Sooke boxing coaches Ellen Connor, left, and Tammy Johnson both joined boxing because it makes them feel empowered, and they hope to encourage others to join the sport. (Dawn Gibson/Sooke News Mirror)

Sooke boxing duo empowers women

Sooke Boxing Club coaches Ellen Connor and Tammy Johnson explain what they love about the sport

Over the last nine weeks you’ve let me complain about how sore I am, harass you to join boxing, and babble on about what kind of food I eat.

So before you get sick of me, I thought I would put the spotlight on someone else for a change: two of my coaches, Ellen Connor (the woman who dragged me in to this) and Tammy Johnson.

These two lovely ladies inspire me in a lot of ways, and are the reason I have made it this far with training.

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The dynamic duo met around two years ago while Connor was coaching at the Juan de Fuca Recreation Centre in Langford.

Johnson came to class and became captivated by the sport. Now, she helps Connor out with classes almost every day at the Sooke Boxing Club.

“Boxing has shown me that I can come back from bumps in the road,” said Johnson. “It’s empowering, and there’s always something to learn or something that you can do better, so it keeps you wanting more.”

Johnson said that boxing has showed her that it’s never too late to change your path.

“I want boxing to do the same thing for girls younger than me. It’s such a validating sport,” said Johnson. “It makes me feel alive.”

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Connor agreed, saying that her main goal with coaching is to help empower women and young girls.

“I was that 16-year-old girl that was chubby, had no self-esteem and no sense of belonging. I just struggled to fit in and find a place. So for me, boxing sparked that voice in me that made me think, ‘You know what? I am worthy,’” said Connor.

Connor said boxing changed her life forever, which is why she wanted to open up her own club in Sooke.

“I knew during my first class that this was the sport for me, it spoke to me in a different way that no other sport has,” she said. “It’s infectious and I want to share with people what boxing has done for me.”

Along with being some of the most physically fit women I know, Connor and Johnson are both extremely mentally strong as well.

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Johnson has taught me to use a little trick called RBF, (acronym for Resting “female dog” Face) while struggling in a workout. Essentially, the trick is to pretend like nothing is happening to you, to detach your emotions from the pain and just continue to work through it.

It’s definitely hard to ignore when your arms feel like they are being ripped off at the shoulder by a pack of wolves during a punching drill, and then Connor shouts “One more minute to go!”, but I’ve learned to just use my RBF, let my arms go numb, and can usually survive the drill.

If I look like I’m about to go unconscious, Connor will scream, “GO WITHIN DAWN!” and that almost always boosts me enough to close out the exercise.

“Mental strength is the key component,” said Connor. “You could be the worst boxer on the planet, but when it’s time to get in the ring and you actually believe in yourself, you will get through it.”

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Connor has us focusing just as much on our mental strength as our physical strength throughout training by having us keep journals.

This is so we can write about how we’ve felt after each class, and try to improve by looking back on our experiences.

“Boxing is going to knock you down, but it’s about those who have the ability to get back up. And if you can do that in boxing, it will transfer over in to your life,” said Connor. “I’ve had some bad times in my life, and boxing has taught me to be that much stronger and to pick myself up when I get knocked down and keep moving forward.”

Connor started this all-female challenge hoping to give women an opportunity to do something that they might not otherwise do.

“When the girls step in to that ring at the all-female card, it doesn’t matter if they win or lose. It’s the fact that they got in the ring, because not everyone can do that,” said Connor. “It’s not about beating each other down, it’s about building each other up, and showing women that they belong here, that they can do anything, and that they are good enough.”

•••

Dawn (Killer) Gibson writes every other week about her exploits at the Sooke Boxing Club, as part of an All-Female Boxing Challenge.

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