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How a ‘Brutal Sport’ Can Save your Soul

There are a lot of misconceptions about boxing. I’ve heard it condemned as a brutal sport, calls for it to be banned and general remarks that don’t always reflect my own experience of the sport. I’ve been taking boxing classes for the last two and a half years now; I recently fought in a charity boxing competition and it’s been invaluable to my mental and physical wellbeing. Here are some of the things you might not know about what boxing has to offer:


When you are in a sparring session or fight, you are watching another person intensely for two or three minutes at a time in a way that would be socially awkward in any other setting. You are completely focused on the other person, learning the way their body moves. You have to know the mind of your opponent, understand how they’re feeling and how they might react. I know you’re hitting each other; but remember that you are also finding out what it is like to get hit - not only is this a great incentive to avoid punches, it’s also a way of gaining an understanding of what motivates the other person.


I love working with other people at our gym, seeing their game develop and responding to whatever new things they are trying. Someone will be working on something and will try it out in sparring, so after class I think about how I could have responded differently. I’ll try doing something else the next week; he reacts and that’s the next part of the conversation. You get to know people and see them change. Multiply that by all the people you spar with and it’s a community.


I wanted to write femininity here but didn’t want to exclude the guys! The fact is that the stereotype of boxing as just hitting someone really hard isn’t accurate and if you think you are too small, dainty or feminine to try boxing, think again. It doesn’t pay to go clopping around the ring like a baby elephant. Grace, agility and an awareness of your own vulnerability really do pay off.


Boxing is creative. I’ll say the same thing about boxing as I say about music: it is much better if your heroes are different from you: so different that you can’t just copy them; you have to adapt what they do and think creatively. My favourite boxer is Wladimir Klitschko. His body type is so different from mine that I can’t just imitate him; I have to look at his jabs and feints, footwork and use of space and think about how to incorporate it into my own style. What’s more, boxing is creative in a way that links the body and the mind. It is analytical, but not in a way that isolates the mind from the real world. Your brain and your body are not enemies; they need to work together for good mental and physical health.

Yes, people get hit in boxing, and there are risks, but people generally underestimate the dangers of being isolated from others and trapped in their own heads. Step into the ring and you just might save your soul.

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