Thursday, January 30, 2014

Watching the Coach Fight

Alan said that it looked as if I was limping more than I was the other day.  I was, and I was slogging through the workout.  It was one of the few times in the gym where I did not touch any of the equipment.  It was all shadow boxing.

Igor said nothing to me, which was fine with me. I ignored Igor the whole time.  I talked to everyone else who showed up, including Martin, who had hoped that Graubien could come in.  But Graubien hadn't returned Martin's phone call.  "I've forgotten everything," Martin smiled.  Alan worked with him on the basics.

Alan sparred with Leo first.  My leg was bothering me, so I put off working out for awhile to stand on the apron of the ring and give water to the guys as needed.  Leo got caught a few times because his hands were down, and his feet were together.  "Relax," Alan kept telling him, because Leo was a little stiff.  After Leo, Alan sparred with Keith (in the photo above).  I don't give very many instructions when I'm observing the sparring sessions.  If Alan is the other fighter in the ring, he will usually give instructions in-between the punches.  I will wait until after the session is over to point out what I saw.

Alan fell against the ropes during one of the rounds.  I'm not sure if it was because Keith caught Alan with a punch, or if Alan slipped.  I worried that the coach had gotten hurt, but Alan recovered quickly, and the session resumed.  I noticed that Keith kept his form most of the time.

Keith rests after the sparring session.

Later, Keith held the pads for Brenda.  I would have liked to do some light sparring with Brenda, but my leg wouldn't allow me to do that.  Hopefully next week, I'll be able to spar with Brenda, Alicia, and Liliana (Sam's wife hasn't been to the gym in awhile, and she didn't want to spar).  Alan teased Liliana by saying that Alicia wanted to take her on.  Liliana laughed when she told me, "Sparring?  Maybe next year!"

Liliana asked Alan if he had any fights in the past.  "Back in the dinosaur era. . . .", Alan began.  "Dinosaur?"  Liliana asked.  "You know what those are, right?" Alan said.  "Alan is one," I laughed.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

"Not Today, Igor!"

The weekend wasn't that good.  The annual business meeting at church ended with me making the decision to find another church to attend.  The most pleasant incident all weekend was running into Charlene, who used to attend the gym back in 2010.  We had a nice talk, and she told me she plans to return to the gym this spring.

But when I got to the gym today, the bad mood I'd been in that escalated even more after the church meeting was still present.  Igor decided to show up now that it's about a month into the winter session.  I was talking to Alan, and Igor interrupted.  The phrase "excuse me" is a foreign one to Igor.  "Don't you see me talking?" I snapped.  Igor looked at me for a second, then continued to ask Alan another usually inane questions.  Then I channeled my late father.  "Did you hear me talking?" I said in a even louder voice.  Igor deliberately ignored me, and kept pestering Alan. In another second, I was going to get in his face.  "Boy, I am tired of you," I growled.

Sometime later, Igor got the stupid thought in his mind to come to me and ask a question that he already knows the answer to:  how much is the gym fee. Igor was quite aware that it's the middle of the session and the fee needs to be paid. "Shut up talking to me, Igor!  Not today," I warned.  He directed his question to Alan.  About ten minutes to fifteen minutes later, it finally occurred to Igor that an apology was in order.  It was then he remembered to say "excuse me".  "What?  What is it?" I snapped, using Dad's voice. "I sorry," he said.  "I should have been told that awhile ago.  It's a little late for that," I barked, and Igor backed off.  A little while later, Igor left, and I ignored Igor when he said good-bye.

I apologized to Alan, who tolerates Igor way better than I do.  "I'm sorry I let my temper get out of hand," I told him.  "I know you have a temper, Hillari, and I know how Igor is," he answered.  I also had to explain to Alicia, the only other person in the gym, about Igor's irritating ways and his long history in the gym.

Four twenty-something young men stopped in the gym, and Alan and I gave them the basics the program. One of the young men said, "I would like to take boxing, but I'm afraid my temper would go out of control if I went into the ring."  "I'll tell you a secret.  I have a bad temper.  But boxing helps keep it down," I told the young man.  Well, most of the time anyway.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Back To Sparring

As I walked up to the field house -- yes, I walked despite the fact that it is three degrees outside -- I noticed the lights in the gym were on.  "Alan beat me here," I thought.  When I got inside the gym, Jilberto was there with two guys, one of whom looked vaguely familiar.  It was Martin, who hadn't been in the gym since Steve was the coach.  The other fellow was Martin's, 18 year old son, Richard.  Richard was interested in signing up, but Martin wanted to come back as well.  "I'd like to get Graubien back in here.  He used to work with me when I came in here before," Martin said.  I remember Graubien as well.  It's been at least seven or eight years since I've seen him.  Martin and Richard hung around for awhile to watch the sparring.  Richard promised to come back on Monday.

Martin was concerned about whether or not his son would be allowed to take up boxing.  Richard has diabetes.  "So do I," I told his father.  I explained that I'm careful to monitor myself when I'm in the gym, and I keep glucose tablets nearby.  If I don't feel up to sparring, or doing a full on workout, I don't.  I think Richard will be fine.

Edward came in with his mother, Liliana.  In this photo, he's making a bracelet.  He gave one that he promised to me today, and it's nice.  "Are you making one for your mom?" I asked.  "No, this is for Alicia," he told me.

Another new person, Rick, showed up today.  Rick would have been in class the first day, but Rick suffered an injury that kept him out for awhile.  Rick wanted to know what level the class was at, and I assured him that it was a mix of beginners and people with experience.  In addition to Rick, Nate, a guy that Alan has worked with, came in.  Alan was talking to Nate about sparring, but Nate said, "Nah, man.  I've got to look pretty!"  "Man, please. . .what's this about pretty," Alan grinned.  "Come on, Alan.  If the man has to stand in front of people, he doesn't want to be all bruised and banged up," I chuckled.  Nate looked at me and said,  "Exactly!  Thank you!"

Ben's right eye is still red.  But as you can see in the photo above, Ben (in the gray shirt) sparred with Keith. Their session got cut short, however.  I saw Ben bent over, and Keith talking to him.  At first I thought Ben had taken a bad hit.  Turns out that Ben has asthma.  Colonel let Ben use his inhaler.

Alan's still getting use to having to stand on the apron while people are sparring.  Here, he watches Ben sparring with Leo.  "How is your leg?  Are you going to work today?" Alan asked me.  "I think I can go one round," I told him.

Brenda, seen here on "Roger" the red bag, and I sparred very, very lightly for two rounds.  It was my first time sparring in the new ring.  My left leg held up very well; indeed, I was walking better on it while making my way to to the gym.  Neither Brenda or I were wearing headgear.  I put in my mouthpiece just in case.  My objective was to let Brenda throw a lot of punches and move around a lot.  I was covering up my mid-section like a turtle at one point, and Brenda asked me what that was.  "That's in anticipation of any punches that may aim at my chest or stomach," I explained.  Afterwards, Brenda commented, "Boxing is really a workout."

Alicia beats on the bag in this photo.  She reminds me of my Aunt Mary, who's about the same height and build.  Alicia has really been working hard to get the punches down.

Since my leg is definitely improving now, maybe it will be a good time to do exercises at home again.  I was thinking about starting out with kettlebells or maybe Marlen Esparza's boxing DVD, but with modifications to the exercises of course.  I don't need to be re-injured.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Boxing For A Job

I had to hustle up to Garfield Park for an interview that was scheduled for today.  Luckily, I didn't have anything else planned, so I took a ride out to the wild, wild, west side of Chicago.  Once again, the weather was bone cold, and public transportation wasn't moving as fast as it should.  But amazingly, I made it on time.

As I walked up to the Garfield Park field house, I flash backed to one of my earliest memories of being in that building.  I was going to be in Kindergarten that particular year, and all kids have to have immunizations.  Immunizations were being offered for grade school kids at that field house, so my mother took me up there. We lived in the area back then. I don't know if she had to pay for them, and I don't know if I had a fit when I received the shots, but I do remember walking through the building.  When I got there today, a few workmen were standing in the lobby discussing some construction that had to be done on the inside.  I looked around and thought the building hasn't changed very much over the years.

Waiting for a few minutes to be seen gave me a chance to warm my hands up.  I seldom wear gloves, no matter how cold it gets.  But I didn't want to offer the interviews a frozen hand if we had to exchange handshakes.

Tommy, the current head of the park district's boxing program, was one of the interviewers.  I didn't want to give the impression that I expected any special consideration because he knows who I am.  Two women, Ms. Garcia and Ms. Walton, were also in the room.  The interview for the boxing coach position open at Seward Park was very brief.  They had a specific set of questions that they needed to ask.

For a minute, I thought the interview was going to end quickly.  You see, I have more than the educational requirements needed.  The minimum is an AA degree; I have a bachelor's degree.  But I don't have any significant coursework in physical education or similar fields such as health.  The one swimming class I took when I was a college freshman wasn't going to count.  Fortunately, Ms. Walton said, "Let's see what other experience she has."  So I talked -- a think a little too long -- about having taken boxing classes for the past thirteen years, twelve of those within the Chicago Park District, my becoming a volunteer assistant coach at Loyola Park, and having had six fights.  I also mentioned that I had worked the corners as a second at numerous fights.

I cringed a little inside when I was asked if I had ever organized a boxing tournament. That's something I would like to do at some point.   Unfortunately, I've been on the periphery, but never one of the people who were on the inside.  Near the end of the interview, I put heavy emphasis on my passion for the sport, and  encouraging people, especially youths and women, who want to put on the gloves.  "I would emphasize that boxing is fun, and also point out the health benefits", I told the interviewing panel.

I'm not sure how I did.  There was an interview ahead of me and one behind me, and I'm assuming we were the only three who had been called in.  As I walked back to the Conservatory 'L station, I kicked myself for not mentioning that I do have an amateur coach's license.  It was on the resume, but I still should have said something.  I'd like to get that job, but with the economy and competition for jobs being the way they are, I have to be cautious about getting my hopes up too high.

Boxing On A Reverend's Holiday

"My leg is still the same," I told Alan.  He grinned and shook his head.  Colonel told me people were going to start calling me "Hoppy" after awhile.  "It hurts every day, all day," I let them know.  Women have high tolerance for pain.  I'm thinking we must have.  "How long has this been going on?  Two weeks?" Alan asked me.  "A month," I replied.  "Hillari, you've got to go to the doctor. . . .come on," Alan said in a serious tone.  "I know, but I can't. . .", I said, dropping the rest of the excuses about not having money nor insurance.  "I know, but you've got to find out what's going on.  It may be a torn muscle.  Surgery may be needed," Alan said.  I sure hope not.  I can't afford to be laid up anywhere for any amount of time for any reason right now.

It was snowing outside and the temperatures have dropped way down low again.  Not many came to the gym, probably because of that, and also because it was Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  Sam was there without Lindsey, who had an engagement elsewhere.  Alicia and Liliana came in, as did Professor and Brandon.

Sam and Professor sparred.  "Sam's got some talent," Colonel said, and I agreed.  Sam was good in keeping his hands up and his form straight.   Sam kept his eyes on Professor.  I heard Professor say, "I want to get into the Golden Gloves, and I want the punches to come at my face so I can practice blocking them with my hands."  It was a good sparring session.

I finally mailed off confirmation of my renewal for my coach's license off this past Saturday.  I had to put a copy of it on a memory stick and take it to the closest Internet cafe to me in order to print it out (I don't have a working printer at home).  Now I don't have to worry about that for the rest of the year.

Alan, Colonel, and Professor got into a conversation about women that started when Professor commented on the attractiveness of a woman.  "I like all women," Alan grinned slyly.  "See, Alan's telling his business about when he was young. . .playa!" I laughed.  "I like all women, too," Colonel grinned.  I believe both Alan and Colonel were something else when they were young men, based on stories they've told me that can't really be repeated on a family blog.  Some women have similar stories about "I was a fast one when I was younger," but they're never the same type of stories like the ones men tell.  It's funny to me.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A Workout Crowd

I was returning to the gym after filling up the water bottles when I spotted Josh.  When we got into the room, he commented, "It's crowded in here, is it?  Why is that?"  "The winter session started a couple of weeks ago," I answered.  "So it will be like this for a couple more weeks then people will drop out," he smiled.  Maybe so, maybe not.  The crop of people that's in there now may be around for awhile.

Professor told me that he really liked working with Brenda, Liliana (Edward's mom), and Alicia.  He held pads for them and also taught them some exercises with the medicine ball.  I told Alan I'll be glad when my leg gets better so I can spar with any of the women who want to spar.

Alan and Kevin sparred for a few rounds.  I wasn't doing much of a workout because I got tired of fussing with my leg, so I stood on the apron of the ring to watch.  Kevin got in some hits that had Alan rolling along the ropes and into the corners.

Before Sean and Shane sparred, Shane was asked about hitting his friend in the mouth.  "I'm not going to hit him that hard," Shane said.  Alan is refereeing in this photo.

The swelling under Ben's eye had gone down.  "I used ice and ibuprofen," he said.  But Ben's right eye was black, and I could see blood in that eye.  It didn't stop him from sparring with Professor, and they were going at it.  "What did your wife say when she saw your eye?" I asked Ben.  "She's seen me injured before, so she was cool," he said.

Another reason I didn't do much of a workout was because as Josh pointed out earlier, the gym was crowded.  I noticed that the new ring and new configuration of some items has cut down a little on the available floor space in the gym.  The new people in particular need to have a chance to use the equipment, so I figured it wouldn't be a big deal if I limited how much exercise I was going to do.  But I'm starting to itch to do more, especially since I didn't get any fights last year.

Alan dropped me off at home, and he asked me how my leg was.  "It doesn't seem to be getting better," when I told him that it was better than it had been.  "I don't have shooting pains anymore.  It's just taking time.  I just have to get used to getting old," I said.  "You and me both," Alan replied.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A Mouse Under Ben's Eye

Roll call at the gym: Brandon, Brenda, Ben, Kevin, Alicia, Edward's mom (I have to get the correct spelling of her name), Sam, Lyndsey, Jamil (who hadn't been there for a couple of years), and Professor.

Ben was ready to spar, so he got in the ring with Kevin.  Kevin got several shots into Ben's mid-section, and Ben just took them.  The big surprise came when their sparring session was done.  Ben had a huge mouse under his right eye.  "Really?  Freaking great!" Ben smiled when I told him.  He ran to the nearest mirror to get a better look at it.  Lyndsey was horrified.  "What if he has a job to go to with that?" she said.  "There's been a lot of people who will beg off of sparring especially if they have a presentation to give at work or have to meet with clients.  They don't want to show up with bruises," I told her.  Ben explained to her that he teaches self-defense, a job that involves getting hurt once in awhile.

Sam told me he wanted to learn the basics of boxing a little better before sparring.  But several minutes later, he was suiting up to get in the ring with Jamil.  Lyndsey, his wife, said, "Oh, no, no!  I have to leave the room for awhile.  I can't watch this!"  After Alan, Sam, and Jamil assured her that it would be light sparring, Lyndsey stayed, but she was still worried.  Alan was impressed with how Sam kept his form intact the entire time.

Professor held pads for Brandon, Jamil and Brenda, giving them all good tips.  He said that Tommy, the head of boxing for the park district, is training people at Seward now that Oscar is gone, but the coach position over there is still open.  I need to call over there to see what's going on, since I applied for the position.  Things appear to be looking up job-wise for the moment, because I had a very good interview at an university for an office position last week, the second position I'm waiting to hear about.  The person I would be answering to at the university fought in the Golden Gloves years ago.

I worked out as best I could with my bum left leg again, but it was better than it has been.  I alternate between helping people out -- I showed Alicia how to hit the speed bag -- doing my own workout, and taking breaks.  I want to spar, especially since Brenda is willing to do so, but thoughts of re-injuring my leg keep running through my mind.

The schedule for the Chicago Golden Gloves is out, and it's going to take place at Cicero Stadium again this year.  It starts in early March and will end in early April.  I still have to mail proof of my coach's license renewal to Wisconsin, and I need to do it soon.  There is going to be a Masters' Division included.  Sigh. . .if it wasn't for diabetes I'd have an amateur boxer's license so I could get a match, too.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Coaching While Female

The guy in the picture above is comedian and actor Alan King, who passed away ten years ago.  While reading about his background on Wikipedia, I learned that King once was a professional boxer.  Twenty straight fights were won by King.  Then there was a loss, and King had to nurse a broken nose.  After that, King decided to focus more on his comedy career, which he was doing at the same time.

I might have mentioned that I attended my high school's annual holiday reunion party last month (that's me on the right standing with a couple of former classmates, Verlaine and Mario).  I showed up on a cane, due to my left leg bothering me, and everybody wondered what was going on.  I jokingly told my friend Clintonia (whom I also attended Kindergarten, first and second grade with), "I'm gonna get enough of boxing."  She still ticked at Alan for the uppercut he gave me back last summer that left me bloody.  "I'd never let Alan get away with that!" she said.  I keep telling her and everybody else that such things happen in boxing, but not everybody is convinced.

I've also been telling people that I'm transitioning more and more to coaching.  But like being female and trying to find fights either as an amateur boxer or a professional boxer, it's not easy to find a lot of opportunities as a female boxing coach, either.  I'm lucky in that I do get to coach a little down at the gym as a volunteer.  But women overall being taken seriously at coaching, let alone getting paid for it, is another thing.  Part of my current job search involved applying -- once again -- for a boxing coach position with the Chicago Park District.  Haven't heard anything about it yet.

Not long ago, Alan gave me a newspaper article about a woman who is an assistant boxing coach at an all-male Catholic high school on the south side of Chicago.  The head coach, a man, wondered how long she would she would last.  The woman is a short, petite, blond in a school that is predominately African-American.  On a video I saw, the head coach joked, "I wondered why her parents didn't have her in therapy."  But she has gained the respect of the students in the school's gym, as well as in the classroom -- she teaches algebra.

Respect -- it is something female fighters still search for in the sport, and now the few female coaches at both the amateur and professional levels are looking for it as well.  But in order to gain the respect, we first have to be given the chance to show what we know and what we can do.  That is easier said than done.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

More In The Gym

As Alan wraps his hands, he gives out instructions to the new people.  A few more new faces came in including Leonaid, Brenda, Robert, and Shane.  Surprisingly, there was no sign of Igor, and his name wasn't on the attendance sheet.  But then, Igor seldom pays for new sessions in advance.  Edward and his mother didn't come in, neither did Sam or Lindsey.

My left leg continues to hurt.  I've just accepted that it's going to take awhile to heal.  My workout consisted of alternating between shadow boxing and working the bags.  I had to sit down practically after several rounds.  Alan had jokes.  "She calls me an old man," he said.  "Yeah, and I have my nerve, since I'm only ten years younger than the coach," I smiled.  I was taking pictures for this blog, and Alan cracked, "This is for the geriatric boxing blog, right?"  "It might just come to that," I laughed.

I like Ben.  That's him in the picture with his hand up in a "I'm a champion mode".  He and Sean spent a lot of time behind the ring working out.  Ben teaches self-defense.

Brenda wanted to get into the ring, so Alan obliged with a light sparring session.  "Get Alan with a jab!  Now throw a punch to Alan's mid-section!" I said from ringside.  Alan was impressed with the fact that she wanted to get in the ring so soon, and that she went around with him for two rounds.  "You've got a sparring partner," Alan said to me.  "As soon as my leg gets better," I replied.

Ben said, "I don't mind wrestling with women.  But punching them with full power?  I can't see doing that!"  "I couldn't hit a woman like that either," Sean said. When Brenda stepped in the ring with Alan, Ben was under the impression that women only sparred with other women.  "Men can spar with women, but during a regular fight, both people have to be the same gender," I explained.   I explained how there are a few guys who go by the "an opponent is an opponent is an opponent" rule, but most will pull punches when sparring with women.

Ben asked about the upcoming Chicago Golden Gloves.  I keep forgetting to ask Alan if he has renewed his coach's license online.  I learned several weeks ago that everyone was expected to sign up online this time around in advance of the Golden Gloves.  All I have to do is to send my receipt and my picture in to the Wisconsin LBC so I can get my new license.  It supposed to take two weeks to get that all that done. I keep forgetting to ask Alan if he's signed up, knowing that the coach is not big on technology.

Shane works on the body snatcher bag.  He had to repeat his name to Alan a couple of times.  "It's Shane, like the Alan Ladd movie," he said.  I made a lame joke: "Come back, Shane!"  "I haven't heard that before," Shane smiled.  I won't forget his name now, however.  I either will just think of that old western movie, or of boxer Sugar Shane Mosley, and I'll remember.

Maybe I should take up using the kettlebells again.  I read about a 50-something woman who used the kettlebells to get herself back to good health.  I don't want to further injure myself, but I have to do something.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Boxing In The Artic

Another brutally cold winter's day in Chicago, but that did not slow down the activity of the gym.  It was another long walk for me down to Loyola Park as my left leg is still not 100 percent.  But this time, I didn't use the cane, and I was bundled up.  "I made it!" I announced after hobbling into the gym.

Today was the first day of the Winter session.  A quick check of the attendance sheet indicated that quite a few people signed up.  However, only six actually came in, including Alicia, who works in the office of a foot doctor I used to see regularly before I was laid off from a previous job several years ago.  Alicia had a friend with her, another woman, who had her cute 10 year old son, Edward, with her.  Edward plans to start going to the youth boxing program this week.

Ben, the one who wears a beard, returned to the gym.  He had been out for awhile because he had a son, who is now nine months old.  Cute kid; Ben showed me some pictures and videos he had on his cell phone.

Sam, Sean, and Lyndsey were a few of the other people in the gym.  Lyndsey was very turned off about using the gloves in the gym.  "I'm going to get a pair of my own," she said.  But the staff had initially told her that she wasn't allowed to have her own gloves.  They told her it was because of liability issues.  That was news to Alan and really news to me since I've been using my own bag gloves for the past twelve years.

"How many women have come in here and said they wouldn't spar, and did so anyway, and loved it afterwards?" Alan asked. me.  "There's been several," I answered.  Lyndsey was not convinced.  "I don't want to get hit in the face," she said.  Then I didn't make things sound anymore appealing by telling her about a) the time Ieisha knocked me out with a right hook, b) the time Alan bloodied my nose with an uppercut, and c) the six Park District fights I've had.  I'm thinking that Alicia may try sparring because she really enjoyed the class tonight.  But I'm not so sure about the other women who have signed up for the gym.

I shadow boxed in the ring for a few rounds.  When I came down the stairs connected to the ring, I noticed the steps were a bit slippery.  Hopefully, I will remember to put some tape down the next time I'm in the gym so that no one -- especially me -- slips and falls.

Alan did something that he's never done before since he took over the gym in 2008.  He drove me all the way up to the door of my apartment building after the gym was closed for the evening.  I really appreciated that.  Oh, I would have limped down the street and made it home if Alan had let me off at the corner like usual.  But as cold as it is tonight -- and it won't be any warmer tomorrow -- and judging by the fact that most of the neighbors on the block did not do a good job of clearing away the snow, that was a blessing to be dropped off at my door.