Saturday, May 27, 2006

The Ring

Crossfit adheres to a Jeet Kun Do-esque philosophy. Like Bruce Lee, we absorb those things we find useful and discard those we do not.

Seeking something useful, I made a trip to the Ring Boxing Club on Commonwealth Avenue with my friend Allison. Ali had seen Million Dollar Baby, and wanted to speed-bag. It sounded like a good time to me.

We walked up a steep set of concrete steps into the Club. Heavy bags hung in groups of four, dominating the entrance. Immediately behind them was the squared circle, occupied by a couple of guys doing reflex work. The back corner contained more heavy bags. Several boxers were scattered around them, throwing jabs. On the right side hung the objects of Ali's desire--three speed bags at different heights.

Waivers were signed, and Ali and I were introduced to Jimmy, our trainer. He stands about 5'8, 150 pounds. A real kung-fu looking motherf*cker. I wouldn't want to throw down with Jimmy.

I hear, "You do Crossfit?"

I turned to see a guy about my size, hands wrapped.

"I do Crossfit," he said, "it really helps with this."

I guess I betrayed my secret weapon by wearing the "It Doesn't Have to be Fun..." shirt. I'd been there 5 minutes, and Crossfit had reared its head--I was definitely in the right place.

First things first. We were introduced to the in-house timing system, the inbred cousin of a traffic light. Green means go--the three-minute round starts. Yellow means thirty seconds left--move your ass. Red means stop. Simple enough.

Any doubt that we were going to be working vanished when Jimmy gave his first instructions. Jump rope on green. Go faster on yellow. 20 pushups and 20 leg lifts on red. Three rounds. Pretty damn metabolic.

After the warmup, he taught us to wrap our hands. Think origami with an Ace bandage.

We shadow boxed facing the mirror, receiving instructions on stance, hand position, and hip movement. Just like the Olympic lifts, all of the power in a punch comes from the hips. Jab from the eye. Aim at your own chin. Cross from the temple. Aim at your own chin. Non-punching hand in contact with your temple, elbows in tight. Any space between your hand and your head, and you might as well not block at all.

The hook comes from the hips. This was the most obvious corollary with our O-lifts. The arm is more or less immobile. The elbow comes up as the hips snap 90 degrees to the back hand. All the power is generated from hip extension.

We threw combinations, working up a hell of a sweat. Then we strapped on bag gloves, and worked on moving around the heavy bags, stepping and throwing jabs. I circled right, Ali circled left.

Then came the fun part. Reflex pads. Holy sh*t. Jimmy made me work for it. The instructions were simple--"1" for jab, "2" for cross, "3" for hook. Standing in the middle of the ring, Jimmy held the pads. The green light lit up, and he started with the sequences. For three solid minutes, I punched my ass off.


Sometimes I threw the wrong punch, or changed my lead foot. Sometimes I stepped in on the pads, crowding my range. Jimmy moved around me like I was wearing concrete shoes.

I came away with a new appreciation for boxing conditioning. You have to be a beast to throw a couple hundred punches in three minutes. The nearest equivalent--three straight minutes of burpees. This was some bad-ass stuff.

Drenched in sweat, I squared up with the speed bag. "Thump, thump, thump...thump, thump, thump..."

I have no rhythm. None. Speed bagging requires intense concentration and pinpoint accuracy. I have ADHD and the coordination of a retarded junkie. In the space of an hour, boxing had asked me to show speed, strength, power, and coordination. I didn't demonstrate too many of these qualities, but I had a great time trying.

We discarded our hand wraps and received a couple of boxing glove key chains and a price list. The Ring is pretty reasonable. They give you full-time access to a trainer and use of the facility for $129/month. If I made a little more money, I'd be all over it.

I'd found something useful. Our visit to Ring was a great reminder that there are an infinite number of ways to get a killer workout.

It's too bad there's only one free trial.


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