Tuesday, May 21, 2013

My Inspiration

About two months ago I was working the front desk at Third Street Gym when two women walked in the door seeking answers to questions I was not prepared for. The older woman's son had suffered a stroke three years prior and it left both of his legs atrophied. While he was not paralyzed, he was able to walk only with the assistance of a walker and was prone to falling. The younger woman, his sister, explained to me that physical therapy had not helped, partially because he had never fully warmed up to it. The one thing that had managed to peak his interest all these years? Boxing. He was an avid fan with the ability to recite the names and dates of fighters, the outcome of bouts with a clarity that belied the impairment the stroke had left. They had come to the gym desperate to find the connection between happiness and will that so many of us seek. Although I am not experienced in the field of physical therapy (as I made clear), the opportunity to help someone and further my understanding of the human mind in times of need was one I could not pass up. I offered my assistance with the disclaimer that we could walk away if it proved to be to arduous of a task for either parties.

When I met my new client one week later, we were both hooked. He looked around and saw the heavy bags, the many fight posters adorning the walls, the rawness that hits you when you walk into a true boxing gym, and a grin, that I now recognize as one that goes from ear to ear, settled on his face.

Over the past months I have been given an insight into a whole new world. One that exists on a couch in a dark room with nothing but the TV for comfort. I have never stopped to think about what it would be like to have a disability that made such things as going to the park a distant memory. Feeling that to go outside is to be poked and stared at, laughed at and whispered about. I am so used to my world, one of constant activity, where even a bad workout is still a workout. So much noise and laughter, pain and sadness, highs and lows. It's as if someone put the brakes on all of that and there is suddenly nothing but silence.

Yet, at the same time, I have also been given insight on what it is to truly want. To one day metaphorically stand up and say; I am no longer willing to sit and take this. The human mind is truly an amazing mechanism. To see so vividly the correlation between what the brain wants and what it is willing to work for. It really is all about chemistry. You put something in front of someone that makes them smile, that makes them feel, and they will suddenly do nothing to stop themselves from grabbing that carrot.

I am elated to report that two weeks ago, I witnessed my client take his first unassisted steps for the first time in three years, and we have been gaining momentum ever since. It's a slow process, a tedious one, but it is one that gives me hope and makes me feel more fulfilled than I've ever been. So I thank you Mr. X. For changing my life and helping me gain new perspective. Your struggles have changed the way one person sees the world.

Friday, April 26, 2013

in conversation with: a beautiful boxer



In the world of female boxing, she is Melissa "the Mighty" McMorrow.  The current female flyweight World title holder who recently defended her turf against German fighter, Nadia Raoui, in a recent bout held in Germany - Melissa McMorrow v Nadia Raoui.  Indeed she is a tough fighter, but as you see, she has a demeanor of a wise fighter, a gentle soul, a thinking kindred spirit, a romantic heart, and a beautiful boxer.

Who is the "Mighty" Melissa?

A bit of history:

Back in the mid-70s, while on assignment, a US American engineer was assigned in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil as a team of scientists, engineers and computer professionals to build a very important bridge -  the Rio-Niterói bridge.  At the same time, a beautiful young Brazilian lady from Espírito Santo moved to the big city and lived with one of her siblings (she came from a brood of over 12 or 13 wonderful Brazilian siblings).  They met, Cupid struck his bow, the US expat was unable to let the moment of his life slip away.  With a fiancee' visa at hand, he carried the love of his life over the threshold that spanned continents, oceans and miles away into the Bay Area.  Many years later, the beautiful couple produced three lovely siblings - all brought up with love, respect and a parent couple who have provided them the unconditional respect for the girls to live their lives to the fullest.

A bit of Melissa:

Melissa grew up around the Palo Alto and San Jose area - the area we now call Silicon Valley. During her formative years she was a natural in sports, the type of kid that a coach would gravitate towards.  She was always the one chosen to be mentored, whether in Soccer (hello, she is half Brazilian!) or even in academia.  She coyly tells me that she simply has this determination to go home and practise the routine.  Repeat, repeat and "do my drills", until she feels she has reached perfection.  Albeit she had the natural predisposition towards sport, she combined this natural talent with simple, due dilligence.  At some point, she mentioned, it is really simple, it's a basic movement, can you swing a baseball bat?  If yes, then it is that type of motion.  I was amazingly happy to hear that - it's all about basic form - whether sports, science or any discipline - perfect the most basic form, the ABC, 123 and DO-RE-MI's of any school of thought or sports;  well she was lucky to be a natural combined with the passion to repeat, and repeat, and repeat, and REPEAT - until perfection is attained.

Post her formative years, Melissa attended the prestigious school of Carnegie Mellon University to study architecture.  I smiled and could not resist asking, "So did you read Ayn Rand's Fountainhead?"  She replied with a subtle and sweet smile, "Yes, but that was about it."  To which I snide remarked, "Well, Howard Roarke is sexy!" - That was all about Ayn Rand we had discussed.  As a side note, the novel is an architecture student's imperative reading which was one of Rand's novel that presented her Objectivist Philosophy (a digression and a discussion that would entail years of discourse).

During her first few years post undergraduate studies she worked at an architecture firm which seemed to be frustrating as a commercial entity, they were tasked to build "templates" - boxed Walmarts and franchised stuff.  For an artistic individual with so much passion, with so much to offer, it was indeed quite stifling   After that, she had to step back, until she later found a new passion where she could express her academic background and build  to make a better world - more on that later.


A bit of Melissa and boxing:

And so the million dollar question, "How did you gravitate towards boxing?" I loved her fun response.  One day, as she was bored with her architecture career, by happenstance she was invited to this "fight party".  My eyes elated, "As in Brad Pitt's - 'Fight Club' ".  Well not really but quite so.  She was living in the East Bay at that time and it was a party somewhere there (was it Oakland or Berkeley?), but it was more like a huge warehouse party with over thousands of people, music, DJs and libations and a big boxing ring.  Where fights happened, if one wanted to sign up.  She was happy and her adrenalin started pumping.  There were no rules, well, rules were made before you stepped up.  Think of a big warehouse party and a big pool table - and it was like people signed up to play - well in this case, to fight.  She thought, "Hmmm, I want!"  She searched for someone her size but not too weak, someone who had the same drive and just get on it.  Without any training, she found a match, they fought she won.  And that was the day, Melissa the Architect, also found her alter ego, Melissa the Mighty McMorrow.


And the rest is history:

Somehow she found herself at my favorite SF Boxing gym in the Dogpatch, Third Street Boxing gym.  Under the tutelage of our gym's founder, Paul Wade, she seriously started to train as a boxer, she was in her 20s. She was a fighter of Third Street for two years, and later on, her professional career brought her to an amazing opportunity that she could not resist - to be able to express her architectural skills in the emerging industry of Solar Power.  Alas, the job was in San Mateo, and at this point, she had to leave training in the city and found her new mentor, Eddie Croft at B Street Boxing gym. From then on, to-date Melissa has achieved an amazing boxing record of:  15 professional fights:  with a record of 9-3-3.  The most fantastic story about Melissa is that her pro-debut as a professional fighter was held at the Playboy Mansion.  Yes, people you heard it right - she fought as the undercard (or in concert music, the first group before the highlight) at the Playboy mansion and she won!



Our tête-à-tête post interview:

So we met at the Dogpach's Caffe La Stazione, very close to Third Street Boxing gym where we first met on a very sunny and hot Sunday afternoon.  After the "formalized" and structured Q&A and interview process we discussed things and thoughts, it was like a sparring type of discussion.

One of the most curious question I love asking boxing champs is how to deal with an opponent that is taller, that has a longer reach?  She told me that she would protect by means of the "squaring up motion of the fist and elbows" but would go forward, go inside.  I asked, though, but - "we get hit that way".  And she mentioned that it is fear that is detrimental and blocks us from winning.  We need to lose ourselves, we need to lose fear.  When we are able to train the brain to block that fear, it is possible for us to win.

And obviously I cannot end the interview without asking about love life.

She is dating but at the same time very busy with her goals and aspirations, and at this point in time, this kind of thing should fit within the agenda.  Although, at some point, she will definitely want a loving family and children to propagate her beauty (well, that's my editorial) and her passion - she is a nurturing beautiful person.

The "Mighty" Melissa is a boxer to be reckoned, but beyond that is a human soul that is wise, loving, romantic and human all too human.

Thank you, my beautiful boxer, for the fun Sunday afternoon.  This is Melissa and I after 2 Carafe's of wine ;)



Saturday, April 20, 2013

Happy Birthday Coach "Ironman" Ed



Coach "Ironman" Ed - Happy Birthday.  Ed is among the elite boxing instructors at Third Street Boxing gym - where professional fighters and world champions coach aspiring fighters and others who simply wish to survive in this thing called "life".  These mentors bring us physical and soulful inspiration.

Ed's special day today began at 10am boxing class where the attendance was full-packed.  Ed always brings that 200% energy in class - workout and fantastic inspirational 80's old-school music.

Ed has a resonating voice that commands attention and respect, whilst he would not hesitate to pump up the volume when an old-school Michael Jackson hit surfaces as we hit the boxing bag, he will scream:  "Turn that up!"

Happy Birthday coach and thank you for giving us the needed inspiration on a Saturday morning - a wakeup call and an adrenalin rush to start each beautiful weekend.

Third Street Boxing gym at the Dogpatch - that's whassup!

Monday, April 15, 2013

The A-B-C of Boxing


What is the ABC of boxing?  More on that later.

The good news is that my most favorite and best "hands-on-get-your-fists-dirty-boxing-gym" in San Francisco, Third Street Boxing gym has just included in its portfolio an amazing female world champion boxer, to add to its portfolio of amazing professional boxers (more of these guys in our blogposts while you can get a sneak peak of instructors at the website).

The latest addition to the prestigious instructors of the gym is the world female champ Gina "Boom boom" Guidi. Look-out for more write-ups about Gina, however, suffice it to say, she is now teaching the Thursday at noon lunch hour boxing class at Third Street - so, are you in or are you out?

Join us this Thursday and all Thursdays hence .... get in shape for the sake of mind, body and soul.

She is a very high energy and motivated person of the 200 mph genre of human beings as my favorite trainer, good friend and best baby girl, our Gym Manager and Instructor, Brandy Rocha.

So what's the A-B-C of boxing?

It's our silly joke!  It's about us ... it's:

A - me
B - randy Rocha
C - oach Gina the "boom-boom" Guidi

Will you join this eager boxing student (and geek by day) and my two amazing female fighters at the best boxing ring in SF, Dogpatch?


Laura is our Champion


Life is a zero-sum game.  One day is a good day, the next day sucks.  Today, I bring home the gold, tomorrow, I was a mere semi-finalist.  In corporate, one could have a fabulous over the 100% quarter, and the next, you're just dialing for dollars during the last week of the quarter, in desperation.  However, at the end (if an end is an objective reality, since the spectrum of existence, is nothing but a spectrum), the losses and gain bring us back to zero - is this what the elders call the human condition?

These crazy ponderings stemmed from a recent pro-fight that one of our esteemed instructors and professional fighter at Third Street Boxing gym (the best boxing gym in San Francisco, in the neighborhood of the emerging Dogpatch), recent bout in Orange County, southern California at the Flight Club OC (see bout number 4 in the link).

Our beloved and esteemed instructor is Laura Deanovic.  A mathematics instructor by day and a boxing teacher "by night" (I'm sure my idol Dr. Feynman would love this type of eclectic mix!).  I apologize, for my constant digression.

The entire boxing gym including the staff, instructors and members such as myself were so excited for the fight.  Most of us were unable to trek down south, but we awaited with much excitement and hopes for the obvious victory. 

The day after her fight during the Friday, Saturday and Sunday classes thereafter, each student eagerly asked, did she win?  We were faced with an impasse.

The most amazing phenomenon I experienced was the reaction of both students and teachers.  Our instructors all told us to give Laura a hug - she did great, it was a judgement call.  The students, albeit sad, were amazingly hopeful - we know a rematch will be inevitable or a next fight will always happen.  We were still ALL PROUD of Laura!

I'm sure as she stepped back into the gym, she received all the high-fives, hugs and best wishes from her students, colleagues and fans.

After all, it's not about the trophy - it is really all about the day you decide to train, to work hard, to sacrifice the seconds, minutes, hours and days - it is all about the process.

The trophy is a simple, token.  It is the journey that makes it worth it.  It is like any other competition - musicians, athletes, artists, academes, in Love - it is the human story - a story of survival. 

Laura - you will always be a champion and an inspiration.  Let's all work harder for the next fight - hers, yours, mine and for the rest of humanity.