Life Lessons I Learned From Boxing

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“You’ve got to make people respect your jab! You’re big and strong and your [right handed] straight [punch] will put someone to sleep. But if you don’t extend your [left] arm and throw more than just a decoy jab, no one will respect it. You have to really pop someone in the mouth once for them to know they have to keep their guard up and be ready for anything. If you don’t throw the jab, people are expecting the straight and can counter it.” Joey, my boxing coach said a couple weeks ago.

After a pause to process, I told Joey “You are right on so many levels.” What this man described was a perfect metaphor for who I am and how I operate. I have an almost unreal level of patience. When I feel wronged, I tend to articulate my grievances in a polite tone, if at all; I will find ways, rhymes, and reasons to let it go.

I am aware of the impact of my punch: with words, I am a professional and for analogy purposes, a registered lethal weapon with them. I will acquiesce, hold back, and throw “decoy jabs” because the pride of whomever stands in front of me can and will get bruised; perhaps my own pride as well. When I feel backed into a corner and can no longer stand the flurries and combinations–which still hurt, even as they protect my body and head, I throw a right hook and whomever is laid out on the mat.

I won’t have to resort to the one-hitter-quitter as often if I throw a few well-executed jabs.

A week later, Joey taught me how to counter and pivot to defend myself from punches and I had a little trouble with it. Boxing is an awkward dance because it requires instinct, coordination, choreography, and a stance unnatural to posture. Joey could tell I was in my head as I attempted to stick and move.

Joey said “Ok, I know what I’m going to do. I’m going to turn on some music and you have to move to whatever song plays.” I replied “Ok,” and followed his lead; he turned on the 90’s r&b station on Pandora…

“Everytime I Close My Eyes” by Babyface, “Return of the Mack” by Mark Morrison, and “All My Life” by KCi & Jojo, played, back-to-back-to-back and with each song, I had to alter my rhythm accordingly. The music I fought to sounded more like music I’d fuck to.

It worked. The less I thought about my movements, the more fluid they became, and I extended each punch. With an open stance, Joey explained to me “This is how I taught myself how to box. In 25 years, I have never taught anyone else this way. But I knew it would make sense to you.”

“You overthink…You just have to get used to the choreography because it’s got you feeling some kinda way. So if we take the choreography out and we bring in instinct. And the choreography and instinct will meet, like r&b Chad and hip hop Chad.” Joey Ferrara hit the nail on the head not just about boxing, but who I am as a person. It was a great life lesson and a perfect way to hold up a mirror to me; I felt seen for the first time in an exceedingly long time.

I tend to be one or the other: r&b or hip hop Chad, which runs parallel to how I threw a jab with my left hand and a straight with my right. The truth of the matter is I am very guarded about the former. If hip hop is my shit, where I can rappity rap, know the samples from every song, and defer to the thump of an 808; but I grew up with and around r&b all my life and what I prefer to listen to. Similar to how I create music, the sweet spot is when I combine both because I don’t overthink at all: instinct kicks in.

Joey dropped one other gem in this very session when he told me my stance is closed off. “You need to open up. While you think this stance is more comfortable, you are more likely to get hurt and knocked out. With an open stance, you’re ready for anything: you can defend, move around, and throw any punch the right way, letting your legs do all of the work. You will get hit, open or closed off. But if you’re closed and you get hit, your legs are not in a position to help you [and they will collapse].”

Holy fucking shit…that was a word.

We spend so much of our adult lives in a closed stance, jaded from the proverbial jabs, hooks, and crosses life throws our way; we feel protected and comfort because it does not feel awkward. What we assume will protect makes us more vulnerable to what we avoid with desperation; so much, it becomes instinctual. We get hit and hurt and wonder how or why it happened, when we did it to ourselves: it was our own closed-off stance and the scripts we have rehearsed in our heads, over and over. We stay “closed off” because our minds are fixated on the blows we want to avoid and don’t realize we have invited them. Joey once said he caters his lessons to clients based on what he as a boxer would exploit; we attract what we are most afraid of because our current stance-and the result-is familiar and reassures us. When it happens, it becomes a self-fulfilled prophecy of what we have allotted most of our thoughts and feelings to.

If we keep an open stance and practice in a way which requires us to get out of our heads and comfort zone, people no choice but to respect the jab…

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