Tag Archives: Training Memoirs 2006 – 2009

Don’t wait.

Steps up to the gym. Walking up again, weary legs, tight chest, deep breath. Resist gravity, disrupt the daily inertia, it grows back like an overactive organism. Mental training is the only effective defense against this sisyphean dilemma. After countless times forging this path, the ascension is usually heavy.

I am grateful when I take these steps in faith, believing in the natural law of accommodation where repetition is the only permanence, where improvement is inescapable. Allowing a focus on becoming present and purposeful while at the gym created a career trajectory I never could’ve predicted. As a student, I flail, mired in doubt stubborn as a shadow Peter Pan would envy. I find my grounding as a guide, as teacher. I can’t affirm my worth as a athlete for my own sake; paradoxically, I find my purpose and strength as a boxer in helping others learn the craft. In 2008, I was in training with a multilevel group of women where mentorship and co-coaching were encouraged. I had the opportunity to share what I knew of technique, to instruct by example. This was a radical change for me, as a trip to train cued the Choir of Our Lady of the Righteous yet Fearful: “what am I going to get out of this? Will I get stronger, leaner, more efficient, harder? Will I fix in place a reputation as the toughie I longed to be? Will I prove to myself, my coach, ringside chess players, wide eyed art students sketching on location, god and the pitbull who wags between the heavy bags, that I am good enough?”

This simple change of perspective led me to listen, rather than need to be heard; to watch rather than need to be seen; to help rather than demand to be helped.

And at the dawn of 2010, my actions reflect this change of perspective: I teach a class modeled on this braided approach of awakening and fearlessness, of looking the world in the eye, which scares the pants off me. My courage in the ring has prepared me for this challenge on more than one level. I’m undertaking my first 200 hour registered yoga teacher training beginning in January, a surprise to myself, and myself alone, as everyone who really knows me sees this as an obvious next step. This broadened vantage point of possibility beyond the narrow win / lose paradigm is a relief, soothing in the face of boxing as a purely competitive pursuit. It allows me to love it and accept myself for the “failures” of a 3-8 record.

I write this because I need to see in black and white that this path is my own, one foot after the other, a step forward, then a few back. As I write, I tremble with all the doubts I plague myself with; my ego real is my only enemy. During rounds, my awareness becomes a self-destructive weapon, warring voices chip away at my confidence, rob me of experiencing the present moment, which is, in itself, challenge enough.

“Real warriors do not think in terms of challenge, nor are their minds occupied with the battlefield or with past or future consequences. The warrior is completely one with bravery, one with that particular moment. He or she is fully concentrated in the moment because he knows the art of war. You are entirely skilled in your tactics: you do not refer to past events or develop your strength through thinking about future consequences and victory. You are fully aware at that moment, which automatically brings success in the challenge.” – Chogyam Trungpa

I see myself looking to blame externalities for the doubting cycle: people places and things that, if rearranged, would cement my confidence – I must need the right playlist, X hours of sleep, a vitamin regimine, a sweatshirt. I watch myself move to a different heavy bag I will feel better at, I switch rings, this one is too squeaky, I don’t want to slip on the tape holding together a tear, I adjust my bandana again, I change socks to ensure a better practice, I investigate a new coach, the next sparring session, that’ll get be back on track. I am distracted, hunting desperately for comfort on inevitably uncomfortable terrain. Thoughts of quitting jab at my sides, this is torture, I fight tears, I entertain appathy, I turn everyone in that gym into my mirror – I look at them to glimpse my worth, and I protest too much, and what I fear most comes. This is bearing witness to self-sabotage.

One of the best instructions I heard in training was “don’t wait.” It refers to hesitation before throwing a punch. This moment of withholding contains a library, an audit, a camera lens, a labcoat. It’s the intervention of the thinking mind that stops satori in it’s tracks. Thinking thinking thinking stirs up regret, anticipation, everything from before and everything that’s coming, and there goes this moment. Don’t wait – throw, hit or miss. Waiting for the perfect opening, waiting until I really feel ready – I’ll be at a standstill for quite a while. In my experience, there’s no right moment, and I’ll probably never feel prepared to stand at the edge of my comfort zone. It’s in the simple, focused actions that I begin to experience and play with openings, im/perfections, and readiness. Growth happens when I miss, then throw again, duck again, pivot again, paying no mind to the inner critic, relentlessly tearing me apart.

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Push Pull

I’m taking a leap of faith, stabbing at balance in my boxing practice. This week marks history in women’s sports with the unprecendented entry of 3 female weight divisions, symbolically dismissing the myth that this sport is too dangerous for women’s participation. All day my technological nodes were abuzz with this news, how amazing to be a little cell contributing to the pulse of this moment.

With no intention to diminish this international title IX advance, this week marks history in my own boxing career, a small personal victory that honors the legacy of doing nothing. I spontaneously decided to take a month away from the gym – not a month of the debate (to go or not to go to the gym), but a clean break, with clear stipulations – stay in shape but do it gently, indulge the pace of the summer sunnies. The practice of “shoulds” – mornings shrouded in the mirage of obligation to something that I myself have in fact chosen – brings me closer to the insane place where each choice I make is bronzed and hung. Maybe I don’t know the best way to be an athlete, maybe restoration is as important as the zone. Of course I’m afraid I’ll never go back. Yet experience has shown me that I start itching to get back in that damn ring and I do, and I show up fully when it’s time to show up.

I would like to stop getting ready to live, and simply just live. I don’t know discipline that looks like pausing, that looks like letting go rather than pushing the river. I only know discipline that looks like grinding my teeth, setting in and constant go now forward. Progress is not always linear, it’s cyclical, this is how we season, through birth, dying, re-birth. What a curve ball.

This came to me unlike most decision-making debacles of pros and cons and back and forth fogs. Simplicity. I simply felt it was time to pull back and take a solid vacation. It comes on the heals of many unfought, ill-timed bouts this summer, a season that, in my mind was supposed to be all about fighting now that I’ve finally cleared the hurdles of nerves and fatalism that characterize the majority of my competitive efforts. Fighting 2 days in a row at the Women’s National Golden Gloves tournament kind of cured this. Way easier to step in the ring when you just done did it yesterday. It was a week of saturation, among peers and in full focus of my sport. I could rattle on without the self-conscious holding back that I apply in pedestrian conversation on the subject. Boxing is our common denominator, our shared outlet. I think every boxer has her own stories of first the crush, then what it was like to get her start in the ring, the initiation of bruises and blood spits, the debut fight. Then taking space for the first time; not easy to know when to pause, all artists have to learn to do this though, no?

I did, however, have the great pleasure of an exhibition bout last week – all the fun of performing without any of the pressure of judges, learned colleagues. Just a crowd surprised to see small women knocking gloves.

I may not be in the gym, but here I am, Friday night, at home with the laptop and Pandora, googling women’s boxing and blogging .. I clearly can’t really stay away too long 🙂