Friday, November 30, 2007

Jersey City Fight Club

At work, some of the other editors and I have formed the Jersey City Fight Club--Jersey City because that's where we are (viewed from Manhattan in photo above), and it sounds so much better than wimpy names like "Manhattan Fight Club." Occasionally on Friday afternoons, we get together at the gym downstairs, and I lead them through shadow boxing and a bag workout.

The feedback is very clear. Ben, Gen-Y-er who did some boxing for fitness a few years back, said after the first one that he couldn't lift his arms the next day. Linda, my boss's boss, said her arms hurt until the following Tuesday. Alecia started picturing her prior publisher in her mind as she was punching the bag...and shortly afterwards her hands started hurting.

Clearly, I'm doing something right.

Today was supposed to be one of our days, but there was just too much work--I couldn't break away. I ended up working a bit late.

I was disappointed--a bag workout is a great stress reliever--but it's probably good to take a day off.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Is It Wednesday Yet? (II)

I hadn't taken class for a week, due to Thanksgiving, travel, struggles to get elderly parents to face up to their eroding independence, work, etc. etc. etc. A sad and somewhat stressful Thanksgiving along with the joy of seeing family.

Tonight, another Wednesday, another sparring class. I was nervous about it ahead of time, so much time off. But I read a little in The Ultimate Boxer, and came up with some moves to work on in sparring, which relieved my anxiety. I hoped my buddy Larry of The Family That Fights Together would be there.

So much fun. I'm still only boxing in sparring, not kicking/being kicked due to my ACL recovery. Larry was my first sparring partner. I sparred really well with him, I was able to anticipate his moves, I moved well, I found openings to hit him.

Another partner was young (20s), strong, fast Mario. I was mostly able to keep him at bay and land some punches, but he did really stun me with a fast three-punch combination--very nice.

I also sparred with a black belt who's a bit older than me. I noticed I could draw out his right hand with my jab, so I would use that info to throw a cross, and I also got a right-hand hook to his head. One time he really got me with a hook to the head. "Did I drop my hand?" I asked. His great answer: "No, I'm really good."

After a few more people, back to Larry. This time, I did terrible. I found myself moving straight back--something you don't want to do. Then I tried holding my ground, and he just pounded on me. I was thinking, maybe I'm too tired to move, maybe I'm thinking too much.

Talked with Larry afterward. He said the first round with him I totally read him--at one point I got him with a really good hook punch to the head (we do use helmets and we don't go all out). He was very frustrated.

So the next round with me he changed his tactics. Instead of boxing, he just went full out to put pressure on me, advancing and punching relentlessly--and it worked. I was so glad he told me, I knew he had changed something but I couldn't figure it out. Instead of moving to the side, I moved back, etc.

So much fun. As I always say, it's like a very primal chess game.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Is It Wednesday Yet?

I'm really enjoying the boxing/kickboxing classes on Wednesday. I'm still (until February) only doing boxing, not kickboxing, to allow my knee to continue recovering from ACL reconstruction surgery. But the silver lining is my hand work and body movement really needed much more work than my kicking, so now I get to work on them in spades.

One thing I'm looking for: When I'm facing a banger, I look for him to set, and then I move to the side. I realized it even works a bit against Gumba Frank. He's great at keeping distance, and a fabulous counter-puncher. But when he wants to come in for the attack, he plants himself--and that allows me to move to the side and out of his line of attack.

A couple teens in my class (who are a minority on Wednesday night) have gotten bigger, stronger and better than before I had my ACL injury, which is cool to see. I was boxing a bit with a boy who's in my daughter's Spanish class, he's improved so much, it's wonderful.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Sleep, Weight

I expected that when I started exercising regularly, my weight would drop back to the 190-pound area where I was when I was in peak condition.

However, my weight has remained steady or, if anything, climbed just a bit. I weighed in this morning at 197.5 pounds. In my school's tournaments, that would put me in the division right below heavyweight, which is 205 pounds and up; in most kickboxing organizations, it would be called "cruiserweight" or "super cruiserweight."

Given that I'm sweating buckets with every martial arts class, I'm hoping that at least part of the weight gain is from new muscle as a result of the private gym sessions, complete with resistance/weight training, I've been getting. I'm not lifting super heavy weights for large muscles, but smaller weights at high repetitions, which I think would be more appropriate for kickboxing. The focus is also to bolster some muscles in my back that aren't getting workouts with things like push-ups.

It's not like I haven't been training. I trained twice a day for a couple of the days I was off from work this week.

One sign, I guess, of hard work is that when I can sleep as late as I want, my sleep time is increasing to nine hours from eight, even when I think I've gotten enough sleep during the week.

I can't, given my schedule, sleep for nine hours work nights. That would mean getting home at about 7, then going to sleep at 9:00--a full two hours at home and awake. I don't think so. And on nights I go to martial arts class, it would mean dropping off to sleep with 15 minutes left in class. Nope.

Thursday, November 8, 2007


Last night, at kickboxing, I think I made a mental breakthrough. I wasn't just throwing punches; I was looking for weaknesses in my opponents, and coming up with plans to attack them.

I think this stems directly from my new sensei pointing out a weakness last week in my own sparring--he said that, in sparring (unlike shadow boxing), I wasn't pulling my jab right back to protect my head, I was letting it drop then pulling it back. (I'm not kicking or being kicked in my sparring sessions yet, due to my ACL operation and recovery since March, only boxing.) Indeed, my buddy Larry, of the Family That Fights Together, caught me once because I did dropped my hand after my jab again.

But it occurred to me that, if others could look for openings in my defense, I could look for openings in theirs.

I sparred with a red belt named Jay who I realized had a habit of blocking my jab with his left hand far in front of his face. This left an opening for me to throw my right over his arm as it was extended blocking my jab. So I would either jab and quickly throw the right over his hand, or I would fake the jab and even more quickly throw the right cross. It worked.

When sparring with Larry, I made sure to move a lot--as soon as I saw him set, I'd move to the side. This didn't always work, but sometimes it did leave him swinging in the air. But I also saw that he was carrying his left hand a little low. It wasn't low enough that I could just, say, throw a short cross and catch him--I tried and that didn't work. So I tried something suggested on The Contender by trainer Pepe Correa: double jab to the head, bend the knees a bit to jab to the body, and then from that position throw an overhand right to the head.

It worked perfectly. I was thrilled.

Nonetheless, Larry is quite a tough opponent, and he at one point had me backing up in a straight line (not a good thing to do). Also, moving back in that way puts some pressure on my knee. Larry does have good control and he eases up when necessary.

I want to note here that we're not punching anything near full force, and we wear headgear.

One other maneuver I used: I was sparring with my fellow brown belt Elizabeth, who was throwing body punches. You can't (or I can't, anyway) move out of the way of body punches, so I just clinched, which I don't think she expected. (In my school's kickboxing, you can throw knees, so clinches aren't really that safe, but we weren't using legs.) I think she actually cracked up when I clinched.

Pictured above: Ricky Hatton and Joe Calzaghe, Britain's greatest boxers currently. Why do I love these guys? Because (and this photo doesn't really do them full justice) they are every bit as pale skinned as I am. I was wearing shorts in the summer, and my old sensei told me he thought I was wearing long white pants.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Across The Universe

On Saturday, my wife, daughter and I saw "Across the Universe," the movie using Beatles songs to stitch together a narrative about some young people during the tumultuous 60s. It was fabulous. The voices were wonderful; the interpretation of the songs was fresh and eye-opening: "I Want To Hold Your Hand" was done as a song of heartbreak and unrequited love, rather than a song of wooing; "Let It Be" sounded so natural as a Gospel song, with church choir and everything, that you can hardly believe it wasn't written that way. The story in the movie was a bit two-dimensional, but because it was so tied to the music, I really didn't mind.

The soundtrack is the top-downloaded movie music on iTunes.

I've tried to spend a little time outside. I went for a brief walk on the board walk in a nearby town--very cold however!

I also went for a walk with my camera this evening. I realized that so often fall comes and goes, and I suddenly realize I've missed the leaves. I think it's related to the way we spend our time driving, or commuting to work, or working long hours. I didn't get much time outside, it was a bit late in the day to have enough light for photographing the trees. I'll do it again tomorrow, when I have another day off.

A Brief Stretch Of Enough Exercise

I'm taking off three days in the middle of the week, for reasons related to a business trip by my wife, a day off from school by my daughter, and a need to use up vacation time before year end.

One way I'm keeping myself busy is by going to the gym in the morning and martial arts class at night, at least on Tuesday and today, Wednesday.

Yesterday, I found that doing two sets of exercise during the day didn't hurt me--in fact, I found I was more flexible and warmed up more quickly at night in the martial arts class. True, my arms felt the burn from the push-ups a bit earlier, but they kept moving--it was like they were oiled or something. Yesterday I did resistance training at the gym, and today I did a cardio workout.

I wish I could work out this much every day.

Also on my brief break, I'm reading. I read the play "The Persians," by Aeschylus, yesterday (a quick read). I've heard it's the oldest play still preserved in writing, and is a sympathetic portrayal of the Persians who had invaded Greece less than a decade earlier--and against whom Aeschylus himself had fought. Pretty remarkable if you think about it.

I'm now reading Bill Bryson's "I'm A Stranger Here Myself," about the surprises, delights and consternations for him of moving back to America after spending 20 years in England.

Kickboxing class tonight (I'm still focused on boxing or on exercises, no free sparring kickboxing for me yet).

The trees here are turning beautiful colors as the cold grows.

Monday, November 5, 2007


Boxing is, after all, a martial art, and two great martial artists fought Saturday night. Since they were Europeans, it was free on HBO, instead of being a $50 PPV event.

Joe Calzaghe of Wales, on the right in the photo (with the cross tatoo), taken just after the final bell, convincingly won despite an excellent fight by Dane Mikkel Kessler, on the left. Kessler was younger and stronger, and in the fourth round he stunned Calzaghe with a couple of uppercuts. But Calzaghe, who threw more than 1,000 punches in the fight, wore Kessler down, proved too "awkward" (a good thing in boxing, meaning your opponent has a hard time dealing with your movement), and clearly won, getting a unanimous decision. He hurt Kessler with a body hook late in the fight, but otherwise won because he just swarmed him.

An excellent post in Bad Left Hook points out that Calzaghe, among many other things, used his clinches to disrupt Kessler's rhythm. It wasn't disruptive to the enjoyment of the fight--he wasn't hanging on for dear life or anything--but it was an intelligent use of one of the boxer's weapons. He also was superbly conditioned, though Kessler was no slouch in that department either.

One thing to note about Calzaghe is that, at 35, almost 36, he's an honorary middle-aged boxer, even if not technically so (most references seem to place the start of middle age at 40, though the U.S. Census says 35). Kessler's youth, at 28, was thought by some to be an advantage, but in this match, to refashion a cliche, age and skill beat youth and strength.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Return of The Hulk

On Saturday, I finally attended a class with my buddy, The Hulk.

Hulk and I took our black belt test together, and were both injured there. His injury--basically he had some ribs separated from the sternum, if I understood--healed faster than my ACL. So from his perspective, it wasn't the Return of The Hulk, but rather The Return of Clark Kent, as he likes to call me (mild mannered reporter, etc.).

Hulk said I haven't regressed much in my skills. Or, as he put it, "You're just as bad as you were before you got hurt."

Today, Sunday, is turning out to be my rest-from-exercise day, if only because I have too many dang other things I have to get done.