Benefits of Boxing

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Boxing has so many benefits. I find that when life challenges me, there is great comfort, wisdom, and growth to be found in boxing. When I share that I box, the variety of reactions always intrigues me. Usually the replies include that I ‘must be a bad ass’, ‘I have always wanted to try kickboxing’, “you must be strong”, “are you the only female”, or how intimated the person is by the idea of boxing. Let’s start by debunking some myths.

1- Kickboxing and Boxing are not the same thing. Kickboxing is an aerobic exercise to music that utilizes some boxing elements. Boxing on the other hand is technique and physical training how to physically fight on either bags or sparring- including strength, agility, calisthenics, and fitness drills.

2- It is not necessary to be a ‘bad ass’ or have superhuman strength to box. At my gym, we do have a whole range of boxers, and everyone is there for their own reasons. It does build confidence, is good for mental health, a great workout, we also practice mindfulness and breathing exercises too. Boxing is a skill like anything else, mindset is incredibly important, but personality isn’t everything. Who you walk in as, may end up being very different than who you walk out as.

3- Boxing is intimidating. Walking into anything new where you don’t know a single soul or what you are doing is intimidating. Where I box is a teaching gym, so any boxer in class will instruct any other person there. This serves a couple purposes: prevents injuries if someone is doing something wrong, fosters a sense of community, we all get to learn other boxer’s unique styles and have an awareness of everyone’s experience and skill level.

4- Anger or aggression is necessary to box. Absolutely not. We have an unspoken practice that if you are angry or experiencing strong emotions, you don’t subject others to that rage. Fighting emotional isn’t effective. The most talented boxers I know are also some of the most calm, passive people. Control over yourself, your reactions, and your emotions is critical for yours and everyone’s wellbeing, not only in boxing but in any life endeavor. Boxing should be approached with seriousness, respect, emotional intelligence, and control.

Why Boxing?

It is an excellent workout. Lots of cardio and comparable to going out for a run, sometimes even a better workout. It depends on what you put in. On days I am tired or have to drag myself to an activity, it takes more to mentally check in to fitness, but boxing is very easy to engage with. Our coaches are incredible, keep everyone moving and don’t let us be lazy. For me, knowing that I can do this and have this skillset, is empowering. I leave exhausted but invigorated by whatever new move or combo I mastered that day.

Boxing is highly technical. If I am anxious or worried about other things in my life, boxing forces me out of my head. From the moment the warmup starts, attention to technique is critical. I don’t have a chance to think about anything else because I remember how I wanted to adjust my stance, punch, or whatever change I need to make or improve upon. The movement makes you go into a zone that quiets the rest of the world- it’s just you, your breathing, and your hands.

I like that boxing calms my emotions. I can leave whatever life is throwing at me at the door, do my workout, and not bring it into the gym with me. It’s an escape. Afterwards, I often feel calm and numbed to whatever was bothering me before class. There is an edict that you don’t fight emotional. A frequent misconception is that boxing requires anger or aggression. It is actually common practice to not spar or work with a partner if you are negatively emotional, that is how people get hurt. Take it out on a bag. The precision and attention to technique requires a certain level of calm. It is imperative to be in your logical brain and not the irrational, emotional one. Fighting when you are emotional will just lead to frustration, inability to concentrate, feeling like more of a failure and likely compound the negative emotions you are already experiencing. We practice mindfulness and end each class with philosophical quotes where we pick the one that resonates most that day. Here are a few of my favorites throughout the years:

You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.

The best answer to anger is silence.

Whatever your habitual thoughts are like will determine the character or your mind. Your soul will take on the color of your thoughts.

~Marcus Aurelius

Gratitude will shift you to a higher frequency and you will attract much better things.

~ Buddha

“Watch your thoughts, they become your words. Watch your words, they become your actions. Watch your actions, they become your habits. Watch your habits, they become your character. Watch your character, it becomes your destiny.”

~Lao Tzu

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

~Victor Frank

I am fortunate that where I train in boxing, there is an emphasis on mindfulness and philosophy, usually Stoicism, built into the boxing lessons. The result is a holistic approach which allows us to train to fight but also develops emotional intelligence that boosts the ability to successfully and intelligently be in any conflict. One of the most useful lessons I have learned in my boxing journey is patience. The Stoics believe patience is closely linked to wisdom. By cultivating patience, we can learn to see the bigger picture and understand that difficult circumstances are often temporary, and they can be opportunities for growth and learning. Staying patient, not giving in to reacting in the moment, allows for more thoughtful responses and less regret in the long run. I recently had a situation where someone I hadn’t spoken to in months, sent me a rage email that was him lashing out likely due to whatever other circumstances were present in his life. My impulse is to respond, as I think most would be tempted to do. My wisdom I have cultivated through boxing, realized this was external to me, an attempt to bait me into a fight, and I needed to stay silent and patient to not join him in his anger or provide more fuel to his rage. Anger is often actually grief, inability to express one’s feelings, or frustration at oneself but expressed towards a person or object external to the self. That is why you don’t fight when emotional- reason, logic, ability to listen and communicate are just not possible in those moments.

Keep ’em honest, Stay Patient.

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