Punch like a girl (kick some ass, too)
There are many ways to blow off steam, but if you grew up a girl in these shores you know it’s a tad bit more difficult to express anger and frustration. After all, knowing to raise your voice will label you bungangera, and any signal of weakness like tearing up even if out of anger, will be taken to mean you’re iyakin.
Too, we are taught that it is virtuous to speak of our emotions quietly, if not altogether hide it from public view. The wealthier among us would distract themselves from emotion with food, drink, and shopping. The ones who exercise would know of how physical exertion can render any emotional crisis secondary.
I prove this true in the middle of summer, in the midst of personal attacks that I could neither run off, or yoga away. And with very little in the bank account, I thought: boxing.
The next thing I knew, I was in my old running shoes and clothes, owner of a pair of black hand wraps and bright pink gloves, paying P3,000 bucks for unlimited boxing sessions. The next thing I knew I was a week in and could keep to the speed ball with no trouble at all. Three weeks and the jump rope was my best friend. One month in I was ready to try muay thai, and I’ve been doing it since. The effects are more than the contingent weight loss (which I don’t really care for) and considerable strength.
The effect is that every sadness and frustration, and all kinds of anger, is left in that ring, where you pay a trainer to teach you to punch and kick, until your body totally refuses to move. The effect is a great amount of comfort in a space that is filled with macho, but isn’t offensive; a space where you are not treated like a girl, because you are told you can throw that punch as well as the next man, and your kicks just keep getting better. The effect is a sense of well being borne of the most basic of truths: you are the body that you keep, it is good to know its own strength, whatever its size.
And damn it. Finally you can say “suntukan na lang o!” and know you can throw a punch, like the girl that you are. Or just do a mean roundhouse kick.
I say give it a try, Pinay. Each one of you. You won’t regret it, though you might need to prepare for it. Here’s how—and why—I’ve stayed on this routine that is all mine. And I mean that in all its sweaty, ugly, who-am-I? where-am-i? glory.
1. Call a friend. Someone who’s willing to look ugly and sweaty with you, and willing to stick to the routine of punching your trainer to oblivion—your oblivion actually. I had Barbie, a friend who works full-time as mother to two kids, and who had free time on her hands. She had done boxing in a past life, had the gear, and was undoubtedly more prepared than I was for this. I found out soon enough that this is a whole body workout that’s unlike sun salutations and headstands. Barbie was ready to carry me to the car for much of that first week.
2. Pick a gym. Barbie brought me to Elorde Boxing Gym on Gilmore, and I knew it was meant to be: the friend I was doing this with, the gym she was bringing me to. This is no air-conditioned gym, and you will not have the choice of a female trainer. It’s two rings, punching bags, heavy-duty weights, and a whole lot of manongs. It would be good to steel yourself for the attention you will get, mainly because you’re a new customer, and they need to compete for you. Know too that these will be the most honest of men you will have in your life. See number 8 if you can’t wait.
3. Pick a trainer. And don’t feel like you’ve chosen the love of your life. We started off with Tatang Larry, who knew Flash Elorde, was a professional boxer, fought across Asia during his heyday. His training was the kind that insisted on right form and proper rhythm, and which gave me time to get the hang of combinations while learning to punch correctly. Soon enough he was teaching me how to parry punches, was telling me to throw with more power, was forcing me to move faster. His attention and patience was wonderful, but whenever I need a change of pace, or want to punch for punching’s sake, I go to the next trainer who might do a different set of combinations or who will force me to run a bigger circle. Boredom doesn’t happen in this gym, believe me. There’s a trainer for whatever it is you want to do, blacking out included.
4. Pick the learning. You need to know what exactly you want to be doing at a boxing gym like Elorde. Some trainers will give you a real lesson in how-to-punch and how-to-kick. But many others imagine that all you want is to sweat hard and lose weight. Yes, the latter will not necessarily mean the former, because in fact we know to throw a punch, do a kick. That we don’t necessarily do it correctly, for me, is time wasted at the gym. You’re there hon, might as well make the most out of it. Learn to box, don’t just do it.
5. Be patient. Deciding that you actually want to learn means failing tremendously in the beginning. I hated the speedball for most of the first week at Elorde because it was so darn difficult to do. My arms hurt, I couldn’t find the rhythm for it, and soon enough my hand was getting injured from hitting it too hard. And then on week two, Barbie and I could stay on that speed ball long enough to actually think Maggie in “Million Dollar Baby.” Yes, ilusyonada is the word.
6. Level-up. After a month of boxing I thought I wanted to see what else this body could do. Tatang Larry said to choose Mardy, a muay thai trainer who’s also a fighter, trying to get into the Philippine Team, hasn’t lost a fight in his career. Suffice it to say that you do not know pain, or difficulty, nor do you know power, until you start using your legs as weapons. I say that with feet peeling in all the painful places and legs black and blue from kicking.
7. Quit the kaartehan. Which is to say this is no gym for that. You cannot be pretty while sweating buckets, really, and there is no looking decent when you’re going for that 300 sit-up count. If you take boxing or muay thai seriously you will not care for how you look, because the trainers will expect you to be concentrating on rocking it. And then there’s this: at the end of every training session, you get a free massage, where you will be stretched like no yoga will stretch you, where your body will be treated to real-life damn-this-pain massage. Your short shorts will ruin the experience.
8. Take the tough love and run with it. It’s easy to fall into the trap of giving up and saying our bodies can’t take it, we are girls after all. The answer is no, and your trainers will tell you the same thing. This is why I love the Elorde Gym at Gilmore: the trainers will call you out for being maarte, and you can’t help but agree. The mind is a wondrous thing, you will find, and your trainers will work on that, as much as they will with emotion, to push your body to its limit. The relationship is as personal as it is professional: they don’t need to know why you’re there, but they will take pride in the fact that you’re throwing more powerful punches and doing higher kicks. You do not know malayo sa bituka until you force yourself to kick despite a bleeding toe, or remove your gloves to reveal skin lifted off your knuckle.
If at all, I think boxing at Elorde will put you in the proper more powerful place as Pinay, who is more stable on your feet, less maarte about your body, and a tad bit more confident about what you can do. And you will surprisingly find that your spirit as well is fed, by this space that is all macho, and which demands not so much that you be such, but that you be unapologetic for your own strength. In boxing and muay thai, and in real life, both. –KG, GMA News
Talk of the web