Monday, July 29, 2013

A Little Bit and A Lot Of Hits

I neglected to post the above picture that was taken last week.  Jalissa is on the left and Erica is on the right.  Both of them are my nieces, my late younger sister's daughters.  That day was the first day they had ever met each other.  It was the first time I met Erica; I hadn't seen her since she was a baby.  I've mentioned before that my sister gave each of them up for adoption years ago.  This photo was taken not long after they gave Alan a bit of a hard time for giving me a bloody last Monday.  "See, this is why I won't spar with you anymore.  I look like a bully!" Alan said after my nieces gave him the side eye.

Matthew (in the gray shirt) sparred with Tony.  Matthew drops his right hand a lot.  Alan noticed that Matthew was doing that while working on the bags, and he encouraged him to keep his hand up.

Alan sparred with Tyson for two rounds.  The both of them landed some sharp shots on each other, especially to the head.  Alan hoped that Tyson's stamina would slow down after the first round, but Tyson's energy seemed to go up when the bell rang again.  "Tyson's too fast for me," Alan said after the sparring was over.

Tyson had a lot of energy left, so he and I sparred.  "Hellfire Hillari!  Don't hurt me!"  he laughed, using another new nickname for me.  "I won't," I smiled, but I didn't hold back on too many punches.  Tyson moved his head a lot, so I was surprised that I was able to get in a lot of straight punches and hooks.

I tried to back Tyson into corners and against the ropes, but I couldn't quite get him there.  Tyson's energy kept him enough out of harm's way.  After three rounds he said, "Hillari, for a little bit, you hit a lot!"  He told Alan, "She got me in the jaw with one of those hooks."

Colonel and Gabe are in a clinch in the above photo.  They used no headgear because they were running light drills.

Colonel playfully grumbled to me, "I'm 66 years old, and I'm always the oldest motherf----- in every gym I go in!"

I believe the next Chicago Park District boxing show is at Trumbull Park, but we probably won't go to that one.  It's far out south, and it could be tricky to get there because of having to fight rush hour traffic to get out there.  As Alan pointed out, there are plenty of boxing shows between now and early December, so we'll get to more of them.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Punching On The Inside and The Outside

Wednesday was busy at the gym.  In the photo above, Gabriel spars with Franco.

A couple of my relatives visited the gym.  They heard about my nose being bloodied up, and got on Alan about it a little bit.  The day before, Alan called me at work to see how I was doing.  "My nose is little swollen.  I saw some blood when I blew my nose this morning, but other than that, I'm fine," I told him.  "Good, because you and I are through," he said.  "Why do you say that?" I asked.  "We can't spar anymore.  I looked like a bully!  From now on, I'm sticking with the dudes," he replied.

Clintonia, a woman I've know since we were both in Kindergarten, saw the pictures of me holding bloody tissues and towels.  She called and left an angry voice mail message while I was doing laundry downstairs in my building.  When I returned the call, I told her I knew she was going to curse me out.  "Damn right!  Why in the hell did you let Alan hit you like that?  Hillari, you've got to take up another hobby other than boxing!  People end up with Parkinson's like Muhammad Ali doing that after awhile!" she said.  There was no convincing her that getting bloodied up is normal in boxing.  Nor could I convince her that Alan wasn't taking out any personal frustrations on me.

Amanda and I sparred, and I went a little too hard with the hooks.  I'm beginning to notice that it appears easier for me to go easy doing jabs, straight rights, and uppercuts, but I don't hold back much while throwing hooks and overhand rights.  Alan was encouraging her to throw more punches and not turn her head away. One of my relatives thought Alan was dissing me so they were yelling for me to "get her!"

John, a school teacher, stopped into the gym.  None of us had seen him for about three years.  He had just got back from teaching overseas.  "Wow, it's a good crowd in here!  I can't wait to come back," he said. John had competed in several matches the last time he was in training.  Come to think of it, that was the last time Carlos was in the gym, as well.  I still have photos of when we were all at the Golden Gloves, back when it was still being held at St. Andrew's Gym.

Today, there was a boxing show at the Taylor Park field house.  I had never been there before.  The old Robert Taylor housing projects used to be nearby.  Just like all of the other old projects in the city, Robert Taylor was torn down.  Tony and Gabriel were hoping to get fights.  Tony had a fight lined up, but that fell through.  However, there was a match for Gabriel, but his fight was the twelfth and last one of the night.

Gabriel and Tony picked me up from work, and then we drove to Alan's house.  Matt, Alan's son, came out of the house to greet us.  Matt is a handsome guy who has been lifting weights.  He had his shirt off, and I could see that Matt had become "swole".  Alan's wife Riva came outside, too.  Like I suspected, she had got on Alan for hitting me in the nose the other day.  Gabriel, Tony and myself got into Alan's car, and Alan drove us all out to the south side.

Several kids were impressed by how tall and lanky Gabriel is (he's 6 foot 1).  One of them said they wouldn't want to be the guy who Gabriel was going to fight.  Colonel came to the fights, and he watched our gear during Gabriel's fight.  Alan and I worked Gabriel's corner.  I wish I not only brought my camera, but I also wish I had thought to wear the corner person's jacket that Amy gave me.

Gabriel's opponent "dashed on him" like my late younger sister would say.  But Gabriel watched the guy closely, while slipping and ducking most of the incoming punches.  Gabriel was backed up against the ropes and into the corners a few times, but fought his way out of those situations.  Before the last round began, Alan told him to use left hooks, which he did.  A guy in the audience with a megaphone (the fights were held outside) kept saying, "Guy in the blue tank top, get him!  Go, Loyola!"  Sean, who was the referee, raised Gabriel's hand in victory.

Gabriel didn't think he did well.  "All my skills went out the window," he said.  "That's what happens in these type of fights.  One minute rounds don't give enough time to feel the other person out," I said.  I thought Gabriel kept his composure very well, especially when the other guy just wanted to trade flurries of blows with him.

Monday, July 22, 2013

"Am I Bleeding?"

Pedro sparred with Gabriel, but I didn't see much of it because I was in the mirror, throwing absent-minded punches at the air.  My focus just wasn't there.  I didn't stretch, nor had much of a warm-up before I agreed to spar with Amanda.  It would cost me, but I'll get to that later.

Amanda has a hard right, and she throws it from an angle that is hard for me to avoid.  The best I can do is put my left arm up to block it.  She can move quicker than I can, so I lot of my overhand rights and body shots found no target.  I just stood in one spot a lot and took punches.

Amanda covered up well in this photo, but I noticed she was turning her head away from incoming punches.

I got maybe one or two light right hooks in.  But I surprised myself by getting in two left hooks in succession to Amanda's head.  She dropped her hands at the wrong time, and I decided to use a punch I always have difficulty in getting in.  Amanda shook them off, however, and kept going.  She put in a straight right to my face that was effective.

After two rounds, Amanda was done.  The weather wasn't so bad outside, but the gym had retained the heat from last week's high temperatures.  I could feel it in my headgear, and sweat was pouring.  Alan went to my locker and pulled out Kevin's old headgear to do another couple of rounds with me.

There was a little bit of energy in me during the first round Alan and I sparred.  I got in right hooks to his head and body, and backed him up against the ropes a few times.  Alan always bounced up and answered my punches.  During the second round we sparred, I acted a little too careful, while Alan picked his shots at will.  I wasn't trying hard enough to get in close.  Alan was near the ropes, so I thought I'd pressure him back on them so I could unload some combinations.  I moved closer, but my hands were down.  Alan reached in with a left uppercut that landed under my nose.

The next moment, I was laying on the canvas on my side with my eyes closed shut.  I wasn't knocked out, but the hit to my nose had shook me up.  "Ohhh, that was a good one, Alan", I said.  "Alan!  Get down on the canvas and put your ankle under her legs!" I heard Colonel say.  Alan tried it, but then Colonel got in and elevated my legs so they were resting on his bent knee.  Tyson, Gabriel, and Sebastian got into the ring.  "Are you okay?" they all asked.  "I think so.  Am I bleeding?" I asked.  It was a silly question for me to bring up.  Colonel had me lay on my back, and I felt blood running down the back of my throat.

"I didn't hit you that hard," Alan said, and he was right.  That punch wasn't as hard as he could have thrown it.  But it was perfectly timed, and it caught me at the right moment.  Tyson and Sebastian help me sit up, and Gabriel had ran out to get some paper towels from the washroom.  As soon as I sat up, I saw drops of blood splashing on my shirt and onto the canvas.  Gabriel returned with the towels, and I was shocked at all the blood I saw after I wiped my nose.  All I could do was laugh at myself.  Colonel and Alan helped me to stand, then I went and sat down in front of the lockers.  Colonel lent me a towel of his to catch the blood that was still running.

In twelve years of boxing, that was the first time anyone had bloodied up my nose.  I was through for the rest of the evening.  I just sat and watched everyone else working out.  Right now, my nose still hurts, mostly on the right side.  I expect some swelling tomorrow, as well as some head-shaking from Pastor Roger, if he happens to notice it.  I'm happy that it doesn't appear to be broken, and I can breathe through it, which means that surgery I had years ago to fix my deviated septum must be holding up.

"My nieces are supposed to be coming with me to the gym on Wednesday.  They might not want to come when they hear about this," I joked to Alan.  "They might show up with a baseball bat for me.  Riva's going to curse me out when she reads your blog," Alan joked back.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Temperatures Rising

Alan left a message for me around noon -- the coach twisted his ankle and wouldn't be at the gym.  That meant no sparring.  But it was just as well because the gym was steaming hot, and it felt like the temperatures kept climbing and climbing.

As usual when the coach is out, people who haven't been around for awhile decide to drop in.  Igor, who hadn't been around for about a week, showed up.  Josh came in about twenty minutes before the gym closed.

Teeherah left early, probably due to the heat.  That left me as the only woman in the gym.  The guys soldiered on, doing light sparring drills.  In the picture above, Gabriel held pads for both Franco and Tony.  Franco was wearing some nice handwraps that he brought while on vacation in Italy.

Everybody was soaked with sweat.  I kept sitting down in-between rounds, and drinking water to conserve energy.  Several people didn't stick around until the end, and I didn't blame them.

It's hard to work out when the temperatures are high.  I felt like I was slogging through, but I had to get it in.  Before the summer is out, I need to either a) get my tail out of bed early on Saturday to participate in the workout that Emmanuel runs on those days or b) get up to Hamlin to get some extra sparring in, hopefully with Meg.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Just Like Nelly Said

Dioanna was complaining about the heat in the gym.  I got there a little late, and the fan was already on, and the window I forgot to close last week was still open, but I agreed with her.  The humidity was so high.   I thought of a rap song, "It's Hot In Here" by Nelly (whatever happened to him?).  Sparring went on, but no one did more than a few rounds.

Pedro did triple duty.  In the photo above, he and Franco sparred for a couple of rounds before giving in to the heat.  Pedro also sparred with Ren.  Both Alan noticed that Pedro was very hunched over while in the ring with Ren.  "You're taller than him," Alan told Pedro, "so don't fight down to his height.  Make Ren reach up to you."

Gabriel apologized for not being up at Garfield Park last Friday for the boxing show.  I told him not to worry because Alan and I wasn't there, either.  Barry took a few of his guys to compete, but I didn't hear how they did.  In the photo above, Gabriel and Tony sparred.  

In this photo, Ren grabs onto Gabriel to slow down his momentum.  It was like David fighting Goliath.  Three times, Ren hit Gabriel down south.  The third time, Gabriel was kneeling on the canvas.  It took him a little time to recover.  When he got back up, Pedro and I noticed that Gabriel kept one hand covering up his, uh, sensitive spot.  "I don't blame him!"  I told Pedro.

Amanda, the woman in the picture above, sparred with me.  I promised to take it easy, but I think I went a little too hard with the body shots.  Amanda, however, had a good hard right, and I tried to slip it.  I wasn't always successful.  It was her first time sparring.  

Professor came in with a lady friend.  He had previously told me of an open coach's position at Seward Park.  When I called that field house inquiring about it, the supervisor told me it wasn't posted online yet, and I would have to apply online.  But then I heard it had been posted, but the posting hadn't been up long before it had been taken down.  I don't think it was filled that quickly, but then, it could have been.  I'll keep my eyes open.

Tyson, in the green shirt hits the bag, while two guys hover around the door in the background.  The one in the lighter top told me he was interested in getting back in shape.  Alan talked to him for a little awhile after that, but I don't know if the guy made a decision to sign up or not.  

Pedro and Matthew face each other in the ring.  Pedro's becoming more comfortable each time he spars.

Another copy of this year's park district boxing show schedule was found in the gym (the other one came up missing from the wall where Alan posted it).  I forgot to write the dates down.  I'll do that the next time I come in, because I need to stay on top of those dates as much as Alan.  Gabriel asked that if I spoke to Barry anytime soon, to see if Barry knows of any guys that would match up with him for fights.  I'm sure there are, but it's a matter of finding them.  

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Sparring With Tony

I believe Steve took a hard hit in this photo from Briggen.  Briggen was being very aggressive.  Steve was backed up against the ropes and in the corners, often with his hands down.  Briggen just unloaded.  "Slow down!  Slow down!" Alan commanded.  Briggen stopped for a minute.  "Don't you know what 'slow' is?" Alan told him.  "I thought you said throw," Briggen replied.  During the second round, Steve took a few hard shots to the face.  "I feel dizzy," Steve announced, and that round came to a quick end.

Taheerah left early because she was tired, so for a minute, it looked like I wasn't going to have anyone to spar with.  But then Franco volunteered his brother Tony.  "I don't care.  I can work on defense," Tony said.

Tony knows how to cover up very well.  I didn't get many punches in to his mid-section at all.  Tony did leave his left side open a lot, however, so I was able to sneak some hooks in.

Alan kept telling me, "Pump that jab!" which is easier said than done when the other person is moving away to avoid it.  Colonel told Tony to use head movement, which he was not doing at first.  That reminded me to move mine as well, but I still haven't got the timing down between moving my head and throwing punches.

I was able to time Tony's left jab to an extent.  A few times when he put it out there, I came over it with my right.  Throwing overhand rights was difficult, however, because Tony's left hand was usually up to block it or he just ducked and slipped away from it.

Garfield Park's boxing show is this Friday.  As I went down the attendance list later in the evening, I noted that Gabriel didn't come in.  "Looks like we're not going to have anyone fighting in that show," Alan commented.  Gabriel said he wanted to fight there, but Alan hasn't heard from him.  "I know there won't be any opponents for me over there," I said.  There have been a few teenage girls competing out of there, but despite of my willingness to get into the ring, the girls are really too young for me to fight.  I'll probably have to look to the shows where I've fought in the past and hope to get fights there.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

The Long Night

It was another hot evening in the gym, and the fan didn't help much.  I was as surprised, however, that a good amount of people showed up for training, as I was that Alan beat me to the gym.  I was talking to Caroline, and Alan was at the other end of the hall at the gym entrance.  "I'm going to be inside changing my clothes," he said.  A few minutes later, others showed up, and we all walked down to the gym door.  I knocked on it, and Alan said, "No!" from inside.  A moment later, he opened it.  "Why you in a hurry to get beat?" he grinned.

Amy came in.  "I thought you moved to Canada!" I said.  "I did, but I'm still in town for little while, so I decided to come in," she answered.  The pictures of her wedding I saw on Facebook were very nice.

Not a lot of sparring went on, probably because the room was extremely warm.  In the above photo, Tony (in the dark shirt) faced Tyson.

I sparred with Ren for a couple of rounds.  He wasn't wearing headgear, and I was worried about hitting too hard.  "Hit me as hard as you want," he told me, but I didn't get many opportunities to to do so.  Ren ducked low to avoid most of my punches, and I couldn't back him easily into corners when I could get some shots in.

I learned later that the baby-faced Ren has two children, and is 29 years old.  Our sparring session might have gone a little further, but the heat got to me.

Ren then went a few rounds with Briggen, who signed up recently for the gym.

It was raining heavily at the end of the evening, so Alan and I had to wait a few moments before we could get to the car.  I asked him to drop me off at the 'L' station because I was going downtown to meet a friend whom I only knew from Facebook.  Alan was nice enough to drop me off at the 'L' station that was closest to his house in Lincoln Park.

I went to the Ritz-Carlton to see Diane, who came into town from PA for a few days.  She's originally from Texas, and you can hear the accent well.  We talked for hours.  She was very interested in how in the world could I take punches and give them back.  "I need to exercise, but I couldn't do that!" she said.  She cringed when I told her about the time I was knocked out by Ieisha.

It was very late when I got on the 'L' to go home.  No sooner than I sat down, the conductor announced over the PA system:  "Good morning, Hillari!"  I wondered who was driving the train all the way down to my stop.  When I got off, I saw the conductor was a guy who went to my high school.  We had a good laugh about it.

Friday, July 05, 2013

Sparring Concerns

Matching up people properly for sparring can be problematic.  It's a learning tool, so it is important that the right people be paired off to spar.  However, in most gyms there is never a situation where everyone who's training is able to have a sparring partner who is perfect for them.

Compromises usually have to be made in order to give everyone a chance to practice their skills.  For example, I sparred with both Taheerah and Robert the other day, and the both of them are close to my height.  In the past, I sparred with Oscar a lot because of the same reason.  But usually, everyone I spar with is way taller than I, which makes for some interesting choices in how I will throw punches.  In instances where there's a lack of fighters in the gym who are close in weight and height, match ups may have to be made based on the experience that the fighters have.

I've often heard those new to boxing say, "Oh, no!  I can't get in the ring with that person.  I'll catch a beat down!"  after the coach has decided to put them in with someone who's been fighting for awhile.  Yeah, the coach could match them up with another new person who is new to the sport.  But what will either participant really learn?  Pairing them with someone who has experience will give the new person a better idea about how punches, movement and footwork work.  It will really explain the meaning of "bags don't hit back", and teach lessons about keeping focus.

In gyms where there are more males than females, pairing off people for sparring can even be more tricky.   Sparring with the opposite sex won't be a big deal for some.  But those who are really uncomfortable with it may not attempt it at all.  In that case, they'll have no choice but to wait until someone of the same gender is willing and available to give them some work in the ring.

Age is a big factor, as well.  I remember reading an interview with actor George Clooney, who joked about thinking that at age 40 (which he was at the time), he could still move as well on the basketball court has he did twenty years earlier.  Well, Clooney and I were born in the same year, and I'm sure there are plenty of things that neither of us can do as well as we used to do.  I always have to be mindful of the fact that mostly everyone I spar with is ten to thirty years younger than I am.  The last actual boxing match I had was with a girl who was seventeen years old, which proved that my reflexes aren't what they used to be. Contrary to popular belief, there are a lot of older fighters around in the gyms.  Most of us can still move around in the ring, but we have to make adjustments.  A coach is seldom going to be able to match an older boxer with someone close to their age for sparring purposes.  The best thing to do is to match them up as close as possible based on weight, height, and experience.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Fighting Before The Fourth

Alan gave Pedro some advice in the above photo.  Pedro sparred for the first time with Tony.  He did okay. Tony is kind of tough, but Pedro kept his composure.

I was surprised that a good number of people showed up at the gym.  Usually, the day before a holiday, the crowd is very light.  I was fairly full of energy when I arrived, despite having had cleaned a number of rooms in the church earlier.  

I did a two-fer as far as sparring went.  Alan first put me in with Taheerah, shown in the picture above working the bag.  Besides being in good shape, Taheerah is very quick.  I wish I that fast, but my reflexes have slowed down over the past few years.  For every one or two punches I threw out, Taheerah would come back with four or five.  My hands were down too many times, and she was able to get in some good cracks to my face.  She got in a perfect jab that landed right in the middle of my face.  Alan told me afterwards that I was too nice, and I should have dug in more with my punches, especially to the body.  

Gabriel and John were up next.  I ran into Sebastian just as I was leaving church yesterday afternoon.  Sebastian was riding by on his bike.  He told me that Gabriel really needs a sparring partner.  His brother does work well with the guys he does spars with, but they aren't exactly good matches for him in terms of height and weight.  Sebastian said that Gabriel was thinking of bring St. Louis back to the gym for some sparring.  

I give John credit -- he's always willing to step in the ring and mix it up.  But like Alan pointed out, John has to relax a little more when he's in there.  "Every punch does not have to be a bomb," Alan told him.  

I made a mental note to always have paper towels in the gym from here on in.  Nathaniel gets bloodied up most of the time during sparring, and so does John.  Some of John's blood was still on the canvas from Monday.  I forgot to clean it up again.  I'm surprised Barry didn't call Alan and mention anything about it.

Before this shot of Alan and Gabriel was taken, the coach had caught Gabriel up against the ropes previously -- or so he thought.  Gabriel did a quick move and turned out.  Alan was left hanging over the ropes.  They had some good exchanges.  Marcus noted that Gabriel covered up and twisted his body well to avoid shots. "Gabriel moves like a praying mantis.  I couldn't move like that.  I might break my spine," Marcus grinned.

Pedro holds the punch mitts for Amanda in this photo.  

Robert and I sparred, and it was a good match up because Robert is not much taller than I am.  Alan told me not to take it easy on Robert like I had on Taheerah.  But Robert wasn't just going to let me walk in and administer a beat down.  He had some good hard punches.  I slipped and fell a couple of times because of overreaching to get punches in and because I tripped over my own feet.  The second time I fell in an odd way, and I hurt my left hip a little.  I should soak in a hot bath for a little while.  But because it's now late at night, I'll probably end up falling asleep in the tub and wake up freezing a few hours later.  That's happened many times before.  I'll need to get some more Epsom salt, however.