“I’m a lover, not a fighter”
Now that is a mantra to live by but not one that is going to help when someone is aiming their fist directly at your jaw.Like everyone, occasionally I find myself in situations where I wish I knew how to diffuse a situation without panicked rage peeking inside. As a human being I find it hard to hide my emotions, if something is annoying me it does not take Sherlock Holmes to deduce that I am pissed off. My face scrunches up, my eyes turn into slits and I emit a deep sigh which really does not help when confrontations occur. If a situation ever came to blows I wouldn’t know how to defend myself.
Since returning to Sheffield a few weeks ago I have sought new ways of staying fit. This is partly caused by leaving my gym shirt and shorts at home yet after a couple of months I was already bored of the gym circuit punctuated by a midweek Kettlercise class. However, I was feeling the results but wanted to do something different, something challenging. On the weekend of my return a good friend persuaded me to come along to a boxing class with a housemate of his and I had nothing else on.
First impressions are… disconcerting. The gym lies in a rundown part of town with a door you can easily walk by. After watching various boxing films (Rocky, that one with Robert De Niro) I was well aware that boxing gyms are not glamourous buildings. They do not tempt you in with £10 first month offers or bevies of tightly wrapped girls. There is no water cooler or soft, white towels to soak up your sweat. They are invariably built and maintained by men concerned with an arena to endure in, this one was no different.
The walls seem soaked in sweat, old posters and newspaper clippings are yellowed and peeling. There are shrines paying homage to the greats with elaborate pencil drawings and warnings of how to correctly throw a knock-out punch. This is also a place of discipline, of course there is banter yet there is a whole load of underlying respect. Pay your dues, be gracious, choose the right kit, work til your body can take no more and everything will be fine.
Five minutes before and laughs are aplenty. Apparently I am supposed to ‘duff up’ my good friend Miles as we work for rival banks. My garish red t-shirt is drawing unappreciative glances in what could easily pass for a work environment. Swearing is frowned upon and black is a favoured uniform with pastel colours just about excusable. Lord knows why I decided on this t-shirt, this is certainly not the place where you wish to draw attention to yourself.
For a few spare minutes I work on my technique, specifically on my feet and learn a quick tip of keeping my feet grounded when landing a punch for maximum power. I try various combinations, keeping my hands up, facing forward and keeping side on. These are the building blocks that everyone needs to know.
At 11:05am Andy announces we are to start and half an hour of pain begins. After a minute of punching a bag there are ten Jumping Jacks then two of any sets ranging from Mountain Climbs (holding your body up on your arms then pushing one leg up after the other), deep squats, full burpees, the plank followed by holding up one side of your body then the other, press ups (Andy’s personal favourite) and sit ups. There are also stomach exercises which always cause me considerable pain. One is balancing on your arse and holding your feet up six inches off the ground, at a 45 degree angle then 90 degrees. Another is holding your feet six inches off the ground then rotating to touch your gloves on one side then the other. Suddenly that extra hour in bed seems criminal, especially when I should have been eating a banana in preparation. My stomach aches and refuses to hold up, the mind is willing but the body is not.
There are ten rounds of this cruelty before Andy tells us it’s over… after 50 press ups. It isn’t all that brutal, we are allowed ten seconds to catch our breath between rounds and he appreciates that ten ‘really good’ press ups are better than 50 rubbish ones. By the end I’m dripping in sweat and gleefully taking any liquid refreshment on offer. Apparently I’ll soon feel the benefit yet right now a sofa seems like bliss.