About a month ago, I encountered an angry individual at San Francisco's Fort Mason Park. His unleashed mutt sprinted toward my leashed pooch, and heated words were exchanged. In an instant, he was in my face. He looked like the boxer Butterbean (see photo) and he must have had me by three inches and at least 120 lbs. Blows seemed imminent, but the moment was diffused when my dog started barking. My adrenalin was off the scale, but afterwards I thought, what would I have done if that guy had tried to hit me? I’ve been in a total of two fights in my life both in my college fraternity days at Theta Chi Fraternity at San Jose State in the late ‘70s. My record is 1-1, and the loss was definitely a knockout. So, after the recent incident, I decided to inquire about learning how to defend myself effectively. I considered several forms of self-defense—karate, judo, or boxing. And after some thought, I decided to try boxing.
So, I took a trip to the Polk Street Gym to see what I could learn about not getting my ass kicked at the park. The first person I met there was the owner, Simon “The Nightmare” Redmond. Redmond is an amateur boxer who came to the city in 1996 from Dublin, Ireland. He’s a former Golden Gloves champion and a boxing trainer/instructor. He’s worked with top amateurs and several pros, including upcoming Bay Area boxers like Enrique Gutierrez and Bomani Parker, a heavyweight who is making a comeback.
I sat down with Redmond recently and asked him how taking up boxing might help a 52-year-old pacifist from getting beat down at the park?
Q: Did you get in a lot of scraps as a kid?
A: Are you kidding? I grew up in Dublin, Ireland. When we went out for an evening, we either got a girl or got in a fight. It’s the way of life there.
Q: If someone is going to get into a fight, what can you tell them?
A: The first thing I would say is avoid it if you can. But, if you can’t, keep your head up and your hands in front of you. We don’t really teach self-defense here, we teach boxing. Throwing a punch is a big part, but avoiding, blocking or slipping a punch is just as valuable. We get a wide range of people training here, from lawyers to regular Joes and everyone in between. The basics of boxing can be learned quickly and used almost immediately, unlike other forms that may take a year or more to develop.
Q: What are most of your students looking for when they come here to Polk Street Gym?
A: We have three types. First, we get the people who do the boxing and training for cardio and conditioning. Then, we get more advanced boxers who want to do more intense training and then finally, we have serious amateurs or developing pros who want to spar and fight in the ring. The number one advantage of boxing is the conditioning. A boxer is the most conditioned athlete in any sport in the world, and there is no doubt about that fact.
Q: Have you ever been injured in the ring?
A: I’ve had my ribs and my nose broken; my eardrums have been busted six times, I’ve split blood on more than several occasions, and I’ve even been knocked out cold and done the same to others. And I loved every minute of it! But, here at Polk Street Gym, all of our classes and our Fitness Boot Camps don’t involve physical contact. We teach skills that enhance hand-eye and hand-foot coordination, increasing flexibility and improving people’s physical and mental state. We teach defensive and offensive boxing skills and provide an incredible workout in the process.
After our interview, “The Nightmare” took me through a quick boxing tutorial which I failed badly, but Redmond is a patient teacher and I picked up several moves in just 20 minutes. I felt like the former astronaut Buzz Aldrin on Dancing with the Stars. But, I’m not discouraged and planning on taking some beginning boxing classes at Polk Street Gym in the very near future, so that I can walk my dog without fear and getting some serious cardio while strengthening my core in the process. Stay tuned.