Saturday, February 26, 2011

The score on boxing

I can’t believe my month of boxing is at an end. You know when something is on your brain and it suddenly seems like everywhere you go or look that thing is there? That has been February for me and boxing. Seriously, I was hearing boxing references, seeing boxing links, and reading boxing stories everywhere! Maybe it’s because Marky-Mark’s movie The Fighter has been getting rave reviews. (Side note: On an interview I heard the other morning, Mike Tyson said that unless Mark Wahlberg had the Funky Bunch with him, Marky-Mark alone could not defeat Tyson in a boxing match. I love morning radio!)

As this is my final post on boxing, but my first “score” post, let me break it down for you. I’ve developed a highly sophisticated Injured Player Scorecard. ;) The score is based on nine categories that are rated on a 1 to 5 scale; this month you’ll see boxing gloves. The more gloves you see the better the rating for the category.

But first, here are a few pointers to consider if you’re wondering if boxing is for you:
  • Love the cool factor? Let’s be honest. You tell someone you’re a boxer and your street cred is sure to go up.
  • Want to build your confidence and feel safe walking alone? Whether or not it’s true, I definitely felt like I could kick some butt every time I left the gym. Even when I was shadow boxing at home trying to get my technique right I felt tougher.
  • Although boxers have a support system – coaches for example – it is a solitary sport. You’re the only one in the ring after all. Undoubtedly you meet people that love the sport, but it’s not like joining a team where you have instant friends.
  • Boxing is a game of strategy (and moxie). Even if you don’t get into the ring to fight, practicing gives you an opportunity to work through different scenarios and decide how best to respond. The sport challenges you both mentally and physically.
Want to try it for yourself? If you’re not in Victoria and can’t get to Capital City Boxing, click here for a site listing various boxing clubs across Canada.

Now for the debut Injured Player Scorecard!

Next month's sport TBD. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A cold night away from the ring

It’s my last official week of boxing. I can’t believe it’s been a month already. Wednesday is usually the day during the week when I hit the gym, and then again on the weekend. But, by Victoria standards we got a snowstorm and so I’m home-bound tonight. Don’t believe me? That's me on the way into work.

Because I’m having a snow day, I thought I’d take some time to learn a bit more about the sport, and have some fun. Here are two videos I found via friends that are on YouTube.

This one is a great example of what would surely happen if I was ever able to get into a real boxing match. (Seriously, I’ve got dance moves that could rival this guy!)

This video shows where I’m headed with my boxing career – MTV’s Cribs. (I just need to get a few more photos of myself to post around the house.)

The MTV video is of Manny Pacquiao. He’s a professional boxer from the Philippines and an eight-division world champion (according to my favorite source, Wikipedia). Watching Pacquiao made me wonder about weight categories, because he seems quite small (not like the big boxers I usually imagine). I’ve never really paid much attention to the sport, so all boxers seemed the same to me. In reality, there are all kinds of weight categories and titles to win. In the 2012 Olympics there will be the following categories:

•    Women’s fly weight 51kg
•    Women’s light weight 60kg
•    Women’s middle weight 75kg
•    Men’s light fly weight 49kg
•    Men’s fly weight 52kg
•    Men’s bantam weight 56kg
•    Men’s light weight 60kg
•    Men’s light welter weight 64kg
•    Men’s welter weight 69kg
•    Men’s middle weight 75 kg
•    Men’s light heavy weight 81kg
•    Men’s heavy weight 91kg
•    Men’s super heavy weight +91kg

For Canadian girls like me who only talk in pounds and just love to share our weights with the world, I did a wee bit of calculating and figure I would be a women's light weight (-60kg)… if I bulk up! Famous boxer Muhammad Ali was rated as a heavy weight (but his 1960 gold medal was in the light heavy weight category). Lennox Lewis won the gold for Canada in 1988 as a super heavy weight (a category that didn’t exist prior to ’84). Because 2012 will be the first time women fight in the Olympics since forever, I can’t say who will win in what category. But you can bet I’ll be paying attention this time around.

See you soon for my final boxing post.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Smells like a fighter

I buried my hands in saffron, disguised them over smoking tar, helped the honey gatherers...

The words from Michael Ondaatje’s poem “The Cinnamon Peeler’s Wife” keep coming to mind every time I get home from the Hit to Fit gym. Because I’m investing only one month in boxing – at least for now – I am not buying my own equipment. I borrow gloves from the communal glove bin instead, aptly named the “stink box.” After I’m done my workout there is a unique aroma that I can’t seem to wash free from my skin. Maybe I don’t look like a fighter yet, but I sure smell like one!

But enough about that. Let’s talk boxing. This morning I had the ultimate opportunity – Sandy, owner of Capital City Boxing/Hit to Fit and the original Hit Girl, was at the gym and she offered to give me some tips. Her passion for the sport comes through clearly in how she describes it. As she told me, boxing isn’t about hitting a punching bag, but rather about strategy. Can you get punched and not flee, but instead strike back having identified your opponent’s weakness? Can you anticipate your opponent’s reaction and outsmart her?

Sandy talked me through the importance of getting your jab correct. That is to say, fast. The energy it takes to get a jab to the bag repeatedly exhausts me, let alone the energy it takes to do it correctly. But it’s important to know how to jab – it sets your distance from your opponent. (Glad I’m not up against Sandy, because her reach is longer than mine.) She explained that although the jab is a fighter’s weakest punch, it’s also the punch that gets used most often. Sandy likened the jab to a pawn in a game of chess; it’s not the most powerful piece, but it’s crucial in establishing your strategy and feeling out your opponent.

She who has the fastest jab is more likely to win the match. With a fast jab the fighter can land a punch and get her glove back to protect her body. After jabbing, the fighter can also create an opportunity to land a stronger punch like the straight right, which is powered from your foot, up through your legs, and into a strong hit. In essence, you find a way to get in a combination like jab-jab-jab, straight right, left hook, straight right, jab.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Train like a boxer

Agility. Endurance. Accuracy. Today I went to Hit to Fit for the second time this week. While I love the circuit, because I get a full body workout, I have to admit that my favourite part is when I get to the punching bags. Not because it’s easier. It’s definitely not.

“You don’t play at boxing, like you do some other sports”: Those are the words of 23-year-old UK Olympic hopeful Katie Taylor I came across in a Telegraph article. I’m starting to understand what she means (well, I think I am). It's work. There's no time to play around because you always have to be in the moment.

Throwing a punch is technical and it forces me to think quickly and move even faster. On Tuesday night I focused on my first-ever “combo”:

Jab-Jab-Jab. / Straight right. / Left hook. / Straight right. / Jab.

After two minutes of the same combo my left shoulder was crying. My left arm did most of the work, which is weak. But I definitely started to get over my “do I look like I’m trying to hard?” worries. Now I can focus more on learning and starting to get it right.

Today I spent some extra time at the end of the circuit with one of the trainers who has been helping me improve my technical skills. The photo shows me practicing uppercuts on a wall mounted bag. The slightly posed looking photo (ok, it was a pose, but it needed to be to get the camera to focus) shows how an uppercut punch should be landed. Each new punch or combo adds a new complication that I need to get my head around. Some part of you is always moving, and it’s usually not in isolation. How you connect with the target is part one. How you move after you hit the target is part two. What are your legs doing? Your arms? Your hands? Ready to hit again?

The last stop in my circuit was what I believe is called a double end bag. According to a sale site, the double end bag is designed to train boxers “for rhythm, hand-eye coordination, and establishing punching distance.” It’s really hard because the bag moves after it’s hit. I’ll try to get some video footage for next week so you can see what I mean.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Boxing – Take One

I survived boxing, week one. I ventured to Capital City Boxing, an unassuming gym tucked away in a corner of the city I don’t often go to. The owner (who I understand is a woman) started a training program called Hit to Fit. The circuit – consisting of challenging strength, agility, and cardio exercises – takes 30 minutes to complete, and the final couple of minutes are always boxing related.

I got to hit a punching bag for the first time in my life. Fun, right? Here’s the thing. When it comes to something new that I’m doing on my own, I can be shy. For those who know me, that might be a shock. The point is I didn’t go in with gusto. Ironic, given boxing is all about moxie. If I don’t remain worried that I look like I’m trying too hard, I will probably get something out of this.

But in fairness, it was only week one. I’m starting something new and it will take time. Here are a few things I did learn:
  1. As a dominant right-handed fighter, you stand with your left foot forward.
  2. You always keep your hands up to guard your face, but you don’t turn your hands palm in toward your face – the palms face each other.
  3. A 1-2 combo starts with a jab – thrown straight out with your left hand – and a straight right – thrown with your right hand.
Since I’m not in “boxing school,” I won’t be in the ring. But, that’s no reason not to learn the rules of the fight. I’ll leave you with this cool site that explains how points are given, what’s legal, and what’s illegal.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Boxing, really?

I do not punch. I am a trained kicker. But when I began thinking about what sports I would like to try, boxing kept coming up. It’s not a sport you typically put your overactive toddler in. If you were raised in a quiet little farm community like me, you probably also mentally link boxing to hard knock stories depicting kids from the streets making good by getting their fight out in the ring. So you might be asking me, “Boxing, really?”

Female boxing is definitely on the rise. Think back to Girl Fight or Million Dollar Baby. You know something is catching on once Hollywood starts telling the story. In fact, the upcoming 2012 Summer Olympics mark the first time female boxing will be an official sport since 1904.

If you believe Boxing Canada, it’s the incredible physicality of the sport that’s drawing women, and the undeniable results. “As these great benefits of a boxer's training program became more widely known, fitness programs were designed for the general public using boxing club facilities and equipment, and conducted by certified boxing coaches,” states the website. It seems to have worked for Hollywood. Look how toned Hillary Swank got. How tough Michelle Rodriquez became. (Ok, she was already tough.)

It seems that everything I read, including local news coverage, is hyping the sport. So I thought, why not give it a try? Honestly, I’m nervous. Not because I think I'll get hit, I'm not jumping straight into a fight, but because I have a feeling it's going to test limits I didn't know I had. I’ve seen YouTube videos with snippets of boxer-inspired circuit training. It looks intense. But it’s worth a shot. (I mean punch. :P)