Recently, Mina wrote a great post about boxing. When we shared boxing stories over beers, she told me I had to write down some of my own boxing stories.
‘I don't know, Mina, they're pretty unexciting.' I said as we downed lemon drop shots while waxing nostalgic. I don't have great Cinderella Jen or Million Dollar Lady stories.
When I think of boxing, I don't think of bouts or gloves raised in triumph. I think of days and days in the gym hitting bags and sweating. That's heaven to me.
I got into boxing because I took a class at the New School in New York. I had considered writing a screenplay about a boxer and I wanted to learn a bit about the physicality of the sport. I never got to the screenplay by the way.
I have never been a sport person. I lack hand/eye coordination. Gym class was hell. I tended to duck away from flying spherical objects coming my way, so I was pretty good at dodge ball but sucked at sports where you actually had to catch the ball. I was tall and awkward and slow. Last one picked for the team, yep, that's me, right here.
When I took the boxing class, I was in my late twenties and not in great shape. I remember one girl asking me how old my kids were. Ouch.
In boxing class, we learned how to wrap our hands, how to stand, what a jab was, what a cross was, what a hook was. Then, we practiced shadow boxing. Then, class was split into three groups. One group shadow boxed, one group worked with the instructor, one group worked on bags.
When our group got to the bags, I went over to a bag hanging innocently on a chain. How am I supposed to do this? It's just a bag. I looked over at my classmates. Some of them had started hitting the bags which were swinging in all directions. Okay, just hit it, I guess.
I jabbed the bag. My glove tapped lightly against the smooth surface of the bag. The bag didn't move. Hmm. Puzzling.
I threw a right cross turning my hips and throwing my weight into it. Pow! This time my glove smacked right into the bag which shook and buckled from the punch.
Wow. That felt great. I really liked that. I was even smiling. I wonder if they'll let me do that again. I looked around. Nobody was stopping me.
I hit the bag again. Pow! Yes, that was good. My arms started glowing. Pow! Pow! Pow! Pow! Pow! I was sweating. My arms felt like jell-o. How long had I been hitting that bag? A minute? Maybe less.
I was spent, but I wanted to hit the bag more and more, over and over. I was happy. I felt powerful like a super heroine. Maybe I was a super heroine.
I joined the gym the boxing class instructor had founded. I had never joined a gym before. I started going three days a week, then four days, then five days. I built up strength and conditioning and continued to hit bags round after round. Go hard for three minutes, then rest for a minute, then the bell rings again.
If I had a bad day, I would go and hit the bags and everything would be okay. Being my uncoordinated self, I have hyper-extended my arm many times---throwing the punch and the bag wasn't there. After awhile, my punches got a great snap to them and could make rhythmic combinations. Snap-Snap, Snap-Snap, Snap-Snap-Snap.
I got into sparring a bit. One time I was in the ring with a 240 pound guy. We were just dancing around. I asked him what I was doing wrong.
‘Jen, you're smaller than me, so you're faster than me. Use your speed.' I had never been faster than anyone, so I used my speed. I ducked, I pivoted, I jabbed fast. That was sweetness.
I remember sparring with this really great guy named Jose. He was 5'7" and built like a tank. He could do forty rounds in the ring with beginners. He was the first one to ever hit me in the head, but it was my own damn fault. I didn't keep my hands up.
One day, I noticed he was forcing the other guys up against the ropes when they sparred. When you're up against the ropes, it's harder to maneuver your way out. He would step forward without necessarily throwing a punch, but the other guy would always step back. When a tank is coming toward you, your natural instinct is to step back.
When I got in the ring, I made a resolution to not give up the center of the ring. The center was my space, and I was going to keep it. When Jose stepped forward, I slipped to the side and threw a combo. Some times, I hit air, but I did not give up the center of the ring.
I haven't put the gloves on and hit bags in a long time, but I still have a pair of blue gloves from Ringside. They have Velcro flaps, so I can put them on and take them off myself. The skin on my knuckles is ragged still from those years of hitting bags, so I guess I'll never be a hand model. Oh well, thems the breaks.