Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Last Of The Year

Yesterday, it looked as if only Alan and I were going to be using the gym at Loyola Park.  But then Ben came in and later, Professor (shown in the photo above).  "Leon is outside trying to park his truck," Professor told us.  Leon never came in, however, so we assumed that he gave up trying to find a spot.  I wanted to tell him that Emmanuel may stop in the gym, now that he knows that Leon has taken up training again.

Kenny had told Alan and I that he will stop in the gym.  Alan told him that he should.  I'm thinking it may be too soon.  The man just buried his dad over the weekend. He needs some time.

Alan was going to have me spar with Ben (shown in the photo), but I had made up my mind earlier in the day not to spar.  It wasn't that I was feeling physically out of it.  The past several days had been an emotional drain with feeling sad about Colonel and watching my stepmother contend with her health issues.  My mind just wasn't into it.

I am looking forward to the beginning of January because I want to see who is going to show up for the first day of boxing class at both Loyola Park and LaFollette Park.  Alan told me he's probably going to need my help because usually, the first day is mobbed with adults.  My 12 years and under class is nearly full.  I know a few of the kids on the list, but the rest are surprises.

Mary gave me some good advice regarding parents who put their kids into boxing in order to prevent them from being bullied.  "It's not a self-defense class. We teach Olympic-style boxing, that's it.  We're not preparing kids to go out and use the skills to just beat up on others," she said.  I will remember that for when the next parent comes to me with that "I want my kid to be tough" line.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Colonel's Day

I attended Colonel's funeral today.  It was a sad affair, as most funerals are.  But one of speakers said he didn't think that Colonel would have wanted anyone to be sad.  I believe that, too.  However, there were many, many tears shed.

As Colonel had been a pilot with the fire department, they were well represented at the funeral.  They took turns standing guard on either side of the casket.  Next to the casket there was a display of pictures.  I saw my name on a piece of paper.  Upon closer inspection, I recognized it as an email I had sent Colonel.  He had asked me to send him copies of some photos I had taken of him at Loyola Park boxing gym.  On the email was a picture of him hitting the heavy bag that I had taken.

Colonel was very good looking as a young man.  There were plenty of photos showing him as a soldier in Vietnam.  A particularly nice picture showed Colonel sitting on a couch with his wife; they made for a very attractive couple.

The person who oversaw the funeral at the funeral home told us near the end that although we'll miss him, we have to let Colonel go.  It was true, but it is still hard for me to come to terms with the fact that someone who was so lively is gone.

Alan drove me home and he said, "Everything starts up again tomorrow."  It will be a short work week.  People will be gearing up to show out for New Year's Eve.  Life goes on.  But a void created when a much loved person makes their transition doesn't close up so easily.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Small Crowd Boxing

A small crowd was at Loyola Park's boxing gym:  myself, Alan, Connor, David, and Jason.  It's often nice to be in a gym when it is not crowded.  I try to convince the kids at LaFollette Park of that when they express concern about there not being enough people there so they can spar.  I figure they'll appreciate having all of the room sometimes when they become older.

Connor and David started off the sparring action.

Alan sounded like boxing analyst Teddy Atlas when he kept telling the men, "Stop posing and move around!"  David actually offered his chin to Connor a few times. Afterwards, Connor stated why he wisely didn't take the bait.  "I figured that I would get caught by something," he grinned at David.

It looks like Connor and I are posing in this photo.  He was moving around just fine.  I kept trying to figure out how to get around his arms.  He would pop me with a straight right followed up with an uppercut to the body.  It was a good combination that kept me off of him.  "I kept thinking, 'I have to keep Hillari on the outside' -- that was my strategy," Connor said afterwards.

Alan doesn't use Facebook very much.  However, I "tag" him in the photos I take, and most of them show up on his page.  "Could you take some photos of me?  I want to do a Facebook thing," he said.

I later posted the pictures on his Facebook page.  "I like the comments I get there on the boxing pictures," he told me.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

A Tough Guy and A Good Guy

I received notice that Colonel (real name, Ken) passed away yesterday.  It is always hard to receive news like that around the holidays.  The last time I saw him in person was at the LaFollette boxing show back in July.  I had heard from a few times via text messages (I have a raggedy cell phone that's not completely reliable).  The last message asked me to call him soon.  I made promises to myself to do so, but I never got around to it.  Now I regret that.

Colonel was a Vietnam war veteran.  He did not go into deep details about his time in the service.  But he said enough to let us know that it was no picnic.  After the service, Colonel joined the Chicago Fire Department where he remained until he retired.  He knew both boxing and martial arts, and he coached both.  Many of us at Loyola Park benefited from his knowledge.

He kept us laughing down at the gym.  The man had plenty of stories to go around.  There were a lot of off-color jokes he said that I wanted to put in this blog, but I couldn't.  But trust me, the jokes were funny.  There were also the stories about how he had to handle his business on people in the street who mistakenly thought Colonel was an easy mark.  He also had good advice, too.  I was helped greatly by his insights after I was unjustly fired from the church I used to work and attend.

What I will remember most is his attitude about his health condition.  It was kept quiet for awhile, but eventually it was revealed that Colonel was dealing with cancer.  Despite of everything, Colonel never let it get him down.  He was still doing his workouts, and just living his life.  Colonel was moving and getting around better than most guys twenty and thirty years younger than he.

I will miss him greatly.

Monday, December 14, 2015

My First Time at Fifty-Four

My first time sparring at age 54 was with Kathy, who is in the photo above.  She continues to improve greatly.  It was not my night, however,  She stepped in, got her punches in and stepped back out.  I was plodding along, spending more time avoiding being hit, than getting punches in.  Alan advised her to keep circling around me, and she did.  I tried backing her into corners, but she was already several steps ahead.

Professor caught David up against the ropes in this photo.  The two men claimed they were going easy, but it looked as if they had gone to war.  They got some good sparring time in.  David continues to improve on his skills.  Later, I heard Professor giving him some more advice.

Leon (on the left in the photo) sparred with Ralphie.  But Ralphie had enough after about a couple of rounds.  Then Leon took on Professor.  Professor held his own against Leon.  Leon threw a hook that missed, because Professor timed it right and avoided it.  "If that had landed, it would have sent him home," Alan commented.  Then Leon hit Professor in the ribs with a hard right hook.  Both Alan and I winched.   "That hurt me," Alan said.  He kept telling Leon to go easy, but Professor wasn't bothered by Leon's swings.

Finally got a new pair of glasses.  I'm showing them off in the photo above.  Since the last pair had been battered many times while I held the punch mitts for the kids at LaFollette Park, I'm going to be extra careful with the new pair.  They will go inside the eye glass case from now on before I put the punch mitts on.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

David vs. Devian

I was waiting at the bus stop yesterday when Kody called to me from the back seat of a car he was riding in.  Turns out his dad was at the wheel.  I got a ride down to the field house.  His dad wanted an honest answer about how Kody was doing in the gym.  "He has a lot of potential, but Kody doesn't work out as much as he should," I explained.  "I know Kody is in there playing with the other kids and goofing around.  You don't have to tell me," his dad said.  Kody was silent. I had the feeling his dad had heard the same report before from Kody's school teacher.  His dad told me he would talk with Kody's mom to see if they will agree to sign him up for the winter.

Later, David got his wish when Devian, a new kid, showed up at the gym.  I was happy that Devian showed up too, because that meant I did not have to spar with David.  Besides, I wanted to see how well David could do against a kid closer to his size.  I also wanted to see more of what Devian already knew, since he told me he regularly boxed with his cousins.

Devian had his chin up in the air too much, and David took advantage of that.  Devian was also taking too long to take action.  "Be first!" I told him, as his mom, David's mom and sister, and Derrick, who showed up early for the teen class, looked on.  David loves to head hunt.  I'm trying to get him to remember to also throw punches to the body.  Both boys had their hands down too often at the wrong times, and they did not use all of the room they had in the ring.

However, Devian threw enough punches to cause David's nose to bleed twice.  I have to give David credit.  He's had his nose bloodied up before, but he never cries, doesn't scream or yell.  He takes it and keeps going.  His mother jumped to attention to clean him up.

Today was one of those slow days when no one comes in to train.  I had a few inquiries about the program, and I washed the hand wraps.  Other than that, it was extremely quiet in the gym.  Once again, I made mental plans as to where I want the two combination speed bag/heavy bags stands that the park district ordered for the gym to be placed.  I smiled to myself when I noted that I might not have to worry about those stands or any other equipment being tampered with during next year's summer day camp.  I learned that the refrigerator in the kitchen on the other side of the gym has to be moved.  There's inadequate ventilation in that room.

That means no kids trampling over the gym area to get their breakfast, lunch and snacks during summer day camp.  That will certainly ease my mind, as well as save my vocal cords from screaming at the kids all day.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Birthday Boxing

Today was my birthday, and I received warm hugs from David, his cousin Darlene, and David's mom.  Darlene showed up earlier than usual, so she and David sparred.  My Spanish is not that good, but I could pick out that David's mom was telling both him and Darlene to be serious while they were in the ring. The kids were giggling throughout the three rounds they sparred.

Kody came in, but as usual, not much of a workout was done.  "I've been in boxing two years, right?" he asked me.  "No, it's been less than a year," I answered.  Then Kody pointed out that he had been signed up a few sessions before along with his brother Kyle and his cousin Deshaun.  It still hasn't been two years, just a little over a year.

A new kid who is signed up for the the winter session came in, and he has some skills.  He explained that he had been boxing from time to time with one of his cousins who boxes.  It did not take him long to get the concept of the punches.  Now all I have to do is help fine tune the skills he has.

I met the person who is the head of the area where the field house sits in.  "So you are the only female boxing coach with the park district?" she said.  She wants to come by sometime and observe the class.  I hope there are enough participants during whatever time she stops in so she can get a good idea of what goes on.

Monday, December 07, 2015

Admonished and Popped

Kathy shadowboxes shortly after her and I sparred.  She has shown vast improvement.  I was moving my head, and I managed to duck under some of her punches.  But I couldn't avoid all of the punches, however.  Kathy popped me straight in my nose and left me stunned.  If there had been just a fraction more of power behind that punch, comedian Chris Tucker would have been standing over me yelling, "Hillari, you just got knocked the 'eff out!"

Professor got a blast in on David in this photo.  But David is improving.

David was whopping on Ralphie as this photo was being shot.

Over the weekend, I met up with my oldest friend, Clintonia, whom I've known since Kindergarten.  Once again, she admonished me when I told her I had been sparring with the kids at my gym.  "Hillari, no!  Just no!  You don't need to end up with brain damage!  You could get a better job than being a boxing coach," she said.  I keep trying to explain the world of boxing to her, but she's not convinced that any of it is good.  She keeps trying to convince me to go back to substitute teaching.  I like working with kids in the boxing gym.  I gave up being a sub because I didn't like working with kids in regular classrooms.  Too much stress, frustration and unnecessary drama.  I respect teachers, but I don't ever want to do their job again.

"But you're not making money there," she said.  I admit that if I was working full-time at the hourly rate I get at the field house, I would be a little better off financially.  But it's not always about money.  Sometimes it's about enjoying doing what you like and being satisfied with that.