Calm mind, quick hands

This year I wanted to do a corporate fight. Initially, I wanted to do it to see how much I could push my body to perform the way I wanted it to (within the timeframe I had). After having a heart procedure 2 years ago and inching closer to 30, I’ve wanted to push myself physically (as a way of celebrating a now-properly-functioning heart! My GP thinks I’m nuts) and to test my courage and will.

Anyway, I set myself up for the second half of the year so that for 16 weeks I could participate in a boxing camp. I signed up because I had seen posts about it on facebook and thought the fundraiser was for a good cause.

I was tested physically and mentally over the 15 weeks. I didn’t expect the camp to be as transformative as it was. I ate as clean as I could (real/whole foods and not processed) while still eating some of my favourite foods for sanity and sometimes laziness. I managed to still have a quiet social-life but centred my week around training sessions and minor Court appearances/duties. I would say I trained on average between 7 – 8 hours most weeks. This meant doing some sessions twice a day and resting on one day. Not getting knocked out was at the forefront of my mind during the lead-up, which dictated what I ate and how I spent my time.

I fundraised, I sweat up a storm and I got smacked around several times. However, this has been one of the best experiences I’ve had in life so far.

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The 15 weeks literally felt like a crash course in boxing – I wish I had been boxing for months before that, but I hadn’t. So I made an effort to try balance my work alongside making more than the requisite 3 training sessions per week. On the off-session, I would go for a run or do a HIIT based workout to increase my cardio-fitness (where I could muster it in). All in preparation to perform in 3 x 1.5-minute rounds. I got to spend more time with my dad and friends who helped do pad work with me, so I could work on my agility, faking and defence. After having my first few sessions of sparring, I had to keep my routine tight to prepare effectively.

I couldn’t really help myself being meek in the first few weeks. Firstly, the neuro-programming of this type of body-language is foreign to me and my character. I’m not an offensive person by nature – well, at least I don’t know myself to be unless challenged or when someone I love is being hurt. I’ve always played defence in sports and have been generally good at it. Secondly, it takes me a while to warm up to people. Thirdly, I also didn’t know what the f**k I was doing technically for a little while. For the first 5 weeks we trained together under Daniella Smith then the remainder of the camp with Terry Batchelor (Coach to Geovana Peres, Troy Garton, Roi Ransfield, and many other greats).

It was hard not to be starstruck during training sessions. Geovana gave me some pointers, laughed as she could tell I was still learning this boxing body-language and I was both angry I didn’t get the movement properly/quickly enough, but also grateful af that she gave me guidance.

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There were three points during the camp where I seriously considered dropping out. The first was not being used to particular teaching styles. It definitely took a little getting used to in the earliest stages.

The second moment was due to a health scare. My GP told me I was stupid for wanting to participate in a corporate fight because of my previous heart condition. His lecture made me consider dropping out entirely, because he made it seem like I might end up dying in the ring if my opponent punching me in the chest causing an arrhythmia.

The final moment was when I was emotionally and mentally drained 2 weeks out from fight night. The coach for the other team had asked me to drop approximately 2 – 3 kgs to make sure I was matched with my opponent by weigh-in the night before the fight. I was on the brink of junioring for a sex-offence trial (which ended up resolving on day 2) and I was applying for jobs (secured a new job out of town within that week). All while still making it to training, eating clean and aiming to get my 7ish hours of sleep per night. I was exhausted and wanted a break. I cut the weight (water loading – totally new world to me but one of the girls from the gym knew all the tricks) and pushed through the week until weigh-in. I ended up being 81.5 kgs.

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Boxing humbles you faster than team sports in my opinion – because you can’t lie about your weaknesses or preparation. You don’t have a backup player to help you execute the phase or take the ball down the court or field. Everything is on display in that ring for your coach, the opponent, and the audience to see i.e. everything you did and didn’t prepare for. It is literally all you. That’s it.

A week before my match I watched Geovana Peres live and some of the boys from the gym and their corporate fights. It’s hard not to be inspired seeing them all in the ring win all their matches. But Geo was the most inspiring. To witness that passion and dedication perform at top level is… Unbelievable. The moment is truly ceremonious and humbling to be a part of.

More people than I expected came to watch my fight, which I was both flattered by and anxious about. While you’re in the ring though, everything outside those four corners is a blur.

The night took a while because I was the last corporate fight. I took to the ring at 10:30 pm. Our team had some great wins and some close losses. I won by technical knockout in the third round which the referee called. I was thrilled to have so much support from my extended family, close family, friends and even my boss and colleagues/other seniors. It was a big mashup of social circles and emotions.

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Regardless of the result, it was the process/journey that I enjoyed the most. I can genuinely say I gave the training and prep my all (not being a full-time fighter and balancing it alongside work). Highlights included:

  • Improving my agility (something I’ve missed since giving up netball);
  • Learning how to spar and sparring – I freaked the first time, but I actually enjoy this now, when I’m not tired;
  • Boxing out of the same studio as some current female champions;
  • Making new friends and nurturing a friendship along the way;
  • Spending time with my Dad doing pad work;
  • Building a shit-load of confidence;
  • And physical fitness of course.

The top three mental elements I nurtured, that I want to apply to my life in general:

  • Fearlessness;
  • Keeping calm during the discomfort (be it physical or mental);
  • Mastering the basics of your craft.

I learned and am still learning how to control my nerves. An interesting result from this journey as well is that it has abated my imposter syndrome somewhat; or at least minimised it. I.e. if I have done the work and am competent to do a particular activity, I should not have crippling anxiety over performing said activity – just the normal amount of nervousness with doing something for the first time in front of an audience.

I’m grateful to everyone that helped out along the way and am happy to say that I’ve continued boxing training. I’m not sure I would do another fight because I want to focus on my career a little more next year with my new role – but I wouldn’t say no in future if I was in the right place to train towards it.

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