Carla Wilcox waited for my answer, because this is what she does. She asks the question, knowing that, with some time in her boxing ring, she can bring your physical skill up to meet your spiritual, with what's inside.

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“What are you fighting for?”

Carla Wilcox waited for my answer, because this is what she does. She asks the question, knowing that, with some time in her boxing ring, she can bring your physical skill up to meet your spiritual, with what’s inside.

In other words, Wilcox’s clients are fighting for their lives. Better ones, anyway.

Wilcox will pose her signature question to every attendee at this Sunday’s TEDxRainier conference at Benaroya Hall.

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TEDxRainier is a local, self-organized offshoot of the annual TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) Conference, which started in 1984 as a gathering where the world’s leading thinkers and doers speak for just 18 minutes each.

Sunday’s sold-out TEDx event, titled “Seattle’s Signature in the World,” will showcase 30 of this region’s biggest brains and most compassionate hearts, including Michael Hebb, of the roving dinner-with-a-purpose organization One Pot; Chris Higashi program manager of the Washington Center for the Book and Seattle Reads; cellist Joshua Roman, and Mark Roth of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grantee.

And then there will be Wilcox, 41, owner of Wilcox Boxing Studio and a professional super flyweight, flyweight and lightweight, depending on what the scale says.

Her speech will center on working through your body, mind and spirit to get to your best self — which is, for most of us, a fight like no other.

“People come to me in a sleep,” she said. “I’m trying to teach you to get in your power and out of your own way. To come and fight and find a better way of being.”

She knows the struggle well, having grown up an athletic girl on the Spokane and Wellpinit Indian reservations in Eastern Washington, eventually becoming a personal trainer in Seattle. She started boxing, turned pro in 2000 and opened her studio that same year.

TEDxRainier curator Nassim Assefi asked Wilcox to speak after she led a boxing boot camp for the writers-in-residence at Hedgebrook, the women’s writing retreat on Whidbey Island.

“I could care less about the sport of boxing and am a deeply committed nonviolent person,” Assefi said via e-mail. “But there was something really powerful about the way (Wilcox) worked with us. She coached our bodies through our hearts and spirits.”

Wilcox’s session unblocked writers’ minds, said Assefi, who stayed up half the night finishing a draft of her second novel after one of Wilcox’s workouts.

“I’ve been blown away by the impact she’s had on my life,” Assefi said. “Something deep and on the spirit-level is happening alongside the sweat.”

Wilcox has already lost 10 pounds in preparation for her performance, which is just six minutes, but feels to her like two three-minute rounds in the ring.

“It feels like a title bout,” she said. “But they’ve asked me to speak and I get to just be. And that’s a gift.”

She will spend the first three minutes shadow boxing, and then the second three minutes talking about her life. Her fight.

It continues every day in her studio, which is in the basement of a commercial building on Capitol Hill. It’s more a sanctuary than a sweatshop. She burns candles and sage as she trains clients both privately and in groups, and keeps shrines to President Obama and Muhammad Ali. It’s a safe place for amazing things to occur.

Maybe they will at Benaroya.

“I hope the people at TEDx can take away a vision, or a questioning of what they’re fighting for,” Wilcox said.

And what is she fighting for?

“I’ll save that,” she said. “But they’re going to feel it, for sure. It will set some sparks in people.”

Nicole Brodeur’s column appears Tuesday and Friday. Reach her at 206-464-2334 or nbrodeur@seattletimes.com.