Hall packs a powerful punch with boxing class

“Let’s run!”

Thirty seconds after meeting Natalie Hall, a third-year Psychology major, I’m already warming up for a special session of her G.I.T. Fit boxing class. For the next hour, I’ll learn to savor any thirty-second break I can get with Hall—the non-stop boxing machine.

On the three-quarter mile jog, Hall recalls her introduction to boxing. “I used to cheer, and I got really sick of it. For some reason, boxing kept getting into my head. Then they built a boxing gym near my house [in Alpharetta].” Around the 10th grade, she took some classes and was instantly recognized as a prodigy. Soon enough, she acquired a trainer, compiled a 2-0-0 record in fights and went on her way to fame.

Running’s over. We enter the CRC’s Studio A, a cavernous, white room with hardwood floors that are bare except for punching bags, mirrors and high tech sound equipment.

“Do jumping jacks!”

Within a few years, Hall’s fame came with an appearance on VH1’s Celebrity Fit Club. In a surprise twist on this reality show, celebrity rapper Bizarre stepped into the ring with Hall, a peppy, brunette ex-cheerleader. She impressed him so much that he wrote a song for her and bestowed her with a nickname: Natalie, the ninja!

“Get down on the ground! Act like you’re climbing a mountain!”

We’re not yet five minutes into the workout—still warm-up technically—and I’m already dying. I ask about teaching. “I love it. It’s so much fun.” And her students? “A lot of them aren’t very good at the start. They see it on TV, but the don’t know the proper way of punching.” When asked about those TV shows and movies, she says, “I’ve never seen Rocky. It’s too cheesy.”

“High knees!” Hall shouts out.

She divulges how her background in psychology gives her an upper hand at performing upper cuts in the ring. “Boxing is 95 percent mental. If you’ve got it up here, you’ve got it in the ring.” Maybe Tech students would have a natural advantage. “Kind of,” she says with a tone that’s well aware of our student body’s athletic prowess.

“Now get into a push-up position. I’m going to call up and down.”

Hall especially wanted to discuss the misconceptions about female boxing. “People turn it into a joke. [Publications] like Playboy turn it into a mockery. No one can take it seriously,” she says angrily. The negative attention also bothers her. “You get old men with beer bellies creepily going to women’s fights.”

Then, she addresses the people who think boxing is nothing but an aimless blood sport. “No! You’re not just out there to swing your arms around. You’ve prepared for this in every way possible. If people understood the courage…you’d have to step through the rope, I think they’d appreciate women’s boxing a lot more.”

“Now I’m going to get you some gloves.”

The gloves are pink, Disney Channel pink, and unfortunately, they fit. Hall’s first lesson covers the jab, “the punch you’ll use 80% of the time in your fights,” she said. We get into boxing stance-standing on the toes, turned 15 degrees to protect the body, right glove protecting the chin, and left glove out ready to jab as needed.

She instructs me to rotate my hand almost 360 degrees during jabs. Why? More power, and “if I have on leather gloves and I punch you in the face, and turn it on your skin, you’re more likely to bleed and then it’d be my point,” she said.

My throat gulps at Hall’s intimidation. “Now practice your jab on the punching bag.”

Hall instructs well on how to loosen up my jab, fix my stance, and protect my face. I get the sense she truly enjoys teaching. I also get the sense she plots how she’d punch me if we were sparring.

“Now I’m going to show you the cross. It’s your power punch.”

We practice the jab and cross on the punching bag, the infamous “1-2 punch.” Hall assists with the balance, turning, and power necessary to get off a good cross.

When I finally get it, with a ridiculous popping sound on the bag, I get a taste of confidence—the confidence boxers are famous for. Hall emanates it with her posture, voice, and smile. Mohammed Ali probably had too much: “I am the greatest. I said that even before I knew I was,” Ali said.

About half of the workout is dedicated to punches and fighting stance. To finish up, she says, “Let’s do an ab workout!”

Having sweated as much in an hour as I usually do in three, I groan. Hall’s barely broken a sweat and does 30-50 reps of stretches I can only do 2-5 of at once. I’m quitting after an hour, but she says, “I used to finish classes and go directly to boxing for 3, 4, 5 hours a day.”

That’s Natalie the ninja, the non-stop boxing machine. For those that think they can match her intensity, for those who want to be in tip-top shape with more confidence and self-defense ability, consider the G.I.T. Fit boxing classes. Just remember to pack the Icy-Hot.

This fall, Hall will teach her fifth boxing class at the CRC, “Boxing for Beginners.” Classes take place on Sundays from 12:30-1:30 beginning on September 21st. Course registration is $45.

For more info, check out www.crc.gatech.edu/gf/viewcourse.php?id=111.