Although there are certainly life lessons and traditional rules of etiquette that apply to all situations, there are a handful of seemingly good habits that can work against you in the boxing ring. What you do in life, how you conduct yourself day-to-day, doesn’t always mesh well with what you need to practice in the gym in order to properly protect yourself. When you break it down, you might be surprised how many of the good habits you were constantly reminded of as a child, just don’t apply to life in the gym. The good habits you worked to perfect actually translate into bad boxing technique. Some of these physical traits and mental beliefs you have worked so hard to follow are now the very ideals you need to leave at the gym door in order to become a better fighter.
1. Stand up straight…don’t slouch. That was great for attending Sunday school, but in the ring, correct posture is not good. Although you were taught and constantly reminded to stand up straight, shoulders back and chin up tall, that’s a like putting out an “open for business” sign on your chin. Instead, keep your shoulders rounded, your chin tucked in and your head behind your hands. Too many times, you see guys bending at their waist to try to avoid punches. They duck and slip punches with their backs straight and their shoulders back. Their posture is great, but their movement is horrible and they get hit with EVERYTHING. Your arms and shoulders are like your own personal shell. Roll your shoulders over and get in it.
2. When you walk, you do it heel-toe, but when you move in boxing you should always stay on the balls of you feet. Anytime you find yourself on your heel, you are vulnerable to be hit and knocked off balance. You can’t move from your heel. You need your toes to push off with, so anytime you have to move from your heel, you first have to shift your weigh onto the ball of your foot and then move. That means you have to make two movements to get into a new position instead of just one.
3. If it hurts, avoid it. Boxing involves pain – in the gym, in training and in the ring. That may sound pretty basic, but for some people changing their mindset and becoming okay with facing and embracing that pain day-after-day, requires some re-adjusting. It’s not all that natural to seek out and actually look for ways to create pain in your workout or thrive on it when you enter the ring. Pain comes with the territory, so if you want to become a fighter, you don’t have to like it, but you do have to accept it.
4. Be nice. Don’t get angry. Don’t lose your temper. Those are all valuable in the workplace, in school and in social gatherings, but in the boxing ring, a little anger can go a long way. That’s not to say you should let it get away from you or that it’s okay to lose your cool in the heat of battle. You have to keep it under control, but some well-placed aggression is necessary. That’s one of the appealing aspects to competitive athletics is that you can blow off a little steam and it’s not only accepted, it is admired. Again, that’s not to say that pitching a fit or outwardly abusing your sparring partners is good, but sometimes a little fire (under control) gives off the kind of heat you need to keep the competitive fire burning.
5. Don’t be egotistical. Actually a little ego is good. Arrogance is bad. Don’t get the two confused. Your ego is what your idea of your own importance is. It is your self-esteem and it doesn’t have to be at an inappropriate level. Arrogance is feeling or showing contempt or disregard for others and having an inflated self-importance. It’s important to not underplay your importance, your skill set or potential. Its part of what makes you want to compete and achieve. It’s only when this escalates into feelings of superiority over other people that your views and the way you treat others fighters or coaches become out of balance.
6. Fear is a bad emotion. When harnessed, fear is actually good. Your brain is hard-wired to respond to danger, to send your body and mind into overdrive so that it can physically and mentally cope with pressure. Your body’s natural response induces sweating, speeds up your heart rate, heightens your awareness and increases blood flow. Don’t these all sound like good traits to take into the ring with you? Your mind, feeling fear, works faster and more intuitively than your conscious mind and can jump into action instantly when it senses the slightest bit of danger. This emotional skill allows you to act quickly and instinctually, without having to take the time to process new information. The only time fear is negative is when you allow it to consume you and inhibit your ability to think and react naturally. Embrace it and this won’t happen.
Although breaking some of these traditionally good life habits may feel unnatural or be difficult at first, working to correct them could mean a better life in the gym. These changes may not make your mommy proud, but as long as you still don’t talk with your mouth full or put your elbows on the dinner table, ignoring some of these minor rules of etiquette will help protect your face…even if it is one only a mother could love.