I talk a lot about boxing. So much so that I even carry that as a reputation amongst my friends, like anything and everything is related to it. I have even found a way relate it to cooking! My good friend used it as a quote to describe me in his wedding party pamphlet. But how I see it, the sport gave me so much in how I approach life. There are a lot of obstacles in boxing that are also inherent in our everyday lives. Whether that is going to work, interacting with our kids, going to school, or running a business; boxing carries lessons that are shared between youth and adults.
“Prepping a meal, and why it is just like boxing”
-Alejandro Melgar, 2019
The obstacles in our lives can hang heavy, and seem like they are difficult to pass by. But boxing teaches you how to overcome them by experiencing the obstacles that come with combat (potentially). For that reason, I understand how it can be intimidating. I for one felt that way when I entered my first boxing class, but the lessons I learned made it worth it.
It is common to hear stories of boxers dealing with some strife in their life, like being bullied as a youth, being abused, abusing drugs, or something along those lines. However, boxing has the tools for all those things that those youths were looking for. Confidence, strength, structure, and purpose. Take me for example. I got beat up at home, and I was also bullied as a kid. I felt powerless, and I lacked confidence. Those actions led to me feeling inadequate, and feeling like I had no purpose. I made a choice to pursue boxing as I really wanted to as a kid. I was scared I was going to flounder and I worried about the environment I was about to enter. But the environment was different than I expected, and I had a supportive coach that helped me out, and helped me see purpose through the training.
The amount of discipline in boxing was high, and the amount of repetition in the movements was also high, so I had to adapt to the workload. Things like wrapping your hands and showing up on time, to nailing your footwork and being precise with your punches. It all mattered so much because…well, I had fear in my back pocket, pain if you will. Pain from the punches, pain from the embarrassment of losing -although losing is a good lesson to go through. There is a connection between fear and action/inaction. That fear can be many things. From confronting your loved ones, and speaking in public, to walking into the gym for the first time. It can even be being honest with our innermost desires and feelings and struggling to share them. Speaking honestly about our turmoil’s can also be difficult and fearful, mainly because of social norms that dictate that maybe they are not appropriate to talk about publicly.
In Frank Herbert’s masterpiece Dune, the protagonist Paul Atreides uses a chant called “The Litany against fear” to overcome a trial he receives. It is as follows:
I must not fear . Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.
A powerful litany that I feel most people can resonate with. Fear is looked upon as a crutch that should be disposed of, but I like to look at it as a friend – a friend that seems to work against you, but is really challenging you to move forward. In the book, Paul has to overcome this obstacle – this pain from having his hand placed in a box as a test for a short time. It is described as a painful experience, yet it was more like an illusion. However, the pain that can occur in life can be endless with many events causing pain. So how do we adapt? Well, look at boxing. Boxing is painful, no denying it, but to find success, you must put fear aside and use it to propel you forward, otherwise you will find yourself at the mercy of your opponent. Leaving a job to fulfill a dream is scary, but that fear should instead drive you out of your comfort zone, and allow you to see the other side. Walking into a gym can be scary.
“Maybe people will judge me”
“I don’t know what I am doing”
“I don’t look the part”
All these thoughts and then some can be paralyzing, but embracing fear is a reminder that you are alive. If you have nothing to challenge that comfort zone; that fear, then how much growth can you go through?
I have some fears and struggles I am going through in my life, and I wonder how I would handle them without boxing. Many of the lessons of boxing can be taught in other martial arts, and other sports, so try something new! Give boxing a shot. Or kickboxing, muay thai, karate, or maybe capoeira. Try something new, get a little scared, and embrace it as a friend that is giving you a hard time.
-Alejandro Melgar, 2019