Thursday, August 11, 2011

Why should you box?

Part II
Malissa from Girl Boxing  turned 57 in June and still makes it to two tough sessions a week at the famous Gleason’s Gym in New York City. She says the reason she keeps boxing is simple - “I like it”. 

Women in the gym
Malissa is one of the older boxers in Gleason’s but she’s far from the only woman there. Alongside her on that bag are Alicia Ashley, Belinda Laraquente, Melissa Hernandez (when she’s in New York), Jill Emory and quite a few more.

She says: “I never, ever felt marginalized due to gender and quite the opposite have had a number of trainers tell me that they love to train women because they’re attentive students who have a better work ethic.  Women also tend to walk into the gym without preconceived notions about what boxing is or is not – so they’re less resistance to learning the mechanics.” 

This is probably down to the great atmosphere you find in most boxing gyms, completely at odds with the stereotype of thugs grunting in a corner. Malissa adds: “More than anything though, boxing can be something wholly for oneself. There is also a camaraderie at a boxing gym that feels really special – and the first time some one says “Hi Champ” means it is a day to treasure.”

Why kids should do martial arts
And it’s not just boxing that brings that feeling, any martial art will give you that sense of strength and accomplishment. Malissa’s teenage daughter has learning Aikido since she was five. Now a brown belt the proud mother says she will be on her way to an adult-ranked brown belt in 18 months. Working with throws, a Jo (long thin stick) and a Bokin (Japanese wooden sword), she loves it. Malissa says: “It has given her confidence, physical prowess, community, and a place in the world that is wholly her own.  And whether she continues the practice as an adult or not, she’ll have learned what it means to commit to something over a long period of time.  Her other sports include kayaking, rock-climbing, horseback riding (three weeks a year at camp) and her new, love sailing.”  Energetic much?

And of course her daughter has been going with Malissa to  Gleason’s Gym and takes the odd boxing lesson with John “Superman” Douglas. Malissa says: “Oh, and one more thing, while Aikido may be “way of harmony” she has a straight right that almost doubled-over my 6’4”, 220+ pound, black-belt-in-karate husband after had he jokingly said, “okay, hit me in the stomach.”

Right, so Mum boxes, Dad is a black-belt and Junior is an-rounder – don't mess with this family.

TIPS for new boxers
Malissa is an evangelist for boxing, but she does warn people coming down for the first time that a gym isn’t as pretty as modern fitness centres. She says: “The hardest thing is walking through the door the first time. One can have so many conflicting feelings, fears and trepidations.”
She says a boxing gym will be missing out on lots of things “never mind things like towels or unctuous front desk attendants.” Malissa recommends having a plan before going in there.
  • Do some research to find a facility that is close enough that to commit to a particular day or time every week to go to the gym (and more often over time). 
  • Choose a trainer you feel comfortable with. 
  • Commit to putting in the time and muscles will tone-up, new muscles will appear, pounds will shed.
  • Be patient.
She explains finding the right coach is important because boxing is a very intimate sport. Saying once boxing gloves go on, you might as well be wearing huge melons, which makes it pretty hard to open a water bottle or take the sweat off!  She feels getting used to having people re-tie shoe-laces, give you a sip of water can be difficult for any woman used to doing things like that for other people.
Boxers at Gleasons Gym NYC

Malissa says: “I was very unused to accepting anyone doing anything intimate for me, never mind something as intimate as wiping dripping sweat from my face and eyes.” 

Part One of this interview is here. If you have any questions for Malissa about boxing, leave a comment!



Running Candid said...

Great article and great advice. Martial arts is a fantastic way to attain strength and fitness. And it's great that Malissa has gotten her daughter into the sport too, makes it all the more special :)

niamh said...

@Running Candid - She's an interesting person - and you'd know all about cross-training from the posts on your own blog. And yes, it's really important to pass on the love of sport too

Anonymous said...


Thank you again for adding me to the list of phenomenal women you write about on your blog. Your pieces are truly inspiring and I have to say keep me going on those days when I'd rather be doing anything else than yet another sit-up!

- Malissa

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the useful advice...
Martial Arts Training helps to increases flexibility, coordination, speed and stamina.
Kung Fu Sydney

Lisa Creech Bledsoe said...

Fabulous. Enjoyed every bit of these two posts. Malissa, you really inspire me.

niamh said...

@Lisa - No excuses for feeling tired when someone like this is still getting in there

Anonymous said...

@Lisa, thank you so much! Coming from you with your amazing chops that means a lot!