Last Spring one of Thalia’s friends, Alicia, who now is a friend of mine, asked me to join her “Do One Thing a Month That is Out of Your Comfort Zone” group. This group would meet on a weekend day and participate in a challenging dance class or a creative painting class or a unique cooking class or any of the other cool classes NYC had to offer. It was after one of these classes, when I spotted the storefront that would change my life.
This particular Saturday afternoon in June 2014, we’d taken a Brukwine class. After looking at the website, I was a little nervous. Not only were the instructors, sexy, strong and fierce but the class was also done in high-heels. Look, I have enough trouble managing high-heels in real life, let alone attempting to dance in them.
But the class was amazing. Yes, the women were sexy, strong and fierce. But they were also friendly, encouraging and funny. And although the routine was somewhat provocative, in no way did it feel demeaning. If anything, it felt empowering, like we were taking charge of our bodies and revamping our self-image.
As I was walking home from the subway after class, I went over the routine in my head so I could show The Cat that evening and impress her with my killer moves. I sang to myself, “Tick, tick, tick, wiiiiiine,” and mentally swung my hips from side to side. And then something caught my eye.
OH MY GOD, I DID NOT THINK THIS DAY COULD GET ANY BETTER.
I sprinted over to the storefront window and peered in.
It was a boxing studio.
This may come as a surprise to some of you, but I am actually a pretty good boxer. I took classes for a number of years in Los Angeles and got into the best shape of my life. But that was irrelevant. What I loved most about the class was that it was taught by an ex-Navy SEAL who’d also been a professional boxer. And let me tell you, this guy did not fuck around. We each had our own bag and he’d march around, barking orders and building complex routines for us to learn. He was a true believer in form. And because of that, I wasn’t just taking an exercise class, I was learning a skill. I took the classes very seriously. Every time I attended, I got a little bit better and I felt incredibly proud of myself.
Since moving to NYC, I’d tried a number of boxing classes around the city. My issue with most of them was it seemed it was a bunch of people flailing around in gloves with no form taught whatsoever – the intention being to burn calories, not to learn how to box. Some of these classes required you to share a bag which was really distracting to me because I am not very coordinated and I worried I would inadvertently sock someone. Some of them didn’t even have bags. Which is just not how you learn boxing, in my opinion.
So a week later, I walked into the new studio. It was small with a brick wall and about 10 bags. A huge tire was propped up in the corner. I immediately fell in love with it and wanted to move in.
“Hey. You’re the blog girl,” Joseph, the instructor of the class, said as he approached me. He was an imposing figure, big and built with a platinum blonde Mohawk. His German accent added to his commanding persona.
“How…how do you know about the blog?” I stammered.
“Because you sent an email to my partner Michelle, the owner, from your blog email and now she reads it. She’s a big fan,” he said and gestured to an incredibly gorgeous and fit woman checking in the other students.
“Oh, okay,” I said and waved at her. I turned back to him. “But how did you know it was me, that I was the writer?”
Sometimes I overbrand
Then the class began. German heavy metal thudded out through the space and Joseph taught us the routines with a professional precision. I was surprised at how easily the moves came back to me after 13 years. He corrected my technique over and over and I felt more confident and strong than I had a in a long time.
Afterwards, I approached him and said breathlessly, “That was awesome. Thank you.”
“You did a good job,” he said, nodding. “You’ve obviously boxed before.”
“Yes, I had a very good teacher.”
“I can tell,” he said. “Usually I only see that quality of footwork from people I’ve taught.”
I skipped home with a maniacal grin on my face.
Then I downloaded some of the songs from class and spent the next 20 minutes blasting them too loud for apartment-life and shadowboxing in the mirror.
As the Summer went on, I found myself becoming more and more obsessed with boxing. I’d go every Sunday morning no matter how tired I was, no matter how hungover I was, no matter how unmotivated I was. No matter what.
“Look at you! You’re not even sweating! That’s how dehydrated you are, Tracey! How many BudLights did you have last night?!” Joseph would tease. And I’d laugh and the class would laugh and then he’d make us all do a series of jump-squats, shouting, “Ass low! Chest high!” And we’d all want to kill ourselves.
Back when I was dating, I had to be very, very careful to not talk about boxing. I’d find myself getting too into it, leaning across the table with bright eyes, speaking too quickly, and a half hour later, my dates’ eyes would have glazed over and I could see them searching behind me for the waiter to get our check.
Since I couldn’t talk about it with dates, I’d call My Dad after class and talk his ear off about all things boxing, which he appreciated because he’s done it himself and knows how awesome it is.
Thankfully, My Boyfriend thought it was badass that I boxed so when we got back together I’d call him on Sunday afternoons and regale him on all that happened in class and send him links to pictures of me on the studio’s Facebook page. “You rock, Baby,” he’d say and I’d run around the apartment because I LOVE BOXING SO MUCH.
After I stopped working, I upped my classes to three times a week. I was starting to feel really stressed out and I found it was the only time I felt calm and stable in the swirl of the demands of packing, looking for a job in California, saying goodbye to NYC, saying goodbye to my friends.
But unfortunately I soon realized that the amount of stress-relief and joy I was receiving from the extra classes was beginning to be countered by the worry and fear I was having from spending the extra money. I was supposed to be saving up for the move after all. And I was soon no longer going to be receiving a paycheck.
That’s when I knew what I had to do.
6/14/2014. My first day back at boxing.
If you’re in NYC, stop by and see Michelle & Joseph at The Kickbox Haus!
Edited from original post 8/4/2015 – Michelle is the owner of The Kickbox Haus.