I ALWAYS thought hitting someone required a little grit, a little fire in the belly that I don’t have. See: dodgeball.
But when someone, even a nice guy named Cliff, bops you on the side of the head every round while boxing together, resistance to punching could possibly melt away.
I headed to the boxing conditioning class at the Washington Athletic Club in downtown Seattle knowing it would be hard, but not knowing how hard. After class was over, when I was dripping sweat and panting, former fitness manager Megan Usui told me it’s the hardest class at the club. Thanks a lot.
The first sign the class will be tough is the teacher. Ricardo is a boxing coach at the University of Washington, and he does not mess around. We immediately started jumping rope, which wasn’t so bad until Ricardo had us jump side to side, then back and forth, on one foot, then the other, then high knees. Repeat, and repeat again for 4 minutes.
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All of that is pretty cool if you are really coordinated at jump rope; I am only coordinated on good days.
Ricardo then had us run around the room, hands up by our face in a protective position. We jogged, we did high knees, we did butt kicks, we jumped over cones, we ran sideways, we ran up and down a ladder laid out on the floor. I was sweating and panting, and apparently do not have an instinct for self-preservation; I really wanted to drop my arms. This is a warm-up?
We then put on gloves for shadow boxing and practiced different sequences. Ricardo took us through all of them and worked with each of us on form.
Footwork is hugely important. In the boxing stance for most right-handed boxers, your left foot is forward, set at noon, your right foot at 3 o’clock. You stay turned to the side so less of your body is exposed to punches. (My nonfiery self shuddered.)
For a 1-2, you punch first with your nondominant hand (1) then spin forward on your back foot and land a punch with your other hand (2). Ricardo showed me how to spin my back foot and use my weight to punch on the 2.
After working on technique, he took us to the punching bags, where we kept working on combinations, like 1-1-2, duck. He instructed us to follow the sway of the bag like it was a moving opponent. In between, he’d have us pummel the bag for a minute at a time.
We moved on to boxing with partners, who held up mitts for us to punch. Cliff, a regular, worked with me.
That’s when the bopping started. I did my sequence, then was supposed to bring my glove to my face to protect myself from the bop, which came immediately after.
That didn’t mean I had to like it. After each practice round, we pummeled the mitts. My left shoulder was aching. Donning the mitts wasn’t much of a break — I had to pop the mitt back each time Cliff punched the mitts. Bopping him, however, was sweet, sweet satisfaction.
Lastly, we sparred with partners. I worked with Megan, who was about my size. She kept telling me to punch her harder in the upper arm; she did not hold back on punching me. Ow. I landed a couple, but whether due to skill or Megan being generous is hard to say.
By the end, I was dead tired. The cardio from the constant moving combined with the physical strength required to continuously box makes for a mega-intense workout. Want to lean up? Box. And be prepared to let your feisty side emerge.
Nicole Tsong teaches yoga at studios around Seattle. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Benjamin Benschneider is a Pacific NW magazine staff photographer.