I have taken so many boxing classes with Jackie Saleh (I am HOOKED) and can only hope readers will have the opportunity to experience her incredible energy, amazing teaching style and boxing expertise. You will also get your ass whooped.
Well TO Do: Please introduce yourself to the Well TO Do readers.
Jackie Saleh: I’m Jackie Saleh (IG here) and I’m a social worker turned boxing instructor in Toronto’s west end and downtown.
WTD: How did you become a boxing instructor?
JS: I came to boxing a little under 10 years ago through my manager in the social work field who is an ex-professional boxer. I have always been active and I’ve also always struggled with my weight. I was a cigarette smoker – a pack a day – for 10 years and at that time I had quit smoking for several months and had gained quite a bit of weight. I knew of a boxing gym down the street from where I lived so I went with my friend to try a class. They kicked my butt so badly I was hooked. I was constantly sore but I was being taught how to engage with my body and my mind in a way I’d never experienced before.
Then I met Richard Souce and Junmar Emon of what is now Stockyards Boxing Gym. They became my trainers and I’ve been with them ever since. I’ve trained weekly with Junmar for several years – he always kicks my butt with a big smile and teaches me what it means to be a great trainer.
Starting to teach just seemed to be the natural progression of things. When I began boxing, my initial goal was simply to get fit, healthy and feel well but this soon progressed into a desire to improve technique and conditioning and apply this knowledge. Same went for teaching. I was learning so much and was so passionate about boxing that others were starting to ask me questions, so it seemed natural to become an instructor. I became certified as a personal trainer and a boxing coach and started teaching a class at Stockyards, figuring it out as I go, with the help of those around me. That turned into other opportunities and then it became something I’m now doing full time.
WTD: Why boxing?
JS: Boxing is fantastic for many reasons. It is a sport that conditions the body and mind like very few others. I’ve never done anything else that makes me work harder physically. Mentally and emotionally, it helps me to see where I am in various aspects of my life. For me, what happens in the ring and in my training in general (my energy, ability to focus, ease with which I become frustrated, ability to perform etc), is a reflection of what is going on for me outside of the ring. These are opportunities for learning. How can I be present with these states and the discomfort in a way where I can also be skillful? This helps to translate outside of the gym into daily life and helps to empower you and build you up.
You also need to figure out how to find within yourself the ability to stay the course. Everything you do is on you and you alone. What are you going to do in the gym, and in life, when you’re tired and beaten and ready to give up? You have to find the fire in your own belly. Nobody else can do it for you. Through training and classes, you not only get to learn about yourself and challenge yourself as an individual, but you also get to become a part of a rich, diverse community. Everybody loves boxing – from the person who wants to punch it out in box fit class once a week to the person who’s greatest passion is boxing.
WTD: Where are you teaching now?
JS: I’m currently teaching at Stockyards Boxing Gym, Equinox Bay St and I am starting on the schedule at Lululemon The Attic as well as Calii Love this month.
WTD: How do you keep healthy when not teaching?
JS: For me health is about lifestyle and balance. Eating well, sleeping well, incorporating different kinds of movement, mindfulness, being surrounded by people and community who support me and build me up and to whom I can reciprocate that support.
WTD: What’s next for Jackie Saleh?
JS: I would love to combine boxing and social work in some capacity. To some extent there is an inherent connection between the two no matter who you’re teaching, but it would also be great to be able to reconnect with my previous work and passion in social work in a way that provides therapeutic value to people and communities who may not otherwise have accessed it, or thought to access it. It feels like a really positive way to impact change in people’s lives.
WTD: What’s exciting for you in the Toronto wellness scene?
JS: The thing that’s exciting for me about the wellness scene is that it feels like the focus is indeed shifting more to wellness than just achieving a certain number on the scale or a particular waist size. It’s important to acknowledge and respect the overall picture when it comes to health and wellness, and the more we listen to what our bodies are telling us, the more we learn about ourselves and the stronger we become from the inside out. This then extends outward toward others, as the more compassionate we can be to ourselves, the more compassionate we are able to be toward others.