Thursday, July 23, 2009

Heavy Bag Blues

Every now and then, an asshole will show up in one of my boxing classes. Sometimes it will be a guy, but it will just as often be a woman. With guys, you’ll get the hyper-macho jackass who doesn’t know anything about boxing and spends the class pushing the heavy bag with his punches (mark of the novice), shirking the conditioning and walking around with a smug look on his face like all this is beneath him. He rarely shows up again, much to everyone’s relief.

But one of my favorites is the middle-aged woman with an attitude. Usually she’s not that good at boxing either, save that, unfortunately for the rest of us, she’ll show up repeatedly (but never go the distance and become a regular). I had a mild exchange with one the other night in class. The situation was that our instructor was on vacation, and the gym had mistakenly thought he was coming back that day. But I knew that he wasn’t coming back until the next day, which he had told anyone who asked. As a result, there was about a dozen of us standing around at the appointed time, with the gym manager coming in a few minutes later and telling us the situation, and that we could hang around and work-out if we wanted as we (i.e., me) had already hung the bags.

I usually don’t hang around for these situations, because you can get some real bozos in unsupervised sessions. But I had missed Sunday’s class due to the train running late, and I felt the need to hang around and do something. Besides which, one of my boxing pals from Ireland was there for the first time in weeks, and it was nice to chat for awhile. So, half the people left, half stayed, and we all went about our routines, some jumping rope, others doing calisthenics, others hitting the heavy bags. Not as physically demanding as a regular class, but still a reasonable workout.

Towards the end of the class, as I’m merrily pounding a heavy bag, this middle-aged woman walks up to me. I’m willing to bet I’m as old or older than she is, but she looks at least mid-50s. Frumpy, not in good condition. I’ve seen her here before and have noted that she always shows up five to 10 minutes late, the mark of someone who knows the class is front-loaded with harsh, boot-camp style calisthenics and is purposely late to avoid this. Some people do this because they have some type of physical infirmity – a bad knee or back – that prevents them from doing these exercises. I’ve seen a few heavy women do this, too, just because they know that introductory blast of conditioning is too much to handle, and they wisely sit it out. But more often than not, the person is just lazy, not up to it physically, and I wish the instructor would lock the doors and keep horse’s asses like this out of the class, which tends to be over-crowded anyway.

This woman is the latter. Doesn’t appear to be anything wrong her. Is frumpy and egg-shaped, but I’ve seen women with that body type kick ass in these classes. It’s just the way she is, and folks like this usually don’t last, for whatever reason. It’s always a minor annoyance to see them. Remember, this is a group class. As with any other class, you get people clowning around, not taking it seriously, cutting corners, or dragging ass, it has a residual effect on everyone, i.e., I don’t like shitbirds, nor do any of the other regulars.

So, we’re all doing our thing, late in the class, I’m wailing on a heavy bag, really enjoying myself, when she walks over, stops next to me, dead-faced, and exclaims, “You don’t ever throw jabs, do you?”

This is the first time I’ve ever exchanged anything with this woman … and her introduction is a passive-aggressive insult. Even before this … why is she not concentrating on her own workout and instead watching me? And apparently watching me enough to “know” this about me? All I can figure is that you can actually hear me hitting the heavy bag, because I hit hard, when a lot of people in the class, particularly women, don’t hit hard. Which is not an insult. But in my mind, it’s a heavy bag, the object is to pummel the thing as hard and fast as you can. The instructor uses hand pads to perfect combinations. Sparring is for self defense and movement. The heavy bag is for pounding all the shit you have in your system out of it. You have to learn how to cut loose, with near total abandon – and that’s the one crucial thing I see a lot of people in these classes never do. If you never learn to hit hard and fast like that, you’re wasting time. In a real fight? You’re not going to tentatively jab at someone as you would in a boxing match, or score points for well-placed rabbit punches. The heavy bag is the place for you to get in touch with some primal urges. You could be the next bag over, cutting it in half with a chainsaw, and I won’t be paying any attention to you.

And I don’t throw a lot of jabs when I’m on a heavy bag, because the jab is mostly a defensive punch meant to keep an opponent away from you. I have seen guys with unbelievable jabs, and there’s an art form to that; it’s a hard punch to throw anywhere near as effectively as a well-placed hook or upper-cut. Most boxers I see cutting loose on a heavy bag, including the instructor, aren’t over-doing the jab either, because they know they’ll be doing plenty of that in sparring. They’re blasting combinations where the power punches, the cross, hook and upper-cut, come pounding in a lot more frequently … because they’re on a bag, they know this, that they’re hitting an inanimate object, which is not fighting or boxing reality, and the greater lesson here is to learn how to hit hard and fast. On top of all this, most of the bags in the gym are worn out and soft in the jab/upper area of the bag (because that where most people throw their punches as opposed to hitting lower body shots, where the bags tend to be much harder.)

I should have replied, “Why are you watching me?” But I’m in the middle of a workout, sweating profusely, breathing hard because I’m genuinely exerting myself. This woman hasn’t even broken a sweat, and we’ve been working out for close to 40 minutes now. I don’t try to explain anything to her, mainly because I’m insulted that this ass-dragging, out-of-shape, always purposely 10-minutes late d-bag thinks she’s going to tell me anything about boxing. On top of that, in all my years of taking classes, not once have I deigned to drop helpful hints on anyone in any class. Why? Because I’m not the instructor. I see people doing wrong stuff all the time – I’ve already noted what I’ve seen wrong with this woman, and that’s hardly even paying attention to her. It’s none of my business. We’re all there to get a hard workout above all else. I keep that in mind when it comes to lecturing fellow classmates. I just don’t do it – because I recognize what they do, that I’m not an authority figure and in no position to do this.

She then goes on to explain to me how her trainer made her jab for three weeks before he even let her learn any other kind of punch. Huh. For one thing, she needs to get her money back or get a new trainer – that’s the sort of shithead stuff you pull from Rocky movies, he probably had her chasing chickens in an alley, too. For another thing … this bitch has a trainer? Really? The kind of shape she’s in, she can’t even fully function in a group boxing class, and she’s telling me she has a trainer? Generally, when you get a trainer, spending hundreds of dollars for individual instruction, the one benefit, no matter what else happens, is that you get yourself into phenomenal physical condition. It’s part of the deal with individualized instruction. In the past, particularly on weekends in the summer, my instructor would occasionally get me in the gym one-on-one, and those were “point of physical collapse” style workouts since the instructor could concentrate solely on me, dotting every “i” with the calisthenics and working hard on every combination and bag session. If I worked out like that all the time, forget it, I’d be in astonishing physical condition. Not this frumpy, egg-shaped being in front of me. She’s either lying about the trainer, or she might have meant her trainer years ago … when she gave up after three months and started boxing again recently to get “her fire” back.

I had every right to tell this woman to go fuck herself – even if she knew what she was talking about, which she didn’t – but instead I mumbled a few things, yeah, you’re right, I don’t jab so much on the heavy bag. But I’m so annoyed by this nosey jackass that I move to the other side of the bag and ignore her. She has her boxing gloves on. At this point, a few people have peeled off, and she could have her own bag. I’m not sure what possessed her to walk over and give unsolicited advice to someone light years beyond her skill level. She keeps mumbling about her instructor, blah blah blah, importance of the jab, blah blah blah, you’re not doing it right. She has a sour look on her face the whole time. All this is dropped in a condescending tone, as if she was a master of the form doing me a favor, which only underlines to me how deranged her view of the world must be. After awhile, she realizes I’m not listening and saunters away. I’ve learned that’s the only way you can handle people like this: ignore them. I’m not sure what sort of delusional garbage passes through someone’s mind when they do something like that … this is the mark of a person with her head completely up her ass.

This would have been like me going up to a Golden Gloves champ in the middle of his workout and telling him he was doing something wrong. In which case, the guy probably would have kicked my ass, or at least made a very bad scene over someone on a much lower skill level trying to tell him what to do. You just don’t do shit like that! It’s tactless; it’s a mediocre mind not seeing reality. What I’m thinking? She just doesn’t like me! She hears me wailing on a bag, has her attention drawn to me, while she slowly and daintily practices her robotic, predictable combinations, feels insulted in some sense, and thus feels some hoary need to inject herself into my situation … like I’m going to listen to her when I've routinely seen how negligent she is in terms of determination, punctuality, conditioning, simple abilities, etc.?

Of course, I hope this woman never shows up again, but she will. Always 10 minutes late. Standing off to the side, staring into space while the rest of us get run ragged on wind sprints or nasty squat-thrust pushups. I can’t recall when she started showing up, but I gather it wasn’t until the past year or so. Seen her type before, will see her type again, and next time, she might very well be a he … same difference. And I’ll probably be cordial to her if she starts up again with her gibberish. Why? Because I know she won’t be there a few months from now – the greatest lesson I’ve learned from a decade of boxing and applied to life. Bullshit artists don’t last.

No comments: