Originally written on Medium
A brief narrative on how boxing has changed the way I approach problems, work, and life in general.
It’s sparring day. As I’m sitting down wrapping my hands, I’m looping through all of the possible situations that could happen in the ring and how I’m going to counter. If he throws a jab — I’ll parry it and come back with a straight and a hook. If I’m caught in the corner — I’ll bob and weave to escape. I’ve spent hours in training — practicing my technique and doing it over and over again until it becomes instinct. I draw up a plan in my mind — it’s more like a collection of plans really. Still, I know that once that bell rings, anything can happen and that all of my planning could all be for naught.
Have a plan, but better to learn how to adapt.
Once I’m in the ring, there is literally no turning back. The only thing that is suppressing my biologically-programmed instinct to run from danger is the uncountable amount of hours of physical and mental training that I’ve put in. I must rely on my training, skills, and knowledge to take my opponent head on. I’m nervous, but calm. I’m scared, but confident. I’m present in the moment.
Practice — training and skills instill confidence during stressful situations.
It’s a competitive sparring session. He’s taken some, I’ve taken some — probably more. He throws a lazy jab to my face just enough to briefly distract me. Suddenly, I feel an explosion on my gut. I didn’t see that one coming. I’m taken aback and take a few steps backwards. He continues to come forward so I must also press on. My gut is still feeling the effects of the heavy blow, but my hands are still up. I continue to throw punches and fight through the pain. Eventually, I regain my composure with a renewed awareness for that kind of attack.
Fight through turmoil and failure. You’ll find yourself on the other side stronger and smarter than before.
I hear my coach yell “30 seconds!” although it sounds like he’s a hundred feet away. The round is almost over, but I’m not out of the woods yet. I look at the clock. Five seconds have gone by. Felt more like five minutes. My heart rate is probably 190 bpm at this moment. I’m exhausted and I’m having trouble keeping my hands up. I have no choice though. I’m here and the only way out is to fight and move forward. I take a deep breath and let out a little grunt to muster up the last bit of energy I have left to finish the round.
Stressful situations negatively affect decision making.
Resilience is a mental state that can be improved through practice.
The session is over. My sparring partner and I are both dripping with sweat and exhausted. We touch gloves and sit next to each other outside of the ring as we remove our gear. We talk about the session — what we did well, what we need to improve. We compliment and criticize each other. We trade competitive jokes, we smile. My partner shadow boxes and shows me how to improve my jab. I take it all in because I know that he is better than me.
After we’ve cooled off, he sees a young boy on the heavy bag. He walks over to hold the bag and coaches him for a few minutes. Before he walks away, he rubs the young boy’s head like a big brother would. The young boy keeps at it on the bag.
We pull our duffle bags over our shoulders and walk out of the gym. A friendly handshake. Until next time.
Surround yourself with people who are more skilled than you. Your learning will be accelerated exponentially.
A team that works together and contends with one another is the best kind of team.
Hundreds of hours for a few minutes. Train for four minute rounds so that three minute rounds are easier. When the going gets tough, that is the exact moment to push forward. That’s what it takes to become better at any craft.
Boxing is a series of stressful situations that can only be overcome through hard work and dedication, which together instill confidence, resilience, and a desire to be better than you were the day before.
Note: I have taken a hiatus from boxing due to a number of reasons, but primarily this one - Each year, 13 boxers on average die in the ring. I continue to love the sport, but mostly from my couch.