Those moments—when you are sweating on every part of your body, struggling for breath and more focused than you could have ever felt in your life—are times of, no, not pride or resentment, but absolute terror. It is the moment where you lead yourself directly to the edge, not willing to throw yourself right off, but knowing that this single act can be a ballet of muscle, skill, willpower, and strength. That is boxing.
All the greats have boxed from Ali (obviously) all the way to Hemingway. It is an art lost in the confusion of MMA, the modern outlook on violence in everyday life, and a denial that pushing away fear is more productive than harnessing it. I still find it thoroughly shocking that with all the speakeasies, hipster-influenced ideas, and an effort to revert back to “those days when…” that boxing has not seen more of an influx of participants. It’s the true man’s (and now woman’s) testament of will. To beat, or be beaten.
I started boxing only three years ago, but have boxed a total of about 1 ½ of those years. I have sparred, fought, won, and moved on. I still incorporate boxing into my weekly exercise routine, but have tied up my gloves in the form of fighting. I am highly competitive, yes; but I am not one to want to hurt another physical being. But what I have learned from competing and boxing? Physical and psychological aspects on myself and others that few will ever know. I learned how far I could push myself into the fear zone, how to try and react to people’s actions, anticipate what they were thinking, and look back and realize that I survived it all. Now, as a weekly riding desk jockey boxing workouts have become my meditation, my escape, my stress relief, and my soul reviver.
What Boxing can do for a modern mind:
- Focus—we all have our attention pulled in more than a hundred directions as soon as we wake up. Should I eat? Go back to sleep? Turn on the TV? Check my Facebook? Tweet about how awesome I think today is going to be? Actually prepare for my 11AM meeting? It’s confusing mess and by 3PM we are not only in the mood to start drinking, but working out is typically the lowest on our priorities list. Force it up to the top people! Boxing is designed to build complete concentration on one task. This is not tunnel vision, but concentration. Multi-tasking has a way of leaving all of our projects 75% complete at the end of a day instead of 100%, 60%, 35%, etc. That’s like being in an lumber mill and cutting all the boards 75% of the correct size…and then going back the next day to finish the rest of the 25%. What boxing teaches is that in those segmented 3 minute (or however long you choose) rounds you are there with whatever is in front of you be it a heavy bag, sparring partner, the terrorizing ab wheel, or just yourself in the gym.
- Stress—It is a proven fact that exercise mitigates stress. And although everyone will have different methods of escape from everyday life if you are short on time or have an immense amount of negative energy stored up then get that blood pumping! Anaerobic exercise will give you the biggest denominator in the stress alleviation equation.
- Muscle Groups— In a society pressed for time and focused on ambition and competition why haven’t we started boxing more? Try going for 10 rounds straight on a heavy bag today. Just punch until you cannot punch anymore. Punch as hard as you can, or as fast as you can, but don’t stop. You will find out the next day just how many muscles you used to whip your body around.
Footwork builds quick movement in your calves; throwing effective punches actually means having rock steady thighs; dodging opponent’s punches and going jab, cross, hook, jab builds impeccable core strength—I mean just look at most fighter’s abs; and, hitting the bag over and over while keeping your hands protecting your face will clearly sculpt your arms in no time. Core, arms (ladies, I’m looking at you and your desire for gorgeous shoulders), legs (hey, Beyonce), and mental stamina. That’s what you’ll be getting.
- Cardio—Jump rope for 15 minutes. It’s probably going to be embarrassing. And you might throw up.
It’s a great endorphin creator and again, tones up your heart and body more than running. When you start out you’ll get to feel all the little bits of your cake body—either made by pizza, chocolate, or those one too many cocktails you have every other night—just jiggle to the tunes in your head…but keep going. I eat, I drink, I live in New Orleans. One of the only things that keeps me in good enough shape to actually complete the runaround from bar to bar is jumping rope.
Boxing should not be seen as the modern day gladiatorial sport. Or even as a violence inducer in people, especially children. I have worked with many kids who have nothing to go to during the summer or after school other than a gym that accepts them and teaches them discipline. Just like other martial arts boxing is an effective tool to promote healthy mental stability for oneself and their surroundings. Knowing when (and how) to defend yourself is still a human trait the needs to be learned.
I am a big proponent for people to get out and move. The biggest asset you could have to continue to exercise is to find something you love to do. It may not be boxing, but that should not prevent someone from at least trying it once.
Previously written for Medium on January 24, 2014.