I was punched in the face for the first time in my life last week.
Right in the schnoz, and I bled all over the ring. But you know what? I’m feeling pretty good. I think this was pivotal moment for me in this boxing challenge.
I don’t care what anyone says, getting in the ring with someone for the first time is scary, regardless of how much training you’ve had.
I’ve had months of training, usually attending class five days a week, learning different punching, blocking and footwork techniques, all while getting stronger. The coaches have also had us do multiple drills to get comfortable being in the ring before we started sparring.
After all that practice, you’d think I’d get in there feeling more comfortable than a stoner laying in a bed of feathers, but this was not the case. No, sir.
When I full-on sparred for the first time and someone was actually hitting me back, I felt more like a stoner in a corn maze after dark: forgetful, paranoid and lost. My mind went blank, and I found it very easy to let technique fly out the window while trying to protect myself.
The ring feels a lot smaller when someone is coming at you with swinging fists, I can promise you that.
Once I relaxed a bit and stopped throwing cat-claw punches just hoping to keep the person away from me, I started to realize that sparring is like chess; one person makes a move, then you.
I tried to predict what they might do next, and made my move accordingly. “Get in and get out,” as my coach Ellen Connor would say, meaning to choose my punches carefully and move around a lot, instead of just wailing back and forth on each other.
It is not easy to just “get out” though, in my first few rounds I would throw a punch and freeze up. It was like I suddenly had new-born gazelle legs and couldn’t pull it together enough to run away.
But Ellen would yell, “Don’t take that, fight back!” and eventually I found it easier to get out of the way of my opponent.
Another key piece of advice I was given while sparring, was to cover my face while someone is trying to nail me in it.
Common sense one would think, but I guess not for me. Because as I so casually mentioned in the first sentence of this article, I got bopped in the face. Hard.
It was bound to happen some time though, and personally, it was actually a relief to finally get that first hard punch over with.
Ellen has said to me many times, “Once you get hit hard, you’ll feel one of two things: flight or fight, and you will find out what kind of person you are because of it.”
I always wondered how I’d react when the time came. Would I cry and want to stop? Or would I get angry, turn into the Hulk and want to fight back harder? If I’m being totally honest, I thought there was a pretty good chance it would be option number one.
But I surprised myself.
When she landed that punch, instead it making me want to quit, I felt this sensation in me that was comparable to when your sibling steals your shirt, spills a drink on it and then shrinks it in the dryer when she tries to clean it. Fight!
I knew ‘Killer’ had to be in me somewhere, I guess it just took a while to rise to the surface.
As horrifying as I made it sound, my first time sparring was a good learning experience, and if anything I feel more motivated to get back in the ring and try again.
And on the off chance that anything I’ve said in this article makes you want to get in the ring too, fantastic. Come Hulk out with me, contact the Sooke Boxing Club at 250-634-4941.
Dawn (Killer) Gibson writes every other week on her exploits at the Sooke Boxing Club. She’ll fight in the upcoming West Coast Wonder Woman all-female card on April 28-29.