Tag Archives: boxing

Nicknames

photo by adamandkev photography     www.adamandkev.com

photo by adamandkev photography http://www.adamandkev.com

In boxing, everyone has a nickname.  Cool ass nicknames like ‘the machine’, ‘lightning’, or ‘terminator’.

I’ve got a nickname.  It’s not a cool nickname.  It’s the kind of nickname you dread earning.  It’s the kind that you earn in grade school and follows you forever.  It’s a nickname I’ve earned, and nothing pisses me off more than that.

‘Take a knee’ Sherwood…

I readily admit, my penchant for taking a knee early on hasn’t earned me the respect of my coaches, peers, or frankly myself, but I’ve spent my whole life protecting myself from unreasonable physical harm, and it’s a tough habit to break.  That coupled with the fact that I didn’t have the conditioning to last a full round, I didn’t have the defensive skill to avoid taking multiple heavy shots to the head, and I had the ill advised bravado to keep going in the ring with guys bigger, stronger and meaner than me.

Some problems are addressable, like conditioning, defense, and movement.  Others, like a preference for diplomatic discussion as soon as I get punched in the face, are a bit more difficult to train away.  That said, I spent the last two weeks dedicated to duct taping the gaping holes in my defense, doubled down on movement drills, and spent the off days on strength and conditioning training.  Those were controllable issues that formed most of my excuses, the rest is just a question of mettle.

Monday’s training came, and two weeks of training had made me stronger, fitter, and far more defensive, so I called out coach Brian and went into the ring with the single goal of going the full round.

Brian is a solid, strong, and quick guy, but I’ve got 30 pounds on him.  By rights, I should have an advantage, but he’s fast, skilled, and beats on guys like me for a living.

Like a surgeon, he picked apart my defense and threw quick, stinging shots anywhere and everywhere.  I panicked, turtled, and covered any part of me I could.  Immediately, I knew how this movie would end, and resigned myself to find a way to last it out.  I was throwing jabs, and he was answering with quick combos, finding spots to nip, tuck, and tweak.  I found myself tiring at that familiar place one minute in, I had blown it all again on punches that never pierced his guard, and had two minutes to turtle, catch my breath, and hopefully avoid the crusher.

But it didn’t end, I didn’t tire out, and I felt for the first time like I had the energy to mount a counter-attack.  He was dancing around me, backing me into the ropes, and picking me apart.  Like always, I felt like quitting, making the pain stop, and taking a knee, but the weeks of conditioning and the training kicked in, and my second wind arrived.

I threw a jab, then two, and the stinging stopped.  My shoulders, usually weighted with fatigue, had strength, a bit of energy, and were more than a little pissed off.  I threw another jab, and followed it with a right so filled with righteous anger it pushed through his flawless defense and landed.  Adrenaline, sweet and pure, poured fuel on a fire that had finally turned to flame inside me, and I answered his barrage with a flurry of jab, hook, uppercut combos, pushing him against the ropes, wearing a turtle shell of his own.  It was empowering, amazing, and a little frightening.  For the first time in the ring, I was in control, I was the harbinger of justice, and justice was being served.

I was proud as hell, but spent.  I wasn’t going to be able to keep up the torrid pace, and with a minute left I backed off to center ring, gave Brian a chance to recover, and waited for him to come to me.  My defense had held up, I’d weathered the storm, but another one was coming, and this one had a purpose.  Coach was intent on teaching a different kind of lesson, one that leaves a slightly deeper impression.

Speed is everything in boxing.  Speed is power.  Like a golf swing, the perfect punch seems effortless, and is honed to rote execution from years of dedicated practice.  Jab, punch, hook.  It’s a basic combination designed to break apart a defensive guard and set it up for a devastating hook at the end.   Seasoned boxers do this combo in their sleep, rhythmically pounding it out on heavy bags day after day after day.  It is so ingrained into their muscle memory that it escapes thought, avoids the microsecond delays of conscious thought, and becomes reflex itself.

Jab, punch, hook.  I saw it coming, and knew it instantly.  I had practiced this, I knew this, I could defend this.  Every shot that had dropped me to this point had been to the head, and I locked that shit up like Fort Knox.  Coolly, I nudged the jab aside, curved my glove against the incoming punch and deflected it upwards, with this economy of motion I ensured both hands were up and I was ready for the incoming hook.  I was already planning my jab, jab, punch response when it came, low, and in the ribs, lifting me off the canvas with a yelp and into gravity’s familiar embrace.

The contact was unexpected, and quite an unsettling surprise, but more so was the sharp pain and shortness of breath from having my lungs collapsed.  What was worse, though, was that I was there on one knee, on the canvas, begging for oxygen, humbled once again.  I anticipated the head and he took the body.  My normal fat based defense worn away by the weeks and months of training left my ribs without cushion for all 160 lbs of Brian to be concentrated into a single point of devastating impact, and it dropped me.

With 15 seconds left on the clock, time wound down, and another round where I had been measured, and found lacking, had passed.

A hard lesson learned, with a painful reminder.  It’s clear that coach Brian knows how to make sure the curriculum sinks in.

I went home and iced it, popped some pills, and walked it off.  Being humbled I’m used to, sports injuries are nothing new, and I was happy to see some progress, but to end up on my knee once again was demoralizing.  I nursed my wounds in a hot bath with a cold beer, and I made a silent promise to myself that I would never stay down again.  If they want to see me on my knees again, they’ll have to put me there.

But only if I don’t put them there first


Pain is my Concubine

www.adamandkev.com

Photo by Adam Schelle                  www.adamandkev.com

Every morning I wake up to her.  Sometimes she lies with me, quietly, and helps me ease into the day.  Most times she is impatient, insistent.   She won’t accept anything less than the complete enforcement of her presence upon me.  She will not dictate my actions, but her presence alone spurs me forward, outward, into motion, away from her, but yet always within her embrace.

We didn’t meet by accident, or by design.  One morning – our first – I awoke to her touch, and although unfamiliar, it wasn’t foreign, or frightening, and I found myself retracing the previous night’s adventures in an attempt remember the details of our little indiscretion.

She visited me often, never giving any indication she would stay, or any idea of when she might return.  To say we felt love would be an exaggeration.  We were intimate, she knowing far more about me than I her, but we weren’t beholden.   I knew she had others, I knew some of them were better men than me, more deserving.  I knew they had fought to earn her attention, while I had simply gone about my life, waiting for her to randomly show up, never really knowing what it was to love her, to need her, or to lose her.

As the years went by, my life got quiet, I settled down, I got comfortable.  Fewer wild nights led to fewer nights together, until I rarely saw her at all.  The few times she did show up, my resentment was so much that I rejected her, and soon she simply never returned.   I began to erase all memory of her, and life became easy, comfortable even.

I never understood what her touch meant to me until years had passed, and I looked into the mirror to see an old, tired man staring back.  The smile that had come so easily when I was younger now felt forced and awkward.  The years of comfort had softened all my lines, and I no longer felt invincible.  I was ashamed of this face that I wore, it had grown soft to hide the scars, and the eyes simply stared back.  There was no fire, no spark.  I had become a drone.

I knew full well that she had been the catalyst.  She was the sum total of my failures, my weakness, and my humility.  I had embraced her, accepted her, and made her mine, and in return she molded me into the man I wanted to become.

Age is a funny thing.  At some point you realize and accept your mortality, the fearlessness that youthful ignorance infuses you with is finally challenged, and you need to make a choice, destiny or self-determination.

If you choose self-determination, you recognize that you are the sole arbiter of your fate, and thus you may take greater steps to protect yourself from an untimely end through unnecessary risks.

Destiny commands that you accept your fate, at whatever time and place it may come, and with that the freedom of mind to engage, with reckless abandon, this playground we’re given.

Pain.

Instinctively we avoid her, but we forget that her opposite is numbness.  She reminds us of our weakness, humbles us by how much our fragile bodies can endure, and forces us to recognize that we aren’t judged by our words, but by our actions.

I awoke every morning thereafter and felt her absence hanging in the room.   Although I had gone so long without her, I hungered for her touch.  Apathy had smothered me, jealously guarding me from a life filled with failures, skinned knees, and bruised egos.  There was nothing left to do, but start moving.

I moved slowly at first, gasping as my lungs protested the cold November air.  I pushed hard up the mountain trail, but the heaving and retching of my lungs was too much to continue, and defeated, I crawled home.

Every day I moved, eventually convincing my lungs to process enough oxygen to keep my doughy frame in flight.  Each morning I awoke alone, the only witness to my solitude a pair of muddy runners, beckoning a return to their mountain playground.

Days passed, snow turned to rain, the mountain streams gave up their icicles for green mossy rocks, and my lungs filled with spring air, thick and heavy from fresh rain and damp earth.  I ran further, my breath no longer holding me back, my legs finding rhythm, my mind finding silence, and the endorphins started trickling slowly through me.  For a moment I forgot about the man who had hijacked my reflection, I forgot about being old, and I forgot about being tired.

I awoke the following day to find her, waiting.  No words were spoken, no explanations needed.  She simply lay with me as she had so often before.  Whereas before I had only noted her presence, I now revelled in it, like the essence of life itself was rekindled, sparking and sputtering beneath my skin with her every touch.   Tentatively, I turned to the trail-stained shoes to negotiate an off day, that I might lie with her longer, but the instinct was too strong, and in a moment I was in motion again.  Her touch lingered with me the entire day like the memory of a lover’s perfume, every thought of it was exhilarating.

She arrived every morning after that, and every day just as the last I thought of breaking my stride to lie with her, exhale through the pillows and let the morning take me slowly into the day.  Every day just as the last I awoke with her and went to the mountain.

Today, I know her like she knows me.  She is my constant companion, she is my muse.  She is the path to my best self, my greatest ambitions, and noblest pursuits.  She is my pain, and she is my concubine.

 

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I Coulda Been a Contender

ImageDay one.

Aprons for Gloves tryouts and a solid beating received.  This guy looked about 6’6″, 230, and mean.  The session starts with me doing 50? situps, one minute on a heavy bag, and then sprinting into the ring for an ass kicking.

I’d like to think he wailed on me because he figured I could bring some game, I threw everything i had on him, hooks, jabs, uppercuts.  I danced, bobbed, and weaved, and for a total of 26 seconds it looked like the old man could still deliver the milk.

Something changed after those glorious seconds passed, and as I took a moment to catch my breath and think about how awesome a pugilist I was, the sky darkened.

In an instant, I was in a hailstorm of mitts, lost in a tornado of black gloves and hate.  I tried to hold my ground, I locked eyes with my assailant, and all he returned was a grim smile.  I could see that my weakness was like fried bacon on sunday morning for him, and he was coming in hungover and hungry.

I put up a wall (cowered in the corner) and the assault continued.  The crowd, once cheering me on as I murdered a heavy bag, crushed crunches like Balboa, and swaggered around the ring like a caged tiger, suddenly turned.  Cheers of encouragement quickly turned to concern, and one voice, as if by divine intervention, yelled ‘take a knee you’re getting killed’.

It seemed a simple strategy, but all the begging, cowering, and weeping had done little to stop the pain’icane, taking a knee seemed counter-intuitive.  The good news is that I was most of the way there anyways, so when it dipped down, brushing the welcoming canvas every so lightly, the skies parted, the beating stopped, and I had a chance to catch my breath.

Then this guy starts counting to 10, and I won’t lie, I was a bit concerned that this meant there was more to come if I didn’t stay down.

I consider myself a logical man, to a fault, but as i was fumbling for the keys to my logic-mobile, I could see this behemoth of a man glowering at me with a cruel anticipation of all the harm he was going to inflict if I had the misfortune of lifting that knee.  The keys slipped, I stood up on the 8 count, and I’m pretty sure I beckoned him over, determined to go out swinging.

He came at me fast, tossing aside any concept of mercy to an old, doughy, dreamer who didn’t have enough sense to stay down.  In a moment, I formulated a plan that included a distance game, keeping him away with jabs, and staying mobile.  It made sense in my head, as key scenes from Rocky’s 1 and 2 ran quickly through my mind.

The sky darkened again, the room went quiet, but not in awe.  What little respect they may have had for a good effort had changed to confusion.  There was no pity, just confusion.  Why, oh why, would you do that…

My mind braced for the impact, I initiated the multi-faceted plan of movement and attack.  I waited for limbs to move, legs to shuffle, head to bob, and quickly realized I had used it all.  Every bit of oxygen, protein, sugar, and sheer will had been used.  Scenes from Rocky were quickly replaced by scenes of Scotty in engineering screaming, “she’s given all she’s got, we’re sitting ducks out here!  Brace for impact!”

I heard it before I felt it.

Time slowed, as if by some mercy to give me time to ponder my last moments, and seconds clicked by.  I had no epiphanies, no sudden realization that I had wasted my life on trashy women and booze (those are investments, kind sir).  Like a man walking the green mile, I had gone dead inside, transitioning into flesh and bone while my soul started the long journey elsewhere.  I was no longer present, and I surrendered my flesh to the fates.

The sound was at first soft, and then as it bore into my consciousness it grew more grating, harsher, as if to worm its way into my mind and physically pull the conscious mind out of its panic room.  I had never heard this noise before, it was a buzzer of sorts, but it didn’t belong here, in this cathedral of death and pain.  It belonged somewhere sporting, like a gym, or ..oh shit here he comes.

He stopped right at my face, leaned way down, and whispered “you’re so damn lucky”.

Moments after I had made my peace with my fate, I was free.  Free to suck in as much sweat stained air as I wanted, free to release my pillowy gloves from the protective detail around my face, free to finally pursue that relationship with the canvas floor.  Coyly, I grabbed the ropes, held onto them with an iron grip, and whispered softly to the mat.  ‘Our time will come, wait for me’.

I may have been bested, by a bigger, stronger, and more skilled man.  A man whom I will forever have nightmares about, and always picture as the cruel overseer of whichever hell I land in, but I have tasted death, and I no longer fear it.

I will not back down, I will not give up, and I will not quit.  I will stand or I will fall, but I will do so with every intention of emptying the tank on whoever stands in front of me.

I will get stronger.

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