VC boxing classes offer alternative forms of stress relief

Members of the boxing club take their turns working the hanging bags during practice. Club members spend most of their time practicing technique, and only spar against the club’s coach for safety reasons. Photo By: Alex Trunnell
Members of the boxing club take their turns working the hanging bags during practice. Club members spend most of their time practicing technique, and only spar against the club’s coach for safety reasons. Photo By: Alex Trunnell
Members of the boxing club take their turns working the hanging bags during practice. Club members spend most of their time practicing technique, and only spar against the club’s coach for safety reasons. Photo By: Alex Trunnell

According to boxing veteran turned boxing coach Brian Corrigan, “boxing at Vassar is a little hidden secret.” Since 1994, non-contact boxing has been quietly plodding along in the undercurrents of bustling Vassar life, providing an outlet for students and staff alike to release stress and enjoy a fun and fulfilling sport. What began as a few professors coming together with Tracy Patterson, a former boxing champ who is now a full-time instructor, to have fun boxing has evolved into a two day per week class which has become so popular that it even continues into the summer months.

Boxing lends itself to novice participation. As someone who began in a form of kickboxing called Muay-Thai, Corrigan, a Project Manager on campus, never thought he would be able to fight without using his kicks.

Five years later, he has proven himself wrong and has worked his way through the Vassar boxing ranks to become an instructor himself. What started as a way for Corrigan and a few of his fellow Vassar employees to get an extra day in the gym has since evolved into the weekly class on Tuesday nights, which are an addition to the more formal Thursday and Sunday sessions.

The sessions follow the same format as the Thursday and Sunday classes, but have more flexibility because of the absence of time constraints; the boxers warm-up by throwing a series of numbered punches as called out by Corrigan. They then begin to work the bags individually set to the ring timer, practicing on typical punching bags as well as teardrop bags and body bags. Between rounds, boxers do push-ups and body planks to build the all-important arm and core strength necessary to box. As they move around the room, Corrigan dons his own mitts and pulls students aside to throw combinations of punches at his mitts.

Afterwards, the boxers line up at two bags and throw combination punches called by Corrigan or another instructor. To round out the night, each participant does a solo ab workout and stretches.

Students, such as Mallory Morgan ’17, have been boxing at Vassar for over a year and have discovered they have a passion for boxing. “I started boxing because it was one of the Wellness Activities options during Freshman Orientation,” said Morgan. “I had such a fun time, I never stopped going.”

This is a common story for students who try boxing; even those who are not weekly patrons still go back for a class every now and then. Boxing for them can be both cathartic and stress relieving. “Boxing is about letting go, having fun, letting that inner growl come out,” Corrigan related.

Morgan expressed a similar love of boxing. “It is fairly simple to learn and has increased my upper body strength very noticeably,” she noted. “It is a great way to get a good workout, especially if you hate the monotony of going to the gym on your own. Everyone at boxing has such a welcoming attitude and they are always eager to help the new boxers.” Morgan also spoke to the more personal aspect of the sport. “There is something deeply satisfying about learning how to move your body for a fight.”

Some attendees of the class have even begun to seek out opportunities for more serious boxing. Alistair Liu ’17 and Aaron Payne ’17 have begun to train off campus in order to compete in a regional tournament come March. Payne’s only boxing experience is with Vassar, and he has enjoyed it so much that he sought chances to practice full-contact boxing. Liu has previous experience, and is seeking a space for contact boxing because he finds it very rewarding.

“It’s rewarding to really pour a lot of mental and physical effort into it—something a lot of people won’t do,” said Liu.

Liu and Payne look to spread their love of boxing throughout the Vassar community even further than the classes have reached: they have submitted a proposal to the VSA to form a Vassar College Boxing Club. This club would allow for boxing to extend beyond just the classes.

“The club would raise awareness for the facilities that Vassar offers, namely Tracy [Patterson],” said Liu.

Patterson is a champion boxer who won a world championship in two different weight classes, and is perhaps the best secret Vassar boxing has to offer. Patterson teaches the regular Thursday and Sunday boxing classes, and is an incredible resource for those who participate in the boxing class.

“You go anywhere in the boxing circles and tell them that you do focus mitts with Tracy Patterson, and they’re in awe,” Corrigan explained about Patterson.

Perhaps the best part of the incredible Vassar boxing class is that it can be as relaxed or as intense as you want it to be. Some people go only to the open gym nights on Tuesdays to throw a few punches, and some people train for contact tournaments like Liu and Payne.

Boxing can be stress release, or boxing can be a personal goal; either way, there is no other sport like it.

Liu explained:“[T]here is no bigger challenge you can put yourself through in terms of sport… in boxing or any fighting sport, if at any point you haven’t given 110%, you will suffer… at the end of the day, not training hard means that you will get the shit beat out of you.”

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