Boxing Should Be Your Next Sport
Boxing is one of the world's toughest and most compelling sports. It is also a metaphor for life. When it comes to our common vernacular, boxing is the ultimate activity for conjuring up images and phrases that transcend both sport and life. You’re likely familiar with phrases like ‘on the ropes, throw in the towel, throw your hat in the ring, below the belt, go the distance, and roll with the punches.’ Indeed, boxing’s idioms have become a cultural mainstay when referencing the rigors on the field of play, the corporate boardroom, and life in general.
Boxing demands your best preparation and mindfulness.
The Benefits of Boxing
But boxing is more than just the sum of its colorful metaphors and notable catchphrases. Boxing is also a martial art, a sport, and a grade A workout. While boxing jargon may still be part of every day life, the ‘sweet science’ as a sport has taken a backseat to other more popular sports and activities in recent years. But while boxing may never hold the public’s attention like it did in its 1950s heyday, it isn’t going anywhere. In some ways, through the popularity of mixed martial arts, boxing as a participatory sport is even enjoying a bit of resurgence. Popular or not, if you’ve never tried boxing and are ready to roll your sleeves up for a new challenge, here’s why it may make sense for you.
- Boxing will teach you rhythm. I was terrible at keeping my hands up in my years of practicing kung fu. After I failed to get the message on countless occasions, my exasperated sifu suggested I try my hands at boxing. While I learned quickly to keep my hands up, the reason I fell in love with boxing was its intoxicating rhythm. Boxing’s rhythm is unique and unlike any other martial art or sport. The closest correlation to boxing is that of jazz—erratic, improvised, and frantic, yet smooth and rhythmic as well. While many sports and activities will teach you to move straight forward or in a choreographed manner, boxing will teach you grace, rhythm, and the cadence of moving well.
- Boxing will teach you to defend yourself in the game of life. Like it or not, ‘taking hits’ is something we all experience in life. Physically hitting things or people is not exactly acceptable in polite society, but pent up aggression has never been more apparent. Incidents of things like road rage are at all time highs, while images of mass shootings and police brutality are all too common.
The critical component in defending yourself is the ability to remain calm amongst life’s turbulent waters. If you think of the surfer in a violent 30-foot wave, a downhill skier going 90mph, and a boxer in a title fight; they all share one common trait: the ability to stay relaxed in very violent scenarios. Doing so runs counter to our ‘fight our flight’ genetic construct and must be learned and then honed to be perfected. Boxing will help you help you find that resilience to stay relaxed, ‘roll with the punches,’ and prepare for the inevitability of ‘getting hit.’
- Boxing will get you in great shape. Trying to fit in all of the training modalities (endurance, strength, power, flexibility, aerobic, and anaerobic training) can be a tall order in a busy life. Boxing is considered the toughest sport in the world in large part because you need to have proficiencies in all of the above variables. Boxing is part power, part speed, and part endurance. Furthermore, boxing is as intense an activity as there is. Boxing in a ring will burn 981 calories in an hour for a 180lb individual. Only hard running or uphill cross country skiing demands a higher caloric consumption.
- Boxing builds resilience. Boxing teaches introspection, builds confidence, and yet demands humility. It takes tremendous courage (and confidence) to spar, fight, or face a competitor in the ring. But in fighting, you quickly learn that your biggest battles are almost always fought within. Many forget that boxing is ultimately a martial art, as well as a tough sport and killer workout. Part of proficiency in the martial arts is working on the internal as much as the external. In addition to teaching you the external art of punches, slips, and parries, boxing will also teach you to slow your mind and focus on your breath.
- Boxing will build your mental aptitude. One of the weirdest sports to emerge in recent years is ‘chess boxing’ (Google it—it’s a real thing!). How on Earth can a gruff and tough, inner-city sport be correlated with a highbrow, tea-sipping activity like chess? It actually makes complete sense. Just like in chess, studying your opponent and developing strategy is a critical element of success in the ring. Does your opponent tell their punches? Does your opponent always move the same direction in the ring? Does your opponent drop their right hand when they throw their left? Boxing will build your mental aptitude, while at the same time building your physical stamina and prowess.
How to Get Started
Before signing up at your local boxing gym or martial arts school, here are a few tips to get you started:
- Start slow, find a great school and coach. Do your homework and study the culture of any gym or school you set foot in. Watch out for ego and arrogance and make sure they have your safety in mind.
- Gear matters. Do yourself a favor and buy good gear. At the very least, you will need 16oz gloves for sparring, 12-14oz gloves for training, a mouthpiece, headgear, a cup for sparring, and handwraps to protect your hands and wrists.
- Don’t spar for at least six months. Nothing drives people away from the sport of boxing like a bad experience from sparring too soon. You need a lot of practice before stepping into a boxing ring. Plan on being a student for at least six months, and do your due diligence before picking a sparring partner. Make sure you agree to get ‘good work’ in, and consider safety first.
There’s nothing wrong with just doing the ‘workout’ part of boxing. If you just want to practice the fitness part of boxing, check out your local cardio kick boxing classes. Also, there are many franchise programs such as Title Boxing and 9Round that offer workout-only classes. These are calorie-crushing workouts, but a word of caution: Half of boxing is defense. If you aren’t learning to take hits, then you aren’t learning to box or defend yourself. That said, not everyone enjoys or is willing to getting hit, and if you want to simply lace up gloves to get your workout on, that’s your prerogative.
Fall in Love With Boxing
There is a lot to love about the sweet science of boxing—the work ethic, the mental and physical focus, even the ritual and rhythm. Admittedly, boxing is not for everyone, and certainly you need to take every precaution before lacing up gloves and getting in a ring.
Boxing can be used in different ways depending on your needs. Some study boxing for years without sparring. Some do boxing and MMA classes for just the fitness. Others will spar, compete, and jump in as lifelong students. In whatever capacity you choose, boxing demands your best preparation and mindfulness. It just may be the ultimate challenge you are looking for.
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