Monday, June 30, 2014

Swimming To The Gym

I was halfway to the gym, and the sky opened up and very heavy rain came down.  I was soaked by the time I got there.  Not very many people showed up.  They must have looked outside, saw the big bolts of lighting, and changed their minds about going outside.

None of the women -- myself, Rachel, and Diane -- wanted to spar.  Justin was ready to work, so he sparred with amicable Nick first.  Alan reminded Justin to take it easy, especially considering what happened last week when Justin and Ken sparred.

That session went okay.  Then Jason decided to spar with Justin.  He used the hockey-like headgear that I have in my locker.  "Is it built like this so that punches can't get through?" he asked me.  I explained that's why Alan uses it because he needs to protect his eyes.  I soon realized why Jason was so interested in how much protection the headgear would give.  In the photo above, Justin gave Jason a hit, one of many that Jason took and did not defend himself against.  Justin could have really thrown some bombs, but he encouraged Jason to punch back.  Jason's hands weren't up enough.  Also, Jason kept turning his head and turning his back.  "Can't throw a punch then turn and not check where it's going," I said to Jason, pounding the apron of the ring for emphasis.

Alan was dressed and ready for a workout, but the coach had to limit his movements.  Alan had a medical procedure done to his knee last week, and there was a huge bandage wrapped around it.  When walking up the steps to the ring earlier to show Jason how to do a bridge exercise, Alan joked, "Hillari, help me up!"

It's still raining, and hopefully, the rain will help me sleep later.  Usually a good workout at the gym helps me rest, but I haven't been sleeping well for awhile.  Sometimes, I think I'm turning into my paternal grandmother -- napping during the earlier part of the day, then sitting up at odd hours at night.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Rinsing Off Blood

This is supposed to be the summer season, but today was overcast and foggy.  I was chilly because I wore no jacket, and I spent most of the day in a training class held in a heavily air-conditioned room.  When I went to the gym later, I put on a heavy hoodie to keep warm.

Frank returned to the gym, having signed up, and he was ready to work.  He was talking about buying a mouthpiece when I remembered there was an extra one in my locker.  Alan had given it to me to hold on to just in case someone needed one.  Frank wanted to buy it, but I asked Alan if it was okay to give it to him.   Alan said ok; the coach had forgotten that he had asked me to lock it up for safekeeping.  Just then, Jason rolled up, asking if I had another one.  I had also forgotten that Jason had asked if an extra mouthpiece was around about a week ago.  I had sent Jason to ask John if he had any extra, since the latter had given Rachel a mouthpiece.  Jason looked disappointed when he learned I didn't have any more of them.

Justin fights wild.  Justin was in the ring with Brian.  Brian got caught up against the ropes and Justin clocked Brian with several hard uppercuts.  Alan stopped the action a few times in order to slow Justin's momentum.

Brian hung in there, but when Justin would let loose with flurries of punches, Brian couldn't answer easily.  I heard Brian tell a friend of his whom he brought to the gym,  "I couldn't figure out how to get around some of those punches!"

I sparred with Rachel for a couple of rounds.  Alan kept telling her to keep her hands up.  "I thought I was," she said.  I explained that she always has to protect her face.  Alan said to her, "Keep the hands up by the cheekbones."  "But how do you do that?" Rachel asked.  "It takes practice to keep the hands up for the whole round," I replied.  I went light because Rachel is still getting used to throwing punches.

Diana, whom I sparred with next, threw punches a little harder than she usually does.  One of those punches got me in the mouth and rocked my teeth a little bit.  Thank goodness I wore my mouthpiece instead of putting it my pocket.  I put a little power on the punches I threw back, getting Diana in her face and head several times.  We did three rounds.

Alan stepped out of the gym for a moment, so I watched as Ken sparred with Jesus.  Both Justin and I noticed that Ken was batting at Jesus with his right hand (Ken was fighting southpaw).  We told Ken to straighten out his punch.  Ken kept ducking down to get punches in, even though he was the taller man.

When Alan returned, he gave more pointers to Ken.  But Ken kept dropping his hands, and Jesus noticed that and stepped up.  At the end of the sparring session, I noticed blood dripping from Ken's gloves.  A look at his face confirmed that Ken's nose was bleeding.  There was no tissue in the gym, so Ken rushed down to the men's washroom.  I grabbed the water bottle and rinsed the blood off of the gloves and the headgear. Ken was fine; the bleeding stopped quickly.

A couple of guys, Dan and Dave, peered into the gym to see what was going on.  I talked to them about the gym for a few minutes.  They might have been new to the neighborhood because Dave said, "We were curious about what goes on in the community center."  Both look interested, so they may return at another time.  I told them that Alan doesn't mind people looking around to check things out.

Alan called out the last round, and I was going to shadow box, but I stretched out instead.  I've been real stiff lately, so I need to stretch all the time.  I was standing up and stretching during breaks at work earlier because I had been sitting for so long.  The older I get, the more I need to stretch it seems.

I didn't get a full picture of this, but this is a cool gift that Kenny made for Alan's b-day.  It's a picture in a frame.  A pair of boxing gloves is in the picture.  Colonel stopped in for a moment to deliver it.  I believe this quote is from Joyce Carol Oates' book called On Boxing.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Action In A Hot Gym

Alan gives Justin water after Justin and Ben sparred.

On the way to the gym, I received a free bottle of water from a Christian group that was in the park.  They were also giving out hot dogs, but I couldn't eat that close to exercising.  I learned the group from from east Texas and they were on a mission trip.  A girl who passed by said to me, "I know you got a hot dog!"  "Nope, only the water", I replied, and the water was good and cold.

The gym was busy again.  Igor came in, as I figured he would.  Ben -- seen in the picture above wearing the white shirt -- came back after being gone for a few years.  So did Frank, who at 39 years old, is wanting to get in fighting shape.  Frank once sparred with Leon.   "Leon was surprised that I took a hit from him and didn't fall down," Frank grinned.  Frank and I talked for awhile.  He remembered me showing him how to wrap his hands when he was in the gym several years ago.

I begged off sparring.  A lot of people at my new job know that I box.  But seeing how I have to meet with potential clients soon, I didn't think it would be a good idea for me to face anyone with bruises and cuts on me.  Nayhomee laughed when I told her that.  "I usually have a hard time hitting you!" she said.  She convinced Alicia to spar with her, and they worked together for two rounds.  Alan was out on the floor getting a little of a workout in, so I monitored the sparring.  Alicia was pawing at Nayhomee, so I reminded her to throw straight punches.  Nayhomee had promised not to go hard, so she was helping Alicia, too.

In this photo, Hendy hits the "Roger" bag.  None of the other women sparred, but most of the guys were game.  I was so busy talking to Frank and others that I wasn't paying attention to everything going on when the guys were in the ring.

I don't even remember who was sparring at this point (Jesus, Ken, Nick, Ben, John, and Justin all took turns), but most of the gym was watching this one.  Colonel was giving a lot of orders during this one.  Colonel didn't train because of his shoulder; he did something to it while training with Kenny earlier in the day.

Antonio and Dominique (Professor's new girlfriend) watch some of the sparring.

Later, Alan admitted, "I didn't do much of anything in the gym."  I didn't either, and that was by design.  I'm still getting used to the schedule of my job, but eventually things will even out.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Boxing Busy

The toes on my right foot were hurting.  I had spent a lot of time on my feet all day.  But I had promised to spar when I got to the gym, so I just dealt with the situation.

Initially, not many people were in the gym.  Rachel commented about the few people who were missing, but soon, the gym filled up again.  It was another light workout day for me, and I spent time working with Rachel, Octavio and Ken.  I also learned Justin and Hendy's names.

Rachel and I sparred later in the evening.  Ahead of us were John, Martin, Jesus, Justin, and Nick.  Martin took a hit to the ribs from Justin.  "I know I'm bruised," he said, holding his hand over where it hurt.  Martin also took a rough hit to the face from Justin as well.

Rachel didn't have a mouthpiece, and Alan and I suggested using a piece of paper towel to bite down on. She wasn't too keen on that.  Fortunately, John had an extra new mouthpiece for her to use.  Alan kept joking that I was going to throw hard punches.  "We will go light because you just started, and I'm old," I said.  We went for two rounds, and Rachel moved pretty well.  She moved too far over when slipping punches, but otherwise, she was fine.  Colonel stood on the apron giving her a lot of tips.

Geniece sparred with Justin, and it was a bit of a war.  Justin told Alan that he mostly trained himself to box.  I thought that Justin might have had some experience before, because he was holding his own during the earlier sparring sessions with the guys.  Geniece said that Justin gave her some rough punches, and she really had to be on her guard.

Near the end of the evening, I announced to everyone that Alan's birthday is on Saturday.  We all sang "Happy Birthday" to him.  "I'm gonna get you for this," Alan joked to me.  He told everybody, "I'm going to be sixty-three!"  Most of the room went, "Whoa!" "Damn, that's pretty good. . .at that age and still doing this," John said to Nick, who nodded his head in agreement.

Monday, June 16, 2014

A Busy Beginning

After a long day at work -- yes, I finally have a new job -- I went to the gym.  "Probably won't be that many new people", I thought, remembering that it was the first day of the summer session.  When I got there, there were only a few newbies.  Suddenly, the gym became packed with people.

When Jason asked me to throw the medicine ball at his stomach, I immediately decided that it was going to be a light workout day.  Brandy threw the ball to him instead.  I circulated around, helping as many of the new people as I could.  Rachel has trained in mixed martial arts, but she wants to learn boxing, so I worked with her for awhile.  I retrained Melinda, who hadn't been in the gym for a few years, on how to wrap her hands.  There was also a young man named Octavio who was still deciding whether or not he wanted to join. Alan let him try it out, and I checked in with Octavio often to make sure everything was okay.

Alan sparred with Geniece.  Liz, one of the newbies observed that Alan seemed to be punching back hard.  But Geniece was rolling with the punches.  "Alan's old, but Alan is slick," I told Liz.  Professor worked with Geniece on the punch mitts later.  I also used the punch mitts to work with Rachel on her jabs and crosses.

Geniece and Brandy did a burn out, followed by. . . .

Keith and Nayhomee doing the same thing.

Keith and John sparred, and they did a round robin with. . . .

. . . Martin, shown here locking horns with John.

Keith sits on the apron while watching Martin and John sparring.  John wanted to spar with me, but I was too tired.  Also, I didn't want to show up too soon at the new job sporting bruises and cuts.

Brandy and Melinda chat.

Other new people included Ken (not to be confused with Kenny), Brian, Rachel, and Nick.  I know I've missed several other names, but I will get those eventually.

I was a little worried when I saw Melinda sparring with Nayhomee.  I remember Melinda's hard punches.  But Nayhomee held her own in the ring.

Rachel and Brian share the red heavy bag.

I told John that we can spar the next time we're in the gym.  I hope I'm up for it that day.  I might participate in the Chicago Park District boxing shows this season, and I will need the practice.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Showing Up The Last Half Hour

The above photo shows John and Oscar from back in 2009.  I often wonder what happened to Oscar; haven't seen him for a long time.

My time in the gym was very short tonight because I participated in a focus group located in downtown Chicago.  It bumped up against gym time, so I didn't get to Loyola Park until a half-hour before closing time.  Alan asked, "Why did you come in?"  "I had to get my gear out of the locker," I explained.

Geniece and Brandy had just finished sparring as I walked in, so I can't report on what happened during their session.  Alan suited up to get in the ring with Anthony.  Anthony got some good hits in, including a right that knocked Alan's headgear around.  But Anthony kept stopping to take rests.  "I thought you stopped smoking," Alan told him.  "I did - six months ago," Anthony said.  They went for three rounds.  I stood on the apron of the ring and gave tips to Anthony.

Anthony also worked with helping Jason punch better, and you know. . .Jason did look better while hitting the punch pads.  Josh came in later than I did and started hitting the bags.  "Man, straighten those fists out.  Don't want to break the wrists," Anthony told Josh.  "Josh never listens," Alan grinned.  Anthony then held the bag for Josh to better show him how to throw his punches.

It was one of the very few times I showed up at the gym and didn't work out.  The last time that happened, I arrived at the gym from some place where I had to be dressed up with makeup on.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Return From South Korea

As promised, Anthony returned to the gym, and he sparred with Professor.  In the photo above, Anthony had just backed up Professor into a corner.  I didn't know that Anthony had a two year old daughter.  Judging by how he talks about her, she is the apple of her daddy's eye.

Brandy, myself, and Geniece did a round robin session of sparring.  This time, I kept my mouthpiece in without choking on it.  Good thing I did, because I took some seriously hard hits from both ladies.  Brandy pounded me on my nose, and Geniece punched me in a manner that left the right side of my neck hurting.  Anthony kept telling me, "Back her up in the corners!"  I could get Brandy in the corner a couple of times, but not Geniece.  Geniece would come roaring back, pushing up against the ropes.  She got me with a right to my face that stunned me.

Geniece breaks Brandy's guard in this photo to get a left jab in.

Another shot of Professor and Anthony sparring.  They did a couple of rounds before Anthony stopped.  I heard Professor tell Anthony he did well, considering Anthony recently stopped smoking.

A welcome face walked into the gym:  John is back from South Korea.  It was so good to see him.  He's looking for a teaching job here, and he wants to get that all straight before the end of the summer.  John will be back in the gym next week when the summer session starts.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

The Cops Pay A Visit

Pictured here is the timer that Colonel has been bringing in for awhile.  The bells aren't as loud as one on the gym's timer (which can be seen behind Colonel's), but we all can tell at what point we are in the round.

Alan was out of town on business, so I was running the place.  At first, I thought no one was going to show up, and that I might have to close up early. The weather was cool, which is not unusual for June in Chicago.  We're usually lucky to get two and a half months of summer; the rest of the year is cold here.  Not long after Jilberto unlocked the door, Kenny and Colonel walked in.  Only a few more came in -- Alicia, Professor, Geniece, and Keith.

Anthony, who works with Cease Fire, stopped by.  He told us that he has stopped smoking.  I remember Anthony used to fight at 132 pounds, and when he used to come to the gym, Anthony had problem with getting his wind.  But since putting the cigarettes down, Anthony said he feels fine.  He promised to come in on Monday because he wants to get back into the fight game.

A few cops walked into the gym, as they tend to do from time to time.  Colonel held court as he regaled them with some of his many stories.  Kenny barely acknowledged the cops -- well, it's a long story, but Kenny had been in trouble with law when he was younger.  I greeted them when they got there, but for some reason, I felt uneasy about them being in the gym.  Some of the cops who stop by seem very interested in what goes on.  There are a lot of cops in Chicago who box in their spare time.  But then there are other times when it seems like some of the cops are standing around as if they're looking for someone.  I'm a daughter of a former state cop and the second cousin to a retired Chicago cop, so I didn't grow up with a mistrust of the police.  But sometimes. . .I get odd vibes.

Kenny spent a lot of time working the punch mitts with Colonel and Keith.  Kenny was working on being a southpaw, so he decided to teach Keith how to be one.  He showed Colonel how to throw some devastating left hooks to the body.

Kenny also showed Keith a self-defense move to quickly end a street fight.  It involves getting into a boxer's stance, and putting the hands together as if in prayer -- a prayer's stance.  The idea is to give the other person the impression of "Hey, I don't want any trouble."  If the other person decides to throw hooks or wide looping punches, the person in the prayer's stance will be a good position to use their hands -- which are already up and in front of them -- to block the punches.  It also puts that person in a good position to step in quickly and get a hook in, preferably to the chin, and end the fight before it starts.

Professor worked mainly with Geniece.  He told her how important it was to have a good jab, because without the jab, it is hard to set up other punch combinations.

I pushed myself a little more, and I had a good workout.  As I dragged myself up the four flights to my apartment later (there's no elevator in my building), I thought of something talk show host David Letterman used to say about it being a good kind of tired.  The slight injury I sustained when Nayhomee hit me in the ribs a couple of days ago wasn't hurting anymore.  It was yesterday, however.  I went to see my stepmother, as we got into a cab to go downtown, I was groaning a little.  When she asked what was wrong, I replied, "I got banged up while sparring with a 21-year-old."  My stepmother shook her head and said, "Girl, when are you going to give that up?"

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Punching Around In The Beginning of June

Yes, the above photo is of me.  It's my yearbook picture from my senior year in high school.  Boxing was an interest of mine back then, but I was a couple of decades away from actually training at a gym.  I still look the same, except that my hair is short with gray in it, there are crow's feet around my eyes, and I carry extra pounds.

However, the last time I stepped on the scale at home, I was surprised to find I was exactly 165 pounds.  Colonel was telling me that he needs to lose at least 13 pounds to get back down around 155.  "Lowering my body fat will help ease pressure on my knees and other joints," Colonel said.  My joints would thank me if I lost a few more pounds, too.  I told Alan I wanted to get down to about 140 pounds.  "I don't want to be a skinny mini like I used to be years ago.  I need to have some heft to me," I explained.

A guy named Carl came in looking for Barry.  I explained that Barry is in when the kids are using the gym.  Carl told me he used to box via the Chicago Park District.  One of Carl's buddies was David Diaz, a former professional boxer who now coaches.  Carl's uncles are the famous O'Shea brothers of boxing fame, one of whom lives in my neighborhood.

Nayhomee had to leave early for a babysitting gig, so we sparred early.  I did chase her a little around the ring, and I put some pressure on her when we got into the corners.  But Nayhomee kept moving around.  I backed her up in a corner, but she got me in a clinch.  Alan called out, "Break!"  We did three rounds, and was very tired afterwards.  Once again, I wasn't wearing my mouthpiece.  I think maybe it's time for me to do the "boil and bite" on the new one I have at home -- that I brought about three years ago.

Alan sparred with Keith, and was doing the usual tricks (like winding up his right hand, but throwing a jab instead).  But Keith caught Alan with some hooks to the head, and a few body shots.  Kenny was working with Keith on the punch mitts, and Keith is getting better each time.

Before Geniece stepped in the ring with Alan, the coach said to her, "I have a reputation as a lady killer and not because of my good looks."  I was helping Alan put on a pair of sparring gloves.  "Got that right.  I still remember being laid out on the canvas," I laughed, referring to the time last year when Alan bloodied my nose. I thought of how my nieces (in the photo above) chastised Alan after that.  I was giving Geniece pointers.  "Remember, Alan has a longer reach, so you have to get close to him to make the punches count," I told her.  Alan got her with some hooks, and he also gave out a lot of uppercuts when she was caught up against the ropes.  "Grab Alan's arms when he does that," I told her.

Kenny was very impressed with Geniece's hard punches.  "You can't teach that.  Either people have it or they don't," Kenny said.

Kenny and Professor and I were reminiscing earlier about guys who used to come to the gym, like Hayt (who disappeared to New York City), Jake (who's now in Michigan), and Oscar (his friend Jesus came back to the gym).  Professor said, "My boy was -- and I still think about him -- the guy that died."  Kenny and I knew he was talking about Ralphie, who passed away from liver cancer a few years ago.  Kenny said, "Yeah, he was good," and I agreed.  Professor had a picture on his cell phone from three years ago that included a bunch of guys including Kenny, Jake, and Oscar.  People come and go, and time passes quickly.