Sunday, November 29, 2015

Creed and Coaching

Creed is part of the long running Rocky movie franchise, but it is different from the rest.  First of all, the main character is not Rocky Balboa, but Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan) who is the son of Rocky's late friend and rival, Apollo Creed.  Adonis has been raised by his stepmom Mary (Phylicia Rashad).  Adonis was bouncing back and forth between foster care and juvenile hall after his mom passed, and Mary took him in.  Adonis walks away from a successful nine-to-five career to box full time.  He approaches Rocky to train him.

The fight scenes and training scenes were well-filmed.  As usual, people from the real boxing world -- Michael Buffer, Tony Bellew, Andre Ward, Max Kellerman, Jim Lampley -- were placed in the movie to give it authenticity.  This movie also proved why boxing movies continue to be made -- boxing is a metaphor for life.  Every character in the movie is fighting for and against something.

I watch boxing training videos on YouTube as much as I can.  I'm always made aware of how I need to constantly improve my coaching methods as well what the students in my classes need to learn.  When I see movies like Creed, I'm inspired even more to be the best coach I can be.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Erica's Killer Ab Workout

My body constantly reminds me that I'm not in as good of shape as I think I am.  While shadowboxing at Loyola Park, my right side kept bothering me.  It didn't start doing that until after I arrived at the gym.  I decided not to spar.

The guys -- Alan, Professor, David, Connor, Sanal, Leon -- sparred.  Connor was hit three times in his right side with hooks by Professor.  Alan told him, "You'd think that after three times, you would cover up!"

Sanal was pawing David most of the time when they sparred.  I wanted to tell him not to do that, but Alan and Leon were talking to him.  David had told Sanal beforehand that he was worried about Sanal throwing wild punches.  "If you go fast, I'll have to go fast, too," David said.

Leon took on Alan.  I watched carefully because Leon is a big, tall guy, and Alan is in his middle sixties.  "I don't want to have to call the hospital,"  I thought to myself.  It appeared that Leon wasn't hitting Alan as hard as he could have.  After two rounds, they were done because Leon was spent.

Erica called everyone into the ring who wanted to do an ab workout.  I scrambled in behind everyone else because I'm tired of people thinking I'm three months pregnant (yep, I've been asked a few times "when is the baby due?").  It was a hard workout of leg raises, ab punches, butterfly kicks, etc.  I've been working out five days a week for the past three weeks.  But it was clear that I need to do more work.

But now it's the holidays, and I've been nipping eggnog every day (not caring about my diabetes for the moment).  I'm still sticking to having meat only once a day, and upping the veggie and fruit content.  But there's not much I can do about getting older and slower other than deal with it and work with it accordingly.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Schooled On Angles

Kathy had been sparring with Erica at Loyola Park when she put her hands up in victory for this funny photo.

Erica was taking on everyone who wanted to spar, including me.  I had to compliment her on hitting on angles.  That's something I never really learned to do well.  She was coming at me from various places, and my old self couldn't keep up.  It put something on my mind -- I need to teach the kids at LaFollette how to work off of angles.

Connor wasn't putting his punches all the way out while sparring with Erica.  "I don't want you to knock her about, but you can hit her," Alan told him.  Erica quickly adjusted to inside fighting in order to deliver hits to Connor's body.  Afterwards, she commented, "Ooh. . .tall people!"  "I know," I laughed.  Erica is about my height.  Connor has to be a little over six feet.

I gave Salen, seen here on the red heavy bag, a quick lesson on wrapping his hands.  I found myself saying the same things I tell the kids at LaFollette.  "Put the loop over your thumb.  Now wrap it around your wrist three times.  Wrap it around your thumb once, then wrap it once again around your wrist to anchor it.  Okay, now wrap it three times around your knuckles.  Good.  From this point on, alternate between wrapping it around your wrist once and then your knuckles once until you get to the end.  Then finish it off at your wrist."

Mary noticed the cuts on Alan's nose from when he sparred with Minh.  "What happened?  Were you fighting?" she asked.  Alan explained about the head gear scraping against his nose.  Then he said, "Hillari hit me."  "Oh, you're gonna put that on me!" I laughed.  It occurred to me that Alan and I haven't sparred with each other for at least two years.  I miss that sometimes.

Jamil came in with his girlfriend.  Hadn't seen him for a long time, and it was very good to see him.  He asked about Ralphie.  Alan and I had to break the sad news that Ralphie passed on three years ago.  "He was the best," Jamil said.  Jamil wants to get back into the gym.  He was working hard when he was there before; it would be good for him to come back to it.

Trash Talking and Registration

There are plenty of professional female boxers that The Ring could have put on its front cover, not just this year, but in years prior.  Laila Ali, Ann Wolfe, Ana Julaton. . . .the list goes on and on.  Instead, Ronda Rousey, a MMA star, gets the cover because she's popular at the moment, and she's interested in boxing.

But then she faced Holly Holm, a former professional boxer who switched over to MMA, most likely because of more pay, and hopefully, more recognition.  Rousey lost in a stunning upset in the second round.  Rousey's usual trash-talking apparently did nothing to intimidate Holm.  I'm not here to bash Rousey.  She is good in her sport of choice.  But most MMA fighters don't have a good hand game or good ring generalship, both of which Holm has.  I'm hoping The Ring magazine -- which has hinted that they may "open the door" to more MMA coverage -- thinks long and hard about giving press to a sport that has nothing to do with boxing.

Now that I have the correct dates for the winter boxing classes, I will put in a request for a flyer to be made.  I'm going to include a line that states I will not take any new students once the winter session passes the halfway mark.  This current fall session is the last time I'm dealing with those who wait several weeks before deciding to sign up.  The less disruptions I have to deal with in the gym, the better.  I'm not a Chicago Public Schools teacher; I don't have to alter my lesson plans to allow students who are behind in their grades to play catch up.

In the case of the adults, it even makes less sense to allow someone to pay their money for a class that is halfway over.  The cost of the class will not be prorated, and the adults will have to turn around in a short time to pay the fee again for the next session.  I'd rather not have to deal with grumbling adults about that.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Two Times, Two Gyms

Today is Veterans' Day, and when the kids are out of school, the field houses are open.  It also means the field houses open and close at different times.   I had to be at work earlier than usual because LaFollette Park was closing earlier.

Only David showed up to train, and he put in nearly an hour and a half of work.  David has been trying so hard to master the speed bag.  He knows how to hit it with one hand at a time, but he's trying to learn how to use two hands to make the bag go faster.  I see his frustration, and I feel for him.  I give him tips to make it easier to get.  But I always remind him that it took me about a year to be able to hit the speed bag like that.

I also ran a slipping drill with him, something that I need to do with all the boxing participants.  David moved around the ring with his hands up, while I came at his head with the punch mitts on.  The object was for David to practice moving his head.  He's also been practicing slips on the cobra bag.

After I got off work, I went up to Loyola Park.  That field house opted to open later in the day, but close at its regular time.  The gym had several people present, then suddenly, they all disappeared.  Only Alan and I were in the room.  Then I realized that all of them had gone into the hallway in order to have room to jump rope.

"Look at my nose," Alan said to me.  A couple of days ago, Alan's nose got scratched while he was sparring.  It didn't happen while he was sparring with his son.  It probably happened during the time he was in the ring with Minh.  Alan continues to use the head gear that looks like a hockey mask in order to protect his eye.  The bars across the head gear must have scraped Alan's nose due to a blow.  When Alan took the head gear off, I noticed he was bleeding, and I pointed it out.  He just looked at me and shrugged his shoulders.  Today, Alan's nose looked more banged up.

"What did Reva say when she saw your nose?" I asked.  "It didn't look that bad the other night, but in the morning, it looked worse.  She gave me trouble about it.  'How old are you? You're a businessman!' she said.  What does one have to do with the other?" Alan said.  I chuckled, but I understood what Reva was talking about.  Alan is a salesman who calls on customers in person.  The customers might wonder, "What's up with this guy's face?"  But I'm sure Alan knows how to handle that. . .

I opted out of sparring again because my knees are still squishy.  I also knew that I would probably be sparring with David again later this week, so I decided to save my strength for that.

Sexism In The Boxing Gym

Coach James, who runs the football, basketball, and baseball programs at the field house, told me he had to defend my honor earlier yesterday.  A man who discovered that the boxing coach is a woman appeared to take offense at that.  "I applied for that job awhile ago!  That job should have been mine!  How they gonna give it to a woman?" the guy said.  Coach James told him that from what he could see, I was doing a good job.  "How can a woman teach men how to box?" the guy told him.

The guy showed up in the gym sometime later, giving me a long skeptical look.  When I told him I had been boxing since 2001, the guy seemed to fumble for a comeback.  Then he did what too many guys do, which is brag about what boxing experience he's had.  Uh-huh.  I learned a long time ago that many confuse briefly taking a few boxing classes before giving up with having a lot of fight experience.  Other people think the amount of street fights and schoolyard rumbles they've had constitute knowing how to box.

I'm used to the sexism in this sport to an extent.  But it irritates me all the same.  The guy offered to send some younger guys over to check out the gym and perhaps sign up for the program.  I appreciated the gesture, but he said, "I plan to volunteer, too."  Based on the guy's earlier comments to Coach James, I'm not so sure I want the guy as a volunteer.

Unfortunately, some men are always looking to undermine a woman's authority everywhere and at all times.  If the guy actually applies to be a park district volunteer and successfully passes the background check, I have a feeling I will have to keep reminding him who is the boss of the gym.  I already have my hands full dealing the kids.  I don't need to also have to explain manners and having respect for others to an adult.

Monday, November 09, 2015

The Guys' Turn To Spar

Lots and lots of sparring went on at Loyola Park.  Most of the guys there sparred; none of the women did.  Unlike last week, I resolved not to be tempted to spar.  I sparred seven times last week, at both Loyola Park and LaFollette Park. My middle-aged frame needed to cool it.

Matthew and Alan sparred.  Matthew also sparred with Leon.

Connor and Professor sparred.

Tony, Leon, and Minh on the gym floor.  Minh sparred with Alan.

Gabe came in, looking well.  He had been working in Hawaii for a few years, and now he's back in Chicago.

Gabby and David watch the action in the ring, while Erica works the heavy bag. David had sparred, too.  The gym was fairly crowded, and a good workout session was had by all.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

No-Go Boxing Show

I should have paid attention to that little nagging feeling in my stomach that something would go wrong today.  According to the calendar of park district boxing shows, Humboldt Park was scheduled to have a show today.  I got down there and nothing was set up.

I called Tommy, who told me the Humboldt Park show had been canceled.  Fuller Park's show was being held instead.  I trudged back up to LaFollette Park and checked my work email.  There was no notification of that show being canceled.  I didn't get anything on my personal email, either.  It was just as well, because I didn't have anyone who showed any great interest in participating in that show.

Plan B was to salvage what was left of the work day.  A woman who had told me a couple of weeks ago about the son of a friend whom she wanted to get into boxing showed up at the gym.  Her friend's son, a sixteen-year-old with a smart-aleck smirk on his face, swaggered into the gym behind her.  "Here we go," I thought to myself.  I had already been told that the kid was a discipline problem at home and at school.  But after talking to the kid, I saw something there that I could possibly work with.  The fall teen boxing class is actually ending this month, not in December as I thought, so the kid will have to wait until January to join the class.  He wondered if there will be others in the class.  I couldn't give him an answer on that one.  But I hope attendance in the teen class picks up in the winter.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Sparring Time With The Girls

The boxing gym at LaFollette was very quiet yesterday.  Only the teen class had any activity.  Darlene, Ben (BJ), and Aylah showed up.  I did a round robin of sparring with the girls.  Ben opted to just do a workout instead of sparring.

Both Darlene and Aylah were apprehensive.  "No, Miss Hillari is going to beat us!" Aylah said.  "Please take it easy on me," Darlene smiled.  I promised to go light on the both of them.  "I'm not wearing headgear or a mouthpiece, so we're all have to go light," I told them.

I was tapping them while encouraging the girls to take harder shots.  I got a lot of taps in which prompted both girls to say,  "Miss Hillari, you're too fast!"  I did two rounds with Darlene, and one round with Aylah.  Then I had the girls spar each other.  Aylah is short and petite, so I advised her to throw more body punches at Darlene.  I told Darlene, who is taller, to keep the shorter girl away with her jabs.

It appears that De-Fetrick has effectively closed the door on himself.  The fact that the athletic cup he used at the Simons Park show hasn't been returned on top of De-Fetrick's lack of sportsmanship that day has forced me to deny him back into the gym.  If he shows up anytime before this fall session ends, I will also inform De-Fetrick that he can't sign up for the boxing program ever again as long as I'm the coach in that gym.  I've been tired of people thinking they can do whatever in the program, and I will make an example of De-Fetrick to prove to everyone that is not the case.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Kettlebells and Hits

I was not going to spar last night at Loyola Park.  My right shoulder was giving me problems, the left side of my upper back was acting up, and both of my knees were jelly.  But two new women in the gym, as seen in the above photo, sparred for the first time.  "You're just hitting each other's gloves," Alan said.  "Hit each other in the face!"  The women giggled, but they did not put more force on their punches.  "That's just pitty-pat.  If you all keeping doing that, I'm going to send Hillari in," Alan continued.  "Okay, I'll go in for a couple of rounds," I said.

"Hillari is actually going to hit you," Alan told both of the women.  I went one round with each woman.  I did get hits in, but I did not put great force on them.  Whenever Alan gave them instructions, I would turn down what I was doing to allow them to execute what he said.  Afterwards, one of the women said, "Sparring is not as scary as I thought it was going to be."

Leon, who neither Alan or I had seen in ages, stopped into the gym.  "I'm ready to do this, man.  I've thought about it, and I want to get back into the ring," he told Alan.  "But aren't you 90 years old?" Alan joked.  Leon insisted that this time, he was actually going to put the work in.  "I'm going to show you," he told Alan.  He promised to come in the next time the gym is open.

I read that Marlen Esparza lost one of the Olympic trial matches to qualify for competing next year.  She put up a video on social media to thank everyone who supported her.  I felt bad for her because she was very disappointed and sad.  It looks like the 2012 Summer Olympics -- where she won a bronze medal -- may be the first the only time she will compete on that level.

I've been observing Erica giving boxing tips to people in the gym.  If she wants to become a coach down the line, I believe that she would be a great one.  I'm also listening when she talks so I can help the kids I coach at LaFollette.

Alan let me use his kettlebell for exercise.  I had to struggle to swing it, and I didn't dare try to lift it over my head.  Alan's kettlebell is twenty-five pounds.  "I have to build up my strength more to do that," I told him.  Eventually I will purchase a few more lighter kettlebells for my gym, because I believe it will help the kids with strength and stamina.