Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Boxing Day - Not Just for Canadians

This week I took a giant leap into the unknown and signed up for boxing lessons. Many people, upon reading this may be thinking,

"Boxing? What in Hell is the matter with you?"

Let me explain.

I have long had a torn relationship with boxing. On one hand, I think the uber-masculine trumpery and barbarism of the sport is despicable. On the other hand, I love the Rocky movies.

To further complicate my views of the fisticuffs, I see the recreational sport of boxing as filling a key component of masculine society that has been lost in recent generations. While I do not condone senseless fighting or violent conflict resolution, I think that learning the ability to fight, when coupled with discipline and restraint, is a valuable skill.

It seems that somewhere in the middle of the twentieth century, we as a society moved away from boxing as a youth sport. We continued to push children into baseball, hockey, and soccer, but the youth boxing leagues died off, assumedly as we moved into the modern age of political correctness. Though I cannot confirm it, it seems that the implied brutality of the sport was demonized and fell from grace.

But boxing was the early twentieth century proxy of the duel. What gentlemen once did with a sword or a pistol, men of the late eighteen and early nineteen hundreds did with their fists. It was formal, it had rules, and, in most cases, it had a sense of finality that rivaled civil court. Without this implied sense of gentleman's justice, retaliation and vengeance are unbridled and vicious. We no longer can settle our differences with fisticuffs, so instead we sue everything that looks at us funny. I may be oversimplifying things, but the inability of our current population to deal with our problems in a civil manner may in some ways stem from the fall of this recreational past time from it's popularity almost a century ago.

So I am learning to box. The gym where my wife and I are taking courses is a legitimate training facility, boasting a handful of national contenders and local celebrities. Bob, the owner of the facility, bore a striking resemblance to a young Mickey from Rocky. The skin on his face showed the wear of a mug that had obviously been hit thousands of times. His hands were gnarled with the force of a thousand blows to opponents. But his personality was light and welcoming to the class of fledgling boxers. As we wrapped our wrists and strapped on our gloves, I got excited to get down to boxing. But we didn't hit a single thing that first class.

We spent the first hour-long lesson learning the basics - punches, stance, scoring, and breathing. Everything we learned had a reason and a history, which was a refreshing alternative to the "because I said so" school of thought that often comes with learning from a seasoned professional. He explained that subsequent classes would be comprised of professional boxing training - repetitive exercises that focused on agility, skill building, and flexibility. We would be pushed and exhausted, but we would learn the craft of boxing as the professionals learn.

"This facility is not a gym with a boxing club attached. It is a boxing club that accepts recreational boxers. You will be worked like a boxer. You will train along side my guys and gals who are in the ring every week. They will give you pointers on your form and technique. Listen to them, they are trying to help you become a better boxer. It will be a while before any of you step into the ring and spar, but with time and practice, that day will come."

I, for one, cannot wait for more. And don't worry, there will be further documentation of this renaissance adventure.


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