Tis Unnatural

Let it be said that for most of us, it is not a natural act to punch someone in the head. Previously, I would laugh at stories of women boxers who apologize after a punch, but yesterday, at Gleason's, I found a similar way of thinking turning around in my head. "I hope she's not mad at me for that one" or "Why did I punch her shoulder? She needs it for her pro boxing career." Even my first punches were play, aiming just short of the nose, as you do when someone demonstrates a move in front of you with no protection, which was nearly the extent of my experience. So when Sonya's head came into view (often, but not always, because she let it), it took me a few tries before I understood I could have at it. As Sonya would later put it, "We ain't bakin' cakes here." By the time I got to my two rounds with Alicia Ashley, the unnatural instinct should have been made natural, but some of the old ways returned, probably because Alicia, a current world title belt, has a way of looking mortally offended when someone lands a punch. She turns a lot of that off with us newbies, and of course I had been graced with many of her wide, beautiful smiles by then. And yet: deep down, I didn't want to make her mad or hit her as hard as I did Sonya, who has a hundred pounds on her. (Most of this thinking is moot, as "Slick" moves too fast for most punches.) / Yet unnatural as some of this still is, when I woke this morning and realized I wouldn't be boxing today, it just didn't feel...right. / Also unnatural is pro wrestling, which was being rehearsed most of the six hours I trained yesterday. Gleason's has a dedicated wrestling ring, and in it, several large men were throwing each other and landing on their backs from great heights, making a sound so loud everyone in the busy gym stopped, and yet by the end of the hour these thunderous claps were simply part of the ambience of the place. What wasn't so easy to get used to was the way they'd also rehearse "pain"; some guy would get thrown to the ground by his hair and stomped on, and when finally released would curl up in a fetal position, in severe agony. You'd be five seconds from calling the ambulance when he'd get up nonchalantly and get back to business. I never got used to that.


  1. ahah so much drama at gleason's, who knew?

    the bit at the beginning about wanting to apologize for hitting, it seems like there's a whole essay in there for sure. so interesting.

  2. Not really drama, per se, and certainly not with Alicia. You sort of take on a persona when you're boxing--not fake like the wrestlers, but a certain necessary stance. Alicia takes that one step further and adds a graceful style to what she does, all the while keeping complete command of the ring. She stands like she's in charge, which she is.

    As for the essay, yes, many have been written. I'd make one important clarification: the difference between hitting and hitting hard, because for me, that's when the questions began.


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