Saturday, April 19, 2014

Forget What You Were Taught

by Doug Ward on September 25, 2012

In order to be successful in boxing, you have to be willing to go against the grain a little, fly in the face of adversity and do some things that aren’t necessarily considered “normal.”  The thing is…most of the adversity and emotions you experience in the ring actually are normal and even practical, but over time have come to take on a different meaning.  As we’ve evolved as a society certain things have become socially unacceptable.  The amounts of hardships that have to be endured have changed and the levels of physical and mental tolerance have diminished.  That doesn’t make these challenges wrong or not worthwhile though.  It just requires a bit of reprogramming, a new way of looking at things.  It’s this different perspective that will help set your mind on a new path to boxing success.

One of the biggest misconceptions is that pain is bad.  Taking your body to new levels of intensity and developing greater tolerance requires some level of discomfort.  In a day and age where the philosophy seems to be “if it’s not fun, if it’s not pleasurable and if it’s not easy, then don’t do it,” getting the desired results requires a different mindset.  To be successful in boxing, you’re going to have to break through this barrier to get results. Learn to embrace a certain amount of pain.  In the gym, you’re going to have to test your physical and mental limits.  You’re going to get hit and you may even bleed, bruise or break something.  Accept it now.  You don’t have to love it, but accept it because if you’re really in the sport, at some point, to some degree, you’ll experience pain.  Contrary to popular belief, pain is not bad.  It’s progress.  It is part of the price you pay.

The other most common perception to overcome is that expressing anger or aggression is somehow bad.  Actuality, it’s natural.  As long as it is controlled and properly focused, it is a healthy emotion and there’s no better place to express it than in the boxing ring.  Harnessed, controlled and channeled appropriately, anger and aggression can be a boxers ally.  The boxing ring is the one place where you can forget all of the childhood boundaries; the rules that you were warned would make you a social outcast.  ”Don’t be mad.  It’s not nice to hit.  Turn the other cheek.  Be nice.” Those old phrases and ideals are all bunk when you get in the ring.  Be a good sportsman; abide by the rules, but save being nice for how you treat the cashier at the grocery store or the way you talk to your girlfriend.  Once you step in the boxing ring, it’s a different story.  It’s okay to be mean in the ring.  Come to terms with it, or you will never reach your full potential.  Yes, boxing is a game.  It’s a sport, but it’s also a battle.

The next misconception is that when most people in life seek to get comfortable, feel secure and safe, those objectives don’t apply to what goes on in the boxing ring. You should be a little uncomfortable most of the time.  You should always be testing your physical and mental limits in order to grow and get better.  That means getting out of your comfort zone and operating there on a regular basis.  Once you get too comfortable in the gym or in the ring, complacency is sure to follow.  Improving and achieving come from pushing the boundaries and looking over the edge of the cliff.  You may not always choose to jump, but if you, at least, get that uneasy feeling in the pit of your stomach, your heart races a little and fear creeps in, then you know you’re living in the balance…where things are a bit uncomfortable.  That’s the place you’ll grow and succeed.

Boxing and its athletes live a little bit outside of the norm. Fighting is a natural instinct, but a civilized society doesn’t necessarily foster the attributes it requires.  Pain, aggression and risk-taking are typically discouraged, especially in children, so it’s going to take some letting go of the past.  In boxing, in the ring, you have some leeway to thumb your nose at the rule-makers a little.  You’ll find that it can actually be kind of liberating.  Plus, not only will you be forgiven for it, you will probably be applauded, celebrated and even respected for being a little rebellious.  That doesn’t mean breaking the law, ignoring the rules of the sport or disobeying the codes of sportsmanship, but breaking down the barriers of what’s socially acceptable outside the ropes is fair game.

Openly being mean, hitting someone first, taking chances and inflicting bodily harm would get most people fired from their jobs.  In boxing it can be stress-relieving; it can make you good money and even make you famous.  What an ironically beautiful sport.

Doug Ward is the President and Trainer for the Underground Boxing Company.

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