Monthly Archives: August 2016

Learning to box and writing a story are poles apart

Despite the ongoing pain endured from being punched in the chest a couple of weeks ago I’m still training consistently.  It’s pretty damaging being punched in the chest.  You think of the chest as being a pretty solid part of your body but there’s a lot of organs underneath including your lungs.  It’s been two weeks now and I still have small pains from simple things like blowing my nose or just breathing in deeply.  At one point it hurt if I laughed too much.

The diet wasn’t going too badly for the last week and a half.  I’d actually been sticking to the fish and vegetables but Torribio cooked this amazing curry yesterday along with some pork with crackling and some plum sauce.  It was incredible.  I didn’t regret wolfing down two plates but I felt pretty heavy trying to shadow box it all away in the evening.

I haven’t done any creative writing since I’ve been away but it’s not like training physically.  I can train two hours a day, everyday no problem but writing… that’s a different kettle of fish.  Things like willpower and determination don’t count for anything.  Sure you can make yourself sit at a desk but that doesn’t mean that ideas, a storyline and characters are going to spring to life.  You can’t will yourself to finish a piece of writing – or perhaps you can but I doubt anything of quality is going to come out of it.  You need your imagination to be working and your mind has to be in a healthy place free from distraction.

I’ve wanted to write and publish something since I was fifteen years old.  My dad ruled out a career in that direction gambling on science and engineering being a surer thing than anything creative or artistic.  Maybe he was correct to some extent.  I don’t think I’m a natural storyteller and I’m in no way prolific when it comes to writing.  The only thing that’s kept me going all these years is that I truly think there’s a good story inside me waiting to be told.  Sooner or later, I’ll realize what that is and I’ll be able to translate it onto mauscript and get it out.  At the moment it’s all just half efforts and recently the odd short story.

Then again, having thought about it just now, maybe that’s just an excuse.  What people see as “natural ability” or “talent” is often just practice.  Repeated practice.  If I don’t keep writing then how is any of my work going to get better so maybe I’m shooting myself in the foot there.  I need to get my finger out.  Watch some more movies and read some more books to get some inspiration, read some more books, that kind of thing?

The last short story I wrote The Journeyman was inspired by two real life people I’d read about and the characters were appealing – everything seemed to flow nicely from one scene to the next. I barely had to think and I liked that.  I was so absorbed in writing that short story that unfortunately I was ignoring my wife for large portions of the day which is pretty bad.  Writing a bigger story is more difficult!  I have difficulties making everything tie in nicely but whenever I read someone else’s story that I’ve enjoyed, their ideas and plot are actually pretty simple.  So then, am I trying to over-complicate things when I write?  It’s a conundrum and art that I’ve yet to master.

One day readers…  one day! 🙂

Wrapping my hands

10 rounds and some fear factor

I’d already had an hour’s session in the morning when Jim poked his head into the instrument room in the afternoon and asked if I fancied doing some sparring.  That morning consisted of a 4km run and around half an hour of drills on the heavy and double end bag.  I was going to do another session in the evening but I didn’t expect to take my body into battle in the evening.

I had a little more trepidation this time.  Maybe because I knew my body had only just recovered from the 12 rounds on Sunday but I wanted to warm up this time.  Jim has his own 12oz gloves and I tried dropping a hint to him as he was wrapping up his hands mentioning there were some unworn 16oz gloves in the gym but he didn’t bite.  I have my pair of 16oz gloves which I always use but I also have a pair of 12oz I took with me, this time.  I haven’t used those yet, this trip.  Jim has only 12oz and it’s a slight advantage.  I didn’t do too badly last 12 rounds so I didn’t mind doing the same again.

One punch of his came and somehow slipped through a gap in my head guard and partially onto my right eye.  It rocked me back and I had to stop momentarily and shake that off.  I wondered if I was going to have a black eye but I had to put that to the back of my mind.  That was only Round 2.

I’ve been boxing for just shy of 6 months now and to be honest, the time and practice that I’ve put in equates more than what an average person would do.  But if you talk ring-craft, I only hold around 24 rounds of experience.  It shows.  I still have tendencies to turn away, my feet are not always balanced, I’m leaning forward or back a little too much.  There are a few hooks that come my way that I don’t even see coming and although a head guard can block off some peripheral vision, that’s lazy eyes on my part.  It tells me I’m not reading body language or aware enough yet.

Jim had gone for a run right before the sparring as well and I know he felt tired too.  It was near Round 7 we decided just to take it to 10 rounds only (and not 12) but even then I was flagging a little.  The first 12 rounds I practiced in that first week, my footwork was way better – I circled around much more and I was much more active.  This session, by the time I reached the 8th, all I wanted to do was Philly-shell up and keep Jim at bay but you can’t do that.  Even though you’re too tired to throw, you have to look like you want to throw otherwise you’re only inviting the other guy onto you.

I managed to survive the 10 rounds but I have a raft of questions that were in my head, that are still in my head today.  They’re all about how I can improve my balance so I am always in a position to throw punches.  Like someone commented… Boxing is about balance.  Keeping yours and taking it away from the other guy.

The two blows to my right pectoral that stopped me dead in my tracks during the sparring made it painful for me to sit up in my bed last night and this morning but it’s minimal stuff.  I’m going to give myself a week from Sunday before the next sparring.  I’m also going to put on my 12 oz gloves next time if Jim continues to wear his.  That will make it even.  My hand speed will be faster.  Faster to come back and protect my head, faster to jab out and ward him off.

Last night was good but I felt trepidation and I didn’t have that the first session.  Maybe because I knew this time I wasn’t 100% and maybe I knew Jim was faster than me which got into my head a little bit.  The bag work, the running, the jumping rope, the drills… that’s where you go to get the techniques.  Sparring?  That’s where you go to learn to fight.  You come to understand what works in the ring for you and what doesn’t work, what you’re doing good and what you’ve got to improve on.  It can’t be about you and someone else inflicting pain on each other – that’s pointless.  If I match up in glove weight with my opponent that will help me answer some more questions, I’m certain of that.  I won’t make that mistake again next session.  I’m getting hit more than Jim, that’s what I feel at least.  That’s not just down to the weight difference in gloves, of course not.  They call boxing The Sweet Science and in science experiments you need certain variables to remain constant in order to solve the other unknowns.

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Adidas Hybrid 300 Boxing Gloves Review (16oz)

I love my Winning lace ups but sometimes it isn’t practical because I’m either training at home or sometimes there are situations when there’s no one around to help you lace up your gloves.  I work offshore for half the year as well so it isn’t practical for me to go looking for someone to help me lace up.    There are also times where you’d like to take your gloves off and on (for instance to reset the interval timer on your phone or iPod) and then it may be annoying if you have to go and find someone to re-lace your gloves for the second or third time.

 

These are hybrid gloves and although I’m not exactly sure what that means, I think it’s a mechanism that offers somewhere between the security and support of traditional lace-ups with the practicality of the velcro system.  These Adidas 300 have a clever elastic strap on the inner sleeve that tightens as you pull the velcro over.  It offers really good wrist support.  I’ve been using them every day since I’ve been offshore, training twice a day (just over an hour each session), every day and I’ve used them for sparring out here too and the support holds up great.  The outer skin has a few perforated airholes and the lining inside is a satin-like material that’s really cool, breathable and comfortable and my hand feels really good inside.  I’ve worn these with training wrap but also with bandage and gauze methods of wrapping your hands.  The latter method obviously makes your hand more bulky but my (Euro) size 8 – 9 hands still fit nicely inside the glove.  I don’t have particularly big hands for a guy though but for me, they’re comfy – more comfy than my RDX ones which were my first ever glove.

The Adidas Hybrid 300 gloves retail around 80 – 90 GBP so they’re at the higher end of the spectrum.  You’re paying that extra money for the extra wrist support (which admittedly is very good) and the quality of the materials and the linining which again are good.

My one gripe, is that I’ve noticed around the inner thumb area, the “skin” of the glove has already started to rub away.  I’m not even sure how that’s happened (or is happening).  These gloves are training gloves so I think they can be used for sparring and bagwork but I think there’s a trade off right there because sparring gloves are designed to be softer (obviously for facial impact) and bag gloves are padded extra and more hard wearing as you’re going to be striking leather and synthetic bags lots of times over.  With a training glove you’ll never get the full durability of separate bag gloves and sparring gloves, though.  If you love your gear and you have more money to throw at your gear, you can afford to buy two sets of really good gloves but this isn’t a bad in-between.

There’s a definite “band” when buying gloves.  You’ve got the sub 20 – 50 GBP range then a 50 – 100 GBP range and then you enter the Holy Grail 100+ GBP range.  When I compare these Adidas to my Winning pair there’s obviously no comparison for comfort and balance but actually the balance isn’t too bad – they feel a little bulkier.  What do I mean by that? Well my Winning are 16oz but they’re so well balanced they feel ridiculous like 12 or 14oz – these Adidas 300 are 16oz but they definitely feel like 16oz!

The Hybrid 300s  are at the middle to higher end of the glove spectrum and it’s not a bad effort from Adidas.

One important point is that unlike my RDX, the quality of material is good enough that with one hand gloved, I can grasp the velcro strap with my gloved hand and actually pull it on normally.  With the RDX ones I couldn’t move my fingers enough and ended up using my teeth to pull the velcro strap and secure down the remaining glove.  The problem I found with my old RDX (which were around 30 – 50 GBP) is that if I didn’t grip the bar inside properly there were times when my thumb would ache while hitting the bag.  Maybe the shape of the RDX was a little unforgiving and I didn’t form a proper fist inside at times, due to ergonomics.  This hasn’t happened once with the Hybrid 300s.

I love boxing gloves (and boxing boots!) – Something about the shiny colours, those classic shapes – the way that no two gloves made by two manufacturers seem to feel identical.

These Adidas are worth a try for sure.  Most shopping is done online nowadays and if you’re like me, then I hate returning stuff via post.  With gloves it’s not a bad idea to go to a boxing club and try some different ones if you can do that and find what’s right for you.  You’re going to be doing a lot of hitting hard and soft and at different speeds and different types of bag – it’s important to find a glove that doesn’t hurt your hand (through poor design in ergonomics or material).

Always look after your hands.

 

Powers of recuperation

I remember reading this interview that Arnold Schwarzeneggar did while on the set of Terminator 3 way back when he was making a comeback as an action star (he must have been in his early sixties) and something he said stayed with me.  It was, “Look, I feel great.  I can do everythng I did when I was thirty years old… it just takes me longer to recover from it.”

Arnie nailed that last part in a nutshell.

Those 12 rounds that I sparred, you don’t realize it until after but parts of my body feel like they’ve been tenderized by a meat mallet.  I blocked off a large portion of shots and obviously Jim and me weren’t going at it hammer and tongs style but occassionally, some blows sneak through and the punches absorbed by the defense of your arms and shoulders… you can feel those the day after.

When I mentioned to Jim I was still aching yesterday I was thankful he said the same.  I think it would have demoralized me if he turned and looked puzzled at me and said “No, I feel great.”

The sparring was Sunday and this is Wednesday.  I took Tuesday-night training off and my body felt better this morning for it.  I think I may have been caught under my right arm, somewhere close to my armpit).  It’s tender when I throw an uppercut.  I just gave away my Ibuprofen to a guy who woke up with a cranky neck but I may ask for a couple of tablets back!

I’ve just been eating vegetables and rice this whole week.  I’m not a vegetarian so I’ll happily spoon the sauce from the cook’s chicken curry (for example) with my vegetables!  I can’t quite bring myself to give up desert though!  Saturday I’m going to let myself eat a steak.  Just the steak though.  Rare, bloody.  I can’t wait!  (To hell with it – I need some protein, right? I didn’t bring any Vega with me this time)

We were going to do another sparring session this Sunday which I’m really looking forward to but then Jim just walked into the instrument room just now (now being Thursday) and asked if I was alright for tonight.   I thought about it for a split second before I said yes.  I read a lot of comments on people who sparred for the first time.  There’s a handful that had an awful first-time experience being paired up inappriopriately or having a masochistic coach that insisted on the beginner “toughing it out” as a kind of ritual rather than something useful and progressive.  That’s such a waste.  How many good people who could have really enjoyed and become decent boxers were lost because of someone like that, teaching them?  I can only hope they found another club eventually and felt a little better about themselves instead of being made to feel useless.

When the buzzer goes on my iPod app and we touch gloves the adrenalin is already there.  Sometimes with things like this there’s a fight or flight response that kicks in.  Every animal has it.  If someone spits in your face in the middle of the street society tells you that it’s inaproproate and unlawful to to retaliate and those things are in the back of your head (for many decent civilians out there).  Most people aren’t cowardly – they’re only concerned about the repercusions – that’s what civilisation does to you.  But in a ring, you’re training.  The conditions are fair.  If you can hit me then I can certainly hit you back.  You’re free.  Truly free of any burden.   Some people go through life and don’t get the chance to experience what that’s like.

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Going 12 rounds

I’m back on the boat and training a couple of times a day, again.  That’s the good thing about working offshore – you get a lot of time to contemplate and focus on things.  I decided yesterday to make a legitimate effort to get down to welterweight which is 69 kg, 155 lbs (At the moment I weigh 74 kg, 163 lbs) – I’m on a diet of only rice, vegtables and fish.  I said my last goodbye to Steak Saturdays and I bypassed (what Rich described as) one of the best offshore lasagnes I’ve seen.  I’m not giving up waffles on a Sunday and Wednesday though.  Screw that – I want to box, not be a saint!

I’ll try at least! I don’t want to end up looking like Christian Bale in “The Machinist” and if I start to feel weak when I train then I’ll know I’m maybe not supposed to hovering around that weight.  I’ve not got a weight disorder or anything like that – it’s just that everyone has a weight, at a given age, where their body is in its best condition: Minimal fat, lean muscle, a heart like a whale.  Just this once, I’d like to go for that – before the Good Lord starts to take it away from me little by little. 🙂

Yesterday was a real treat.  I’m onboard a boat and Jim is here too – this time we’ve both got our head gear with us and Jim’s around my weight and height so yesterday evening, after shift we did twelve , three-minute minute rounds of sparring.  I was pleasantly surprised I made it through to the last round.  I was dropped around the eighth or ninth round though.  One of Jim’s punches caught me right on the solar plexus.  I’ve never been hit there before.  You don’t feel anything for a split second (apart from hearing a nice meaty “smack”)  Then it feels like something is going to come out from your mouth.  I dropped down to one knee and spat out my gum shield unsure if I was going to throw up.  I tried to give myself a count and was up and around not long after 10 seconds maybe.  I got caught a few times during those twelve rounds.  One right hook in particular, caught me flush on the ear and I swear I could hear ringing for the next five seconds.

It’s tiring to put yourself within range of a person’s fists and then punch, block and then move out quickly.  You’re having to do that constantly.

That may not sound fun but you feel really alive facing someone.  Not all sports can give you that kind of a buzz.  Probably because the person opposite you is aiming to punch you!  Maybe I’m trying to defend boxing as a sport here… there’s no question there’s an element of violence but it’s built on a foundation of fairness and respect first.  Perhaps that seperates it from other forms like mixed martial arts.  That’s not to say that there isn’t respect in that sport, of course there is but combat sports like MMA are purely about fighting, where anything goes.

I like sparring.  You get to see first hand where all your training is going and what you still have to work on.  I don’t think it would be healthy to spar twelve rounds more than once a week though.  You don’t want to end up getting “punchy”.  I had a shower afterwards and went to bed happy, I really did.  I was up this morning shadowboxing, trying to work more on my movement.  It’s like that when you enjoy something.

Wrapping my hands