First and foremost, the HUGE news this week is that I now have a Facebook page, as it is necessary to have all the pages, I'm told. If you "like" the blog, perhaps you would like to "like" the Facebook page, here, if you're lazy (there's no shame in it).
As mentioned in previous posts, for the last few weeks, I have been taking boxing lessons with Naomi Gibson, aka Girls in Gloves, at the very charming Body Studio in Shoreditch (which, if you're interested in having a go at boxing classes, but maybe put off by the prospect of a bunch of sweaty brutes leering at you, is a really friendly and non-intimidating venue to try it out). It's been a pretty enlightening experience, which has really surprised me, as I'd always thought, in all honesty, that boxing was just about a bunch of gnarly eared blokes beating each other's brains out. It turns out, there's quite a bit more to it than this - it's incredibly skilful, for a start, and women do it too! In pink boxing gloves (which, FYI, I'm still not over)!
I'm a subscriber of the Beyoncé Knowles school of feminist thought. No one (including myself) really knows what this means. I think we can assume however it's on the light-touch side, i.e. wear earrings that look like crisps, only cry beautiful, solitary tears (if you haven't seen the video for If I Were A Boy, you need it in your life), but most importantly, always ask yourself: "What would Sasha Fierce do?". Usually, Sasha Fierce is right, but she's not good on white wine and unfortunately sometimes leads me on a bit of a "tell the object of your affections he's a total eff star star because he hasn't done EXACTLY what you wanted with IMMEDIATE EFFECT, instantly regret it and cry neither beautiful, nor solitary tears", merry dance. Sorry, objects of my affections, Sasha Fierce made me.
I digress. The point is, as a subscriber to the Beyoncé Knowles school of feminist thought, I was fascinated by what I discovered about boxing. Professional boxing is still a very underdeveloped scene for women, and licenses weren't even issued to us in the UK until 1998. The pro-boxing talent pool is therefore relatively small, and there's no market for it, so Don King or whoever, doesn't want to touch it. This is partly because of the small talent pool but you can't help but wonder if it's also because society doesn't want to see women punching each other in the face. If you think that's what boxing is about, then why do you want to see men doing it?
So, for example, Nicola Adams, one of the world's first ever female boxing Olympic Gold Medallists, i.e. the best in the world at what she does, has a comparatively limited earning capacity despite her amazing talent. Meanwhile, in men's boxing, Floyd Mayweather (who won a bronze Olympic medal in 1996) was guaranteed earnings of $32m when he took on Miguel Cotto earlier this year, in a fight that generated $94m in revenue from Pay Per View subcriptions alone. Anyway, I'll probably come back to this chin stroking outside of the context of this particular blog at some point, but, if you think it's bad that women get paid abysmally in comparison to men for their sporting endeavours, which I'm quite convinced you should, why not have a gander at Stylist Magazine's interesting campaign.
So, back to my inspirational journey and the spirit of Sasha Fierce. In my first week Naomi has me jumping around on a tyre, which is going to teach me about balance, footwork and, evidently, that I am incredibly unfit. There are a lot of push ups, and even "girls" push ups are almost impossible. "On a scale of one to ten, ten being "I think I might be sick/pass out", how are you feeling?" she asks after two rounds of tyre jumping and push ups. Maybe, seven? We're up to about 9 after some star jumps and burpees. "Is it really bad that I'm this unfit?" I ask her. I'm grateful that her response is that she's seen worse.
We move on to the basics and Lady Boxing 101: "Keep your arms up to protect your boobs - you do NOT want to get punched on the tit" Naomi tells me. Damn straight. I don't really want to get punched anywhere. So we're on to jabs and crosses, which once you're thinking about your stance and balance, bringing footwork into the equation nearly blows my tiny mind. This is so much more complicated than I had ever imagined. At the end of the first session, Naomi takes in my sweaty, red-faced state and says, "So, marathon training... Yeah, that's a lot of training".
On the second week's session, we're doing more of the same but with hooks and upper cuts added to my repertoire of harm-causing moves. Except that I'm kind of rubbish at causing harm - I can't punch very hard, which surprises me. Realistically, Naomi is double hard, and I'm not going to hurt her, but I don't want to punch her hand. I'm not really in the business of punching anyone's hand, let alone someone who is smaller than me. It's quite difficult to get round this and even with the punch bag, I'm not massively forceful. "You're not knocking at the door asking if you can come in - you're banging on the door and you're shouting 'LET ME IN!'." Naomi tells me. I pretend I'm Sasha Fierce and my punch is the physical manifestation of one of those "you're an eff star star" texts to an object of my affection and it comes more naturally. Also, I can do a (girl's) push up now, without wanting to vomit, which feels like progress.
On the third and final week, we go back over the moves I've learnt and I really feel like I've made a lot of progress. Naomi reckons I've done alright considering that it's only been three sessions, and I get in the ring. Now, I mustn't be disingenuous here, I did not fight Naomi, but I did punch her padded hands (whilst moving around) and I wasn't really awful at it. This sport has taught me that I'm all mouth and no trousers. I'm not sure that I'm going to want to do much in the way of sparring with people, because I'm a massive wuss and surprisingly adverse to the idea of punching someone in the face, but the training sessions are amazing. I felt fitter for 3 sessions and can only imagine how buff I would be if I could train twice a week.
Despite the fact that strictly speaking, I could award myself a gold medal for this, as the only competitor, it just feels wrong. So I'm settling for the silver and handing the gold over to Naomi, mostly because she's been an awesome trainer (and she's definitely harder than me).
For pictures of these sporting exploits, have a look at www.jeninspired.wordpress.com