So my journey to battle middle age and a bulging belly continues. Last summer I tried to reclaim my youth by joining a football team. It was an absurd proposition that turned into one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I’ll never forget the feeling I had on the first day of full-contact practice. I looked around and saw a bunch of guys younger, more fit, bigger, stronger and meaner than me and I wondered, “What the heck am I doing here?”
I was a little worried about how I’d do but it turned out, I held my own. I wasn’t the most valuable player on the team, but I certainly had value. I started a few games. I had some minor injuries (my shoulder finally stopped hurting about a month ago, so I can do push ups again). I made a lot of friends and developed relationships that opened up dicussions about God and religion. Like I said before, it was a great experience.
A few weeks ago I had sense of deja vu as I walked into a boxing class. As I looked at a bunch of guys that were younger, stronger, more fit, more experienced, and more fit than me, all I could think to myself was, “What the heck am I doing here?”
Since moving this spring, I’ve been looking for a gym and I’ve been intrigued by a multitude of martial arts gyms in the area. After doing some calling, I finally decided to give a boxing class a try. A few years ago my wife and I took a cardio kick-boxing class. We really enjoyed it, and I dropped a lot of body fat doing it. So I found a boxing class that was fairly reasonable and decided to give it a try.
Let me tell you one thing, this is not a cardio kickboxing class. I walked into the gym and saw a dozen guys punching, kicking and clutching at each other. It was a mixed martial arts class that was going on before the boxing class, but I had a feeling I was stepping into something I had never experienced before. This was not a bunch of people punching bags to the beat the music. This was a bunch of men and women learning to beat the crap out of each other.
I have never punched another person in my life – at least not with any intent to do any harm. But there I was on the first day of class going through punch combinations against another person. Again, we weren’t hitting bags, we were hitting each other. Granted, I was mostly hitting gloves, but it was still a very strange feeling. Our coach is Nile Pena. He comes from a boxing family. His Dad has had a gym for years and has trained Olympians and world champions. He knows what he is doing, and he’s a really good teacher. The hour and a half workout went something like this:
Jumping rope. The other people in my class picked up the rope and jumped for three minutes straight. They didn’t miss. They didn’t pause. They just kept going. I would go for awhile, then stop and catch my breath. Then go for awhile, then try to do the cool shuffling style they were doing, then get tripped up. The I would go for awhile, and stop to put my arms up to breathe. They just kept going.
Combinations. We would go through combinations to try and simulate fighting situations. We worked on footwork, throwing punches, moving, bobbing and weaving.
Bag work. Mostly for strength and conditioning we hit the bag for awhile.
Sparring. Put on the headgear (they don’t have any that fit me – big surprise), put in your mouth guard and box. I sat this out for the first few weeks and watched or did bag work. Guys would box for three minute rounds. No one was throwing knock out punches, but they weren’t playing paddy-cake either. It looked like so much fun, but I didn’t have the courage to try at first.
Sprints. Well, sprints is a relative term. I keep going, which is the important thing. I’ll work up to sprinting.
Last night I sparred for the first time.
After watching for a few weeks I decided to give it a try. There is a guy in the gym that has clearly been fighting for a long time. That was the guy I wanted to spar for a few reasons. One, there was no way I was going to hurt this guy. Two, he was super laid back and really helpful. I told him to talk to me to let me know if I was doing anything wrong. I did not want to be the guy the comes and starts throwing haymakers to a guy that could clearly destroy me if he wanted to.
As we started, my heart was racing. I threw a couple of jabs half-heartedly. He countered a couple of times and sort of tapped me on the head. We danced around a little bit, and he told me, “Come on, throw some punches.” So I started to a throw a little bit more. He threw some back. That helped. When he hit me, I felt like he was giving me permissino to hit him back. I tried some combinations. He countered and tagged me in the face a couple of times.
I sparred two more rounds. One with another guy who was just as helpful, and one more with the first guy. There is no question that if we were really boxing, I would have been knocked out – quickly. But I got some good punches in, and I took a few decent ones. I’m looking forward to doing it again. I know it sounds crazy, but I want to get punched in the face. I’m not sure if I’ll ever do anything more than spar, but it is a lot of fun.
After every class I go home exhausted, soaked in sweat, and feeling really good. I’ve been trying to get there two nights a week. Hopefully it continues to be a great experience. At the very least, it will give me some blogging material for awhile.