Tag Archives: sparring

10 Days to Go!

As I was catching up on blog-related notifications this evening, I happened to look over at the sidebar to see this:

Screen shot 2013-01-14 at 10.22.02 PM

Up until now, I’ve been counting down to the show using weeks: “Three weeks left, to the day!” “Two weeks from tomorrow!” A week is about to be too big of a unit, as we drop into the remaining single-digit days. In no time, we’ll be getting this show on the road.

I love the atmosphere in the gym right now, as several of us are training for ACFN 6 together. Believe you me, we’re working hard in there. The final stages of preparation are upon us, consisting of sparring (much like last time) and then resting (also like last time). What is different for me at this particular stage is my mental state. That, and the fact that I’ve improved a lot in the last six months. But really, the mental game is more important for me right now.

Last time, I doubted myself way before I ever stepped into the ring, without even noticing that I was doing it. I figured I had good confidence because I told myself things like: “I’m going to win!” However, I undermined fluffy statements like that by repeating other things to myself while working out: “I just can’t land a clean punch” or “I’m too tired” or “I always freeze up.” Newsflash: I don’t have to freeze up, but I probably will if I’ve already surrendered to that tendency. (Does that make sense? It makes perfect sense to me—now.) Last time, I thought I had great confidence. Then the first bell rang on Fight Night… and things went downhill from there.

Right now, at the beginning of the last week of training (wow), I have to say that I feel pretty darn good. I’m excited. I’m working hard and enjoying it. Today, I sparred a mediocre couple of rounds because I kept looking away as I slipped punches, which kept me from seeing the follow-up punches. But you know what? I’ll go back in tomorrow, sharper and eyes wide open.

I’m bringing my A game to this show. Not because I mistakenly think I’m the world’s best boxer, but because I know that I can stay relaxed and go in there with the confidence to do what I do every day in training. (Which is cut lips and make noses bleed. Ha, ha! Okay, so I’m exaggerating—that doesn’t happen every day. But they did both happen last week.) I’m not underestimating my opponent or the pressure of the show, but I’m sure as heck not going to underestimate myself, either.

Let’s do this. If you haven’t bought your tickets, you can snag some online or ask me about hard copy tickets (cash or check made out to “Atlanta Corporate Fight Night”). I’m carrying around $25 and $50 tickets, but I can get the snazzier ones from my trainer if you ask me. I’d love to see you there!

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Sparring with Leaden Limbs

Why do I love sparring so much, when a single round can feel like torture?

Last Saturday, I had an opportunity to spar with a girl from another gym who was visiting DBC with her trainer. “Wanna spar with her?” Terri asked me. My response, as always: “Yes!” I love sparring. Anytime, with anybody.

I geared up and headed into the ring. I was exhausted from the preceding week of parent-teacher conferences, but I felt confident that I could keep up my energy level for sparring. I was excited to work with someone new and to test myself against her abilities.

Well, that didn’t last long. Not even a minute into the first round, I felt like my body was made out of lead. Where was the energy I thought I had? I let this girl pummel me while I walked (yes, walked) around the ring, coming straight in to throw ineffective punches. What I meant to do was attempt my own offense. What I did was walk into hers. “Let me get right in front of you so that you can reach me better!”

What the heck? I have a lot more skill to show than that.

I thought I was physically and mentally done for after the first round, but my trainer had said to go for two rounds. I went back in for more of the same: being slow and getting hit. At the end of that second round, I was more discouraged than I’ve ever been after sparring. I teared up as I listened to Terri tell me everything I needed to hear and learn. Things that I “know” in my head. Things that seem simple enough… (Until someone knocks them out through your ears.)

Though I have so much to learn and cement, I do have a good foundation to work from. This girl I sparred with didn’t outclass me with experience or skill. In fact, I’d say we were pretty even. Nonetheless, I felt like the lowliest loser after those two rounds. I didn’t perform half as well as I could have. My whole face hurt and I was plain exhausted. If I thought I had nothing to give in the first minute of the first round, then I was in the negative after two full rounds. (Three minutes, people. It’s a long time.)

I thought I was done. Toast. As Terri and I watched another couple spar, she told me that “the next two rounds” would be about going in and controlling the pace by using my defense. For some reason, I thought these “next two rounds” she spoke of were metaphorical—like, “next time you spar” or “next time you feel overwhelmed by an opponent.” The idea of actually sparring another round was so foreign that it didn’t even cross my mind. It was plain to see, tears running down my face, that I was finished. Right?

Wrong. I’d taken off my headgear, gloves and everything when Terri called me back to the ring.  I have often cried after sparring, but I had never sparred after crying. I didn’t know if I could handle it. I was afraid of embarrassing myself badly by being a big baby. (Ah, alliteration. Did you know I’m an English major?)

I did my darndest to focus on what my trainer told me to do. Defense. Stay outside. I willed my legs to move around a little faster. I was able to keep out of her reach better, and got in a couple of my own punches here and there. Don’t think that I suddenly started dominating, but at least I wasn’t getting bullied around like before. We sparred two more rounds, for a total of four.

Though I was sucking for air when the bell finally ended the fourth round, I was really proud of myself. I sparred two rounds of misery, where I let myself down. I was ready to chalk it up to a sucky day, but instead went back in for two more rounds—in which I still sucked, but much less.

Yes, I was proud of surviving, but still shaken. Why didn’t I do a better job?

Part of it was because I was already spent before walking into the gym that morning. On Thursday night, I stayed up late to finish progress reports and went to bed in time to catch two hours of sleep. On Friday, I had eight parent-teacher conferences, which meant I put in an 11-hour work day (again). The whole week was draining, so I had good reason to be tired on Saturday.

However, there’s more to it than that: I “got mental.” My boxing switch was switched off, and I couldn’t figure out how to flip it back on. This is going to be the key. How do I keep from freezing up (mind) and turning to lead (body) in certain circumstances?

Usually when I flub like this, I give up control and that’s it. It’s over. Saturday was the first time that I took back some of that control and attempted to salvage the situation. In my second two rounds, I was able to focus on my trainer’s instructions and mostly follow them. However, when she started yelling for more punches, I “couldn’t” do it. So I still have a ways to go—but I knew that already. I’m well aware of the fact that I have a lot to learn. Setting technical skill aside, what I really need to learn is how to believe in myself.

crying boy credit, paper stack credit

Paul Murphy Boxing Club Title Belt Tournament 2012 (Part 1/3)

As I put it when I emailed my mom a ridiculously long account of this tournament, this is my Labor Day Weekend Boxing Story.

Towards the end of July, my trainer told me about an upcoming tournament. “Wanna fight in it?” Heck, yes. I knew absolutely nothing about it, but that was okay. My only concern was to make sure that it didn’t conflict with work. A fellow boxer in the gym sent me a link with more information (here) about the Paul Murphy Boxing Club Title Belt Tournament 2012 (what a mouthful). It would be held August 31st through September 2nd.

Remember how I lost about 18 pounds for ACFN 5? Well, I gained 8 of them back over the summer, eating whatever yummy things I pleased. As Terri and I sat down to dinner at a Mexican place after training one night, she said: “We need to get your weight down again. Let’s get closer to 119.” So I went back on my diet, eating mostly fruit but also cheating a lot. (Eating fruit is fine, because I love fruit, but I sure do miss crunchy things like crackers, pretzels, croutons and other snacks.)

I began training with this specific tournament in mind. The focus was to speed me up (to think less) and improve my defense. Training went up and down, of course. The first time that I worked a few rounds of defense was frustrating, because I kept getting hit and wasn’t allowed to hit back. The second time, I did a little better. The third time, I started to enjoy it.

I also did a lot of speed drills, either on the bags or when shadowboxing. Whenever I thought that I was going as fast as humanly possible, my trainer would come alongside me and starting punching about twice as fast as me. How’s that for motivation!? The other day, I stumbled across this clip of her working pads:

Well, I’m not quite that good yet. Yet!

The first time I sparred after the summer, I felt like the rustiest, slowest old thing on the planet. It stunk. After that, I sparred with an experienced southpaw for the first time. That stunk, too. I realized that I needed to adjust my attitude when working with boxers who are 500 times more skilled than I. Previously, I felt like I had to try and “best them,” and that just wasn’t going to happen. I would only come away feeling like I hadn’t accomplished anything. Instead, I needed to focus on practicing a particular set of skills with them. For instance, consistently moving to the left while constantly sticking my jab out to keep her from getting set. That was certainly a goal within my reach. Thinking this way helped me learn something from each sparring session. (And I’m only talking about sparring sessions, here. If it were an actual fight, I’d have different expectations, regardless of my opponent’s experience level.)

So, there were days when I felt like there was no way I’d be ready for the tournament. And, there were days when I felt really good and excited about the chance to get another fight. Whether I’d had a “good” day or a “bad” day, the bottom line was that I was happy to be back in the gym after being away for so long. Milana and Ronda (two gals from the gym) also went to the tournament, so we did a lot of our work together.

Our last day of training and sparring was the Tuesday before the tournament. I sparred a few rounds with Milana and a few rounds with Ronda. Sparring with Ronda was a good way to end the session because she gave me a real good chance to practice my technique, and kept up a  running commentary to help me out. For the rest of that week, I rested after work instead of coming into the gym.

According to their promotional material, the weigh-in for the tournament was on Friday, at a hotel from noon until 8 pm. That morning, I had the prescribed half-a-banana with some black coffee, which I got from the teacher’s lounge. (I don’t drink coffee, don’t know how to make it and don’t like it.) After that, I didn’t drink or eat anything.

That day was our first field trip of the year. When I got home, I was pooped from shepherding 22 kids safely off campus and back again. (God bless helpful parent chaperones.) The trip was to a local book fair. My favorite part was that we got free books; the kids’ favorite part was that they got to ride on a bus! It’s always fun to break out of our regular daily routine, but it’s also plain tiring. I considered taking a nap after school, but decided not to. When I got home, I was down to 123 lbs—three pounds lighter than that morning. I cackled with delight. Haven’t been that light since before college, at least.

While I waited for my trainer to pick me up, I worked on reading the fourth Harry Potter book. A note on Mr. Harry Potter: I read the first book shortly after it came out, but didn’t read on. Now I’m reading the whole series so that I can catch up with the rest of my generation and so that I can see what all the fuss is about. I’m mostly enjoying the books, but I really don’t get why they’re so popular. (Don’t worry, I’ve already been assured that I’m both heartless and a HEATHEN—yes, an all-caps HEATHEN. My friends’ opinions of me have plummeted as of late.)

Back to boxing. After Terri picked me up, we picked up Milana and headed to Doraville. We got to the hotel rather late (but before 8 pm), only to find out that it wasn’t a weigh-in at all—it was just registration. Instead of having athletes weigh in before the competition began, they would have weigh-ins at 8 am each morning of the tournament. Well, shoot. Milana and I had dried out for nothin’. We drank water and ate fruit.

Though it wasn’t a weigh-in, you were supposed to indicate your weightclass on the registration form. They had a scale set up out in the hall, so we checked where we were. I was at 126 lbs with clothes on, so Terri told me to enter myself as 130. It turned out that the closest class was 132 lbs, so I had plenty of wiggle room.

Milana and I waited in line to register with our forms, passbooks and $20 each. (I was surprised and pleased that entry was so cheap.) The room was full of people sitting around. Mostly men, though I saw a few women, too. I kept my eye out for girls who might be my weight. When we got to the registration table, we handed in our forms and passbooks, signed an extra paper (I don’t even know what it was), gave them $20 and got wristbands that we were to keep on for the duration of the tournament. The wristband had the words “Pit Pass” on it, with pictures of race cars. I thought that was funny.

We sat down and waited, like everybody else. What were we waiting for? A man holding a stack of passbooks came into the room and called out names, telling those people to go see the doctor. Aha, we were waiting for our pre-fight physicals. Hopefully it wouldn’t take too long…

When our names were finally called and the man handed us our passbooks, we followed his directions to a separate room down the hall. This room was full of people waiting, too. Chairs were set up in rows, and every single seat was filled. There were also people standing along the back wall, all waiting to see the doctor. Note that: the doctor, singular. You’re telling me that you’re planning a tournament for over 500 boxers and you only hire one doctor? I don’t know if that one doctor had been there since noon, or if they split up the hours. I hope she didn’t work all day, because she was there until well after 8 that night.

At the front of the room there was a long table. At one end, a guy in a “SECURITY” shirt checked each person’s blood pressure. The doctor was standing at the other end of the table, checking boxers after they got their blood pressure readings.

We waited in this room for about an hour. When someone was called up to check their blood pressure, each person shifted one chair to the left. When you got to the end of one row, you started over at the beginning of the row in front of you. I’m glad Milana and I were sitting together, because otherwise I would’ve fallen asleep. Ronda had gotten there earlier, so she was several rows ahead of us. I was definitely wishing that I’d taken a nap after work. You could tell that everyone, both officials and athletes, just wanted to get out of there.

Milana pointed out people that she recognized from ACFN 5 and from the Georgia Games, but I didn’t recognize any of them. I did recognize one guy that she didn’t, but I wasn’t sure from where. I also saw a chick who looked like she was exactly the same size as me.

When it was finally my turn, I got my blood pressure checked and the “SECURITY” guy wrote down my numbers in my passbook. They were slightly high, which surprised me because I had “perfect” numbers a year ago. Then I stood and waited for the people in front of me to get to the doctor, while Milana’s blood pressure was taken. The doctor checked me, and I was a-okay.

Once Milana’s physical was done, we left as quickly as we could. By then, it was past 10 pm. We headed toward a Chinese restaurant to get food, but it was closed. Instead, we went to a Malaysian place that was open until 11. I had a delicious Thai lettuce wrap: a bunch of yummy chicken served with lettuce and peanut sauce. (Peanuts improve quality of life. Unless you’re allergic to them.) I also had at least three large glasses of cold water. I was in heaven.

I got home around 11:30 that night and got to bed at midnight. It was much later than I’d anticipated, and I fell asleep very quickly. I was too tired to have any jitters. I just wondered whether or not I would have a fight the next day…

All night, I had crazy boxing dreams. The one I remember the best was about Milana boxing an eight year-old girl (I’m guessing) that I saw at the weigh-in, without gloves and in pajamas. In the dream, Milana and I were both shocked, but Terri acted like it was completely normal. “Just go box!” she told Milana. I watched from beside the ring. I went over to Terri to ask why they weren’t using gloves, and she said it was because they hadn’t had their blood drawn. Then she stuck a syringe into my arm and drew my blood, so that I’d get to use gloves in my fight. Luckily, none of that came true.

The other dream that I remember well was that I decided to go for a 3-mile run about an hour before my fight. Half-way through the run, I got really tired and thought: “Oh no! That was stupid! Terri’s not going to be happy about this…” That dream didn’t come true, either.

To see what did happen the next day, stay tuned! (Hint: It did involve running. Just not 3 miles.)

calendar photo credit, school bus photo credit, race car photo credit, stethoscope photo credit