Friday, June 24, 2011

1) Make Plans 2) Do Something Different

I often find with exercise and training that the sequence is: You make a plan, something doesn't work out, so you make another plan.

Today, I set aside an hour to go the gym  at work. My plan: do a core workout, do weights for legs (necessary with my missing right ACL), do weights for my upper body, then do some interval running on a treadmill for 15 minutes. Work intruded so I couldn't start right away; then one of the trainers at the gym wanted to dissuade me from using the weight machines, which isolate muscles, and switch to more natural weight training that uses multiple muscles. I like that idea (I've never been much of a weight trainer) but that talk took time and we decided to do a full lesson about it next week. By the time I was through with the weight machines, there was no time for running.

That's alright, I thought, I've got a boxing class tonight.

I showed up at the Friday night class and, since I'm new to it, I forgot something, as I always do. Actually, this time I forgot three things: 1) Wraps (essential to protect the bones of the hands when punching), 2) my soft knee brace, which I find helpful on my right knee, and 3) removing my wedding ring (hitting bags hard bends rings).

But another thing was missing: The trainer didn't show up. ("First time ever," someone from the gym told me.)

So I did five three-minute rounds of jump rope on the padded ring floor (my shins are a little sore afterward--uh-oh, hope it's not shin splints), several rounds of shadow boxing, a couple of rounds on the double-end bag, and, awkwardly since I had gloves on, a round on the speed bag (usually you use wrapped hands on the speed bag). I did a little, not-so-forceful heavy-bag training, since I didn't have wraps.

I worked up a sweat, got some training in, and then headed home.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A New Direction

I was writing this content for my bio on the blog, and I decided it made a good post in itself:

I'm 55 and transitioning into boxing from mixed martial arts after suffering my second ACL tear in five years. I've decided not to undergo a second ACL repair, and look to boxing as an activity that satisfies my desire for an intensive workout in a fighting art but that puts my knees at less risk.

The change is a natural one in some ways, because I have long been fascinated by boxing; moreover, I learned many boxing techniques at my school. Boxing is a very technical art--the "sweet science"--and I enjoy riding the learning curve in most activities I do.

Still, it's wrenching to see a time when I will exit my mixed martial arts school, where I attended for more than a decade, and where, on May 17, 2009, I received my black belt.

Moreover, i follow blogs of some martial artists--some of them ACL recoverees--and see great value in the cultural aspects of their pursuits. Boxing has a very different culture--albeit also one with a long history.

Ten years ago, when I first joined my martial arts school, it was itself transitioning to mixed-martial-arts school from Shotokan karate. While the school retained some of the attributes of karate, including belts, senses and respect, it focused instead on kickboxing and grappling.

As I began this blog, I was recovering from ACL reconstruction surgery. With three minutes remaining in my black belt test, I tore the anterior cruciate ligament in my left knee and had to stop. My surgery was on March 27, 2007.

Friday, June 17, 2011

What I'm Leaning in Boxing

Technical aspects of the Sweet Science:

1. Stance: Since I'm not kicking, my stance needs to be much less square to the opponent. My shoulder needs to be forward (it's part of the protection for my chin when I'm jabbing).

2. I can move my head to either left or right when jabbing--that's a revelation. It seems to require somewhat different foot movement also.

3. As I was told in mixed martial arts, RELAX. Tense up at the point of impact.

4. Stay on my toes (again, not a new lesson--but interestingly, it seems a bit easier in the boxing/wrestling shoes).

5. Move forward, not back.

6. I'm trying to learn footwork for advancing while throwing uppercuts. Not quite doing it automatically yet.

7. Move the body and head in throwing uppercuts.

I've done shadow boxing with an opponent, but not any sparring yet. I do want to do some sparring eventually. One step at a time.

My knee feels fine. The knuckles are sore!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

A New Type Of Shoe

I bought more training clothes--shorts and a shirt. The new Everlast gloves are due Monday. But it really sank in that I'm serious about boxing when I bought special shoes today. Technically, they're wrestling shoes--people suggested them for gripping the mat, and it's easier to find wrestling shoes to try on for size.

They feel very different from regular shoes, and aren't meant for outdoors wear.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Healthy Rage

It's been a difficult week at work, but a good week in terms of working out. I had my two boxing classes, and I made it to the gym at work, and the track on Sunday, every other day.

Conning, a friend on Facebook with whom I worked briefly some years back, and who always remembers my interest in boxing and martial arts, told me recently I have a "healthy rage" burning inside and that I use as a "positive force." This was surprising to me because I think of myself as a very rational, level-headed person. I asked my wife about whether she thought I had some rage inside, and she immediately agreed, which again surprised me; but as I thought about it, I realized they were right.

This post could turn into a commentary right now about how clueless men are about themselves, but that's not where I'm going.

I guess I have to accept that being level-headed and a good planner isn't incompatible with rage. My interest in martial or combat sports is a sign of that healthy rage.

There is a point of view, expressed in the book The Belief Instinct, that life isn't fair or unfair, it just is, because it made no promises to anyone. And while I understand the logic of that perspective, it's hard for me to live that way--I feel life made some basic promises to me and to the people I care about. And I think for me that healthy rage may come from the feeling that those promises haven't all been kept.

Anger, when channeled, can be a helpful emotion. And there's certainly a history of troubled and angry young men, from Bernard Hopkins on down, who found in boxing a channel for their anger, allowing them to live better, or to simply live. I remember the comment from the boxing reality show "The Contender" by Cornelius "K-9" Bundrage   that without boxing, he would be dead now, from drugs and gang life that would have occupied him instead. And as deeply troubled as Mike Tyson's life has been, I remember him in a documentary weeping with gratitude at what his trainer "Cus" D'Amato had given him--it was the experience of having a father, of being protected, of learning how to defend himself.

I don't think I have the level of anger those boxers display by any means--my life has been much easier. But I'm sure that, without some kind of rage fueling the furnace, I wouldn't work as hard at my job, or at being in shape, or at living with and trying to find solutions to life's difficult situations.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Boxing Class

I've had two boxing classes. They've been a great workout, and I've even started making a friend or two. When I was done, my shirt looked like I had been swimming in it. My knee, with one slight tweak, has been just fine. Things are looking up.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Late Middle-Aged Martial Artist (Boxer Version)

Yesterday, I turned 55, which I believe is the gateway to "late middle age." I had a nice day; a little physical therapy in the AM, followed by a trip to the big Apple for a quick lunch in Koreatown and then some time at the Metropolitan Museum of Art with my wife and daughter (haven't been there in years; amazing place). Then back to an Irish restaurant on Long Island to have dinner with them and my son.

This morning, I got up early, went to the high school track, jogged/ran for a mile, then did a number of sprints up the bleachers overlooking the track.

Tonight, I'll put together a bag of equipment for my trial boxing class, which I'm taking tomorrow night.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Watching A Boxing Class: This Ain't No Dojo

Last night, after more physical therapy for my knee, my buddy The Hulk and I went to watch a boxing class in the basement of a local gym.

It's a very different environment from my (and most) martial arts schools in my experience. For starters, it was an entirely male group--no women at all. And the guys mostly looked like my buddy The Hulk--big biceps, oozing strength. My build is more the lean, mean fighting machine--well, lean, in any case. It was a bit intimidating, I must say.

The boxing class was both more individualized and less structured than my martial arts classes. The class instructor--a former Golden Gloves boxer, with a bit of a world-weary attitude--was in the ring, working up a sweat, working with the individuals for three minute rounds. Initially they were punching without gloves, with only wrapped hands on his wrapped hands. Then later they put on gloves, and were hitting mits and slipping/ducking to avoid his own (leisurely) punches. He worked on them to move around the ring the whole time. When they weren't working with the instructor, they were outside the ring, on their own, punching a variety of bags or shadow boxing.

Unlike a dojo, everyone was wearing something different, even on their feet. Some wore running shoes, some wore specialized boxing shoes, some were in bare feet.

Being in a basement, it wasn't light and airy like dojos I've seen. The boxers had one side of the room; the other was taken up by a kickboxing class--again, all men.

There was another, younger instructor walking around the side of the room--he said he had more than 80 amateur fights--and I listened as he gave pointers to one of the boxers working on his uppercuts.  His instruction was strikingly insightful. He told me when we chatted later that he really focuses on form, and you could see that from what he was telling the student. I learned a lot.

The next class is Monday night. So now my plan is to show up, take a trial class, see how my ACL-lessknee holds up, see how I like it.