alan (in the dark top) shares the heavy bag with Vachel (in the green top).

Igor was mumbling something about wanting to spar next Monday.  I think Alan was asking why did Igor not want to spar tonight.  As usual, Igor had some excuse that was unintelligible.  I resisted the temptation to step up and tell Igor that I was available to step into the ring. 

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Bad Knees and Body Shots

My bad knees and I made it to the gym Wednesday evening.  I did a lot of shadow boxing again, and I wasn't moving around much because, well. . . .I couldn't move very well.  Both knees were stiff as a board.  Maybe the cold weather has something to do with it or the fact that I'm standing a lot at work.

Louis sparred with Joe (who's wearing the green shirt in the photo above).  Louis had his hands down a lot, but so did Joe.  Both men were bouncing a lot.  Louis' chin was up in the air, and Joe landed several shots.  Joe had Louis backed up in the corner during a moment, and Louis lifted his left leg to block him.  "Don't use your leg like that!" Alan warned. 

I sparred with Brandy, even though common sense was telling me to beg off due to my knees.  But I hung in there, and got in an overhand right which was timed better than the ones I usually throw.  Brandy took advantage of the fact that I kept dropping my right hand every time I threw a jab.  After being hit in the face several times, and once hard enough that I was stunned, I remembered to keep that hand up.  She also got me with a good right hook to the body.  I hadn't been hit there for a long time, and I felt it.

I watched as Sara worked with Alan on the punch mitts.  Sara and I had only sparred a few times the last time she was attending the gym on a regular basis.  We've sparred once since she's returned.  From what I remember, Sara does get in some hard hits occasionally.  I noticed she got some good hooks and rights in on the punch mitts.
After the gym closed for the evening, Alan and I stopped into a coffee shop.  He needed help in getting a wi-fi connection on the new laptop his job gave him.  It was a nice laptop, thinner than ones usually are.  I was trying to find a connection; there were wi-fi connections galore including the one the coffee shop uses.  But Alan needed to specifically get on the one provided by his day job.  When the building I lived in used to have wi-fi, I had to click on a specific connection to access it.  I learned quickly that it did not extend anywhere else, despite showing up on a list of connections, other than at home.  I'm no computer expert -- Alan joked, "I could have gotten Igor to help me!" -- but I think the password he had will only allow him to connect to the wi-fi at home or at his job. 

Monday, February 04, 2013

When I Really Needed A Camera

I trudged home through a couple of feet of snow, got inside my apartment and realized I had to immediately turn around and go right back out.  I grabbed all my gym stuff but forgot to bring my camera.

I didn't notice that the camera wasn't on me until after I got to the gym.  Igor was standing in the hallway with his buddy Victor, who I hadn't seen in a long time.  A young man named Alad (I hope I have the spelling correct) was waiting for the gym to open, too; he was with Victor, who is his trainer. 

A lot of sparring rounds were done, but neither Kenny or I participated.  Kenny spent most of the evening coaching others.  Both of my knees were bothering me, especially the right one.  I shadow boxed most of the night.  I only did a couple of rounds on the black heavy bag and a double end bag that Colonel brought in. 

Bearded Ben, Ben With Glasses, Joe (who had gotten a shave and a haircut) and Alad sparred.  But the true surprise happened when Igor actually got suited up properly and stepped into the ring.  Igor hadn't truly sparred since Steve was the coach.  The last person I remember Igor sparring with was JJ, and that was about nine years ago.  Igor first went a few rounds with Alad.  Alad appeared to give Igor a lot of respect.  He wasn't hitting him as hard as I suspected he could have.  I noticed that Igor had his right hand down a lot.  If I had been sparring with him, I would have thrown left hooks to the head quickly followed by right hooks. 

Igor also sparred a few times with Victor.  It didn't seem that Victor was putting a lot of force behind the punches, either.  Victor had a camera which he used to videotape all of Alad's rounds.  He also set the camera to take photos of him and Igor after they sparred.  Igor loved that; he always migrates to a camera when it's around, although not so much towards mine anymore.