Learning how to box from 'The Nightmare'

Simon Redmond teaches
boxing and conditioning
at his Polk Street Gym

About a month ago, I encountered an angry individual at Fort Mason Park. His unleashed mutt sprinted toward my leashed pooch and heated words were exchanged. In an instant, he was in my face. Blows seemed imminent, but the moment was diffused when my dog started barking. My adrenalin was off the scale, but afterward 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 days in 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. After some thought, I decided to try boxing.

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 has 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.

Did you get in a lot of scraps as a kid?
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.

If someone is going to get into a fight, what can you tell them?
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.

What are most of your students looking for when they come here to Polk Street Gym?
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.

Have you ever been injured in the ring?
I’ve had my ribs and my nose broken; my eardrums have been busted six times, I’ve spilt 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 plan to take some beginning boxing classes at Polk Street Gym in the very near future so I can walk my dog without fear and get some serious cardio while strengthening my core in the process. Stay tuned.

Student Athletes Visit P.E. Classes to Teach Philosophy of Coach John Wooden

Harper for Kids (HFK), a nonprofit organization that teaches children important skills that will empower them to achieve their personal best in life, added a new program element this fall by partnering with the University of San Francisco’s men’s and women’s tennis teams. The HFK program is based on the philosophy of iconic UCLA coach John Wooden. The USF tennis team players serve as mentors, bringing the program directly to the kids during physical education classes. Structured in a fun and engaging format with interactive tennis games and drills, the youngsters learn Wooden’s Pyramid of Success and his message that success comes from “making the effort, 100 percent, to do your best.” Peter Bartlett, head coach of the University of San Francisco men’s tennis team, is enthused over the opportunity for his student athletes to help the community and kids.

“The USF men’s team is really excited to continue its relationship with Harper for Kids,” he said. “We feel the mission of HFK can be a life-building experience for young kids and fits our program very well. The Pyramid of Success contains the building blocks for children to learn how to be successful in their lives and will be helpful as they continue to strive for their personal best. We also feel this will give our student athletes a great experience working with school youth and ultimately be a very rewarding opportunity to give back and spread the message HFK has to offer.”

Ed Attanasio is an author who loves his wife, two dogs, and just about any sport that’s on TV – except competitive sudoku. He would have been the Segovia of Scrabble, but he couldn’t handle Qs. E-mail: