Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Lost my fight on Friday night, and it really pisses me off. Still. Not as much as right after. On Saturday, like clockwork, 45 minutes would pass by and in a Turret's like explosion, I'd yell, "Fuck!" Now that only happens every three hours. I guess, I'm taking it better as each day goes by. This is where I wish all the Buddhist rhetoric I listen to and repeat would just sink itself into my bones already.
At the end of the fight, I didn't feel like I lost. I didn't even feel her touch me in the last round and I know I was hitting her hard with my right hand and hook so I'm not sure what happened. It could be that I was getting hit and not noticing it since her punches were so light and you go into a totally other headspace during a fight. I know I didn't dance around the ring like Muhammad Ali and punch like Mike Tyson, but my fists felt more satisfied than usual....meaning, didn't I hit more often? Didn't I hit harder? After watching the tape, I saw that I certainly did not perform as well as I did in my last fight, but that opponent gave me more time to do my thing. Box and move pro style. This girl walked towards me throwing a bunch of soft punches non-stop. She had good form and kudos to her for getting in there with me and doing her thing, but this isn't the kind of boxing I signed up for. Where's the art? The science? I don't mean to show bad sportsmanship because yes, she was good, but I have had my ass kicked in the ring by a Pan Am Games Gold Medalist/National Champion and knew I was way out of my league. This was not that.
Unfortunately, on fight day, my coach called me at 3pm and let me know he had to work that night so I'd need to find someone there to work my corner. My heart fluttered for a second, but that was all right with me. I mean, at the end of the day, you are in there alone anyway. My husband, Gary was able to accompany me and give me good support. On the car ride to Costa Mesa, my hands started getting cold and sweaty. We got there at about 4pm and blood would rush into my head from time to time making me very hot. I tried to enjoy observing what my body was doing - heart palpitations, frequent urination, clamminess, chills and sweatiness were some of the fabulous bodily functions I experienced all up until fight time. What is fun about this again?
When my husband and I were warming up with mitts, we found a licensed coach who agreed to wrap my hands and be in my corner during the fight. One of the things I love about boxing - The people who love doing it, coaching it, being a part of it enough to lend their time and skills to other people they barely know. We are part of the same hardcore secret society.
He gave me some great advice which really seemed to work - reaching over her jab with my right hand and following up with a hook or an uppercut. I was happy to see that all the work I did getting off the ropes with my coach, Marcelo, came out in the ring. I was put on the ropes three times and quickly turned her around and put her on the ropes and started throwing and landing. Other things I worked on didn't come out - I slipped under punches, but didnt' come right back with enough. I didn't push forward and fought much taller than I feel I should have. At the same time, I still felt like I had the edge because I was stronger and hitting her harder and I thought, more often. But, sometimes the reality can be skewed when you are in fight state.
After my last round, the coach had to go take care of his fighter who was up next. My husband was taking off my headgear and I asked him if he thought I got the W. He smiled and shook his head decidedly yes. Then, I went to the center of the ring to hold hands.
The ref raised her hand and said the winner was in the red corner and I remember looking at her corner and seeing it was red and wondering how that could be. I shrugged my shoulders, shook her hand and got out of the ring. Hmmph. Okay. So, this is boxing. You win some, you lose some, you learn all along the way.
I guess it took me by surprise at how disappointed and upset at myself I was. This is a hobby for me, but it encompasses everything I do. The training keeps me level headed, calm; it gives me energy, confidence, focus, a stress outlet and a social outlet. I've become a part of this great community of people who enjoy martial arts, being physical, keeping in shape and fighting to be strong mentally and physically. So, why do I care so much if a decision doesn't go my way? Maybe it's just my nature to beat myself down. Luckily, it's also in my nature to get back up.
The same weekend, a fighter I manage, Kaiyana Rain, had a big MMA fight in Temecula. She had been working very hard, upped her training and is in phenomenal shape. We knew her opponent was tough. She was also undefeated.
Backstage, I ran into the guy that worked my corner for my fight. He took me aside to tell me he was stunned to find out I didn't win! He said he left the corner to go work with his fighter before they announced the decision because he didn't see how they couldn't give it to me. His friends told him on the way home and he couldn't believe it. That was nice to hear.
Then, it was cage time. Ripped and intimidating, Kaiyana danced around the cage when they announced her. Her opponent hopped up and down in her part of the octagon and the audience eagerly awaited the first and only "girl fight" of the night.
When the bell rang, Kai and her opponent sized each other up. Kai landed some great leg kicks, there were some quick exchanges. Throughout the fight, Kaiyana took the girl down three times and controlled her against the cage. More exchanges and Kaiyana closing the gap, smothering her. In the last round, the opponent attempted a lame guillotine choke, but Kai got out of it and started throwing punches at her. The last bell rang.
The audience was informed it was a close split decision....in favor of Kaiyana's opponent. What???? How do these people score these matches? Her coaches and myself were very pleased with the way she worked, the progress she made and the dominance she showed. The ref was calling it the fight of the night....as was her last fight. How could that not be anything but great? Tons of progress and another exciting fight. In a pro MMA fight with her same moves, she would have won.
This weekend was a real exercise of realization for me. Yes, I hate to lose. HATE IT. Am I afraid I might lose again or "get robbed?" I sure as hell won't like it, but if I can get better in the process, I can live with it. I want to figure out the scoring system; where do the judges sit? What constitutes a clean punch? Is it bad that I drop my hands and act like a cocky ass sometimes? Can they take points off for that? How can I be more composed and thoughtful when I have a girl running at me throwing punches? These are all legitimate concerns that I have as I move forward in my fight "career." My "career" is in quotes as it is in reality, a hobby. But in my heart it is real.
Monday, October 10, 2011
So, I know it's a gift to be able to train and fight for my upcoming match on October 21st. I have the time to really train. My trainer, Marcelo, is great and seems to be really into it, and my training partners, Kaiyana and DeMauriea, give me good work in the ring on a regular basis. I also love my treks to Wildcard to spar with Georgia and ogle the pros.
The best part of this fight is I actually know the drill. I know the kind of training and cardio I have to do in order to feel good about stepping into the ring. I trust my coach will be there for me (This is only the second time I will have the coach who trained me in my corner during a fight - Yeah, it makes a difference) and I know that I have to work hard at correcting my weaknesses for these next two weeks. Every day there is progress, like there should be. My favorite thing I learned about training for a fight is not to be so hard on myself if I don't feel like I performed well enough in sparring; or if I gassed out early, or slipped into an old bad habit. That's not to say I don't curse myself out and get upset by accident at times, especially when the training starts. But, I understand that that kind of "beating up" is futile. It's so much more productive to be gentler with myself and to move on to the next moment with the corrections in mind. It's a lesson I seem to need to relearn every time I am training to fight. I have to know that each day my conditioning will improve. If I'm sucking wind after a few rounds today, it will only get better by the end of the week if I put the work in.
I guess those are the things I love about boxing most. The lessons that carry over into my daily life if I practice them every day.
Having just finished a fine cut of my film, "Girl In The Ring," I do feel like a weight has been lifted and I seem to have more energy to do things outside of editing. We still have to do sound design, color correcting, scoring, etc, but the story has been mostly ironed out and we are ready to give birth to our five and a half year old newborn. It's the kind of thing that makes you want to do something celebratory, like train to fight!
Thursday, August 18, 2011
Okay, so this blog was not meant to honor friends who have passed, but I did just lose another and there is a short story already written from when we met many years ago.
Rose lead a long full eccentric life. I met her because she wanted me to teach her how to strip. She was 71 at the time. I learned so much from her and lost touch with her in recent years, but just got the email. This story is one of my favorite ones and was published in a few different anthologies so I figured I'd post it in honor of the Beautiful Rose.
Teaching Rose by Jill Morley
She met me at the door in a black sequined thong bikini and white feather boa. Not what I expected. Don't get me wrong, I knew she wanted to learn erotic dance, but at seventy-one, you'd think she'd want to take it slow. Not Rose.
She had approached me after one of my theatre performances. Said she liked the way I danced and asked if I taught stripping. She had been fascinated with it after going to a strip club with a male friend a few years before, and had been looking for a teacher ever since. She was just now getting the courage to do it. A little late in life, she admitted, but figured she could still dance for women, since men "probably wouldn't want to see an old bag like me", dance erotically. Even though she was in good shape and looked about forty-five, she knew men liked their beer cold and their women young. But she wanted to make a statement. And she wanted to do it topless.
I never taught stripping before. The concept seemed counter-intuitive. I even told her the moves basically came from a feeling and it was a matter of connecting to that feeling. Not hours of learning endless choreography. In a way, I felt deceitful agreeing to teach her this trade for forty dollars an hour. For me and most strippers it is strictly on-the-job training. Connecting to the female instinct, right there on the playing field. My definition of erotic dancing would be: The ability to generate a magnetic sexual pull with one's hips.
The thought crossed my mind that she could be an old lesbian having her kinky little way with me, but I figured it wouldn't be too bad. Another notch in my G-String. Besides I wanted to ask her what "fascinated" her about it. At twenty-eight, I quit actual go-go dancing two years ago and I'm over it. The novelty played itself out. I do an autobiographical performance piece using this dance, but I always look forward to the end when I can put my jeans and T-shirt back on. How could this woman of seventy-one get all giddy over getting naked in public the way I did at twenty-three?
Rose had watched my show attentively in the front row, hands folded on her lap. Dressed in a black silk button down blouse and slacks, she looked like she could have been one of my Mom's neighbors in suburban New Jersey. She had dark wiry hair and wore big eyeglasses that took up much of her face. Despite her age, she was rapt in a gaze, like a small child studying a bug on a flower.
I was a little nervous riding my bike to her apartment on the day of our first lesson, but also laughed to myself. I had no idea what I would teach her. Just figured I would turn the music on and take it from there. For comfort, I wore sweats, sneakers, and put my hair in a ponytail. Yes, I dress for comfort now. I paused just before knocking on the door.
She opened the door wide exposing much of her body to any neighbor who might have been passing in the hall. Hi Jill, is this okay to work in?" she asked. Her choice of weaponry was a black sequined bikini with fishnets.
"Uh, yeah, sure." I actually got a little self conscious and hoped she didn't expect me to really strip down the way she was. I totally thought she'd be in workout clothes, but God bless her. There she was.
"I got it at Patricia Fields on sale," she said proudly as she flipped her boa over her shoulder. Pat Fields was where all the strippers shopped. We even got discounts just for being strippers. I could tell Rose was working on being an insider.
Her body was surprisingly shapely and strong. She told me she had been doing yoga, weight lifting, and taking a Pilates class to increase her strength and flexibility. Her back and arms were strong, her legs shapely, and her figure hourglass. There was barely any sort of varicose vein action happening, or loose skin. She told me she just had her breasts done six months before so they would look firm again for topless dancing. Her surgeon asked why she was getting them done at her age. When she told him, he thought she was nuts, but wished her luck. One of her young gay male friends, Daryl, nursed her while she was in recovery. The breasts did look firm, but each had a scar going from the nipple to just under the curve of the breast. She planned on getting tattoos to cover up the scars. Maybe roses.
Already, she was experimenting with stick-on tattoos. Today, she had a dragon on her thigh and black nail polish on her toenails. No piercings, but the lady was hardcore. Beat up combat boots stood in a corner of her living room. Most of her boyfriends, she said, were a lot younger than her, sometimes half her age. The men her age usually sat on park benches outside her building feeding pigeons. She couldn't exactly relate to that. The blacksheep of her family, she was always known for doing her own thing. Her family accepted her, but thought Rose eccentric.
All her life, she said, she had a good body and would get catcalls when she walked down the street. She loved that. "Lived off" that. A natural exhibitionist, she likened herself to a peacock. Rose wanted to prove that it was never too late to learn something new, even if it was a senior citizen taking up erotic dancing.
A real estate broker, Rose also ran a bed and breakfast out of her apartment. She charged seventy-five dollars a night.
"I thought we could work in the guest room because one of the walls is mirrored," she said, as her high heels plunged into the carpet with each step.
"Are these heels high enough?" Rose asked.
"They'll do," I said encouragingly, "Besides we'll worry about costuming you later. Let's just get to the dancing."
Rose beamed as she pressed play on the box, giving us some Toni Braxton tunes. She told me how sexy Daryl was when he danced to this CD. He had made her a tape of it. We had to play it loudly because the battery on her hearing aid was getting weak. Standing on the sparse, blue-carpeted room facing the mirror, I started the gyrations first. Shifting my weight from side to side in faded grey sweats, I showed her how to move her hips in figure eights, a staple move. She was a little off at first, but eventually picked up the rythym, arms dangling at her sides. I told her we'd get to arms later and not to feel odd about touching her body. Watching me in the mirror, she copied my every move. Once in a while, her heels would get stuck in the carpet.
Then we did another one she calls "the wave" where you isolate your body much like a cobra. We did both of those moves in repertory for about an hour. She started to get the hang of it before I left and she thanked me for my time. She said she was glad she could learn it that way instead of embarrassing herself somewhere. Then she showed me her breasts up close, and told me of her tattoo endeavors.
As our once-a-week lessons continued, Rose got a lot better, started using her arms more, and yes, we even got into floorwork. At one point, both of us were lying on our backs facing the mirror, legs spread eagle, my feet clad in sneakers, hers in heels. She was loving it. She told me she was really into raunch. That this other woman had taught her burlesque moves but it didn't satisfy her. Spreading her legs in a thong bikini in front of her guest room mirror seemed to do the trick. She started experimenting with costumes- red evening gowns, pink spandex, and feather boas. She became expertly skilled at taking off her top and tossing it effortlessly into the air revealing her newly firm breasts. She'd smirk and a little spark in her eyes would go off whenever she did this maneuver, making it even more of an event.
After four months, the time had come. I told Rose I was throwing a party and would like her to dance there. Other people were go-going and she was definitely ready. I knew my friends would love her. Flattered that I would ask, she asked all kinds of questions, like what should she wear? Should she show up in costume or change when she got there? How many sets should she do? Was she to strip completely naked? Would people be tipping? All sensible stripper questions.
The affair was a glamorous one at a small club in Soho. A designer friend made metallic dresses for some of my girlfriends to wear. Some of the boys were wearing vinyl pants or suits. Many ladies arrived wearing boas, including Rose. She came with Daryl, who was there to cheer her on. Girls were already on the platforms dancing when she arrived. She picked a seat on a red velvet couch right next to the bikini clad dancing girls and deliberately studied their moves.
"You can get changed in the back when you're ready," I said. An hour later after careful observation, she changed into this black lace catsuit with a black bra and thong underneath it. She looked hot. When she came out, a lot of men were staring at her. Not in a who-does-that-old-broad-think-she-is? way, but in a who-is-she? way.
I guided Rose to the platform and helped her up. Once she was there, she squinted at the colored lights for a millisecond before her exhibitionism kicked in, and then gyrated like nobody's business. Blue and red lights showered her body as she danced. Running her hands over her black lace catsuit, she did the wave. Then, slithering sensuously, she held the wall and stuck her ass out, a move I never taught her, but was a classic. Several people gathered around to watch. She definitely looked like an older woman, but she was so sexy that it made me wish I had an army of older strippers dancing on platforms around the room surround sounding us in experience and sensuality. A few men and women went up to tip her.
"She is hot!" my friend Paul said.
"There is no way she is seventy-one," my friend Val said.
"You go girl!" her friend Daryl said.
She slid the catsuit down over her shoulders to her waist. Then she pulled her bra straps over her shoulders, holding the boa over her breasts. She popped the bra and threw it into the cheering crowd, eyes glinting mischief. With much finesse, she lifted the boa up in the air revealing her toplessness and rose tattoos. More cheers, applause, and dollars thrown her way. Rose was a hit.
After her dance, she covered her deflowered breasts and thanked me profusely for the opportunity. I could tell from the sweat on her brow and the glow in her face that she was buzzed from all the excitement. Several people asked her questions and complimented her bravery. When she got dressed, she thanked me again.
She later told me that before she got up on the platform, she was in a state of terror. But made herself do it anyway. A total stripper trait. Only, she did it without drugs or alcohol, unlike my old dancing days. The reaction from the crowd, she said, was unexpected, but inspiring. She went home very satisfied and eager to do it again. She also told me that she had made twelve dollars that night. Unfolded them on her living room couch and stared at them for hours. Rose said she didn't think she could ever spend them. Not in a million years.
Thursday, August 4, 2011
No time to blog what with all the corporate video work, family stuff, little trips here and there and finally.....
I am so close to finishing the film, I can taste it. While it is tasting good, it is a bit daunting to finally put it out there.
It has been five years since I started it and have been blessed with getting extremely talented, dynamic people to be in it as well as to work on it.
I can't wait to showcase the stories of these inspirational women who I have had the honor of training with and getting to know as friends. I know they will be in my life forever and for that, I am grateful.
On the other hand, I am nervous about revealing my own personal story since I "went there" and am being completely honest about some events that happened in my life that most people don't know about. Also, about certain feelings that I have that I am not proud of.
Yes, almost all of my work contains autobiographical elements, but it's still difficult to separate myself from the story enough to put it out there...if that makes any sense. I suppose the amount of time that has passed while putting together the film is helpful in this regard.
My last film, "Stripped," took seven years to make so I suppose I am getting faster as a filmmaker.
I was forced to revisit that film and that time in my life last week. One of the girls in "Stripped" went missing the day after I interviewed her. That was 15 years ago. Her name was Susan Walsh and all of the cop shows, Unsolved Mystery shows and even talk shows did stories on her disappearance.
Susan was a writer who was stripping to pay the bills, support herself and her son who was twelve at the time. She had just lost twelve years of sobriety because she found it too painful to "dance" without the alcohol. She was also bipolar, off her meds and flirting with extremely unsavory characters - drug dealers and people who claimed to be in "the mob." Basically, she was on a downward spiral that ended the way most downward spirals do. The fact that they never found her body has always bothered me.
There is a new show on the Discovery Channel called "Disappeared" and they wanted to do a story on this 15 year old cold case so they called me in for an interview. I have not had to talk about this in a very long time. In one way, it was great to remember my experiences with Susan, how smart she was, what a talented writer she was, and how funny she was. On the other hand, I could feel her pain of having to work as a stripper when she was completely over it. My theory is that you can have your journey with that kind of work. You use it until it uses you. When it starts to use you, you need to get the hell out. Otherwise, bad things happen. In this case, it was a really bad thing.
During the two hour interview, I realized that while time has passed and the pain of losing her has subsided over the years, I could still feel her spirit and remember the way she draped her body over a chair when she sat, how she gingerly lit her cigarettes or laughed shaking her hair out of her eyes. In a strange way, it was kind of like a visit with her.
Documentary films are time capsules filled with people and events. While they suck as a business, real stories keep drawing me in. I don't know what I'll be interested in next. Right now, I still love boxing, female fighters, teaching little girls how to box and getting to know all the personal stories of those involved in the fight biz.
Being attracted to the extreme has its setbacks, but the rewards of getting to know the people in these subversive worlds is priceless.
Thursday, June 23, 2011
I appreciate the fact that I am making money being my own boss and ultimately making my own hours, but the truth is, these jobs really get in the way of my training. When can I train again, dammit? I know, I sound like an asshole. Perhaps, I am.
As an amateur boxer, I try to time my fights around jobs and workloads. I persuade corporate clients to extend their deadlines for my video jobs, but I don't tell them why - to make time to train. Since I do most of my work from home over the computer and the phone, they don't see when I have a black eye or bruises on my arms. It's the perfect set up.
When things are good, I can train in the morning, edit or write in the afternoon, take a proper nap, work some more and either do cardio or hang out with my husband and two doggies. However, when I don't get jobs for a period of time, while I do enjoy the training, I feel guilty for not adding to the household income. Time that I would have spent working, is spent stressing and trying to figure out how to land my next job. Forcing myself to have faith. And eventually, the jobs come in.
For the last two weeks, I have had a couple of jobs with hard deadlines take up my valuable training time. Extremely grateful for the work but also will be delighted when these videos are finished. Many hours are spent with my ass in a chair and eyes on the computer. I cannot imagine how the people who do this 8 to 12 hours a day, five days a week can take it. I'd rather get punched in the face. Obviously.
Recently, I had to go to New York and Philadelphia for a corporate shoot and edit session. I was fortunate enough to make time one morning to visit my old stomping grounds, Gleason's, for some bag work, reconnect with old friends, and have my old trainer, Hector Roca, offer to hold pads for me. He actually bragged about me to his twin pro boxing prospects, the Burrell Brothers. "She is undefeated in California!" He said proudly. This made me laugh. It's true. Though, I've only had two fights out here, and I always think people at Gleason's will just think as me as the scrappy neophyte yearning to learn, making one mistake after another. This time, it felt different. After the bag work, I ran on the treadmill watching the brothers spar. I enjoyed the ambiance of the gym, the sound of ropes snapping against the cement floor, bags being pounded in staccatto combinations, shouts from the corner in Spanish and English and boxing gloves hitting bodies and headgear. It's always a treat to watch good sparring and the treadmills often have the best view in the house.
Afterwards, I went to the office to talk with Bruce, the easygoing owner of the legendary gym, and I was honored when he asked me to fight with the Gleason's Master's Team in 2012 in London when they go for the Olympics. Truly a dream come true! Being that I am too old and not talented enough for the real Olympic Team, I can fight with the old guys and gals against some tough London folk in an old boxing hall! Plus, witness the historic presence of women boxing in the real Olympic Games!
Surely, I will pass up the big $ jobs for that experience.
Walking with my head in the clouds up Front Street, I had to pull myself back down to earth, put on my corporate clothes, and do a six hour editing session on Park Avenue.
The next morning, I had the privilege of sparring with a world champion in my weight class, Suszannah Warner, at the Mendez Gym. She reminded me that there is a reason I don't do this for a living, but even better, that I can take a hard body shot and keep going. Sometimes, I think that is reason enough to box, to know you can take it and come back with your own, even if it's messy. I also think the dig up into my intestines aided my digestion in some way.
Since then, it's been working, editing, finishing the edits on my documentary, phone calls and getting ready for my MMA fighter's title fight in Las Vegas! Shortly after becoming Kaiyana Rain's manager, I got her a title fight in Las Vegas under Tuff-N-Uff for July 1st. Lots of networking, and connecting with other people who are passionate about fighting and giving women the platform to do it. She has trained ultra hard and I believe she is ready for anything.
However, tonight, we just heard that her opponent got a concussion in training and we're looking for someone else to step up. Of course, we were training for a certain kind of fighter and now it's a wildcard. I guess it's part of the game. Injuries, people backing out, opponents switching, etc. We'll just see...
All part of the unknown - and what it takes to move through it. There is a certain zen quality every good fighter must have in order to keep moving forward. It's a quality I value and aspire to every day....as I sit on my ass and write this, move through my edits, hope for the best and slug it out every day in the office and in the ring.
Monday, May 30, 2011
These are the thoughts that go through my head in sparring drills and these are the things I love about boxing. It is a martial art, a physical chess game, an athletic puzzle that can never be completely solved.
I don't love hitting people hard or hurting people in sparring. I still say I'm sorry if I think I landed a clean punch that was a little too hard, even if the person on the other side is the toughest guy/girl in the room. That was not my intent - to hurt, that is. I don't have the killer instinct and I am not game for a brawl. But, I do want to outsmart you. Outcraft you. Outbox you.
My favorite boxers are crafty, often elusive and artful. When I see the beautiful dance of the warrior, my heart grows ten times it's size like the Grinch at the end of the story.
Pet Peeve -
I tell someone that I box.
That person says, "I still don't understand women boxing. Sorry, it's not in my grasp. Why would you just want to 'go at it' with another girl?"
Calmly, I must explain that I don't "go at it."
I have an older aunt, who I never told that I boxed. She once said, "I don't get boxing. Why would you just want to stand there and punch each other?"
It's frustrating when people don't understand that the allure of boxing for me and many of us, is the craft, the game of it. Yes, I have seen the fights where untrained fighters just brawl at each other with no sense - male and females. Actually, I have seen trained fighters do that. Unfortunately, that was their training. Is that what the general public thinks boxing is? Yikes. I just turned red from embarrassment.
People are often surprised that aside from a bump on my nose that I have had since I was a child; with all the sparring that I do, my face is not effed up.
1. Defense- For me, it is my favorite part of the game, making people miss. No, you cannot win a fight strictly with good defense, but it sure feels good to not eat a clean punch.
2. Headgear- I wear headgear when I spar. I know it's cool for the really tough-guy fighters to not wear headgear, but I'm already old and losing my memory, I don't need help with this. Preserve your most powerful tool as a boxer, your brain.
3. Not So Hard - The best way to learn good boxing is to practice what you have learned with your coach on the mitts and the bags. When it is time to spar and you get punished severely for making a mistake, you probably won't try that move again so there's no point in going hard when you are learning something new.
Once I started moving around with pros and world champions, I realized that they were not as keen on trying to knock me out as some of the amateurs and the less experienced boxers. They didn't need to. Instead, they wanted to teach me when a hand was too low or I was leaning one way too much so they would tag me and look at me, like "Put your damn hand up, girl." I would nod, thankful that it wasn't a knockout punch.
After my first year of just brawling with no real technique, I went to Gleason's Gym and started over from the beginning. Jab. Turn your punches over. Keep your feet shoulder length apart. Hector Roca was a taskmaster who focused on these little details I never paid attention to. I was too concerned with surviving tough rounds with experienced fighters who were getting ready for fights.
Throw her in the pond and see if she can swim.
I was told that they were sent into the ring to knock me out to see if I would quit. I didn't quit. For a year. But, I didn't get much better.
Then, I met Hector, "Take your hand back to your face after the jab. No! No! That's not it. Yes, that's it!" He would yell at me in his thick Panamanian accent and reposition my hands. Often I couldn't tell the difference when I did it right or wrong, but I kept going hoping for the best. Each day, I'd work on the same things. Tedious? Yes. But, often a trait of a fighter is some kind of compulsion, so this serves us in training.
Since training at Gleason's, I have been very fortunate to work with extremely generous boxers like Maureen Shea, Suszannah Warner and Jodi-Ann Weller. Their aim was to help me improve, not make me look bad. I have taken this gift and paid it forward to the new boxers I work with. The best coaches tell you to "have fun" in the ring. It's just not fun to get beat up and not know how to get out of a situation. It's not fun to not have technique and feel like an ass.
It's a lot of fun to use the fancy footwork you just learned in a sparring session, make your opponent miss and land a good counter-punch. That's what I'm talking about and that only comes from practice and good coaching.
I'm not sure if I'll ever make non-believers understand why boxing is called "the sweet science" or why someone like me, who is laid back and a generally peaceful, amiable person would love it.
I'm a lover and a fighter. In my world, that is not an oxymoron.
Saturday, May 21, 2011
I never expect people to understand. It's not something I like to tell my coaches or sparring partners, but when it emerges, I get extremely embarrassed and frustrated. I'm afraid if I tell people, they will think I want them to feel sorry for me or I'll want them to go lighter and "carry" me in sparring. Sometimes, I do want them to go lighter because of the all encompassing feeling of overwhelm and fear that can overtake me. Properly trained responses escape my boxer being and I am not in my body anymore. This is not the Crazy Irish Girl. This is something else.
From what I understand, most people who have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from being beaten as a young child, avoid physically violent confrontations. They don't continually throw themselves into it thinking that if they don't overcome the feeling, that they are less of a person, a loser, a pussy.
While I know a lot of boxers have endured some form of physical abuse when they were children, I don't know any who still have symptoms of PTSD in the ring. Somehow they worked through it. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this phenomenon, basically, you can work through your ugly childhood past in talk therapy or whatever, forgive your abuser and move on. However, your body is still wired to react the way it did in the past when the violent moment becomes familiar- hyperventilating, going out of body, and basically not being in control of your reactions. This can be particularly frustrating when you are trying to become a boxer! I liken it to an Alzheimer's patient who is trying to play a memory game. You have a huge handicap and the odds are that your affliction will take over, nullifying your training and skill. It often feels like a losing battle. Of course, I don't want to tell my coach or training partners or frankly, anyone. I don't want to come off as an excuse maker, a complainer, or a total loser.
The shame that comes over me when I lose my form and feel that loss of control is all encompassing. I can see my coach out of the corner of my eye looking at me like I am from outer space, shaking his head and grimacing. I can see him thinking, "She can fire her punches at the bag and the mitts just fine, so why do her punches slow? Why does she get so tired so fast when she is in such good shape? She can do 12 rounds on the bag, why only 3 in sparring? Why isn't she doing the defense drill we just worked on? Where the hell did her mind go? She seems to be getting worse!"
I have a friend who has taken up roller derby. Like me, she is small, wiry and tough. Like me, she has post traumatic stress disorder and a dream to compete in a violent sport that puts her to the test with her affliction. Like me, she hates herself when she doesn't perform to the best of her ability and gets beaten by her PTSD. Because she is the smallest on the team, she is often the one targeted to be taken out first.
She recently confessed to me that while she is considered an "experienced skater," she once in a while will have a bad practice where she cannot do simple footwork drills. She would see the look in her coach's eyes, "What the hell happened to her?"
She even had a coach take her aside and ask if she was okay. A ref once joked that she had a drug or alcohol problem. She doesn't. She just gets overcome sometimes by her wiring; the primitive memory of her body being attacked. A xanax before practice would dull those feelings of overwhelm, but she doesn't want to depend on that. Finally, she told one of her coaches of the issues she was dealing with and feels a little better. Not so misunderstood.
Why put ourselves in these situations when it seems so self-defeating? For me, I think it is a way to work through it. I don't want to be the little girl cowering in the corner. I want to be the one fighting back and dominating as an adult. When that doesn't happen, I need to be patient and realize that I have a handicap that can make me feel like a runner with one leg. I don't want to give this any creedence or legitimacy, but when I don't, I beat myself up.
"Dare to suck" was a motto of a friend of mine which I seem to have adopted.
Yesterday, during sparring, I couldn't get it together. I actually, jumped to punch air that was about a foot above my opponent. My arms felt weak and wouldn't punch fast enough. When my sparring partners bullied me into a corner, I had to fight the impulse to freeze. Yes, they are a little bit heavier and stronger than me, but I should know how to move and fire back without such awkwardness. In these instances, I am not in charge. While I am excited to see them improve every day, I hate that my skills seem to decline.
I certainly don't want a pity party about being attacked as a child. So many people have had it so much worse. Of course, a lot of them turn to drugs, food, alcohol, and sex. Not boxing.
But I do hope for an understanding. The best way I know to deal with it is to breathe and focus on being in the present moment. As cheesy as it may seem, "The Power of Now" has helped me a lot with this. Be here now. When I do overcome the feelings in sparring, I feel like a world champion. It doesn't matter that it's just me getting out of a corner with a great shot in a small ring in a private gym in a minute corner of the world, it's me facing my demons and winning...even if it is just for that moment. I won that "now." Those moments feel few and far between lately so I am going to take a break for a few days and let those nerves that are firing on all synapses, settle. Tears, anger, and frustration are too close to the surface for me to get into the ring. They need to turtle back into their shell so I can relax and be the one in control again. I'm not sure if these feelings will ever go away, if I should quit because it's just retraumatizing myself, or if I should just go back to being a boxing class fanatic and not spar or fight anymore.
But, there is another part of me that has been bitten by the bug and that wants to keep pushing myself to get over this feeling. Maybe I should tell my coach so he'll understand what it is that I am going through and not just think I suck. I'm not ready to give in or give up so I have to accept these PTSD hiccups. After all, I am lucky. I know people who won't leave their house and who flinch at the slightest bit of surprise movement.
My film, "Girl In The Ring" deals with this issue among others, but I have never come up with a real solution. Perhaps there is none.
I am curious if anyone else with PTSD has had these feelings or experiences. What did you do? How did you get through it? If you don't have PTSD, do you understand what it is or do you think it is just an excuse for sloppy boxing? Please feel free to share your thoughts and stories.
Monday, May 16, 2011
An opponent who I had beaten in December challenged me to fight on May 29th. I know she got a few more bouts in and wanted to see if she could get the W. Okay, let's see. Bring it.
Wanting to be a badass, I was telling everyone that I was getting called out. When people asked me how, I said, "Uh, she emailed me asking if I wanted to be on a card with her." She's actually a very nice girl and a good Master's Boxer.
I am a card carrying Master's Boxer. No, it does not mean I am a master at the sport, it just means that I am old. In boxing, the cut off age for the amateurs is 34 and I am, ahem, a bit older than that. Okay, way older. I am also small. For my last bout against her, we said we'd try to come in at 112lbs. I wound up weighing in at 106 while she weighed in at 115. I had to go drink, eat something and come back again to weigh in. When I came back, I wore my trusty heavy knit Gleason's sweatshirt with a wallet full of change in the kangaroo pocket. I came in at 111. We had a fight. I later found out that my coach, Marcelo, admitted to being concerned by how muscular her arms looked, much thicker than mine. For some reason, this did not phase me.
Not one to remember my fights blow by blow; all I remember was moving around like I knew what I was doing and acting like a real boxer. Lots of side to side head movement and fake fancy footwork; punches in bunches. I had four years of training behind me, so I was much more convincing in the role than any other fight I've ever had. I also remember catching her with a lot of jabs to the face and the delicious sound of my left hook cracking into her headgear. She carried her right hand low and I took advantage of it whenever I could. Which was a lot. I also remember dropping my hands and showboating a little bit, which I hear is discouraged in the amateurs. But, I am a performer and the boxer in me likes to do this and trot backwards to the center of the ring in my pink satin shorts that say, "Exfoliatr" on them. Yes, I am the Exfoliatr, a fitting name for an older female boxer who is concerned with skincare. I will knock the skin right off you.
I won by unanimous decision and was grateful to have my husband, my coach, the editor for my film, my best friend and my training partners there. I never had a coach who I had trained with regularly in my corner and I could now see how this was advantageous. Marcelo was nurturing and kept telling me all the things I needed to keep being reminded of. Thankfully, he had trained some bad habits out of me so the reminders were working.
My previous fight was in the 2010 New York Golden Gloves against a 19 year old PanAm Games Gold Medalist. I was stopped at the end of the fourth round. Truthfully, she was just way too good and experienced and I got way too tired at the end to keep moving. It was comforting to know that she was a national champion, two time Golden Glove winner and, apparently the best in the world in my weight class. It was my third fight ever.
In the men's division this match-up would have never happened since there is a Novice class. (For people who have had less than 10 fights) Still, I hated the feeling of being overcome, of being overwhelmed by this girl, no matter how talented and experienced she was. I knew I was out of my league and I hated it.
After that fight, I copped to my real age and graduated to the Master's. Nobody knew I was actually 44 years old, pretending to be 34. I fought a girl I could have mothered. Possibly grandmothered. Yes, I started boxing at 40 and yes, I beat the tough 17 year old I had just fought in East LA so I wasn't completely delusional.
Cut to: the present. After not being in a "fighting head" for six months, I was looking forward to getting in the ring again. For the last two weeks, I have been training hard every day, sparring, getting my wind up, strengthening my mind and my body. Marcelo is pushing me with the conditioning again, making me do things I would never do if I didn't think I needed to be in shape to fight.
My husband and I were in Vancouver for the last few days so I found a boxing gym to make my training home. Shadowbox in the ring, hit the bag, abs, push-ups, jump rope, shower. One of the great things about boxing is you don't have to lose your rhythm. It can be the same wherever you go, anywhere in the world.
After my work out, I went to the coffee shop to check my email. The same email address that asked me to fight two weeks ago was now saying that she didn't want to fight. I asked her to fight on the June 3rd card at the Old Dog Boxing tournament, but she said the promoter was looking for another opponent for her.
Then, it occurred to me... I think I was ducked! The Exfoliatr was ducked.
I put out unfulfilled requests on Facebook for a viable opponent. Even with close to 5000 "friends," there were crickets out there when it came to finding me someone. Georgia, the 21 year old I spar with said she would fight me, but she's too young to box with a "Master." Maybe we'll do an exhibition one day. My friend, Kaiyana, is my daily sparring partner who I have started managing as an MMA fighter and boxer. I cannot imagine us fighting, especially since I know she is bigger, faster, stronger and on her way to becoming a fighter by trade. I am an enthusiastic boxing hobbyist who likes to put on a show. I know my place.
Even though I am disappointed, I am mildly amused. Actually, I'm very amused. God bless my ex-opponent. She got me back into fighting shape and believing in myself again. Things have become more clear and focused. My goals outside of boxing have become more laser-like. I'm in shape and enjoying helping to train the other young boxers at the gym to pursue their dreams. Hopefully, there will be another 106lb Master in my future. Hopefully, it won't be for a few years. Hopefully, I won't get ducked.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
While I appreciate knowing I have a fighting spirit, I'm embarrassed by her. I want to be a good boxer; someone who is calculated, strategic, quick, responsive, aggressive, yet calm - not a drunken cartoonish Popeye who throws hook after wild hook after he eats his steroid/spinach.
After four years of training, I hate that she still takes over sometimes. It's extremely difficult not to get completely frustrated and beat myself up. Then again, why do I somehow expect myself to be Floyd Fucking Mayweather? More importantly, who is this Crazy Irish Girl and why does she possess me? I suppose she has become better behaved over the last few years, but when pushed to the brink, she still likes to break out and bust a move.
I think she visited me in my late twenties for a while when I became a stripper. She also dropped by for a bit when I was doing coke. I have seen flashes of her throughout my life at parties, New York City night clubs, and I suppose she'll never just die off, but how can I manage her?
Today, I must have done 8 or 9 rounds in sparring. In the beginning, since we were going light, I was able to keep her at bay.
As I continued on, I could feel her welling up, so I took a deep breath and told her to try to be smart about retaliation. But, when I started working with a guy who happens to be around 40lbs heavier than me and much taller, she started rolling up her sleeves and peeking her curly red hair and freckled nose out from behind my gloves. In the later rounds, I got too tired to restrain her. She pawed her hooves in the ground and charged straight into punches, chin in the air, pushed the guy to the ropes, and caused laughter to erupt around the ring.
The embarrassment is much more painful than the punches. Mind you, I am just a teensy bit proud of her fiestiness, but I always pay the price for Crazy Irish Girl. Sore jaw, neck pain, tarnished pride.
Luckily, she only came out in my first fight when I barely knew any kind of technique. In the next three fights, we worked as a team. We seem to have an understanding that when I am on "stage," she needs to keep things on the down low. While she may torture me in sparring, she is an ally in the fight.
One of the things I love about boxing is that we always have something to work on. I don't love that for me, one of those things is trying to squelch the Crazy Irish Girl.
Perhaps it isn't about squelching her, but slapping some make-up on her and turning her into a lady. I need to teach this girl some manners! When she shows up ready to brawl, I need to tell her to use the tools she has been developing on the bag and the mitts. She doesn't need to throw herself right back at the opponent when she gets tagged. She can consult with me, save that energy, wait and use her noggin, counter, slip, plan the next attack.
It's My Fair Lady all over again - I have to teach her how to hold her pinky up when she is drinking her tea, lighten her heavy Irish broag, teach her how to walk in heels, figure out which is the salad fork, not wear her make-up so gawdy, and cross her legs when she sits. Mostly, I need to have compassion for her, the way I have compassion for the young girls I teach boxing to.
Eliza McDoolittle isn't going anywhere. I need to refine her so I can take her to the races.
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
A lot of things have come to pass in the past four months. Between working to finish my documentary and helping to take my mother-in-law for bouts of chemo before she passed last week, it's been an emotional flow chart inside and out. Often, I find when I am fighting so much in the outside world, dealing with real life struggles, I don't feel the itch to fight in the ring.
Training to fight is a privilege, a luxury. The last four months, it has even felt selfish. How fortunate we are to have working body parts, no matter how sore or taped up they may be. The fact that we can make our bodies strong, breathe deep into our lungs and force ourselves to go another round is a huge blessing. To have the time to get ourselves in this kind of condition is high living.
Having lost my uncle and mother-in-law to cancer in the past few weeks has dwarfed most other frustrations and disappointments. I watched my lovely mother-in-law struggle for air in her last hours of life. She never complained the whole time she was sick. Her easy going serenity was contagious. My uncle kept a great sense of humor all the way to the end. My cousins were posting pictures of him in the hospital dressed head to toe in Jets pajamas. Both families who lost their loved ones were vulnerable enough to feel the loss and courageous enough to move forward even if they now have a 500lb weight in each one of their hearts.
How tough will you be when the fight comes to you? How will you deal with it?
Since I haven't been training hard in the last few months, when I feel like I am running out of gas, the recipient of extreme pressure from a sparring partner, and not performing to the degree I dream of, I tell myself it's okay and accept being where I'm at. I remind myself that I am lucky to be so healthy and have the kind of schedule where I can train and that as long as I dedicate time and effort to the training, there will be improvement. Results. I am also extremely fortunate to have seen this through a few times, each time getting better and owning my style in the ring more. For someone who can get easily frustrated by the small things, I am thankful for the bigger picture.
It looks like I may have a fight at the end of May and I'm looking at it as an opportunity to perform, to push myself, to expect frustrations, shortcomings, and errors but to also let them pass. The way I see it, it's a gift to receive the opportunity to fight. A true blessing.