Maybe the earliest form of dispute resolution was beating the #%!& out of the other guy. Over time, “civilization” did its civilizing thing, and we now have more skillful means for resolving conflict. It is far better to talk it out, to negotiate solutions to disputes than to resort to violence. So why did I put on a pair of boxing gloves and get in the ring at the age of 54?
I was about twelve years old when I last took a swing at someone. There was a kid bullying my little brother. Every day he would come to the corner as we waited for the bus, and he would taunt Warren. One day I spoke up, I told him to quit making fun of my brother. When he didn’t, I slugged him (POW). He ran home crying, our mothers exchanged calls, and I was told that physical violence was not the way to solve problems (but also told, “good for standing up for your brother”).
As time went by, I naturally gravitated toward communication, interest-based negotiation, and mediation to resolve conflict. I encounter people in highly charged emotional situations and help them think clearly and focus on solutions. The venting process helps them blow off steam. I wondered, what if they punched something as well? Sometimes they look like they want to.
Before long I found myself at Oak Lawn Boxing with Travis Glenn, an extraordinarily gifted trainer. Initially I asked to be on the non-sparring track – give me exercise and agility but keep me from getting hurt. After the first lesson, I was hooked (though technically I didn’t learn to throw a “hook” until the second lesson).
Boxing is a head, heart, and body sport. It is, or can be, highly technical. There is a lot to think about – what punches to throw, timing and speed, blocking and avoiding, combinations. My brain is fully engaged in the thinking part of this sport. Alas, my body does not always do what I ask it to do. I send signals to my legs and arms, and wait for the response. Still I am getting faster and more fluid.
And then there is the Heart of boxing, what I call the Zen of Boxing. I’m not there yet but I move toward that moment when everything comes together – when the artificial becomes natural, when I feel “in the flow.” I’m taking baby steps, becoming more confident with my punches and more comfortable moving around the ring. I try to relax and be intense at the same time. I feel a real sense of power, of being in command. Testosterone levels climb as I tap into primal aggression and channel it, thoughtfully and intelligently. I breathe through every punch.
Boxing, like Zen, holds opposites: stillness and motion, calmness and intensity. I’m enjoying the experience and the challenge of mastering a new sport. We’ll see where the journey takes me, and how it will inform my practice. I just might take out my boxing gloves at the next mediation.
For more information about Oak Lawn Boxing and my trainer, Travis Glenn, visit: http://www.oaklawnboxing.com/ Travis is a great instructor. First lesson is free!