After a few weeks of boxing, I still hurt every time I leave the gym. My arms feel like jelly, my entire midsection is as one giant hunk of tenderized meat. But each time I strap on the gloves and start throwing jabs and crosses, I forget about the pain as I learn a little more about this age-old sport.
Not everyone at the gym is swinging for the golden glove (Lord knows I'm not). There are several types of people with whom I have shared a class. Here is a brief cross-section of the a few of the athletes:
Uncertain, over-confident high school boy
Two kids with Bieber cuts and high-school wrestling shirts stood next to me at the gym last week. I tried to be cordial, but as we began our workout, it was obvious that these kids were to cool for me. When, over the din of the workout, I asked one what our next routine would be, the kid glared at me then lowered his eyes, as if I was a leper in the kings court.
Excuse me for interrupting your ascension to the role heavy-weight champion of the world. Yeesh.
The Bird-like Yoga Girl
This girl bought the Groupon for this boxing class, expecting a posh "Tae-Bo meets yoga" experience. Too proud to quit, yet too concerned with how she looks as she executes her jumping-jacks and squats, this girl looks more like an exhausted bird fighting against a hurricane than a boxer. Her fists meekly curl at the end of her arms, causing her to lash out at the air with her wrists rather than her knuckles. It is as if she is trying to evoke pity from her imaginary opponent rather than pummel it into submission.
Wiry Septuagenarian Puncher
This guy has been smoking since he was twelve, and every inch of his body is covered by calloused, leathery skin. He may have been of impressive stature once in his life, but now he is hunched and twisted. Despite his curled frame, he has impressive form and a frightening jab. He has probably been fighting at some level since before any of the other participants were born.
During a water break, I crossed paths with this ancient fighter. he smiled a yellow, toothy grin that sent shivers down my spine. I meekly nodded back and tried not to show my uncertainty.
The Rock-em, Sock-em Amazonian Woman
This woman would rather beat you than date you. Obviously a contender, she is the type of girl who would rather be at the gym than anywhere else. As a novice to the sport of boxing, I have never been more intimidated by a woman. I avoid standing by this type of classmate, as boxing anywhere near her would blatantly show my inability in the sport. While I am in no way sexist, I also don't like to highlight my effeminate abilities next to Wonder Woman.
The Scrawny, yet Dedicated Scrapper
This guy could be blown over by the slightest breeze, yet when you look at him, you see that he has the concentration of a Jedi master (maybe that is just the Star Wars shirt he is sporting). He is generally sucking wind within the first thirty minutes of the workout, but sticks through to the end as best he can because he enrolled in boxing to bulk up and prove to the world that he isn't going to be a underweight mamby-pamby his whole life.
OK, so I am this guy.
The True Boxer
This guy is straight out of The Quest, and could probably kill me with his pinkie. Every punch sends radiant waves of atmosphere out from his fist, and just the idea of him hitting you causes bruising on your soul. Proudly sporting an Ed Hardy, ultimate fighting tee-shirt that matches the full sleeve tattoos that sweat down his biceps, this guy wears a deceivingly jovial look on his face as he goes through his paces. It's as if he takes pleasure in the knowledge that he could debone a chicken with a single blow.
Though many of the people with whom I share a boxing class scare the living daylights out of me, I am put at ease by the fact that, as I think about who these people are, I realize that they are all as human and susceptible to the rigors of the world as I am. We are all working toward the same goals of self-improvement, and though our definitions of it may differ, improving yourself is never a foolish endeavor.