Recently a gym member sent me an email revealing the realization that he was focusing on landing punches to the exclusion of everything else. Essentially he was hitting mostly with his fist. After working with another boxer who demonstrated a deeper place to punch from, he started becoming curious. So, he took a different approach his next training session….here is the description in his words:
“On Friday, I decided to adjust my focus…..There was a lot to discover: preparation, timing, flow, and delivery. I admit, I missed the smack of connecting the punch, but there were so many other connections going on – stance, centering, motion through the body, time and space – that the round went by in a heartbeat.”
He found 3 minutes of being completely present with exactly where he was at. Essentially the moment of “being in the zone.” It’s true at first, you won’t have the same “smack” when punching with a perspective connected to the body versus the fist, but I assure you, it is temporary. You will find a new “smack” and it will be far more powerful with so much less effort.
His email reminded me of the first big punch I ever took. This punch catapulted me into a state of perfect awareness and a hunger to find my depth. I was in a sparring session with a guy named Jose. He was a far better skilled boxer than me. I still hit from anger and rage and not a lot of awareness in my intent. I often escalated emotionally and had no connection to how hard or light I punched. Every punch had the same rhythm, weight and intent. The intent to keep people away, to keep me away from knowing myself and to get retribution for all the wrongdoings I perceived being done unto me. We were exchanging punches and in it came, a perfectly timed right uppercut slicing into my square Southpaw stance. All four of his knuckles connected at the same time directly under the point of my chin and snapped my head back like a Pez dispenser. Immediate emotional shock hit me harder than the original punch. Tears involuntarily flooded my eyes and every single awful thing I had ever experienced flashed through my mind like a rapid slideshow. Each frame clearly in focus staring me in the face. Each thought loud and clear, no longer lurking in my subconscious. I could feel the shift in my jaw, his gloves touching mine, my broken breath trying to interrupt the sobs wanting to emerge. His, “are you ok” and my feeble head nod, “yes” in return. The bell rang and I sprinted to the bathroom to let my tears flow hidden away from everyone.
That punch changed me. It brought to the surface where I was punching from and where Jose was punching from. Jose hit me clean with a deep intent from within to connect. His punch wasn’t muddled with anger, sadness, grief, retaliation, or the fear of connection. It was the worst and the most beautiful punch I had ever experienced. His punch was a gift.
The Gym member who shared his awareness of where the punch was coming from also shared some quotes from an essay on concentration and poetry by Jane Hirshfield in her book, “Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry.”
Here are some quotes he shared with me.
“By concentration, I mean a particular state of awareness: penetrating, unified, and focused, yet also permeable and open.”
“…it is felt as a grace state: time slows and extends, and a person’s every movement and decision seems to partake of perfection.”
“…true concentration appears – paradoxically – at the moment willed effort drops away.”
“At such moments, there may be some strong emotion present – a feeling of joy, or even grief – but as often, in deep concentration, the self disappears. We seem to fall utterly into the object of our attention, or else vanish into attentiveness itself.”
“When you go to concentration’s center, you are pricked, which should mean you wake up – exactly what a good poem helps you do.”
Jose woke me up. He brought all my concentration to a single point and illuminated all my distractions.
I’ve had many more experiences of being jostled awake because of my boxing training and I will have many more. It is my hope that you will too.