It will not have passed the notice of regular readers that I have taken up boxing. I've mentioned that the weekday sessions are fairly light-hearted (if not painless); but that the Saturday sparring sessions can be pretty brutal. Here are some results from my latest sparring session. This one came from blocking flurries of right-hand body blows in an exercise in "defending ourselves" in which our trainer put one of us in a corner of the ring, forbid us from throwing any punches, and let another guy whale on us for a few minutes at a time. Ouchers.
This was from actual ring-time. Not sure if my opponent got a left hand up inside of my headgear somehow; or whether he just hit the corner so damned hard it didn't matter. In any case, the full area between my eyelid and eyebrow was a rich purple for about a week.
This is my sister Erin, upon my lap, upon my desk. (The bone? Oh, that's just a little something I picked up in the Okavango Delta.)
This last item requires significant annotation. First of all, I absolutely do not smoke. (I'm a vegan, exercise fanatic, seed-eating health nut remember?) But way back in the day, we would indulge in clove cigarettes now and again, because they were tasty, and we were naughty, and they had an uncanny ability to bring a fading buzz back to life. In more recent years, on occasion, when depression, and the concomitant desire for oblivion, however temporary, have gotten hold of me to the point that drinking just doesn't do it, I'd go out and get a pack of cloves. Happened maybe two or three times in the last six years. My last pack has lasted me about eight months now. But, if I have some lying around, every once in a blue moon, when I'm drinking, I'll get a hankering for one. (Again those 20 clove cigarettes have lasted me eight months, and counting.) It's probably a measure of how infrequent an indulgence this is that, on this occasion, it was found that there was no method of creating fire in the house. So I went with the never-popular get-something-lit-off-the-stove-burner method. (Which method has resulted in my friend Matt having cause to point out that nothing is so annoying to a roommate as a guy running around the house, in the middle of the night, screaming, with his head on fire.) Anyway.
I was also moving better, and defending myself better, and managing to throw a few decent combos. I'm liking this right-uppercut/left-hook combo. There just doesn't seem to be any great way to block an uppercut and, at our level at any rate, people don't seem to be expecting them. And the first punch causes enough confusion and scrambling that they don't see the left coming, which is pretty much the point of a hook in the first place. I also don't mind a simple straight left/right combo, with a big left step in. And I keep my left hand moving, just to keep my opponent from settling down; as I mentioned, I figured out quickly I have a decent left hand.
All that said: I got completely put away in one bout. Just pummelled right into the corner, and onto the mat. I was fighting this guy who has about maybe three inches and twenty pounds on me. But, more to the point, he does private training with one of our instructors. Guy can fight a little. Anyway, I was standing up to him, but he started throwing a bit of a flurry and he's good enough that he knows the importance of pressing an advantage. So he waded on in, and down I went. It was funny, because I could see it happening, and I knew it was happening, and I knew there was pretty much nothing I could do to stop it or get out of it. But I was okay with it. I knew I could survive it. I was even laughing a little, even at the time. Later, our instructor, Graham, who actually trains actual pro boxers, pointed out that I really went down because I got my feet tangled up. I have this bad habit of lifting my back (right) foot when I throw my right and, worse, putting it back down behind and across my front (left) foot. "Mike Tyson would go down with his feet like that," Graham said, in his Irish bruiser brogue.
I also took one shot somewhere along the line that staggered me and gave me an instant headache that I was sure was going to last a week. (It went away in a few hours.) But, all in all, I gave at least as good as I got. And I kept my feet and kept my cool and managed to put some combos and some footwork together. Great improvement.
One measure of this was actually at a weekday session soon after. We were doing (very) light sparring, and I got matched up with the big guy who had pummelled me into near-oblivion on my very first time on the ring. We were hitting very light; but he was knackered by this point and I wasn't and I was just way too quick for him. I rather owned him, and he said as much afterwards.
Couple of other random notes: I mentioned the defensive drills we did. As Graham pointed out, you've got to be able to sit there and take punches and not be afraid of them. If you know how to cover up, it's actually fine, and you can exhaust your opponent this way. (Graham talked about winning one fight where he didn't throw a single punch until the third round.) I also learned how to keep my head moving before, or even whether, my opponent throws a punch. If he's got a constant moving target, his offensive job is much harder. I also learned how psychological a game it is "totally mental" Graham said. He talked about one fight he did at "The Real Fight Club", in Brighton, a match he won before it started, by staring at his opponent like a total psycho while they were waiting.
I also learned that, at our level, people don't have a whole lot of tricks. And whichever one they pull out, it leaves them open somewhere. So, once you've clocked it, you just wait for them to try it again or, you even draw it out: if they like a left hook, for instance, you drop your right hand a little for them. And when you see them go into it, you know where they're going to be open. (Left side of the body for instance.) Once you do that again, at least at this level you can kind of score at will. That feels good. They know you've got their number somehow, but they haven't figured out how or why, and that makes them very cautious. Similarly, if they've got a good, effective combo . . . it's particularly important to come back with something, and hurt them, after they throw it. The last thing you want is your opponent thinking he can throw his good combo with impunity. Instead, you want him thinking, Damn, that really hurt like shit the last couple of times I've thrown that. You want him thinking very carefully about whether he wants to throw that again.
So, you can see: despite the surface brutality, a very thoughtful sport. (hide)