Five Life Lessons I Learned as a Boxer

When I look back at the different sports I had tried when growing up, boxing in my opinion was the best. Team sports just never suited me and as my grandfather once put it, “If it’s one vs. one then the only person you have to blame is yourself.” That level of advice can either be comforting or the realization that you only have yourself to rely on, can be frightening.
Taking a glance back to those days, I realize that there were life lessons being learned. Lessons that I would later understand could be applied to any area of life with ample amount of success. These lessons are easy to learn and can give you and edge.

Learn to Stand:

143175297

When I first started boxing at the ripe old age of seventeen I half expected to immediately learn know to send my fist straight into some dude’s pie hole. Nope. Not my coach. He’d first teach me that if I was to learn anything, it’d be with the ability to stand. What I mean is, in boxing, there is a specific way of standing so your weight is not only balanced, but you also to utilize the same weight to add a lot of power to your punches. And a way to stand that you won’t be knocked around so easily, yet move fairly lucid.

In life, if you’re going to get anywhere, you’re going to need to learn to stand and learn balance. Whether you’re standing up for yourself, for who you are, for who you want to be, taking a stand, or simply standing on your own, independently; standing is survival in its most raw form. Without the ability to stand strong, you become off balance. Life can, and will, (I guarantee.) will knock you around, and then knock you down. If you’re off balance you cannot become flexible and maneuver through life so easily.

However, learning to stand on your own is liberating. No longer do you rely on others to stand for you, speak for you, or decide for you; you are able to do so alone. Not to say there won’t be times when you need someone there to lean on when encountering the fight of your life, those times do happen. But not all the time. Standing is being that pillar of strength, unshaken, relentless, and like cast iron. You move when you must, fluidly and balanced.

Throw a Correct Punch:

146276271
The second thing I learned was, of course, how to hit. My first coach, fortunately, was a perfectionist to some degree. He insisted in starting with a slow jab. First, slowly going through the motion then perfecting it as you speed up. From one jab I graduated to the double jab, then a double jab and left hook combo. Then the traditional one, two, and one two three combo’s. He always told us to never just throw one punch, always throw a minimum of two, and more if possible to open the guy up. And always punch THROUGH the target for more power. Your target isn’t his face; it’s the back of his head. Your target isn’t his belly, it’s his spine. You’re just reaching it through the front door.

His son threw what I thought was a perfect hook. I wanted to throw a hook exactly like that, and one late practice he showed me how. Of course, it took me years and years to get close to how sharp he had it. I must have thrown hundreds of thousands of hooks in the bathroom mirror trying to perfect it. I moved away from that town to where I live today and found another coach. During practice he saw the hook and asked, “Where’d you learn to throw a hook like that and make it stick, son?” I told him I had a few good coaches. That hook would save me from losing a few fights in the ring, and give me confidence where I had none previously.

With life comes adversity. Some of us are born into it, others it shows up later on in life. Either way, it is there. Learning to punch in boxing is like learning to throw down in life. Life will come at you and often hit you. You must push forward. You must stand up, look adversity in the eye, and throw a punch. At first, sometimes, it seems difficult and clumsy. But every time you throw your focus out there, or you throw your faith out there, and you stand up and say, “I can do this!” it gets easier to hit. The target gets more finite. You no longer throw wild haymakers, you use the balance you got when you learned how to stand and you twist, throwing your power from the depths of your soul through adversity. You punch through it to get to your goals in life, with your eyes never leaving your real target.

You Will Be Hit, and You Will Be Knocked Down:

ngs33_0229sb10068084y-001
This goes without saying, if you join a boxing club, (I’m not talking about those aerobic boxing thingies, I am talking about a real competing gym where you get in a real ring.) you will be hit. A lot. You will be knocked down. You will be cut and bruised. You will be hit so damn hard your bones will rattle and you will see pretty lights. And all of it will happen before you compete in your first registered fight.

Then, once you fight, you will be knocked down. You will be hit so hard your body gives up. Sometimes you can get back up, and sometimes you will sleep and be unable to. But you have to answer to that. You cannot just stand there and let yourself be hit. You have to get up and hit back. I don’t have to tell anyone reading this how hard life hits. As Rocky told his son, “No one hits as hard as life, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there if you let it.” Fictional as he is, no truer words could have been spoken. I have had spirit breaking moments in my life. I have had times in my life where I wondered why I was here. I’d beg whatever God was listening to just finish me. But see, my fight isn’t over yet.

Once we accept the fact that sometimes tough things happen, we must move over it, through it, around it, behind it, or on top of it, and get refocused on your goal. So you were hit, so you were knocked down, so what. Get up. Fight on. I remember getting punched in the face so hard that I heard a weird pop then told a friend that the last hit I took really hurt. He looked at me, smirked, and then said, “We all get hit, you’ll get used to it.” Later in life, I’d find out my nose had been broken nearly a dozen times. If I wanted to fight on, I had to get over it. And I did. And if I can do it, so can you.

You Must Get In The Ring:

BC8742-014
In boxing, to call yourself a real fighter you must have several fights on your record. You must get in the ring. You have to face that opponent one on one, or you’re not considered a fighter, let alone a contender. Lots of guys are tough guys, lots of guys walk and strut and put on a good show. But lots of guys are not fighters. There is a difference. There is something to getting in that ring where you learn lessons in life that cannot be expressed in words alone. My first fight I learned a thousand lessons.

Something about getting in that ring makes it so you have nothing to prove to anyone. Not ever. If a person cannot step into that ring, then it doesn’t matter how much strutting and puffing one does, they will not impress a fighter. A fighter will walk away from a non-ring fight, with the words, “Come to the ring if you wanna fight,” on their mantle. When you step into that ring, you, and you alone, are responsible for the win. No one else. Just you.

Everyone reading this has an arena of their own they contend in. Everyone. But not everyone gets in the ring. Not everyone takes responsibility for losing the fight. This concept stretches to the far reaches of your soul though. Everything you do, everything you are, is an arena of some kind. But the ring, that’s something else entirely. That’s the part where you put it all on the line. There are a lot of armchair politicians, eager to badmouth a leader here, and a leader there. There are a lot of armchair football coaches, baseball coaches, and the list goes on. There are a lot of critics and cynics, complainers, and advice givers. But there are not a lot of people doing anything about it. Whatever “it” is. Not a lot of people getting in the ring. Because to get in the ring, means you have to win or lose and face who you are. What you’re capable of. You have to stand before an audience and throw down with life. The audience may or may not approve. It doesn’t matter because it is you in there, not them.
As you’re reading this, ask yourself, “Am I winning this thing, or is life having its way with me?” Be honest. Because despite anything that’s happened to us so far in life, the majority of us are where we are because of what we have chosen. There are few, very few, exceptions. My coach would tell me, “Know that your opponent is training as hard, if not harder, than you. You know if you’re pushing yourself or not.”

Get a Good Coach:

151107445
My first coach was a hardened, tough as nails, Vietnam vet, who called us princesses, but still believed in us. He taught me more than the basics, and despite his grizzled outer shell, he cared for all of his fighters. He knew what to look for, and he knew how to teach. He knew how to break it down to you so you could understand what it is you needed in order to go the extra mile.

My second coach was out here on the West Coach and quite literally looked exactly like Little Mac’s coach from that 80’s game, Mike Tyson’s Punch Out. His knuckles were freakishly huge and he was a former professional fighter and a champion. When he found out I was a South Paw, (Someone who fights unorthodox, or is left handed.) he said he wouldn’t coach me until I learned orthodox style. Discouraged but still eager to fight, I did it anyway.

I would start out each of the fights I had with this coach orthodox; then when he told me to, I’d switch to southpaw. Simple, but effective, strategy that brought a few good wins my way. He would push me until I didn’t think I could go any further. Through all of this he’d continue to encourage me and I always knew I he had my back. In fact, both of my coaches I was very proud to have in my corner. I know a bad coach when I see one these days, and both of these men were outstanding coaches.

I will tell you this, like I’ve told many other guys in the seminars, if you have not had a mentor in this lifetime, I truly grieve for you. Some people’s parent or parents are good mentors. Some people have several mentors. Others have none. A mentor is someone who sees outside of your sphere of influence as you know it. They see the big picture and the inner workings both, and they see what you cannot yet see. They are like a guiding light. They will not fight the fight for you, but they are beside you, pushing you, and in your corner, getting your spit bucket ready with an earful of helpful advice to take down this opponent.

A mentor, or a coach, is someone you surround yourself with that has no problem telling you that you’re getting lazy in there. At the same time they care that you win. They are givers, and creators, they live knowing and hoping whatever it is that they help you with, or push you towards, that you will be great. They need very little thanks, because their livelihood is centered on helping others get through the very obstacles they overcame themselves.

Just like competing in boxing without a coach makes no sense, so does fighting through life with no mentor, no coach. Find someone that you see as better than, or more successful than yourself and draw close to them. Ask them to mentor you. Study their work and emulate them. Becoming a better artist means you watch great artists work, and you work hard yourself. Same goes for writing and music. Same goes for engineering and construction work. Any job, career, or life time dream has someone who has mastered it. Find a master and learn from them.

—William M. Jeffries

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *