A little lesson from Zen

Lately, coach Jen has been attending a sitting meditation group at SU called Eco Sangha.  Through this group came an opportunity to attend a full day meditation that consisted of sitting, walking, working and eating- all in silence.

Honestly, it is easier to get punched in the face than to sit on a cushion for 30 minutes at a time.

The event was led by Osho (a Japanese abbot) at temple Chobo-ji on Beacon Hill.  At one point, he gave a talk.  He said we should strive to be a


From the cushion to the ring!  I love this idea.  If I go in the ring avoiding fear, thinking about everything I’m going to do or not do, I am not even open to the possibility of now.  I am not open to seeing and seizing the opportunities before me.

Being a body of inquiry helps you to quiet the mind, to learn as you go, to be interested in what is and isn’t working and to make necessary adjustments.

When fear comes up, and it will…….if you are a body of inquiry you will walk into and through the fear.  It will be scary, invigorating and a changing experience.  You will gain a confidence that is yours and can never be derailed.

I know this is far harder than just reading the words on paper.

About 12pm I wanted to bail.  I couldn’t sit cross legged on that cushion one minute more, but I did and I did and I did…… from 7am to 8pm I sat, walked, ate and worked in silence.  I distinctly remember at one point sitting on the cushion, suffering in intense discomfort and wanting the bell to ring.

It was a beautiful and humbling day in a different kind of ring, but I was a body of inquiry and it made the experience all mine.

Now you go and make yours.



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The Space between

Voidness is that which stands right in the middle between this and that. The void is all-inclusive, having no opposite — there is nothing which it excludes or opposes. It is living void, because all forms come out of it and whoever realizes the void is filled with life and power and the love of all beings. Turn into a doll made of wood: it has no ego, it thinks nothing, it is not grasping or sticky. Let the body and limbs work themselves out in accordance with the discipline they have undergone. The consciousness of self is the greatest hindrance to the proper execution of all physical action.

Lee, Bruce (1975-10-01). Tao of Jeet Kune Do (Kindle Locations 164-171). Ohara Publications, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

The gap, the space between you and your opponent.  It is that gap where all the information about how to respond can be found.  It is also this space between that is sometimes terrifying to occupy.  It is unknown, it has no instructions and there is nothing to identify.

Seeing, feeling and occupying space take practice.  A TON OF PRACTICE.

I’ve been practicing seeing space in my world for about a year now.  I work with a coach to come up with drills I can do to increase my mental and emotional capacity.  I am a large work in process and I find it a thrilling way to train and live my life.  As a coach, I’m always looking to push myself so I can ask more of the boxers I work with.

Seeing space has been a valuable practice for me and I know it can do something for you.  I first started with fences and trees.  I practiced seeing the spaces in between the branches, and the spaces around the tree.  I noticed an immediate calming affect……almost as if I retreated within myself.  It was as if all my thoughts and movements were coming from the center of the inside of my body.  When I practiced seeing this space when talking to people or sparring, it was easier for me to see body language cues and keep on noticing without staying too long to judge and assess.

During sparring, seeing space gave me time by slowing everything down in my perception.  I could respond quicker and with more calculation. Seeing space and sitting in it connects you to the person on the other side. You know your true distance from them and you can feel their energetic intent before it reaches you physically.

All this benefit from a simple, yet difficult skill that only involves recognizing space, gaps, voids……whatever you want to call it……..

Try it out, see what you think and if you see any benefit to space.






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Where we come from

We write and rewrite our stories every day.  It is a beautiful skill to be able to change our perspective of the past.

So much happens from there to here and it is each ingredient that enhances the flavor we experience today.

It is up to us to decide if we want to be done unto or if we want to use our experience to grow and thrive.  We can wallow in all that got us here or we can attempt to walk on the surface always knowing what is underneath-  always knowing it is our foundation, our strength.  We don’t so much rise out of the ashes, but we wade through until each step is taken with more ease.

We can live each current moment with fear of returning or we can live each moment knowing the honor of being here because of there.  We don’t slide back, we don’t cave, we live in our past or we use it as fuel and energy to experience the next moment with utter intensity and desire.

If a boxer spends her 3 minutes fretting about the last round, she doesn’t even get to enjoy the one she is in.  She doesn’t get an opportunity to see what is possible nor does she get a chance to effect change………

Live each moment knowing the last one happened and it was necessary to get you to here.  Live here and now and embrace your past for the powerful and necessary experience it was.
















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The Building of a Champion

It starts with the self and begins to creep into all aspects of one’s life.

To build a champion, you must start with a foundation of curiosity (thank you for the description Tony Ventrella)

Curiosity leads to self awareness which cultivates more curiosity and so on……


To build a champion you have to be impeccable with your thoughts and your words.  You must investigate all sides of situations, all parts of your reactions.  You must challenge your own beliefs.

To build a champion, you must be your own most difficult opponent that you want to completely dismantle.  It is the dismantling that builds you from within.

Confidence comes from the core and the core is not a visible 6 pack to the world.  It is in fact the intertwining of fascia, of intensity, density, muscle and bone.  The core is the dumping ground for every experience in life, and you can build it with any perspective you choose.

To build a champion you have to as Jack Kerouac says,

Be in love with your life, every detail of it

To build a champion, you will have to know how to win and lose as if they were one in the same, because your identity is not result, your identity is in how you approach the process.



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Top of the mountain alone?

Every boxer has sparring partner stories.  Some sparring partners teach us harsh lessons while others take a more gentle approach, but no matter what, each of them has a huge impact on the people we are today.  I think it is why we re-tell our sparring sessions play by play.  We wrap each word around our memories as if protecting a precious gift.  We claim with glee the punch that made us take pause.  It’s a way of honoring where we have come from…….it’s a way to say, this is how I got here, and this is what I am made of.    It’s a statement of how connected we all are in our experience.

As boxers, we are accountable for each and every action for the 3 minutes we spar and fight.  We are also accountable for each minute of training that prepares us.  We acknowledge every person that exposed us to ourselves.  We are grateful for those that kick our butts and make us question our efficacy.  This accountability to ourselves and others gives us a confidence that no one can challenge.

Man is a model of the world-  Leonardo da Vinci

Whether we have gloves on or not, we belong to a humanness that only we know intimately.  We are connected through our fighting art.  We know what we know and calmly walk the earth exercising this awareness.

Boxers aren’t interested in summiting a mountain without a team, without crediting those that got us there.  Because if we are, we will topple quickly.  Boxers understand the concept of oneness, of togetherness.  When we are asked about the fight and our performance we say “We” as if our corner was in there throwing and taking punches.

The only way to the top is with others and the only way to stay there is with others.  We model in the ring, what we desire in the world.



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Putting people first

Jim Casey of United Parcel Service had a vision way back in 1916 to put people first.  To put his employees quality of life, their voice, their expression, and their overall life experience as a priority.  This vision built a phenomenal company that exists today.  He so cared about putting his people first that he invited the union to unionize his employees.  A very gutsy move knowing the contentious possibilities between unions and businesses.

I’m not sure in these current times how many businesses have the same kind of vision as Mr. Casey.

At Arcaro, we invest in ourselves so we can invest in you.  We are the physical barbershop in the community allowing people to express themselves and flourish. We invest in improving as coaches so we can pave a path for all our boxers, recreational and competitive, to confidently walk down.

Community is made up of several individuals and each individual brings some unique perspective to the ring.  Each individual tells a story through their body as they sweat and endure the discomfort of training.  Everybody risks telling their story to people they normally would never engage with outside the ring or gym.

There is power in our conflict, in our shared experience of physical disagreement being reenacted through sparring or even hitting the heavy bag.  There is enlightenment and release in touching gloves after the controlled conflict.  We learn that our punches our meant to expose one another to the holes in our defense.  This exposure enhances our skills in conflict outside the confines of the gym.

This community experience within the gym allows our members to go back out the door and contribute a very different mindset in other intersecting communities.

Boxing is what makes our community great!



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The Tao of Power

The Tao of Power is a translation by R.L. Wing of the Tao Te Ching.  It is an excellent guide in perspectives of leadership and influence.


The most yielding parts of the world.
Overtake the most rigid parts of the world.
The insubstantial can penetrate continually.

Therefore I know that without action there is advantage.

This Philosophy without words,
This advantage without action—-
It is rare, in the world, to attain them.

The more resistance to an experience, the more the experience happens and the tighter you get.  This tightness continues to narrow your vision and locks you into fight, flight or freeze mode.  Then more resistance happens the more your misery is compounded.

Lao Tzu felt that “problems tend to resolve themselves when they are not met with aggression and invited to remain.”

In boxing, subtlety is queen.  You must have courage to allow what you normally want to repel.  If you are nervous, scared, hesitant, it is better to acknowledge and let it exist lest it run your every move.  If you try to avoid what you are feeling, it has a funny way of showing up like a chin in the air, a left hand dropping below your face, a flinch, or a blinking of an eye at just the wrong moment.

We are taught in our society to repel the undesirable parts of ourselves- to fix ourselves. That seems very silly to me.  We are everything we think, we are everything we do.  We are a continual malleable process. We don’t need to be fixed.  Granted, there are decisions that are decidedly better than others…..but whose way are we supposed to follow?  Who is to say that someone else’s way is better or worse than my own?  Every moment can lead us to greater understanding of ourselves or we can keep on suppressing our inner selves and pay later.  We can honor and take responsibility for everything we do, or we can fall victim to all circumstances.

In the ring, there is no one to blame for your choices.  It’s true you have corner people, family, supporters and friends that have helped you walk your path, but you are the only one in there taking and giving punches.  You and you alone dictate what happens to you.  You decide if you will trust your corner…..if you can rely on your training……..if you are ready to meet the lesson 3 minutes at a time.

Power is truly felt when you relax, let go and allow your technique to kick in.  It’s effortless to throw a straight punch that snaps at the perfect time.  You can last forever when you move with gravity and use it to your advantage.  It’s eye opening and spine tingling when you feel how whole you are delivering a punch starting from your feet and soaring through each knuckle into your opponent.

This kind of power can be felt in daily life.  It is called vulnerability, acceptance, and empathy!





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The internal art of a boxer

Fear shows up all over the place.  You can see it in the body language of fighters and you can also see when they feel confident.  It’s clear up on that stage, under the lights what the fighter is internally dealing with.  Their tension, relaxation, movement…..Really everything, exposes their deepest truth and it’s in front of all of us.

Honestly that exposure is the same in daily life, but somehow we think we are hiding and going unnoticed.  We think that we don’t have physical habits that tell the truth versus what we are trying to show.  We look at the boxer in the ring, yet think that we are not like them.

Tonight at the fights, I heard a snippet of conversation from a couple of guys in the crowd referring to the fight they were watching.  “Where’s your stamina?  You should at least be able to last 4 rounds, but look at these guys, they were gassed in the first minute of the fight.  They have no stamina.”

I wanted to respond, “Dude!  How bout you tense every muscle in your body, hold your breath and hop back and forth in front of a group of strangers and family, plus take punches……….OK, after you do that for 30 seconds, please let me know if you can do that for 4 rounds at 3 minutes each with a minute rest…….”

But, no, I quietly stood there and just listened to how easy it is to look at another and not realize how much we are the same and that we tend to struggle with similar things.  I imagine I do the same thing in other areas of my life.

The ability to understand and empathize with others about their similar experiences is a true hallmark of a boxer.  Boxers share with each other their punches taken, moves practiced, trainer stories, weight cutting, training methods and so much more.  There is an experience, unique to each boxer and they love to share the intricacies piece by piece.  Within each version told is a common theme felt by others-  we all have less than stellar moments and when we truly experience and accept them, we grow and improve our skills and confidence.  It’s a theme of exploration and triumph in self-efficacy.

Boxing has forced me to be open and vulnerable.  It has forced me to step back and see…….see myself and others more clearly.  More and more, I want to practice the humanity of the ring.  It is truths told, stories that matter, expression, intelligence, raw passion, fire, intent and a list of adjectives that could go on and on.  The experience of being willing to be seen by the outside is to learn the mastery of self physically, mentally and psychologically.  I want more mastery of self because it feels good and it feels calm and knowing.  I want my boxers to also claim more mastery, so they may continue to achieve anything they want as they move on in life.

I don’t necessarily think you can only get the above feeling in the ring, but it is the place that made the most sense to me and led to greater levels of understanding as well as skill implementation.

Get out to the fights, support local boxers, pay attention to your daily experiences and be willing to share them with others.

As always:




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Mental Health Fitness

I enjoy hearing the thoughts of others about boxing, life, politics and humanity.  I’ve had some terrific conversations with open gym member, Mike and recently another gym member Conlin posted about conceptualizing mental athleticism and mental stability. This blog is inspired from both experiences!  Thanks guys!

We as a society give up our autonomy for convenience.  We are wary of freedom and the unknown, opting for safety and comfort.  Boxing, however, forces you to relinquish this false idea of safety and makes you give in to fear, to embrace fear and to move through fear.  Boxing makes you abandon convenience and asks you to earn each step you take.

In order to be able to succeed, one must be mentally fit just as much as they are physically fit.  I’m seeing this also as applicable to myself as a coach.  All of us in boxing training must strive for awareness in its highest form- we must take responsibility for our actions and outcomes so we may improve in future interactions.  I find this way of living to be imperative in daily life as well.  Awareness equals Mental Health Fitness.

As an example:  In the past, I don’t think I did enough as a coach to prevent overtraining and burnout.  I think my own tendency to push ridiculously hard and be relentless is a good skill, but just like punches, it’s not good to go at the same pace, power and rhythm all the time.  My own interpretation of training and desire to push overrode the boxers’ experience.  So, I began experiencing boxers who felt burnt out.  I errantly thought the answer would be to fix overtraining and schedule time off.  I really thought doing the opposite of overtraining would fix my problem of burnout.  Time off has increased body health in recovery and continuing interest in training.  I wasn’t prepared for the fact that the boxers also need to have strong mental health fitness to be in shape for living without the gym everyday.  I know every boxer is different, but so far I am seeing a trend where it is almost more difficult to have time off and away than it is to overtrain.

I love this conundrum.  I think the lesson I’m learning most is that rhythm change is important…..but sometimes it has to be more subtle otherwise we expose too big of an opening within ourselves in the new rhythm.

Without risk and attempts, we cannot learn anything new.  We have to practice how we respond to the outcomes of our risks and attempts.  This continued practice strengthens mental health fitness.  This kind of practice encourages curiosity and learning.  Increasing awareness allows for each decision to have validity and purpose no matter the outcome.  This is after all what we want from the fighter in the ring.  We want them to throw punches and not be invested in the outcome….rather we want them to continue to throw punches, to exploit patterns and take advantage of errors until the bell rings or the referee steps in.

I could have immediately reacted to the realization that time off is harder than overtraining and made another really different decision, but this time, I’m more curious.  I’m interested in exercising my strength in curiosity.  I’m interested in the boxer’s perspective and how these rhythm changes benefit and deter them.   I’m interested in increasing my mental health fitness.

If you live your life more like you are in the ring, you will be astonished at what you learn and the calm confidence you can obtain no matter the experience.

As always:  BoxOn!













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Boxing Art

I see all sport as art.

Athletes create their masterpieces through movement and expression with their bodies just as an artist uses her brush, pencil, or instrument.  Just as an artist takes an emotion and gives it life, so does an athlete.

As observers we see the feeling in the muscles, the posture, the movement.  We relate or repel based on what we accept and avoid.  Sometimes  we criticize the athletes rather than face our own inadequacies and other times we are grateful for what they evoke within.  There is a huge array of interpretation of what we see in each artful expression.  The interpretations are what bind the audience to the artist and allow each and every observer to feel as connected as the next.

Creating art to put on display takes a strength unimaginable.  It’s not about having thick skin, it’s about allowing your ego to be penetrated and still know that you are intact.  It’s about allowing yourself to be exposed and know you have the courage and ability to learn, grow and accept what is revealed.

To me, there is nothing more beautiful than embracing oneself fully and modeling that for others.  There is nothing more empowering than sharing your expression with others and receiving theirs.

Boxing is definitely art and you are free to create whatever is inside of you through it.



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