Updated: Jun 6, 2019
This June, the resident boxing coach at Exemplar Fitness approached me about learning to box.
In all honesty, I thought he was kidding. Why the hell would I be boxing?
Then he mentioned it again, saying that he had a pair of wraps for me.
It was then that I realized, “Oh wow, he’s serious.”
To say that my knowledge of boxing was limited is an understatement; Of course, I’m familiar with Muhammad Ali.
I’ve watched Rocky (I know he’s not a real person, but try telling that to anyone from the greater Philadelphia area.)
I know that Mike Tyson bit Evander Holyfield’s ear.
I know that Laila is Muhammad Ali’s daughter.
That's pretty much the breadth of my boxing knowledge.
And, I watched two-ish episodes of UFC’s The Ultimate Fighter reality TV show (yes, I know that’s MMA and NOT boxing) back in my 20’s. (Can we talk about what a bad third date that was - “Umm, thanks for having me over for dinner so we can watch some dudes get bloody! What’s that? Oh -sure, I’ll pick up the pizza...and the beer...and pay for it...")
And when riding the bus to middle school, I punched a kid in the mouth who kissed me when he got on the bus. #suckerpunch
Regardless of the rookie feelings that I was having, I was intrigued by the opportunity to try something new.
On June 28th, with great excitement and some trepidation, I participated in my first training session, and have been at it twice a week ever since!
Fifteen Minutes Or Fifteen Days Each session begins with having my hands wrapped by my coach. (I’ve yet to master the art of hand wrapping, though the same can be said for most boxers from what I’ve seen.)
Then I grab a rope and start warming up. His stopwatch begins and he wanders off to get tea.
You know, because there’s plenty of time for tea when your athlete is jumping rope for fifteen minutes.
Yep, you read that right - Fifteen minutes.
It felt like an eternity.
It’s important to note that I’ve always had a leakage problem when jumping. I came to this reality as a collegiate high jumper during our first plyometrics workouts - About 20 jumps into our workout - I peed my pants. I really wish I was kidding. This problem continued throughout college, so I just traveled with an extra pair of shorts on plyo days, so I was, you know...prepared.
During that first session, it took about five minutes for me to start making proclamations about the fact that I was inevitably going to pee.
And eight minutes in, I made a mad dash for the bathroom.
I made sure my coach stopped the clock so I didn’t cut myself short on any precious seconds of jumping rope.
Each subsequent session has gotten so much easier.
Three strategies that I use to pass the jumping time are as follows:1.) staring at a Serena Williams poster for some inner badass woman inspiration.2.) practicing talking shit with anyone that is dishing it out. 3.) contacting my abdominals to prevent the flow.
Clearing My Mind
Admittedly, when I decided to start boxing, my initial thought was that I would get in a different type of workout, sweat a bunch, and maybe enjoy hitting something, as one does.
I’m not naturally a violent person, but I figured there was some aggression hanging around that would get released.
Whoa, was I wrong.
Immediately after the first two sessions were over, I had this immense amount of emotion and found myself in tears. My coach told me that I don’t need to be perfect, and that I should learn to stop holding back.
He had no idea that could be a metaphor for my life; not just boxing.
My perfectionist nature has held me back from so many things throughout my life and has inhibited my ability to move forward.
Coincidentally, the word that I chose for 2018 was FORWARD.
My goal for the entire year was to focus on the present instead of the past, which would, in turn, propel me forward.
Through boxing, I am learning to let go of everything...excluding my bladder.
That doesn’t mean that my practice is sloppy; it means that I have to stay in the present in order to feel where my feet are; to know how my hips are moving; to keep my core engaged; to keep my shoulders level; and to protect my face.
I can’t allow my mind to wander or get trapped in the past of what I did on the last rep of “jab/cross.”
I recognize what went well and what needs to be corrected and I move on, move forward.
In the past, yoga has provided me with a release from my perfectionism and permitted me to be accepting of mistakes and comfortable on my mat. While yoga will continue to provide me with those same tools, I’ve come to realize that boxing is a different form of yoga for me.
I’m learning to find my flow.
Energy Transfer Gives You Power. Boxing is intensely technical.
My favorite parts about every practice are the moments when we dissect the critical components of basic movement. Breaking down these movements is what will make me better.
When I was a high jumper, I’d videotape myself (yes, on VHS. I’m old.) so that I could break down my lead-up steps, my jumps, and to learn how to be more efficient in my movement.
With boxing, my coach dissects my movements with the same precision, which is helping me to become aware of my body both inside and outside the ring. (I mean, I haven’t technically been in the ring, but it’s cool that I’ve envisioned that right?)
During a drilling session, my coach and I discussed how to receive the energy from an opponent.
“Ice. Water. Vapor.”
When you’re just learning to drill, you respond with ICE; catching the hit.
As you develop your skills, you become WATER; pushing the hit away.
Once you’ve become highly skilled, you turn to VAPOR; moving away from the impact of a hit.
I am still very much an ice cube.
This cognitive theory reminds me a lot about how we communicate with others. When you’re in a conflict that you’re unprepared for, you may respond with equal force; yelling out frustrations and possibly moving to something physical.
When you’ve learned to communicate better, you can push away conflict with less force and make it a conversation.
As a skilled communicator, you can begin to anticipate a person’s response and peacefully respond.
Balancing My Body and My Mind My ability to overthink and over-analyze can be categorized as admirable and concerning.
The technicalities of boxing can throw my mind into overdrive, which throws me off balance.
I’m learning to balance my body.
My back foot is being trained to travel with my front foot to maintain balance.
If you’re off balance while boxing, you put yourself in a situation where you cannot protect yourself.
My coach said something that will always stick with me from now on; “It’s all about balance. If you are unbalanced, you have no choice. If you are balanced, you have choice.”
Really take a moment and think about that statement.
Look at it from a boxing standpoint; If I have my weight in my front foot, I’m positioning myself forward and am leaning toward my opponent.
If my weight is stuck on my back foot, I can’t back up. It’s vital to maintain balance between both feet. This quote is something that I find myself saying every day, and it’s something that should probably be permanently posted in our home. Maintaining balance within my everyday life is crucial to my happiness.
My tendency is to do things to an extreme - which has historically led to over-training, overworking, and under-eating.
Through a lot of therapy (thank you, EMDR) and now - through boxing, I’ve learned to create boundaries, which help keep me balanced.
Sometimes, I need to reset those boundaries.
With practice, the flow and balance will become habits.
I can’t imagine ever setting foot in a ring, at least for now.
Currently, I’m still working on aiming for the center of the bag.
Still, I’m loving the process of learning a new sport, and I’m even more passionate about learning lessons that I can transfer to my life.
One benefit of becoming knowledgeable with the art of boxing is eventually being able to share this skill with my clients.
I don’t know if I’m quite ready yet, but if you’re interested in learning, reach out.
If you’ve ever boxed and want to share your insights on this incredible sport, get in touch.
Lastly, I leave you with a quote by Nelson Mandela, “I did not enjoy the violence of boxing so much as the science of it. I was intrigued by how one moved one’s body to protect oneself, how one used a strategy both to attack and retreat, how one paced himself over a match."
I hope your week is balanced and full of flow.