Finding Your Reach

At the boxing gym, there are dues to be paid. The money kind, and the kind where you prove your humility.

Ain't gonna walk in, climb up into the ring and get some mitt work; first you must walk in front of the mirrors. Front and back. Side to side. Over and over.

Then you may add punches. Then punches while walking. Again and again. Week after week.

One day, after all that, someone will come, check out your form, and decide if your name can be added to the list of who goes where--the ring, the double-end bag, the speed bag.

For about an hour I was huffing in front of the mirrors, day 2. A new guy couldn't get the steps, so I moved away and did my own thing. Over and over. Am looking at myself thinking everything's there--knees bent, space between the feet, elbows not flaring (finally). And yet: it all looked too tight, too tense. All the right moves but something's wrong. So I kept at it until I saw some people approaching.

Another trainer, I'm told in the introduction. But this guy's not smiling, so I'm not sure why he wants to meet, or why I need to meet him.

You've done this before? he asks.
Just boxing fitness classes, I say. I want to learn how to do it for real.
You're doing good, he says, then adds, Try this.

He assumed a loose boxing stance, his hands down a little lower than I'd been taught.

Relax, he says, like this. Now throw that jab. I did. All the way. I reached farther. That's it.

Now throw your power. He demonstrates, I try it. Watch that elbow. Throw it across your body. REACH.

I try again, not thinking about my knee, my feet, whether my right heel is popping up too far as it likes to do.

And then I get it. My body understands, my back is alert. The power's not so wild now; it's controlled. After all this time, everything's come together.

* * * * * * *

For the conference this past weekend, I prepped hard. To supplement knowledge gained from experience, I read, I took copious notes, I plotted out a two-day path as best I could.

There was a time when I'd have to script out everything I thought I might teach. In South Carolina, I relaxed and boxed my height.

And twenty people played together, laughed and cried. One committed herself to helping young women trapped in the sex trade. Another plans to use Theatre of the Oppressed to break down walls of prejudice in her community.

Relax, and you'll find your reach extending farther than you ever thought it could.


  1. So true about the dues. People often think it's as simple as getting your butt to the gym, but there is soooo much more. I don't think I realized just how many hours, weeks, and months of relentless drill it would take to start getting the hang of boxing. Obviously we're crazy for doing it. :)


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