I’m excited to share our very first Guest Post by the talented Angie Kennedy, from American Heavyweight! Angie writes about fitness, science and the funny things that happen when you step outside your comfort zone. She has a Masters degree in Kinesiology, over 20 years experience working with athletes and nothing embarrasses her, ever. And I love her. We have a mutual obsession with fitness, style and raising little ones, all while keeping afloat in the Seattle blogging scene. Remember my tribe? Yeah she’s one of them – so keep reading, and I promise by the end you will be ready to kick some ass – because she’s that kinda girl…
Should You Try Boxing?
by Angie Kennedy
How do you behave when someone you’ve just met intimidates you? Do you clam up, do something weird with your face or fidget awkwardly? I’m rarely intimidated when meeting new people. Don’t get me wrong, I do get intimidated but it rarely happens in these situations, in particular if that new person is an athlete. For over 20 years, my job as an exercise scientist meant I was constantly working with professional athletes, so it’s rare that a cold-call interview with an athlete will throw me off. That is, until I met Coach Ann at Cappy’s Boxing Gym in Seattle’s Central District. Coach Ann is a former competitive boxer and jiu jitsu champ who put down her gloves and her best BJJ Gi and is now the co-Head Coach of their amateur boxing team. She was very open to speak about their boxing program and the impact of boxing in her life. However, over the duration of my conversation with her, I actually felt more intimidated, not less. Was it the fact that she has a knock-out (KO) record? I do not have a KO record. Unless you count the time I accidentally knocked out my friend Tom Rabey during a 12th grade game of California Kickball. I wouldn’t count that either, he was barely out for like a minute, tops. But I digress, what threw me off was her arresting confidence. She’s a powerful, intelligent woman that spoke beautifully about the sport and art of boxing. And she had me hooked. I had to know: was my path to enlightenment a few jab-cross combos away?
Boxing is a controversial sport. Critics describe it as barbaric and exploitative. The long-term impact of concussions, common among competitive boxers, is hugely topical right now, and rightly so. We are still mourning the death of Muhammad Ali, one of the boxing greats of our generation. His Parkinson’s symptoms still remain controversial as to whether they were linked to the repeated head trauma incurred in his sport. In contrast, boxing advocates speak to the total body athleticism, strategy and almost transcendental experience of the sport. Boxing training has helped a lot of athletes get through some rough emotional times and in this gym, like many others, everyone is fighting their own match, in the ring and in life. So is there still a place for boxing? Could boxing for fitness, with its no head-contact rule, reap the benefits while mitigating the risks?
So I set out to try my hand at a boxing conditioning class, a blend of high-intensity intervals with traditional boxing elements. Cappy’s Boxing Gym is exactly how you imagine an old school boxing club would look. A narrow, carpeted stairwell brings you to a stuffy, dimly lit room. I surveyed the room while I waited my turn to get my wrists wrapped, the long strips of cloth designed to protect my wrists and hands against injuries during punching. Heavy bags lined one side and gloves and skip ropes lined the other. My instructor, Margaret Savas, possessed the same arresting confidence I had just encountered with Coach Ann. “Boxing empowers you towards a lifelong journey of self-exploration and emotional growth,” she said as she set the clock to countdown in two-minute rounds. “The Cappy’s philosophy is ‘live a boxer’s lifestyle’, so in a way I am always training. This doesn’t mean I’m working out all the time, it means that I use everyday movements and interactions to strengthen what I want to strengthen for my boxing and for my life. It’s body alignment awareness and emotional pattern awareness.” So basically I was about to work out with a Jedi. Maybe there was something to boxing as a path to self-awareness. I hoped the subsequent 60 minutes would reveal all.
We cycled through calisthenics, shadow boxing and partner medicine ball throws for 10 rounds. The second half of the workout had us rotate through another series of stations, but this time we got to hit. I hit heavy bags, speed bags and focus pads held by an incredibly patient partner that didn’t flinch when my punches failed to ‘land’. (Translation: I punched her awkwardly in the chest.) I expected to use this class to work through all my regular-life frustrations but the exact opposite happened. For the first time in what felt like years, the inner chatter was silenced. I was so focused on the punching tempos and the direction of force through my fists, that my mind went quiet. The rhythmic ‘jab-jab-cross-hook’ rhythms were meditative. I was so exhausted at the end of class that I felt both very heavy and very light. My arms, back and abs were practically vibrating. Maybe it was because I was light headed from the hour-long grueling class but I had a glimpse of the mind-calming aspect of the sport that these women were describing.
After class, I asked Coach Ann why she chose boxing, and in particular why she transitioned to coaching after leaving competitive boxing. “My personal journey, like many of those in this gym, is being realized through boxing,” she replied without any hint of arrogance. She paused. “This is my path, mastering the art of boxing and in turn, gaining more power in myself, which I can transfer to my students through teaching.” Another long pause followed. I found myself leaning in slightly, eyes locked on her contemplative face, wondering if boxing could be the key to spiritual awakening? She broke my gaze and scanned the room, settling upon a couple of her more experienced fitness boxers and laughed. “Then again, there’s something extremely rewarding about landing a punch and knowing you can land a punch.” I exhaled. Boxing not only as an art form, but an avenue for empowerment.
I got it. If you can control your punch, you can control a lot of things in your life. And yes, I can attest that it does feel pretty great to land a punch, even if it was only on a heavy bag.
If this doesn’t have you signing up for a boxing class, then I don’t know what will. Nothing quite like feeling empowered, am I right?
You can find more info about Cappy’s Boxing Gym HERE.
And of course, give my girl, Angie, some love!
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I’d love to know if you’ve tried boxing and where? What are your thoughts on the sport?