I have never been drawn to sports involving busted noses or bloody knuckles. I believe in participation ribbons and doing your best. But like many people, I also have deep-seated anger stemming from god-knows-where. And sports have always been a great outlet.
Contrary to my personality, I’d been watching the social media account of Savage Fit Box for months wondering whether or not I could survive in a boxing gym. I couldn’t name a single MMA or UFC fighter. In fact, my understanding of combat sports was limited to a few ’90s megastars, like Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Undertaker. But there was a flicker of hope somewhere deep inside, telling me that maybe that didn’t really matter.
Eventually, I took a leap of faith. “Should I join a boxing gym?” I asked Google. Within seconds, I was engrossed in a Reddit fitness thread.
“Just do it,” posted someone by the name of Artima.
Yoga studios are for people who love adjusting their chakras (whatever that means), CrossFit gyms are for people who can do pull-ups without crying, and 24/7 access gyms are mostly just frat bros taking mirror selfies.
But then I found the words that I’d really needed to hear from a user named Winsling: “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is today.”
Certainly, I could still plant the seed at age 30.
The day I first stepped foot into the gym, I entered with caution. To my surprise, it was strangely gym-like. No folding chairs being smashed over people’s heads. No ears being bitten off. Just well-structured classes and an encouraging atmosphere – even for rookies like myself.
There was something special about this gym. I have tried out my fair share of gyms over the years, but never before had I felt like I just fit in. Yoga studios are for people who love adjusting their chakras (whatever that means), CrossFit gyms are for people who can do pull-ups without crying, and 24/7 access gyms are mostly just frat bros taking mirror selfies.
But this gym was kinda like Over the Top meets The Breakfast Club – disparate misfits in spandex just punching stuff and laughing through it all, from the middle-school girl who could totally beat me up, to the retiree in his mid-70s. We all sort of belonged there.
Two days shy of my one-year gym anniversary, I dragged myself to a morning class. In a twist of bad luck, I was stuck sparring with the owner, Hector. Usually, you throw easy punches at your opponent for the sake of practicing movement. But sparring with the owner is not the same as sparring with another gym member. He was quick as a wink and thirsty for blood. And because I’m mouthy, he decided he was going to put me through the wringer. No amount of Street Fighter experience would prepare me for this. I was a rookie on my way to certain death.
At first, he allowed me to simply practice as his body absorbed each pitiful punch. But eventually, he started throwing jabs right back at me. Then hooks. I was slipping, rolling, swinging wildly. Sweat dripped down my temples as I dodged each lethal blow that came my way. Right. Left. Duck. And then suddenly … BAM! A sucker punch straight to the nose. In reality, he’d only given me a little boop on the schnoz, but in the moment, it felt like I’d been bludgeoned by Mike Tyson himself.
As I made my way out to my car after class, I couldn’t help but notice the tingling sensation in my face. Once seated, I flipped down the visor mirror, staring at the most underwhelming bloody nose ever experienced. My first-ever bloody nose.
A slow smile spread across my flushed, post-workout face as I thought back to those wise words of Winsling and the Chinese proverb. I’d planted my tree, and the little bugger was thriving.