Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Tricia Arcaro Turton, Owner Arcaro Boxing, Coach & Ex-Pro Boxer

I’m with Tricia Arcaro Turton at her gym, Arcaro Boxing to get her view on the Central AreaYou’ve lived and worked in the Central Area for how long?

Tricia Turton. Photo: Madeline Crowley

 I’ve lived here maybe 5 -6 years but worked here about 10 or 11 years now.

So, you’ve had a relationship to this place for a long time.

Yeah, I’ve seen it change quite a bit. I feel a bit on the outskirts of it now.

Why did you choose to locate your business here?

 I like the Central Area. I like Seattle U. This location has foot traffic, these big windows and the space felt really right. I think the Central District is a great area; it has a huge community presence. I wanted to be part of the community.

It is a great choice. All the boxing gyms I’ve been in have had few windows so it’s nice to have the light. 

The windows make all the difference in the world. It can be difficult for people to actually step into a boxing gym. People can be pretty nervous about coming in the door. I think the windows make it a little more approachable.

I think that’s definitely true. There’s also the fact that you have a history in the neighborhood with boxing, you’ve organized events, you’ve worked at other places all that makes it approachable, perhaps also as that you’re a woman too. 

I didn’t realize how much being a woman business owner was going to make it more approachable for different kinds of people. I wanted to make sure that understand that I’m not just a boxing gym for the ladies, I’m a boxing gym for anybody who wants to get in here and express themselves. Still, it was cool to realize that people felt it was more approachable. I thought that was really great although that’s not something I set out to do.

Photo: Madeline Crowley
Was there something you did set out to do?

Absolutely. When I was boxing professionally, there were these two old dudes that used to sit around, and they were a little like the Muppet guys in the balcony.

They would sit around the gym and they would just banter back and forth, they’d holler instructions to the boxers boxing in the ring or on the heavy bag, even though they weren’t the coaches. There was this real sense of community. These guys were old boxers themselves.
I just really wanted to recreate a place where people come hang out. I have little magazines here; I have Wi-Fi here. I don’t want people to feel like they just have to come in, get their workout and blaze outta here. I want a little more interaction. Whether people talk about boxing, or everyday stuff, or whatever, I want this to be a place where they can hang out. Sometimes after sparring lesson, people will sit here for another 30 minutes talking about what they experienced in sparring. It’s just a really cool environment. I like that.

The second thing I wanted to create was because when my fondest memory from being a kid was of my Dad and softball. He played softball and would take my brother and I out to his practices. He would put us behind the outfielders with our mitts, and we would get to field all the balls that went past the outfield. We really felt part of it. It wasn’t like we had to just watch our dad play softball, and our dad didn’t have to sit and watch us work out. It was an interactive thing. The team made us feel part of the team. So, we thought we were the bomb. If a ball came all the way out past the outfield it was like fielding an infield grounder because we were so little. They’d smack that ball out there; it was really a cool feeling.

Photo: Collection Tricia Turton.
I wanted this gym also to be a place where people aren’t watching kids work out, or kids aren’t watching their parents work out and being bored. I wanted it to be interactive and give some opportunities where that all could happen at the same time.

It’s not a big space, it’s not like there’s a ton of space for people to chill out and watch, but it’s like the right kind of space.

It is a good use of space. Are you training an amateur team as well?
There is an amateur team, ten of them, not all of them are ready to compete. It’s been phenomenal. I’m thrilled to have them. To me they drive the gym. They connect people who workout recreationally to Boxing. It creates this authentic experience of supporting boxers in their gym.

Photo: Madeline Crowley
It seems that you have a fresh approach to boxing training. I overheard you saying the other day that you only want your boxers to take so many hits. And it seemed to me that was a smart philosophy, because often it was thought boxers need to get hardened.

I’m really questioning how many hard sparring sessions do you really have to have to prepare for a fight? Is that what it takes to bring the toughness out of you in the ring? Or should you just have it inside you? Is it something that should just come out of you?

I’m inclined to think you do not need to have a ton of hard sparring sessions. Perhaps you might need to as you go up a level. 

For a beginning boxer, as a coach I need to know how they’re going to respond under extreme duress. So I’m going to want them to get their butt kicked a little bit, where it’s a safe, but a pretty hard lesson. I’ll see how they respond, then I’ll know if they’re safe to go in the ring and compete.

Now, I don’t need five times of that. If it happens one time then you get a pretty good idea of how they’re going to respond. If they don’t respond, well then, I know we go back the drawing board for a while. Work on things for a while, then I’ll have another test for them. If they don’t respond well again then we really need to talk about whether they should compete or not, or whether they should just enjoy boxing as a sport that meets their needs in life versus competing.

Same thing as they get higher up, how much do they need those hard rounds? I think we should save those for the competition. Those hard rounds should be spent when it really counts, and not in practice as much. I also think that you don’t learn as much when you’re just going hard all the time. If you’re fighting gym wars in the ring, and in practice, then what do you have left for the rounds that count?

I also care about their longevity. Amateur boxing is not your end all, be all, there are very few people who are going to go to the Olympics, and, even fewer are going to turn Pro, and even fewer who will make money going Pro. With all that, what do they really need?

Photo: Madeline Crowley
I’m finding that balance right now. I’m finding that I have boxers who are very prepared to go in the ring, and they don’t have to have a ton of hard rounds. You know, sometimes they want them because it releases something. That’s fine, but I’m trying to monitor even that to even increase their safety even more, to let them use it where it counts.

With recreational boxers, I don’t really feel they need to take hard punches hardly ever. Every once in a while you know, just to see what they’re made of; I think that’s important for their own soul, but not very often. It’s better to learn and break things down. It doesn’t mean you don’t get hit, it’s just you’re not really going at it.

My guess is that you have a philosophy around boxing and life, and how they inform each other.

I think every boxing coach does. You can’t box and not link that up to life itself. That’s what boxing’s always done, historically it has taken in kids, kids in rough situations. Then the boxing coach becomes a mentor, teaches them about life through the ring experience, and gives them confidence. Gives them the ability to deal with life in a different way if they choose to take those lessons on. I was trained as a coach to link boxing and life. It’s natural; it makes sense to me. And so I continue with that boxing tradition, as most coaches do.

Could you articulate for somebody who’s never been in a boxing gym, what does boxing teach you about life or how does it mirror life?

I could talk for hours about that subject. For one, boxing mostly just teaches you about yourself. It’s really about understanding conflict, how you respond to conflict, understanding where your fears are, where your doubts are, where your strengths are. Kind of where you are in the world. Boxing exposes it, more so when you spar then when you hit the bag, but the bag can teach you a lot of lessons. Stuff comes out from within you that you didn’t realize was hanging out.

Boxing, I think, is like a stick that goes and mixes up the murky pond. All this stuff comes to the surface. It’ll settle back down again, and it’ll get stirred up, and it settles again. It’s up to you to look at the little particles that rise up. To think about what that brings up is what boxing gives you a chance to do.

For me boxing makes the most sense since it’s physical. When I was just ending my high school years, I started getting into Buddhism and Existentialism. I was really seeking, but all those ideas weren’t physical. There was a little component missing, because I had been physical my whole life. I’ve been an athlete my whole life. I really liked sitting meditation, being really strict, and having discipline. Still, there was something missing. 
Photo: Madeline Crowley
Even rugby as a team sport didn’t quite meet what was missing in me. When I found boxing, what was missing became very apparent. It was this physicality that explained everything I was learning philosophically.

It was the self-awareness that I was going for in Buddhism. With boxing you have to be self aware or you’re not going to learn. You’re not going to do your best, and you’re certainly not going to be able to improve if you’re not self-aware. Boxing put the seeking, the entire spiritual journey into perspective, and it gave me a home to practice in.

There are fighting monks in different religions. It makes sense; discipline is honing the attention. Fighting, if you’re going to make it through the round, is honing attention.

You have to do it 100%. Honestly, I’ve had an experience of that. I had two boxers who were incredibly self-aware before their first fight.

That was the goal, actually. The whole goal was to be as self-aware as possible. What was happening to them before the fight, during the fight, and after the fight. They succeeded wildly. They did not win in their fights, but I feel that they won far more than they could have ever, ever gotten out of winning their match. They learned a tremendous amount; it profoundly affected them. I feel like their boxing skills have gotten better because of it.

I have another boxer who was not self aware, and hit the mat, and didn’t understand even why he hit the mat. Now, he’s very motivated to be more self-aware. It was a huge breakthrough in that regard. It was a good learning experience.

As a coach, it was amazing from the outside, to see the difference between a person who is very aware of what they’re experiencing, and then a person who isn’t aware of what they’re experiencing. There’s no comparison. So, that’s what I want to strive for. As much as a person as with anybody I cross paths with, I think. Self-awareness helps us connect; it makes us more responsible for our actions. It doesn’t mean we do good actions all the times, it just means we’re responsible. It means that we pay attention to how we’re affected and how we affect other people. That’s what boxing is really all about, taking responsibility for how you’re affected and how you affect other people.

Photo: Madeline Crowley
That’s wonderful. Do you have a youth program?

I just started, and boy, that’s going to take a while until it picks up. I don’t really advertise, so word of mouth is going to have to get around. I’ve chosen, on purpose, for the youth program to just be 8-12 year olds.

Why’s that?

Well, because I feel by 13, you’re really starting to get this autonomy. You really want your autonomy. You have no desire to be hanging out with 12-and-unders. I feel like it’s a different experience.

I was talking to youth I’ve coached in youth boxing, and they talked about how intimidating it was at 12-and-under to be with the 13-and-olders. They felt they couldn’t really express themselves, they felt so nervous. Also, the 13-and-overs were trying to find adulthood and independence as quick as they could. So, I want 13-and- over to use Open Gym, to work out with the Adults. 

Photo: Madeline Crowley
Also that’s the point when parents and kids start losing each other if they don’t keep a dialogue open. In my mind, if a 14-year-old isn’t beyond working out in a class with their parents, it would be nice for them if they could share this gym space together, at the same time. Then they could have this dialogue, because (in general) it’s really missing. We don’t sit down, have dinner and talk anymore. I think we need that badly.

But for the 12-and-unders, they need structure. I feel like they need extreme discipline, they need to know what to expect. It has to be the same every day, day in and day out.

Honestly, I’m looking for kids that really want to box. It’s fine if they want to use it to prepare for other sports, I like cross-training, boxing doesn’t have to be their thing. But really I’m looking for that kid who wants to box. I’ve worked with people in their 20s and gotten to work with them for a lot of years. It would be so different if I could have somebody that started at 8 or 10 and really wanted to box, to get to develop them over the years. That would be a dream.

Photo: Madeline Crowley
Do you hope they will be coming from the Central Area?

I hope so; I really hope so. I’ve tried to put the pricing at a rate that is reasonable for people and still takes care of my business. I’m very flexible. I never turn people away. I mean there are kids that I’ve known for 10 years that come here and box and can’t afford it. I’m never going to tell them that they can’t box here. With that said, I’m not going to have 20 people who can’t afford it,

Yeah, you need to keep your business alive.

Yeah, but I need to have a nice balance of being sure that people who don’t have access to a boxing gym can get access to it. I mean, that’s traditionally what boxing gyms did. Some people never paid for boxing a day in their life. They came to the gym because it was a safe place for them from whatever they were dealing with.
This neighborhood has pockets of kids who really, really need to figure out how to save themselves.

Yes. Honestly, I believe that applies to all ethnic groups and to all income groups. We’re very disconnected from each other. We can be a bit emotionally bankrupt. I feel if I can provide a space where people can come express themselves.  Where it’s really ok for them to be themselves, that will help create connection a bit more.

I feel like these 8-12 year-olds should be able to come here and express themselves through boxing. 13-year-olds all the way up to 70+ should be able to come and express themselves through boxing. It’s a place where anybody can be saved from themselves and from whatever they’re dealing with. Not just the typical kid on the street.

I want to provide a structure for the younger ones. I just feel like they really need a structure. I’ve stepped into schools and just feel there’s a system that’s really in a bit of a rough state. It’s really tough for teachers to do what they do.

I feel like when I was growing up my parents were in survival mode. We didn’t really get to learn about nuances or little things. They didn’t really get the chance to sit down and teach us why brushing your teeth’s important, or really spend time with us on it. They were just, go brush your teeth, they were just trying to unwind from the day. It wasn’t very interactive. It wasn’t because they were trying to be absent; it was because they were dying just trying to provide for the family.

Photo: Madeline Crowley
I feel like that’s what’s (generally) going on now. So then, I think it’s up to coaches or people in positions working with kids to provide places of structure for a child where they can learn a little bit; to take some pressure off the parents. Let the parents have a child who’s coming back home with a little more structure and some insight so that maybe, maybe things can improve there.

It’s great that the gym is an asset to the community because it is a place to train as a boxer, intended as a place to help people connect; as a place to help the community.

When everybody has an experience they can relate to, then that opens up a dialogue. It’s this dialogue that helps. The cool part is that while you’re working out you don’t talk, when you’re sparring you don’t talk, but you have this exchange that happens nonetheless. Afterwards, if you need to talk to make sense of it, I want that to be possible here.

Also, it’s my idea that people can come here and read the paper, if they wanted to read the paper. That’s actually one of my favorite things. One gym member sits here and reads the New York Times on Sunday for a while. Then, he’ll do his workout, and sit back down to read then go workout again. I really dig it. It’s just one of my most favorite things.

There are some guys in here for Open Gym. They might hold the (punching) mitts for each other, and they work together. I’ve seen people during Open Gym ask, “You want to do side-to-side chest passes?” I just think it’s kind of cool. I just like seeing people interact that normally wouldn’t; you know? It gives me access to working with people that otherwise I would never have access to, to learn about new things.
Photo: Madeline Crowley
That’s been true for me about this project. I’ve met people, that otherwise, there’s no way our paths would cross otherwise.

Yeah, no way.

If you’re open to people that you normally wouldn’t know, you can learn a little bit of their lives. It gives you a broader experience of life.

I know people have different beliefs, but I believe that this (existence) is it, at least that I am consciously aware of, so I want to make the most of what I’m consciously aware of.

I think there are two things I want to bring up about the gym that are beyond just boxing. One is, I put up artist’s works for two months at a time. I kept these walls really empty for a really long time, and just kept staring at them; I didn’t know what I wanted on them. Only minimal stuff, and didn’t want to just put a bunch of things on the walls to fill them up. So I left them blank. Then, this guy came in and wanted to sell me a little painting. He was basically soliciting, and I liked him. I liked his energy. I said, “Well, I might buy that painting, but would you be interested in hanging your art on the wall?” He asked me, “Well, what percentage do you want?” And I was like, “What do you mean, percentage?"

I guess if an artist hangs art somewhere and it sells, the house takes a percentage. I thought, that’s crazy, that’s like ripping off a boxer. Taking money from them when they’re just barely scraping by. I just don’t want to do that.
Photo: Madeline Crowley
People can hang their artwork up here. I ask them to write a little snippet about themselves and the work and they can sell pieces. The first guy sold two pieces, so far, the next two artists haven't sold anything yet.

It was cool, though, I liked it. I liked the feeling of them putting the art on the wall.

I think artists are a lot like boxers, they’re expressing themselves and they’re not getting paid very much for it. It’s very difficult to be successful in just their art form. They have to do other things to support them in the love of their art. In that sense, art and boxing tie in very well together. I put an announcement on Facebook, I try to get the work known. Then, it’s on to the next artist.

That’s also community building too.

I like it a lot. It’s really interesting to see what pieces of art people create.  

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in a mountain town in Colorado. The county’s called Summit County. I lived in three different towns, Dillon and Dillon Valley, and Frisco. We moved quite a bit, even in a small town. It was at 9,600 feet, so a very high elevation. In Colorado, you’re proud of your elevation. If you are the town at the highest elevation in the county, that’s an accomplishment. 

It was a beautiful place, very outdoorsy. That’s why I’m very physical because of that: climbing trees, running in the woods, sports, year-round.

When did you play rugby?

I moved from my small town to the big city, Denver.  I was a little lost after high school. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I was in pretty bad shape; mentally, emotionally, physically. Actually, I was definitely in terrible shape. I probably looked 40 and I wasn’t even 20 yet.

Then, I was at a Pridefest parade and I saw a booth for rugby. I walked up to these gals and put my name on the list. I’m pretty sure they thought I looked horrid because they gave my name to another team. (laughs) They didn’t even take my name.  This other team contacted me. I went out there, and tried practice. I really liked it, and it kind of sparked my passion for living again. It kinda got my butt in gear. I had been drinking a ton, and working 70-80 hours a week and doing drugs. I was really lost and rugby got me back in gear.

My first year of play I received an honorable mention. It was a world cup year, it was 1993 or ’94. I couldn’t make the World Cup Team because I had just started, but they put me on the Honorable Mention list. They were looking at me, so I thought, holy cow, I could do this sport. I could really do something with this sport.

Photo: Madeline Crowley
I really got serious. I trained my butt off. I did everything it took, everything single thing it took, to make the US team. Ultimately, I decided in 1996 to move somewhere where there was a higher concentration of rugby. I thought about the east coast, especially Philadelphia for one of the national coaches, but I just couldn’t see myself living in Philadelphia or the east coast. I like the people and the directness, but I knew I needed mountains. I needed the kind of openness of the west coast. So, I closed my eyes, put my finger on the map, and it landed on Eugene. I thought, no way, there’s not enough rugby in Eugene. Somebody told me to try Seattle.

Seattle had a good team and played in the Canadian league. So I came up here, ‘96, and we went to Japan that fall as a select team from the Northwest; that was awesome. In 1997, I went to Canada and represented the country in my first international match. I just worked my tail off to make the 1998 World Cup Team.

Afterwards, though, I felt empty, like I hadn't really accomplished anything. This was because after all that, really nobody knew about it. I mean, I represented my country in the World Cup and nobody knew. I didn’t know what was missing.

Then, I started to coach. I was thinking about going the next world cup, but I just didn't have it in me. No more dealing with three nights a week of muddy clothes and laundry, with every weekend taken up with rugby. I hung up the cleats. Coached high school girls for a while, to give back to my sport. Then, I just had to get out of it. A rugby friend of mine was taking boxing fitness, and told me, you gotta try this; I think you’ll like it. Then I found boxing. I realized, oh, this is what I’ve been missing.

Photo: Madeline Crowley
Did you train with Credit?

I trained at Cappy’s first as an amateur, and then Cappy took me to Credit, and I boxed as a Pro at George Credit’s gym. I had 16 amateur fights and 12 pro fights. I had 2 World Title fights, and one local Title Fight. It was an amazing whirlwind of an experience.

I wish I had the emotional awareness and fortitude I that have now when I was competing; I think it would have been a whole different ball game. That, though, was not in the cards. So now I’m working on that as a coach.

Is there anything you miss about competition?

Absolutely. I don’t really care much about being on stage, but the adrenaline - it’s me and another person, and going at it. I do like to go and get a hit hard. I can’t do that now, in practice, you know. I’m not going to go in and hit people hard. Also, I don’t need to take punches; I’ve taken plenty of punches. Still, I miss that part.

I honestly wish that I could compete without all the rigmarole of the ring walk and all that. I would just like to get in there and get my business done. But, it’s an entertainment sport. You have to be comfortable being somewhat of an entertainer. That wasn’t really my forte.

Having competition was awesome; it feels so good. I still spar. I mean, I have to spar; I’d go crazy if I didn’t spar. You learn about yourself in leaps and bounds. I’m not willing to be without that experience, I’ve got to be learning.

Where do you find a sparring partner?

Oh here, I mean, there’s tons of people to work with. I’ll get in the ring and work with different gym members, they’re all learning, they’re learning how they can work on their technique without clocking somebody, so it makes it interesting. I’ve gotten way better boxing skills just as I’m past my prime to compete. And I like that; that boxing can do that for you.

Maybe then it’s similar to the traditional approach to martial arts; where your whole life, you’re improving. You might not be as strong, but your reflexes are as tuned.

Yeah, it’s amazing how much I’ve learned, just this confidence. And my confidence actually comes from knowing really how insecure I am, and knowing where I doubt myself. Actually, that’s boxing.

Boxing honestly shows you how your supposed weaknesses are actually your incredible strengths. Knowing where I’m afraid, knowing these things makes me so much more confident, because I don’t need to prove it. I know it's there; I don’t need to make it go away, I don’t have to do anything with it. I just know it exists. I’m ok with that.

Are there other events?

We’re doing this thing that’s evolving. It’s Spoken Word Night, and maybe we’ll do it two or three times a year.

I had never been to a spoken word event before (but we hosted one). There’s this gal, a teacher that boxes here, and we’re trying to eventually hook up with juvenile detention center (a block away) and get a program going with them.

They don’t allow boxing in the detention center. I’ve really wanted to get in there for years. There’s actually a very accomplished boxing coach, and he was a boxer who works at the Juvenile Detention Center. He does what he can do to work with the youth. He used to run the streets a little bit, so he’s a cool dude. His name’s Mathis Hill. In fact, if you could look him up he’d be a great guy to interview about the Central District; he’s been around forever. We want to eventually work with them but it’s a big long bureaucratic process, so that’s down the road.

Anyway, this gal does a lot of spoken word events and she works with youth. She’s very, very, very community service oriented. We were talking about having a spoken word night, and decided, let’s do it. She organized this amazing event, it was called The Artist and the Boxer.

The theme was, What are you fighting for? We gave surveys to all gym members about that and took all these different ideas to artists who put these concepts into spoken word. Some people just came up impromptu about what they were fighting for, and there was a few dance performances. It was just different art performances around that subject and it was an unbelievably powerful experience. Some of the boxers also put their boxing experience to the spoken word, to talk about it.

It brought these different people who had nothing to do with boxing into the boxing gym. I did not know half the crowd here, which I thought was amazing. It brought people I never would have expected into the boxing gym. They performed in the ring. All of them, every single one of them, said there was something incredibly powerful about performing in the ring. It affected them greatly. I liked that experience so we’re going to do it again. Eventually, I would like to use that as a fundraiser for the team. The first one we just did to see how it went. And it was great.

Photo: Madeline Crowley
That’s cool. Did you want to talk about the team at all?

Well, do you have like specific questions for me about the team?

How many people?

Ten, the team is half men and half women from 17 – 28 years old.

Are you competing around in the city?

Most of them compete locally, in shows that the local boxing clubs put on. Only if they hit a certain level of commitment and skill then do they start getting to go to other states or other venues. I have taken a couple boxers to Canada. I’ve taken a couple to Oregon for some shows. But beyond that, they’ve really got to hit at a certain level of commitment. For me to go spend a lot of money and time on a tournament to Kansas or somewhere else, they’ve really got to be committed and consistent.

Will you guys be in the annual Central District Boxing Revival?

We put our names in there, if they get matched up absolutely. I think last year it was held when we were out of town or we opted for something out of town, so we didn’t get to be a part of that one.

So we have that to look forward to in October.

I think so, yes.

(Tricia came to this project via my interest in her and her business from being a member of
Arcaro Boxing Gym)

Special thanks to Zachary Hitchcock for his hard work with transcription. 

©  Madeline Crowley People of the Central Area 2014   All material is covered by copyright. Express written permission must be given for any copyrighted material on this page. Email to request permission to copy or paste materials
This project was supported in part by
4Culture's Heritage Projects program

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About Me

Seattle, WA, United States
I am not a professional photographer nor a trained journalist. At community meetings, it became clear that many of us don’t know each other. We haven’t heard each other’s stories and don't know each other’s circumstances. This is my attempt to give a few people the chance to tell their story, to talk about our community, to say their piece in peace. As such, comments have been disabled. The views and opinions expressed here are those of each narrator and do not necessarily reflect the position of views of the CentralAreaComm.blogspot blog site itself. The is not responsible for the accuracy of any information supplied by narrators of this project. All interviews have been edited and in places condensed.

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