Thursday, August 29, 2013

Pads and Punching

In the photo above, I captured Alan just as he had backed Gabriel into a corner.  Notice that Alan is not wearing headgear.  Alan doesn't like using the cage-like headgear that Kevin left behind in my locker, but he can't really go back to using the normal headgear.  Too much potential for another eye injury to happen.

I told Alan that I would like to spar once without headgear.  "Why don't you do it?" he asked.  "Eh. . . I'll wait until the next time I spar with another woman.  I don't think I want to start off sparring like that with a guy," I answered.  I was thinking that the hits I take wouldn't be so bad from another woman, especially if they are sparring for the first time.  "It won't make a difference.  Back in the day, I trained with headgear on, but I fought without it.  The shocks from the hits are the same whether headgear is used or not," Alan said.  It's been a long time since I've been in a fight with no protection at all for my head.  The last time might have been with my late younger sister sometime in the mid-1980's; that the last fist fight I remember that we had. But Alan had a point.  Besides, headgear does NOT protect anyone from being knocked out, as I well know.

Kenny sparred with Gabriel.  Kenny was grumbling about the weight he's put on.  As hot as it was in the gym, Kenny was wearing sweat pants, and a couple of shirts, including one of those sauna shirts designed to help sweat the weight off.  His dad, Colonel, was wearing long pants and a couple of shirts as well.  I was fanning as if I was having hot flashes -- which I still get sometimes -- and hanging near the one fan in the gym.

Kenny also worked with everyone on the punch mitts.  I feel as if I getting the hang of punching on angles a little better.  While I sparred with Gabriel, I had a chance to practice stepping over after throwing punches in order to get myself out of the way.  But Gabriel was popping me good with his right hand in quick succession.  I did get one good overhand right in; Alan kept encouraging me to throw them every time Gabriel came close.  But they are not easy to get in on people who are over six feet tall.

I kept looking at my old bag gloves.  There's now two holes on the thumb on the right hand glove.  A neighbor of mine, Lorie, was telling me that she'd like to do some aerobic boxing, but she didn't have any gloves.  I suggested that she try Play It Again Sports, a store that sells used sports equipment.  Looks like I need to take my own advice and go there soon and look for some bag gloves for myself.

We don't do enough group shots in the gym.  From left to right: Kenny, me, Colonel, and Gabriel.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Hot Day, Hot Gym

Andre mentioned that the gym where Floyd Mayweather Jr. trains stays hot.  Alan said, "The gym I trained in when I was going to college in Arizona was always 100 degrees."  Colonel said, "The temperature in here is the best temperature for training."  The fan was on, but it might as well had not been.

The number of people who showed up was small.  Andre and Louis came in again, but they had already did much of their training in the heat outside, so they didn't stay for too long.  Colonel, Kenny, Professor, and Gabriel were the other guys in the gym.

I was tired.  Many people my age and older keep complaining about not sleeping well.  It must be a middle-aged deal that hits everybody at the same time.  Shadow boxing was a challenge in the beginning, but I pushed through and it improved later on.  But I was sitting down a lot between rounds.  I limped home from work, as my left knee was very tender.  Alan asked me to ask Gabriel if he would spar with me, but my knee wasn't going to take it.

Alan took this shot of my left knee.  By the time this photo was taken, my right knee was acting up, too.

The two Kennys - father and son - worked on the punch mitts.  Kenny Jr. then worked with everyone.  "We've got to get you working more on angles," Kenny told me.  I truly need that, because I don't move enough nor at the right time.  Kenny showed me how to step out of the way of an opponent after throwing hooks and rights, then coming back with a punch before they can.

Gabriel and I thought that the Eckhart Park boxing show was this week, but it's next week.  Gabriel has to check his schedule to see if he can make it.  Gabriel works as a videographer, and there's always the possibility he might have to work.  Alan asked me if I wanted a fight there.  I've never fought at that field house which is located not far from one of my old jobs.  If there's a possibility of one, I'm game.

Here I am, wearing one of my favorite boxing themed T-shirts.  There's always a concern that I'll get blood -mine or someone else's - on one of them, but I wear them anyway.  I hear that hydrogen peroxide is good for getting blood out of fabrics.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Re-Certification On A Sunday

I had to get re-certified as a coach again today.  Yeah, I just did that back in January of this year, but USA Boxing's new rules will go into effect on January 1, 2014.  The notice I saw on Facebook stated that all coaches must either be re-certified, or be certified if they are new to the game, before September 1st of this year or else not be able to work the corners at upcoming matches.  The coach's seminar took place at Sam Colonna's gym on the south side.  The photo above shows a row of heavy bags in his gym.

Unfortunately, another meeting to be held concerning an issue at church was scheduled on the same day.  It was done very last minute, and I told the chairperson of the board there was probably no way I was going to make it back to church from the coach's seminar for that meeting.  Seeing how I have to be included in the church meeting, it will simply have to be scheduled on another day when I'm available. Coach's seminars and clinics tend to run long.  There was a lot of information that Carlos and Joe had to give people in regards to the new rules on the books.

The day started off on a frazzled note for me.  My phone rang around 4:00 AM.  I was not feeling well, nor had I slept well all night.  I did not answer the phone.  Three hours later, I got up, having barely slept and tried to function.  Colonel was going to give me a ride up to the gym, but I realized too late the night before that I didn't have his cell number.  I had called Alan the night before, not knowing that the coach had gone out and left his cell phone at home.  I took public transportation out to the south side, and rolled up in Sam's gym about twenty minutes late.  Carlos was already going over the rules when I got there.

There were a lot of familiar faces.  Colonel had got there ahead of me, of course, and he asked, "What happened?"  "It's my fault.  I should have double checked if I had your number the last time we saw each other," I explained.  Rico was there, as was Metzger, Barry, Chupa, and George.  "Girl, what are you doing up here with those hot pants on?" he laughed as he hugged me.  As usual, the T-shirt I was wearing was covering the short shorts I had on.  Well, it's very hot today.

I found it curious that the certification test that was handed out was the same one that I took earlier this year.  It was also the same one I had taken a few years ago when I first was certified as a Level 1 coach.  Joe explained there hadn't been time to update the test to reflect some of the rule changes.  I think I missed about five questions on the test, trying to remember the difference between the old rules and the new ones.

Before everyone took the test, Joe went over some specifics involving the new rules.  One guy got up and basically complained that if his fighter had did well during the first two rounds of a three round bout, but lost the third round due to running out of gas, that fighter should have won the match.  Joe tried to explain the 10 point rule system, but the guy asking the question just kept wanting to argue the issues.  I could hear some sighs and groans around the room.  I was rolling my eyes.  Had that guy ever seen matches where one fighter had won all eleven rounds, but got knocked the hell out in the twelfth round?  Here's a better example:  a fight where both boxers were standing on their feet at the end of the last round, and both were throwing banging punches the entire time.  The judges have to base their decision on who was more aggressive, who was using better technique, etc.

Metzger is the guy in the red shirt in this photo.  This was taken near the end of the seminar.  Everyone had to turn in their tests, and have their coach's licenses signed by Carlos to show they had attended the seminar.

This is the front counter and office at Sam's gym.  Willie, the guy with his back to the camera, asked me had I been in that gym before.  He saw me taking pictures, so maybe he assumed I hadn't been there before.  There were two women on the premises, but they appeared to be working there.  I was the only woman sitting out with the other coaches during the seminar.

Barry (in the middle with the glasses on) compares notes with other coaches after the seminar was over.  "Wow, it seems that people are getting strict!" he commented during the seminar.  Illinois is now under Wisconsin's jurisdiction in terms of amateur boxing.

Joe (the guy in the light shirt with the stripes down the arm) talks with Metzger and another guy at the end of the seminar.  Carlos, in the foreground, was busy signing every one's coach's licenses.

It was near 2:00 PM when Colonel and I finally got into his very sharp new car.  The seminar had began at 10:00 AM.  Alan wasn't at the seminar; I had told him and Colonel about it when I first learned about it.  From how Carlos and Joe were talking about the urgency of getting everything up to date before the beginning of next month, anyone who wasn't at the seminar may not have another chance before the end of the year to be certified or re-certified.  That means people may have to wait until February right before the Golden Gloves takes place to get that done.   But Joe did tell everyone not to wait that late, especially where the boxers were concerned.  He told the coaches their boxers should register in December instead of waiting until mid-February.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Hillari's Guide To Preparing For A Fight

The question has been on my mind for days.  How does a woman prepare for a fight?

It's a little different than it is for men, at least in my experience.  Remember, I attend a boxing gym that's only open twice a week.  Both Steve, the former coach there, and Alan, the current coach, have told people who compete that they have to do extra training outside of the gym because of the limited time in the gym.  Before the first competitive fight I had back in 2009, I did some of my extra training in the church gym.  Back then, I worked part-time there, so two to three days out of the week after my work day was done, I would jog around the gym for several rounds.  Afterwards, I would shadow box for several more rounds.  I had to depend on the feel of my movements and keep watching my feet, because there are no mirrors in the church gym where I could check if my form was correct.

If the weather is still agreeable around the time of the fight, I ride my bike for a few hours down the bike trails.  It's good for stamina, the legs, and the heart.  Sometimes, I ride the city streets, but for all the talk about making Chicago "bike-friendly", there's still a long way to go before that's becomes a full reality. Besides, I don't always feel like dodging cars and being honked at by bus drivers.  The bike trails provide traffic-free rides for the most part, depending on the trail.

I used to throw roller and in-line skating into the training mix.  My knees can still take a couple of hours of bicycling, but not more than ten to twenty minutes of skating these days.  I was really good at quad skating, in particular.  Skating is good for building up stamina and wind.

Exercise DVDs work for me, especially if the weather doesn't allow me to do any training outside.  I have some aerobic boxing DVDs, but I also have a mix of other stuff like walking, martial arts, weight training, and belly dancing.  Don't laugh at the belly dancing.  It's a good workout for the core.

Diet has always been a challenge for me.  Honestly, I don't think I've ever lost much weight before a fight.  Alan once told me that I could get more fights if I lost more weight.  He was correct.  But women always seem to have more issues about weight than men do. I hear guys in the gym talking about weight all the time, but not with the emotional and psychological issues that a lot of women attach to those conversations.  In my case, there's medical issues involved - I really do need to lose weight, not just for a fight, but in general.  I don't remember if any of my fights were around "that time of the month", but I'm happy not to have to deal with the issues of water retention and bloating that came with that anymore.  Now if I can only stop telling myself, "it's only once in awhile" to justify sneaking off to the ice cream shop to get a malt, I'd be fine.

I read to prepare.  Sounds unusual?  It's not really.  I consult books about boxing techniques to perhaps get some fresh insight about something I've been doing in the ring.

I watch fights to pick up tips on how to handle various situations in the ring.  I pay special attention to what the boxing analysts say during the matches.  Unfortunately, I do not have cable at this time.  It bothered me that I missed a whole season of "Friday Night Fights" on ESPN.  But a lot of fight footage may be found on the Internet.  I also go to live fights if I have the time and/or the money.

The day of the fight finds me in anxiety mode.  It's kind of tough if I have to go to work the day of a fight.  Yeah, being occupied with answering phones, typing, and cleaning keeps my mind off of it for a time.  However, a full day of work means I won't have enough time to get into some sort of calm before going down to the arena.  Usually, I have my gear with me, so I can rush out of work and rush down to the arena. Some fighters can get into a chill mode while they wait for their fight number to be called once the matches are underway, but that's not me.  My being wound up disappears once the bell rings, but having to live with it before that happens. . . .sometimes, I find myself doing a lot of deep breathing.

Lastly, I pray.  The night before, I'm praying that I won't hurt my opponent badly, and that they won't hurt me so bad that it'll be a long while before I heal up.  After the fight, I pray for the other person's well being, whether they won the fight or not.

Then I pray that the Epsom salts will work, and whatever bruises and cuts I received won't disturb my sleep too much.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Training Without Alan

Alan had to take his son back up to college, so I was running the show.  Mary made sure to remind Alan that there was to be no sparring while he was out.

It was a pretty chill evening.  Everybody -- Colonel, Matthew, Taheerah, Gabriel, John -- did their training. Andre and Louis came in for a little while and talked about participating in show fights and park district fights.  Louis was very surprised to learn the park district fights were three rounds, one minute a round.  I ran into Louis and Andre yesterday while I was walking home from work.  They've been training a lot in the park.

In this photo, Taheerah stands at the coach's desk.  I showed her how to do an overhand right later in the evening.

Gabriel had a green drink with him that he said was "healthy" but tasted as unappetizing as it looked.  It had to be better than drinking pop, which I've been trying to drop from my diet completely.  I used to drink whole liters of Coke back in the day.  Never thought there would ever be a time in my life when I would have to give pop up.

John working one of the heavy bags.

Josh came in about twenty minutes before the gym closed.  He had his two kids, an adorable girl, and a very energetic boy, with him.

Gabriel working the punch mitts with Josh's son.

I was a bit tired for some reason, so I didn't train as much as I normally would.  It's just as well because when Alan is out, I'm always more concerned with observing everything that's going on in the gym to make sure everything runs smoothly.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A Good Overhand and Rough Work Days

I forgot the camera again, but I will put photos up that sort of relate to this post and this blog.  The photo above features my lovely nieces, my late younger sister's daughters.  That was taken on the same day the both of them came down to the boxing gym and mildly admonished Alan for giving me a bloody nose.

The heavy bags got an extra workout tonight because for the second time in six months, I was royally ticked off at work.  I am so thankful there are such things as heavy bags to take my frustrations out on.  

This picture is from three years ago.  Alan was helping Evangelina put on gloves.  Evangelina and I are friends on Facebook, but she hasn't been to the gym in a long, long time.  

There was a very light crowd at the gym.  Khan, Taheerah, Gabriel, Amy, and Matthew were in attendance.  Gabriel sparred with Alan.  I noticed that Gabriel was using his elbow a lot to ward Alan off.  Alan explained that as long as Gabriel wasn't using elbows to hit him, it was legal.  

Taheerah and I sparred.  She got me with a right to my stomach, and I stepped back and fell.  Alan kept telling me to use my right hand more.  I got in a direct hit with a right hand that came over her left.  Taheerah made sure I wasn't going to do that again.  But then I heard Alan say, "Overhand."  I threw an overhand right that caught Taheerah.  Gabriel and Khan were watching -- I heard them go, "Ooh!"  Later, both Alan and Gabriel told me that was a good punch.  "That was the best I've ever seen you throw that punch," Alan commented.

Andre (not to be confused with Tall Andres) came in with Louis.  They didn't stay long.  Andre said he was very interested in fighting in Loyola Park's boxing show next month.  Louis said that Andre has been training him.

Gabriel worked the punch mitts with both Taheerah and Matthew.  I'm really sorry I left the camera at home, because those would have been some good shots, especially of Gabriel leaning down to Taheerah's height so she could get the punches in properly.

The above photo is a couple of years old.  There are at least three more heavy bags there now.  I wish I could take one of them home, but there's nowhere to hang it in my apartment.  I could have used one at home tonight  because I haven't quite take all of the edge off of my being pissed off at work yet.  

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Recognizing Wear and Tear

Late Tuesday afternoon, my middle and upper back was bothering me.  I squirmed in my chair most of the last three hours I was at work.  Luckily, Tuesday was an office work day, not a cleaning day, or else I would have been in extra misery.  The following morning, I was very stiff, and I could barely get up.  After debating with myself for a half-hour, I called Pastor Roger to tell him I wouldn't be in.  The problem is, I have to make up those hours before the week is out, which means having to work part of the day on Saturday.

Unless I'm deathly ill, however, I still go down to the gym.  I told Alan I wasn't up to sparring because my body wasn't up to it.  I kept a heating pad on my back and right shoulder most of the day.  I didn't feel much of a difference.  "Why are you here?" Alan asked.  "I got tired of sitting in the house all day," I replied.  "Crazy," Alan said, and I agreed with him.

Only Professor and Gabriel sparred.  Professor said later that was the first time he had sparred with someone so tall -- Gabriel is about six foot four, and a southpaw on top of that.  They had a good few rounds with each other.  They plan to do that again next week.

Later, Professor gave Taheerah some boxing tips.  In the photo above, Professor used my punch mitts to help her practice some punches.  He also had her doing push ups and burpees.  Taheerah's in good shape; I admired how she did standard push ups.  I have to do the "girl" push ups these days, and my knees can't take too many of those anymore.  Professor was pushing her a lot, but she did the burpees well, too.  She was interested in sparring, but I had to listen to my body today and take it easy.

Tyson asked when my nieces, Erica and Jalissa, were coming back to the gym.  "Jalissa lives here, but Erica lives in Florida," I answered.  "Oh, she was just visiting? When she visits next time, tell her to bring the sunshine with her!" Tyson said.  The temperatures were low for an August day.  Right now, the temperatures are down in the mid-50s.  I wore a hoodie to the gym, and I really needed it later when Alan dropped me off.

I felt okay enough to dance around the apartment when I got home -- I had my MP3 player on -- but now I feel my back and joints going back to the condition they were earlier in the day.  Sigh. . . .I don't feel like cleaning the church anymore than I feel like cleaning my apartment.  I guess I'll have to push through and get everything done.  Boxing is wear and tear on me, but so is being a custodian.  I'm beginning to believe being a custodian has been worse wear and tear on me than boxing has ever been.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Using Boxing In A Crowd

I forgot to take my camera to the gym again.  The photo above is of the place where I usually buy copies of The Ring magazine.

I was a little tired.  Spent most of the weekend partying -- well, partying as much as a middle-aged person can do.  I went to three festivals over the past weekend: the Ginza Festival, Retro on Roscoe, and North Halsted Market Days.  Just as I was leaving the North Halsted Market Days festival, I got caught up in a massive, thick crowd. Being as short as I am, it would have very easy for me to be trampled and stomped on.  It was that serious.  Normally, I get panicky around crowds.  Here's where some boxing experience kicked in.  I couldn't push my way through the crowd.  Others around me were pushing, shoving. . . I thought a fight or a full-scale riot would break out.   I just remained calm, followed lines that were moving, and remained observant.  Eventually, I made it out.

This photo is of one of Superdawg, a famous hot dog place where Alan is always going to eat.  One location is in Wheeling; the closest one to me is on the far northwest side.  I don't get up there that often, not since I lost Dad's car in an accident several years ago.  Neither Alan or I need to going there, truth be told, but the place has very good food.

In the gym, I was the only woman again.  Gabriel, Tyson, Professor, Khan, John, and a new face named Danny, were in attendance.  There was round robin sparring between the guys.  John and Tyson had the toughest sparring session.  Alan tried to slow them down, but the action remained a bit intense.  There were many good exchanges between them.

Khan got in with Gabriel, but they only had one round together.  Khan hung in there as best he could.  But before he stepped into the ring, he told Alan that it had been a long time since he sparred last.  Khan reached up to get shots in when he had Gabriel backed in a corner.

I had two rounds with Gabriel, and that was enough.  Gabriel's very tall, so like Khan, I had to reach up -- way up -- to get some shots in.  Alan commented that I often don't get the overhand right in easy on others, but I got one in on Gabriel.  Gabriel ducked down to my height several times to get punches in.  I got some hooks and straight rights to his body, because I really couldn't reach his head often.  During the second round, Gabriel did a very smart move by keeping me jammed up in corners and against the ropes.  "Get out of the corner," I heard Alan say.  He also told me to tie Gabriel up when I was blocked in, but I wanted to practice turning out of the corner instead.  Afterwards, Gabriel was slumped against a corner.  "Are you okay?" I asked.  "Hell, no," Gabriel smiled.  He had done a lot of rounds with everybody, except for Professor, who mostly observed the action.

My bag gloves have just about had it.  The thumb on the right glove is going to tear open completely one of these days.  But I'm going to have to wait awhile to replace it.  Just got notice a couple of days ago that another coach's clinic is coming up, which means, I'll have to shell out money for that.   I just paid for a coach's license a few months ago, before the Golden Gloves took place.  USA Boxing changed some of the amateur boxing rules, so all coaches have to be up on the new changes before a certain date or else we can't work the corners.  Hopefully this certification will cover me through the 2014 Golden Gloves.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

No Sparring To Be Had

In this photo, Khan uses the old pull weights that are attached to the wall in the gym.

Alan told me there was no one for me to spar.  "They don't want a piece of you," he joked.  It turned out that no one sparred that evening.  Everyone worked on technique.

My right hip wasn't feeling right.  My left knee was acting up again, too.  Both Alan and Gabriel noticed I was moving slow.  "Have you gone to the doctor to have your knee checked out yet?" Gabriel asked.  I have to schedule a mammogram before the month is out, so I might as well have that injured knee looked at too.  I keep having a feeling that it'll be discovered that my left knee is still very jacked up two years after I was hit by a car while crossing Clark Street.  Surgery may be in my future.

The overall stiffness I feel daily (especially when I first wake up in the mornings), in addition to always feeling sore in various places is making me wonder if I should take on another fight.  Loyola Park's boxing show is next month.  I may end up with a match, but I'm seriously considering making it my last.  Getting older is not an issue for me, but not being able to move as easily and as fast as I used to has become a big concern.  As usual, everyone has been on me to stop, especially when word got out about my nose being bloodied up a couple of weeks ago.  My nieces Erica and Jalissa told me, "Auntie, please take care of yourself."

I'm hard-headed.  But I can't keep ignoring the wear and tear on me.  So depending on how much damage I sustain, regardless if I win or lose, I might stop competing for real.  I've said that before, but this time, I really need to give it some serious consideration.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

The Gym Wife

John and Tony, seen in this photo sparring with each other, are some tough guys.  They were really taking it to each other.  "Tony's ready to go," I told Alan later, and he pointed out that John gave some good hits in Tony's direction.  Alan had to slow them down a few times.

Alan announced that there is another park district boxing show this Thursday up on Taylor Street.  Gabriel said he might go, and Tony has to check his schedule.  It would be nice if Tony could get a fight this time out.  The roll of the dice is funny at the park district shows, however.  Sometimes, just when a fighter thinks they have a sure thing, it doesn't happen.  I've been in that spot before.

None of the women showed up at the gym except for me.  I wasn't really big on sparring, but Franco wanted the practice, so I agreed to get into the ring.

It looks like I either took a hit from Franco in this photo, or I was warding a punch off.  Ever since Alan cracked me in my nose over a week ago, I feel like my nose has become a target.  Franco got me in it once.

I heard Franco say "I'm nervous about sparring with Hillari".  I'm guessing he was worried about hurting me. Franco gave me some good hits to my head and my mouth.  "Are you okay?" he kept asking.  I wasn't down and out on the canvas, so it was cool.

Franco was not easy to catch.  Oh, I got in some body punches here and there, but Franco would not allow himself to be caught up in the corners or against the ropes for too long.  I was usually met with a quick succession of left jabs and straight rights whenever I tried to move in and smother Franco.  I heard Alan tell me to throw a straight right a few times, but that wasn't easy to get in, either.

Professor came in mainly to observe.  He did give Gabriel and Tony some pad work, however, which they appreciated.  Then Professor had them doing burpees, which is one of the hardest exercises to do.  I personally haven't done those since I was in high school.  My knees won't let me do them now.


Alan joked that I was his "gym wife".  Ever heard the expression about the boss having a wife at home and a wife at work?  I'm the one reminding him about when the sessions begin and end, taking attendance, reminding him who's who in the gym -- in short, "nagging" Alan, if you will, to help him keep up on stuff in the gym.  It's the same thing. I was sort of an "office wife" to Les when I worked for the social service agency, until Les' nitpicking and petty bickering put a wedge between us the last few years I was there.  I don't consider myself such to Pastor Roger at church, mainly because the pastor got a bit offended when I chuckled about it in the office once.  "I don't think my wife would appreciate that," the pastor said before going into some long speech about the sanctity of marriage complete with Bible verses.  Some people totally miss the humor.  Whatever. At least I know, Alan appreciates my opinions and help at the gym, so it's a good "marriage".