Putting on the gloves

I’m quickly discovering the perks of being a Kansas City Roller Warrior.

Several of the Knockouts decided to meet at Sweet Z’s Gym in Kansas City for group boxing classes. Because Sweet Z’s is a sponsor of the Roller Warriors, roller girls can come try classes at our leisure.

So when given the opportunity, I jumped at the chance to go try it. For about a decade, I’ve been kicking myself for not having boxed before. Back in my North Carolina days, I got the chance to interview Don Turner, who not only ran a training camp in Arapahoe, but who was also one of Evander Holyfield’s trainers. In those days, my lack of self confidence made me assume a girl wouldn’t be welcome at that type of training, not to mention that the hour-long drive from New Bern to the middle of nowhere seemed pointless.

Now, the 30-something me wants to jump into a time machine and kick the butt of the 20-something version of me. Actually, I would mercilessly use the left hook and uppercut I learned today on myself. But I digress…

So several of the Knockouts showed up at 10am this morning for group boxing. Some were there at 9am for plyometrics, which I bowed out of simply for the fact that my thighs are still burning from the endless lunges and squats I subjected myself to on Thursday. We began with a killer warmup that had me almost in tears — because, remember, I did all of those lunges and squats, and here I was, stuck doing wall sits for 3 minutes and I just couldn’t let myself rest. Ouch!

And then, on to the boxing.

It was heavenly. About a million jab-cross-left hook-uppercuts later, this incredible workout showed us derby girls a few things:

1) Derby girls have great balance and footwork for boxing. Balance and core strength has been critical to a girl of my stature, because when a girl twice my size comes in for a hit, if I’m balanced and strong, I won’t get knocked off of my skates. In boxing, that’s what helps deliver the hardest punches and the footwork is what helps you stop your opponent from hitting you with full force.

2) Uppercuts can help prepare you for the worst derby hit of them all: the Johnny crash (or can opener). If you’ve ever been Johnny crashed by Miss Chetty Boop, you know what I’m talking about. The Johnny crash can send any derby girl flying off of her skates. That hit, when properly deployed, rattles bones and takes the breath away. So take some uppercut hits, and you’ll be prepared for the awful day someone catches you in a Johnny crash.

3) Basic boxing moves are great for juking and pack navigation. This means being able to flow seamlessly through a pack as girl are flying at you with hips and shoulders a-blazin’, and boxing teaches you how to do it. Using your shoulders to move and lean, learning to take a hit without letting it impact you too much, learning to read your opponent. These are all skills that are critical to roller derby as well as boxing.

4) Boxing teaches you to be aggressive. That may sound silly, because “aggressive” is obviously used to describe roller derby. But boxing gives you a willing target, and then you learn to punch that target mercilessly, even when you’re completely exhausted. Because if you drop that aggression for even a moment, the tables will quickly turn.

5) Boxing teaches you to focus. You have to watch and pay attention to what your opponent is doing. Being prepared for a hit softens the blow, and moving as your opponent comes in for a hit takes away his/her strength. These strategies are the same in derby.

I have no doubt that boxing is going to be incredible cross-training for us. We’ll definitely be back, and I’m proud to say that I can finally cross this sport off of my bucket list.

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