September 2018 – Okay so technically this isnt’ a ‘race’ as such, but a nice break from racing, and the learnings taken from this journey were just as immense.
Fight For Life.
Corporate Boxing Competition. Marlborough region, South Island, New Zealand.
The sparring sessions diary.
The first punch is the deepest
July 5, 2018.
“WOW!!” Blink blink.
“And WTF do I do now?!” I thought to myself.
My first ever punch to the head. Tick.
All day I’d been nervous about that inaugural sparring session that was marked in the Fight For Life training schedule.
Not dreading it, just nervous. Very nervous.
“Oh! Someone’s nervous! I can feel your pulse through your headgear!” said coach Mike, as he double checked the fit before the round began.
‘What if it falls over my eyes?!’
I do have to spare a thought for some very helpful workmates, who on more than one occasion have offered to help me out – “If you want some extra help I’d be more than happy to give you a punch in the head, just let me know.”
“Ah geez, thanks lads.”
It was the complete unknown that was such a mind jumble; what that first punch would feel like, how I’d react.
Well it felt not too bad, given it was delivered by a 16oz glove, to the left hand side of the noggin. Just kind of rattly, but not too rattly, not like my brain was going to ooze out my ears or down into my throat or anything.
The reaction; well after saying ‘Wow!’ outloud and thinking to myself ‘I’ve just been hit in the head!!!’ I somehow kept my guard up, (apparently I was doing okay at that for a first timer) and kept thinking about throwing straight jabs, and occasionally actually landing one.
End of the first two minute round – a hug of congratulations with the lovely Gina who was sparring with me, a competitor from last year so she knew how we were feeling.
Stepping out of the ring, my mindset went from ‘yeah cool, done!’ to ‘GASP GASP I can’t breathe!’ Number one rule of boxing, along with the other 73 number one rules, is to Keep Breathing. I don’t think I’d breathed for two minutes.
Next up; a couple of minutes in the ring with one of the coaches. He pretty much just jabbed and jabbed, and we had to try our best to break through.
Gloves up means seeing four gloves a lot of the time, at head height; yours, theirs, all moving, each pair trying to see the gap. That in itself can get tiring.
Somewhere along the way my nose received a good bump. Followed by snot. Lots of snot. Better than blood!
‘Reminder to self to gloves up, keep your guard. Or lose your nose.’
Breathing was better, footwork was better.
Major jelly legs in the final 30 seconds tough from too much jumping around and still probably not enough oxygen.
As for landing the jabs? Well, let’s just say Mike Tyson was right – ‘Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.’
Those four minutes felt like 40.
It’s going to take a fair few of these sparring sessions to feel even somewhat like I’m making any sense, achieving any flow, feeling at all like I’m in control of the situation.
In the meantime, it’s gloves up, elbows in, maintaining a solid stance, and breathing.
Coach Mike’s parting words that evening were “You did well, I thought you were going to shy away, but you didn’t, you went hard!”
In fact I must have done something right; I later learned I did in fact land a punch on the opponent’s nose during that first two minute round, a fact I was unaware of at the time.
Adrenalin is a powerful thing.
I felt terrible….. Sorry!!
July 23, 2018.
You only get knocked out by the punch you don’t see coming.
And the ref will stop the fight if you shy away.
Therefore, don’t shy away. Keep your eyes forward. At all times.
It sounds a simple plan.
It is not a simple plan.
Things are all good when I’m in the driver’s seat; landing some jabs, a body shot here and there, thinking about where my body and feet will go next.
Amongst that action I momentarily forget to guard.
In my head, in my face, wherever, it shook.
Gasp, catch the breath. Boomfph. Again. Forgot the guard again. Damn.
Receiving the third blow I turn my head away; out of breath and a bit rattled, it was the natural instinct.
The worst game plan, feels once again like being underwater, everything swarming, because I can’t see what’s happening.
Step back, regroup. Scan my mind for the key 74 rules of boxing, for now I focus on the one about breathing, because will stop the arms and legs shaking.
Stand still. Oh yes, Stop Bouncing!!
Right. Compose, step forward.
The piston jab worked well at times, but sometimes there was a leak in the system. Back to the maintenance shed….
July 12, 2018.
Below the surface
Scuba diving. That first time it’s all so new and exciting and a wee bit freaky because you’re so far out of your depth, (no pun intended) that it’s hard to actually take all the surroundings in, and properly absorb what’s happening. It’s only later, when you’re having a bit of quiet time, that the reality of what you did and saw is actually realized. You want to go and do it again.
Sparring is a bit the same in its early days. Stepping inside those ropes that form the ring. All a swarm of gloves and breathing and hits and throws. No rhythm, body not relaxed. Feels like you’re underwater, everything blurry and freaky, everything is slow motion, but at the same time happening so quickly. It’s only later when you slow it all down in your brain that you can decipher the foot work, the different shots, where you were, where you should have been, and how you might react better next time.
Each time I get in the ring, I try and feel less like I’m ‘under water.’
In between spars, I jump on the bags, and I can hardly hold my hands up; a viscous mix of adrenaline and nerves. And sparring is supposed to be ‘friendly…’ How is fight night going to feel, when the person I’m facing will want to land as many punches as I do? I’ll have to land more, it’s simple maths.
Marathon running has nothing on this…
July 26, 2018.
Had a taste of city life boxing training this week. Was up in the big smoke of Auckland this week for work, so trotted down to Boxing Alley in Parnell, a 2km skip and a hop from my accommodation in Newmarket.
One, Two, Three, Four, means right jab, left jab, right hook, left hook, (for me as Southpaw). Four, Three, Five, Six, One means left hook, right hook, right uppercut, left uppercut, right jab. And so forth.
No sparring this week, just lots of combos and a few different tips.
Good fun, refreshing, a nice buzz for the provincial kid in the city.
August 1, 2018.
It was my horse’s birthday today, which she shares with every other horse on the planet. She was 12. Happy birthday Zula you legend! But instead of sharing a carrot and barley birthday dinner soup with her, (horses love carrots and barley) I went to the weekly sparring session. Another essential ingredient for a good soup is onion. Learning to spar is a lot like an onion. Layers. Layers of improvement, layers of remembering, layers of tricks, layers of tips, layers of emotions, layers of fitness. Every sparing session seems to reveal one layer, which is the focus for that moment. This evening was about focusing on landing as many punches as possible. Add that layer of knowledge to the previous session’s layer of not shying away, and the picture starts to come together. During the early days of sparring, it’s easier to focus on one goal at once; trying to master technique or skill, which will eventually merge with the other layers, to form something strong. Strong, just like an onion, which goes great in carrot and barley soup.
August 9, 2018.
Nailed it. Tick. I didn’t look away when I was being punched in the face. Yes! No I didn’t! Okay, so it was just light sparring at this evening’s session. But still, it was a huge step forward. And looking forward the whole time makes everything SO much easier – can see more, read more, have longer to think about foot placement, whether to step back and defend, weather to lean in and attack. Breathing takes more of a rhythm. Confidence goes through the roof. Stoked. In fact, fitness has turned a corner too. Trying to pull out 50 to 100 burpees a day, training twice a day during the week, plus two to three sessions at the weekend. That’s a mighty 12-13 sessions a week. Includes swimming, running, biking, erging, and boxing. So a nice mix. And if I can get over the self-conscious factor of running down the road at rush hour, (Blenheim rush-hour, yes it is actually a thing) then a 40 minute run before boxing is a great bonus too, as is a double session. Onwards and upwards. Less than eight weeks to go until fight night!!
August 14, 2018.
On the right road.
Okay. So it’s like you’re on a road trip. Driving along, having a blast, enjoying the scenery. You know you’re going in the right direction, but there’s nothing glaringly obvious to acknowledge this. Then, you navigate one particular sweeping bend, it’s a bit steeper and sharper than the previous few so you sit tight, brace, grip the steering wheel and squeeze the brakes in unison. Around the bend, your eyes look to the distance, and take in the first glimpse of where you’re heading to. Yay! It’s a long road though. You still have a long distance to drive. But that doesn’t matter, because you know you’re on the right track and can see what you’re aiming for.
At sparring on Tuesday it was a bit like that. We’ve a new system in the red team now, where the chics spar on a Tuesday, the guys on a Thursday. This means we get more rounds in. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
When you spar you know you’re not going to get drastically hurt. So I took a brave step, (brave for me) and when my opponent would land six straight shots in a row on my gloves, waiting for me to create a gap so she could go for the head shot, I simply walked towards her. Not only did this mean I was getting into her space and setting myself up for an attack, it also meant I wasn’t shying away from punches, which I have been – my body reminding me that being punched is not natural! For sure, walking into the opponent’s space means I open myself up to be hit, but it also means I’m right there to land a body shot or head shot. Being fit helps – hand up, then rip, rip, head shot, hand up and jump back out of reach. Repeat.
It all looks great on paper and at sparring when we’re not going full blast, right? On fight night it will be a different story – the heat, the speed, the nerves, the atmosphere will play devil to 90% of my game plan. But all the same, I’ve navigated that big bend, had my first sight of where I’m going. I’m certainly going in the right direction.
August 21, 2018.
After the feeling of a big leap of progress last week, today’s sparring session seemed a bit flat. Such is this boxing journey. I lacked some confidence, spent too much time puffing and jumping around which deprived me the ability to read the shots, and think about countering. So when I spoke to coach Darren afterwards and he said I threw some good punches and had a good few moments of progress, I was pleased. Goes to show, although not every sparring session feels great, perhaps some skills are becoming more natural now. Perhaps!!
August 28, 2018.
Five rounds. Wow. Making the first round pretty much light shadow boxing helped – giving a chance to ‘tune in’, and I also don’t think I’d be capable of 5 rounds of big blows! Six minutes of respite between each round gave a chance to keep tapping the bag, and throwing in a few press ups. I’m really trying hard to be the one who throws the first punch, but it’s easier said than done. The mind still has lapses of blankness. Not ideal. But I’m encouraged by the fact that after I’ve received a rain of 6 or so punches, where I’ve ideally kept my guard up, a wave of anger and determination comes over me, and in I go with the jabs, upper cuts and head shots. I’m definitely looking ahead much more, and am getting better at reading the shots.
September 1, 2018.
Went to an amateur boxing match tonight, was interesting! Learned quite a bit, and it made me excited to get in the ring myself! Was chatting to one friend who got in the ring that night, he gave me one great piece of advice – ‘Look at your opponent’s chest, not her face, as you can read her next move by her shoulder and foot movement.’ Great! Will try that. And to be honest, punching someone in the head will be easier to do when I’ve been staring at her chest, rather than looking her in the eye….
September 4, 2018.
Slow down, breathe, think, and did they say slow down??!!
Ah geez, looking at the video from sparring this evening, it was hard to believe I’ve learned anything over the past 14 weeks.
I start off well; composed, stepping, calculated shots. Then after 30 seconds it’s like I turn into a rabbit on speed with a fire cracker up my bum. I panic, seem to be CHASING my opponent around the ring, (??!!) and start to turn away from the punches. My hands fall, the surroundings go fuzzy. I’m hardly able to stand by the end of the round. I’ve used way too much energy, as opposed to my opponent who has stayed composed and just punched when she’s needed to.
Okay so I’ve proven I can take a shot, and give one, and even counter. But I have to learn to slow down. So much easier said than done. I would love to be able to learn to change speed. So badly.
September 5, 2018.
Ha, one quick funny thing. We were doing bag work this evening; 6 minute rounds – wow!! I had my Spotify on, it was ‘rock work out.’ It sounded good. Well it was for the most part. Then near the end, the room went quiet for a bit, and Fleetwood Mac ‘Go Your Own Way’ came on.
Mike: ‘Who’s phone is plugged in at the moment?’
Me: (I wanted to change the subject, but he asked again.)
‘Mine, but I put on rock songs, I don’t know why this came on!”
He cracks up.
“I’m not going to say anything! But don’t forget that everybody heard it.”
Then he starts to sing ‘Go Your Own Way’ as he puts in some fancy footwork across the gym floor. So silly.
FIGHT FOR LIFE FIGHT NIGHT – Saturday September 29, 2018.
The Red Team.
I learned just last week that TKO means TECHNICAL knock out. Not TOTAL knock out. Anyway, there was no TKO activity in my six minute Fight For Life boxing career on Saturday night. But I did manage to display enough boxer-Bella-bility to lift the silverware after the final bell dinged. Hands up, elbows in, breathe….. all sounded so straight forward on Day One.. Apparently boxing is a tough sport. Understatement. You can’t have a rest, you can’t hide. You merely frantically scan your brain for about 7% of the skills and tactics you spent hours learning and supposedly perfecting – it turns out to be just enough to land enough jabs and dodge enough hooks to keep your arse safe enough. All the while on wobbly legs with minimal oxygen. And you’re getting punched in the face. Lots. And now and again you totally surprise yourself and pull out a combo that has enough force for the ref to pull an 8 count on your opponent, and you gasp and wheeze and say to yourself THANK GOODNESS I GET A BREATHER 😅 then you’re into it again.
“Dance like a butterfly, sting like a bee…” In my wildest dreams Muhammad Ali.
The crowd is screaming, it’s boiling hot, but all you remember and notice is your pumping adrenaline, your coaches at ring side, your opponent and the ropes. What a 16 week journey that was… stoked to have achieved what I did in the ring, and totally gutted it’s over. Yet, this rookie southpaw will now happily and willingly retire an undefeated boxer. With all my teeth in tact. 😁👍 In fairness, my face hasn’t been this messy (black eye and swollen and bleeding nose) since I was head butted by an angry pregnant ewe in Ireland 7 years ago…. 🙄 The Red Team- what a fabulous bunch of humans, geez we had some laughs. And some tears. Coaches Mike Newton and Darren Aldridge, and team manager Michelle Chapman- the patience of saints, I could go on and on… “If you lose you’ll have a lot of explaining to do…” “Why are you bouncing around like a rabbit?!” 🤣🤣 My sponsors Kurt Lindsay Bayleys, GM Engineering, and Blackmore Fencing Ltd – thanks heaps for backing me in this journey, and for getting right behind Life Education Trust.
And great pics Celeste from the Sun Newspaper, and the nearly- passed- out one from my dad Pete. 🥊👊🏻💪🦄