Before starting University I rather wishfully made the resolution to put down the Ben and Jerry’s, drag my derriere off the sofa from the safe haven of daytime television and start exercising regularly. The panic- ridden memory just a week before my annual summer holiday is still fresh in my mind: the sight of myself in the garden frantically cramming in as many squats, lunges and god knows what other dumbbell related actions as humanely possible in a last minute, slap-dash quest for a half decent “bikini-body”, was a hilarious sight and a source of entertainment for the rest of my family. Although I had the good intentions each autumn to whack out the spandex and go for a jog, the concept that it is actually possible to maintain even an ounce of fitness when the days get shorter and the nights get longer, without the pressure of the annual stress-fest that is bikini season, seemed simply unobtainable. Enough was enough.
With the idealistic vision of a more slender and svelte version of myself still strong in mind back in September, the Fresher’s Fair and the Give it a Go programme seemed the perfect way to channel my fitness-based enthusiasm. I think it’s important to note here that the people in my life who know me well have no qualms in telling me how bad I am at 90% of sport-based activities. After a disastrous attempt at dancesport, where even the basic steps of the rumba had me running for the door, it seemed that I should have listened to them. However, with an introductory session to Thai Boxing still on the cards, all hope was not lost.
In recent years and since the inclusion of women’s boxing in the Olympic Games the sport has seen a rapid and well-deserved rise in popularity. Who can forget the incredibly inspiring success of Leeds’ very own Nicola Adams, who fought her way to Gold at the London Olympics last year? She inspired many young people, in particular girls to pick up the pads and mitts and give it a go. But it’s not just traditional female boxing that’s seen a rise in public recognition. Thai boxing, or, as its also known for the encouraged use of fists, elbows, knees and shins in combat, “The Art of Eight Limbs” has seen British women achieve world titles. One example is Huddersfield born Melissa Ray (pictured below) who underwent intense training in Thailand before going on to achieve two WPMF titles as she competed in countries around the world.
Even with more of an interest on the media’s behalf of both female boxers and Thai boxers there is still no getting away from the fact that in this day and age boxing is still regarded as men’s sport, where a sceptical opinion of both the ability and participation of women prevails. Walking into the sports hall therefore, you can imagine my sense of relief when I saw just how many like-minded girls had turned up to the session. The hour started off with a surprisingly difficult (well, for me anyway) warm up of running and stretching. The real fun began however, when we really got to let rip on the boxing pads and mitts and test out some newly acquired moves. My personal favourite was The “Jumping Knee Strike”, followed by intense intervals of squats, press ups and sit-ups. It also doesn’t hurt when the instructors guiding you in all of this comprise of a 2x WBF World Flyweight Boxing Champion, Michelle Sutcliffe, and the coach that trained her to success, Gary Sutcliffe. The session was concluded with an activity where we had the opportunity to practise our new found skills on an imaginary opponent – hands down the most fun I’ve had playing pretend since I was seven. As I’m writing this down I’m fully aware of how cheesy and clichéd it sounds but the high I was left with as I strode out of The Edge in the rain that evening was something not even a marathon box-set session and a tub of my ice cream brand of choice can contend with.
Although it’s only been a few weeks and I’m no Nicola Adams or Melissa Ray (well not yet anyway!), I’m already starting to see some encouraging changes in my overall fitness and attitude. For example going for an early morning swim before lectures isn’t such a daunting prospect. A last minute sprint from Halls to Roger Stevens ,which has occurred way to frequently this semester already, now doesn’t automatically induce me into a heart pounding, glasses steaming sweat that is frankly, quite embarrassing for myself and everyone else unfortunately close in parameter. It now gives me much pleasure to report that after much intensive research and rigorous investigation, my ability to dance to cheesy music at Fruity for extended periods of time has also improved considerably. If that isn’t a reason to pick up the boxing gloves and work on your Reverse Roundhouse kicks then I don’t know what is!
Image 1) wle.cgiar.org
By Grace Webster