It’s all right. No, it’s not. What the hell? Move your feet!
I feel every dimple and ridge. Softened canvas yields as I shuffle. The lights flicker bile yellow and slush grey, with a few shards of off-white (star-bursting) raining down if my head snaps back too quickly.
There is only chaos until I settle in and find the flow. State of mind is as critical to the art of boxing as liver-howling punches. If I don’t get into the zone I’m an easy target. I’ll get blindsided if I choose to focus on ego-driven thoughts or cursory calculations.
But if I’m still standing after the first minute you better tighten your defences. By then, I’ve crossed the threshold into zone territory. The music fades. Individual voices merge. White noise hisses, filling the air. On my tongue, the sound tastes sweet and astringent, slightly salty and metallic.
My eyes swim—upstream, downstream—until they lock onto their target. I might not move as quickly as Coach but I see him in sharp relief, cutting through four dimensions. His speed is no fucking joke. Combinations hurl through the air with the velocity of machine gun fire.
One more minute! Get off the ropes! Slip! Duck! Roll! Move, now! Move, please?
Eventually, I tire of the voice in my head, shutting it out so physical instincts can take over. When the bell rings the throb of my heart and blast of my breath are the only things I hear. The echo is both calming and haunting.
Inhale. Exhale. Again. Just breathe.
I’ve come to learn there is a meditative aspect to boxing. Things tend to go off the rails with too many thoughts. Over-thinking makes a big fat mess. I tried to control every damn thing the first time I sparred. The result was sucking wind and ducking for cover.
And eating the majority of punches Coach threw at my face.
Although I meditate on the daily, I had forgotten about the zone—the state of “no-mind” many try to master. Most yogis are familiar with the concept where one steps onto the mat with the intention of forgetting the “I” and leaving behind the “me.” Dismantling the ego, even if for a minute, is central to any meditation practice.
Achieving that mindlessness off the mat, however, involves extra humility, discipline, and self-awareness. Any action that forces you to ‘let go’ is the quickest path to the place where time rejects the laws of physics, and trips over itself. Where the future and past dissipate, leaving only this moment.
The present is all that exists, you know. It’s the only time we ever experience.
Being immersed in the now is why I love boxing, and why most athletes clamour for the high of the sport they adore. Yet, bypassing rationality isn’t easy. You can’t tame the monkey mind by strong-arming it, which is why I bring elements of my yoga practice into the gym.
Convincing the ego to jump into the backseat involves a little trickery and a lot of work. But the reward is worth the effort. Awe-inspiring and brutally intelligent, our bodies respond to danger before our brains have mapped out all the risks. They know what to do when we are at a loss.
And they instinctively fight to save the lives they house, at any cost.
Yes, intellect and rational thinking are important but, still, I lean towards the idea of a quiet surrender if needed. Intuition isn’t a fool. Not by a long shot.
You are here. You are here. You are still here.
When the senses are heightened the body doesn’t require instruction.