Sarah : The Southpaw

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A week after my third lesson, I was still excited for my fourth lesson mainly because it was going to be my first time practicing with my own boxing gloves.

The first thing we did in class was spread out in a line across the room and face the giant mirror on the wall. We were instructed to look at ourselves in the mirror and practice looking like we were going to throw a punch with one hand but then actually carry out a punch with the other hand. This is a technique used to confuse your opponent into protecting one part of themselves while actually punching an unprotected part.  I was really thrown off on how to do this drill because it did not feel right practicing without a partner. Also, I was looking at everyone else to see what they were doing which is something I always do to make sure I’m doing things right. However, this made the drill more complicated because I should be standing opposite of everyone else since I am a “southpaw” (more commonly known as left-handed). Aside from this confusion, my face was itchy so I went to scratch it. Normally, this wouldn’t be a problem but it is absolutely impossible to scratch your face while wearing boxing gloves. This ridiculous problem left me wondering about the answer to one question: Who even designed boxing gloves?

I was intrigued enough to look into the topic though I didn’t think I would find the answer. To my surprise, I found out that Jack Broughton is said to be the creator of the boxing gloves we use today. Broughton also wrote the rules for boxing which did not include using gloves. This makes a lot of sense considering that he was most popularly known for bare knuckle boxing. I also found out that   John L. Sullivan, who was a World Heavyweight Champion is said to be the one who made wearing boxing gloves popular in public fights.

Moving on, one drill we practiced involved one person in each pair throwing punches at their partner while the partner tried to keep moving away from getting hit. This drill, aside from helping us understand what a real fight would be like, also helped us practice staying in our fighting stance even while moving around. At one point when I practiced with the instructor, I realized I had my left foot forward. This would be correct if I was right-handed but since I am a “southpaw”, I was not in an accurate fighting stance for most of the drill. I quickly switched my feet around and took another swing at the punching cushion the instructor was holding. He noticed immediately that my punch was stronger after I changed my footing and said he did not even realize that my footing was wrong before.

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My attempt at a “southpaw” fighting stance


Prior to this experience, I didn’t think about what a significant difference the way you stand can make when throwing a punch. After seeing personal improvement, I was interested in what exactly a fighting stance does for those who are fighting. I found that if done properly, it will bring you power, defense, range, balance, flexibility, security, stability, and mobility. Once I stood with my right foot forward, I felt that everything came to me easier; especially remembering to bring my fist to my face after I tried to punch. Although I understand the importance of the proper fighting stance, looking more into technique I realized I still have to improve. After reading some tips I found online about developing the proper fighting stance, I found that I have to improve on staying on the ball of my foot to increase mobility, keeping my weight on my back leg, and bending my knees slightly because it also aids in mobility.

Another drill we practiced with our partner included dodging punches. One person would hold their arm out and the other person tried to keep their face as close to their partner’s fist as they could and would duck from the left side to the right side of where their partner’s hand was and then punch their partner’s side. This was confusing for me because I didn’t know which side I was supposed to start the drill on. Most of the time I have to ask for clarification if I am supposed to do things differently or the instructor comes over and it takes him a minute to remember I am a “southpaw”.

Near the end of class, the instructor told us to spin around fast with our arms out and then when he said box we were to throw as many punches as we could as fast as we could. I’m actually skilled at spinning so I was highly amused. An employee then made a joke that we should try and say our ABC’s backwards while spinning. Normally I take classes as seriously as I can so I can learn as much as possible. However, I tried to make humor of the situation so I said “Z, Y, X, damn it” and actually got a few people to laugh. Although all of the lessons have been fun, I particularly enjoyed being able to say something which I thought would be funny because I learned I could lighten up and learn a lot in at the same time.

For those of you who’d like to find out more, here are my sources for this post:

http://www.madehow.com/Volume-6/Boxing-Gloves.html

http://www.expertboxing.com/boxing-basics/how-to-box/the-perfect-boxing-stance

http://www.myboxingcoach.com/stance-and-on-guard/

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Information Overload

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One of the things I realized a few minutes into my 3rd lesson was that there is a lot to remember at once when it comes to kickboxing.

It was stressed early on in class to always block our face but keep our elbows low enough to block our chest as well. This at first seemed awkward but after a few minutes I got the hang of it. The instructor also told us to be light on our feet – which my partner said I was doing already and hearing that put a smile on my face. When you’re doing something for the first time, it is an amazing confidence builder to hear that you’re naturally doing something right.

After we practiced all of those techniques individually, we then practiced them together by skipping sideways in a circle around the room as the instructor tried to throw punches at us. I found this drill to be fun but a few minutes into the drill my heart was beating fast and I was tired. I was sure I must’ve looked ridiculous so I was slightly embarrassed but laughing regardless. When I took a moment to realize everyone was doing the same thing I was able to loosen up and be less self-conscious.

It has also been stressed in several classes to strike in different areas of the body, such as the liver, to inflict pain on your opponent. To be sure I understood where specifically the instructor meant to punch, I looked online and learned that the liver is located on the right side of the body around the ninth and tenth (floating) ribs. I was interested as to why the instructor kept pointing out the liver as a very effective spot if you want to hurt someone. I looked around a bit and found receiving a liver shot makes you unable to breathe and even if you feel like you can mentally fight your body feels as though it wants to quit.

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Aside from practicing the techniques mentioned above, we also spent time stretching. This was the first time we did any sort of stretching in class. Honestly, I have rarely ever stretched before a workout because I either felt silly doing so because I didn’t know if I was doing it right or I simply forgot to. It has been said that stretching can improve flexibility and consequently, range of motion in your joints. If I was to have to compare my flexibility to something it would probably be a broom.

The first stretch began by spreading your legs apart (like you are about to do the splits). However, you are supposed to keep your arms out to touch the floor. Once you are in this stance, you are supposed to do a push-up. The instructor was able to touch his nose to the floor and encouraged us to do so; unfortunately the only thing that I was able to get to touch the floor was my hair. Luckily, another staff member could not get his nose to touch the mat either and even announced it during class so I felt satisfied with my semi-ability to do the stretch. Another stretch we did involved sitting on the floor and straightening one leg and placing one hand on each side of the leg while crouched on the other leg.

I realized during this time that stretching is important because in a fight you will be kicking as well as punching. A lot of the time when the instructor demonstrated moves he was flexible enough to get his leg to reach his partner’s face. However, when I would try to kick my partner, the highest I could get my leg to reach was by her knee. One stretch that we did to work on being able to lift our legs was to put our hands on our partner’s shoulders while keeping our elbows bent. We were then instructed to alternate knees and bring them up to the elbow on the corresponding side as close as possible.

Between the coach explaining to me why it was important to do certain things and my partner reminding me of what I forgot to do, I was honestly overwhelmed and a bit frustrated with myself by the end of class. My partner would often remind me to remain in my fighting stance but almost immediately after she said it I stepped out of my fighting stance. I know I am learning something new, but when I mess up and no one else seems to be struggling I find it somewhat challenging in the moment to understand my inability to do the move right. But I simply try and regroup as fast as possible and try again. One thing that I remind myself in a situation like this is that if I actually get into a physical fight one day, no one is going to wait for me to regroup before punching me again. I am hoping with more practice I will be able to remember more of the steps out of habit. Also, aside from learning the moves I hope to learn to be as patient with myself as everyone in the lesson has been with me when I do not get the moves right, even after numerous attempts.

Although I get frustrated the encouragement of everyone in class I have worked with makes the time enjoyable. The best thing about this lesson was that afterward I got a t-shirt and my own boxing gloves (so I did not have to continue to use old ones from class which left my hands smelling disgusting for hours). Having my own boxing gloves makes me than excited to go back to my next lesson and try them out!

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Change and Acknowledging Truth

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The morning of my second class, I woke up in one of the greatest moods. I realized it was because in a few hours I would be heading to another lesson.

I noticed immediately when I arrived there was a different instructor there than last time. I quickly realized he must be in charge from the way everyone paid attention to him and he seemed to have the class more under control than the instructor last week. He seemed to pay a lot more attention to individuals, and came over to me a couple times to explain how I should be doing the move correctly. Working with another staff member when we split into partners and the extra attention from the instructor made me feel as though I got a lot out of the lesson.

I am still getting used to the fact it is okay to actually punch or kick when practicing. The instructor kept stressing to me to go harder on my opponent and not be nice. Another thing the instructor stressed was to not throw more than two of the same punches in a row. If you keep throwing the same punches, your opponent will know which area of their body to block.  Mixing your moves up is important so you will be actually able to throw off your opponent and strike them.

After attending two classes, I already noticed a personal change. Typically, I am apprehensive to ask questions in general because I don’t want to be annoying or seem stupid. However, I have been able to put some of my insecurities aside and ask when I am confused about a move. Honestly, I do hesitate to ask at first still but feel so much better after getting clarification.

At the end of lessons I am intrigued in evaluating how I feel after and what it means in the grand scheme of things; such as if I have improved physically or put enough effort into exercising. Some of the thoughts that have come to me or the things I have heard after only two classes has led to me to question exercise beliefs that seem to be widely believed throughout popular culture.

No Pain, No Gain – True or False?

The first time I stepped into a fitness center by my own choice was around my junior year of high school. My sister got into going and I thought it would be interesting to join her.  She would always be sore or in pain, while I could go and put what I thought was everything into my workout too and I would feel no pain. I was told that I apparently didn’t push myself hard enough, because I wasn’t experiencing any pain.

Two days after my second kickboxing class, my shoulders and hip were hurting badly. My mom told me this was a good result. I began to wonder if the “no pain, no gain” theory is actually true. I did some research and found that you might feel some pain when you start exercising and that is typical. However, you must pay attention to what kind of pain you are feeling.  Certain pains/aches such as joint pain, bone pain, muscle strains, and ligament or tendon strains are bad and should be monitored because if they are ignored they will get worse.

Sweating means losing body fat – True or False?

After my lessons I am naturally out of breath and red in the face. I was proud because I thought this meant positive results. I believed if I was sweating, it meant I was burning more calories.  I did a bit of research and found that people also have a tendency to think sweating means they are burning more fat. Although, the amount you sweat is indicative of your body’s ability to maintain its normal body temperature. You sweat when your body starts to store heat so you can experience cooling via evaporation of that sweat. Therefore, it does not have to do anything with burning more calories or losing fat.

Yes, finding out these concepts are false is disappointing news.  However becoming informed about why certain things are happening is important knowledge so you are not misinformed about your progress. Also, knowing pain you feel may mean injury not progress is very important to personal safety and well-being.

If you would like to read more about the truth of popular fitness beliefs I have attached a source below I used in my research.

http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/fitness-fables

Everything is Opposite and Doughnuts

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If you’re reading this, realize I survived my first lesson. In fact, I also managed to make it out injury free.  As a rookie and because of some chaos before my lesson, I learned some very critical things.

My first class was on the same day my family was participating at a garage sale by my aunt’s house, so we were at her house by 7 a.m. The good news was she had doughnuts for us. The bad news was this was the only thing I had to eat before my lesson. That was a huge mistake as I did not have enough energy to run on and after class I felt weak and my arms were shaking.

On that note, there are certain qualities in food you should look for/avoid before exercising.  It is important to eat easily, digestible carbohydrates like fruit/yogurt because it will help you to not feel sluggish. Also, avoid saturated fats and even a decent amount of protein because it takes longer to digest and will take oxygen and energy-delivering blood from your muscles.

The first thing I learned upon arriving at my lesson was the only class at 12p.m. was kickboxing. I wished I had gotten clarification on the phone earlier, but it was obviously too late.  It is still a form of self-defense, so I figured I should at least try it even though I was still nervous as I always am before something new. I had very high expectations, and was worried the lessons wouldn’t be as helpful or fun as I anticipated especially since now I was going to take a different type of self-defense than I  thought. I was imagining it was going to be a karate class.

In terms of the lesson, I did feel behind on my first day. I discovered kickboxing classes are offered other days of the week, and I am only able to come on Saturdays since I am away at college during the week. Therefore, most were ahead of me because they attended other kickboxing classes during the week. Another thing that made lessons confusing aside from having to play catch-up was that I am left-handed. Therefore, I had to remember everything everyone was doing I had to be doing the opposite in order to being doing the moves correctly. However, everyone there was super understanding and helpful so I did not feel too out of place. The girl they paired me with slowed everything down that the instructor was doing so I didn’t feel too lost.

Although I was not on the same page, I still tried to listen to everything that the instructor said. One of the things he kept referencing was a, “Superman Punch”. He did this move a few times, but did not explain the steps. Luckily, I was able to find information that broke this move down into four steps:

  • Lift your rear leg and slightly tilt backward
  • Use your momentum to take a small hop
  • Extend your rear hand for the punch as you extend with your rear leg
  • Return to your fight stance

Ultimately, it looks like this:

Flying-punch

Near the end, the girl who I was paired with excitedly asked the instructor if we could do something called 5 minutes in hell. My initial thought was “Oh no, that sounds like a terrible idea”. By this time, I had absolutely no energy left for what I thought would be involved in an activity with the word “hell” in it.

The class was divided into two groups – a group who wanted to spar and those who didn’t. I had no idea what sparring was, so I decided to play it safe. Sparring, I found out, is where you and an opponent face each other and practicing boxing moves to help each other develop skills.

For those of us who did not want to spar, there were punching cushions/ bags and we were instructed to beat the hell out of them. I thought that the instructor seemed hyper before, but at that point he reminded me of a child who had way too much sugar. He kept yelling at us to punch harder or we would have to do exercises and even made us do push-ups (I was never instructed how to and still don’t know how to do those properly).

Despite feeling out of place and extremely nervous prior to class, I had fun and enjoyed learning about something new. The last important thing I’d like to stress is to always bring water because after class I was incredibly thirsty and out of breath. And of course, ready to rest.

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Here are my sources if you are interested in finding out more:

Food to Eat/Avoid Before/During/After Workouts

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/PhysicalActivity/FitnessBasics/Food-as-Fuel—Before-During-and-After-Workouts_UCM_436451_Article.jsp

About Sparring

http://www.expertboxing.com/boxing-training/boxing-sparring/boxing-sparring-for-beginners

How to Throw a Superman Punch

http://www.scifighting.com/2014/10/14/35281/throw-superman-punch/

Why I’m Learning Self-Defense

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ASOne thing to know about me is I spend a lot of time thinking. Sometimes just thinking about something I want to do instead of just accomplishing it is still difficult for me because I wonder if it is even worth my time.  However, in this particular scenario that is no longer the case. After much time and research on the numerous benefits of self-defense, I can honestly say I am no longer divided on my feelings about enrolling in classes.

When I was a child, I would see signs for karate places and tell my mom I wanted to take lessons. I do not remember what particularly drew me to it, because I didn’t even see the original Karate Kid movie until a few years ago. My mom never followed up on it because as a child everything I was involved in I would complain about. I did not want to go whether it was swimming lessons or Girl Scouts, even if I had fun after complaining. I forgot about wanting to take self-defense lessons for a while and accepted that it was just something I was never going to have the opportunity to try. Around the beginning of summer, I started talking to my mom again about how I really wanted to learn self-defense and needed help finding a good place to go. I explained that I wanted to improve a skill or learn another one so I felt l was doing more than just homework all day, everyday once school started.

Most of my research about self-defense has been looking up what benefits taking karate will have aside from learning how to defend myself. All of the benefits that a self-defense class can give you I found are things I need in my life. Potential benefits most popularly acknowledged include safety, increased self-confidence, toned muscles, overall fitness, balance, and self-discipline.

Recently, I remembering hearing about a woman who was jogging on the I&M Canal Bike Path near Joliet on September 8, 2015 and was sexually assaulted by a man who jumped out of the bushes. This affected me strongly because Joliet is close to where I live at school. It has always seemed to me that more women are victims of crime than men, or at least maybe crimes against women are more publicized. In fact, from 1995-2010, only 9% of rape and sexual assault victims were male. The fact that I am a woman, rather short, and am always told I look young for my age (anywhere from 13-18), I began thinking more about how learning self-defense is very important. It has dawned on me before and again when I heard this story that those who commit sexual assault or rob others might see me as a target because I look as threatening as a baby bunny. I would like to be able to go out and do things, such as take a walk, alone without having to wonder if something was to happen if I would be able to protect myself.

I will be taking a group beginner class at Academy of Self-Defense and Fitness in Evergreen Park. I found this particular place in a neighborhood close to my house in Alsip. My original intention was to take a private class so I would not feel behind everyone and could get more attention in hopes of learning more. However, the class I am in will be rather small and despite my awkwardness I always look forward to the chance of meeting new people. Here is to hoping that after my first class I realize it was ridiculous of me to be nervous.

Here are my sources if you’re interested in finding out more:

Self-Defense Information

http://www.healthfitnessrevolution.com/top-10-health-benefits-knowing-self-defense/

I&M Canal Incident

http://abc7chicago.com/news/jogger-sexually-assaulted-on-i-and%20m-canal-state-trail-police-say/972997/

Sexual Assault Statistics

https://rainn.org/get-information/statistics/sexual-assault-victims