Boxing and Brains

Boxing and Brains

Hey, everyone — this guest post is from Niamh Griffin, a freelance writer from across the pond (in Ireland). She also knows a thing or seven about boxing, and you may have seen her commenting here on The Glowing Edge now and then. She and I got started talking about Boxing and Brains on this post about British women training for the 2010 Olympics.

Niamh is a former competitor in Muy Thai and has never lost her love of sport. She writes on many topics, but her blog Women With Balls is all about women succeeding in sport. Thank, Niamh, for guest posting! — Lisa

Mixing talk of brains and boxing isn’t something for the cocktail circuit. People have entrenched positions on whether boxers are asking for brain damage or not. But what do you discover if you look instead at how we use our brains in boxing? You’ll find that brainless boxers are about as successful as brainless bankers and we all know what happens to them.

Whether it’s boxing, kick boxing or Muay Thai; to succeed you need to listen, apply and innovate.

So you’re banging away at the bag, and your trainer says you’re dropping your left shoulder but it doesn’t feel like that so you don’t shift your stance. But if you remember that a good trainer has forgotten more than you will ever learn, and take the time to look in the mirror, well there you are – dropped shoulder. Beginners especially can be overwhelmed by the detailed instructions flying at them, but learning to pick the people to listen to is a great start. Note: that means listening to real experts like your trainer and not just some guy in a flashy tracksuit who thinks you don’t know anything.

After a few training sessions, you’ve got some information in your head, but then it’s time to fight or spar. In Thailand they say it takes ten fights before you start to settle in the ring. But the sooner you start focusing on one aspect of your movement and trying to improve that, the sooner you’ll see results. So if your trainer is still banging on about that left shoulder, then ask your sparring partner to attack that side more often; create a reason to focus. Not easy unless you know how to concentrate under pressure and apply complex instructions at speed.

Now this is the hard part.  You’ve sparred a few times, maybe even started fighting and you’ve realized that the other fighter has a brain of her own. All forms of boxing are fluid by nature; you can’t exactly predict how your opponent will react. You may know her as a southpaw but she’s been training and flipped to orthodox for the day. Your trainer can only do so much when the ring is noisy and she’s firing in the kicks and punches. Adapting traditional thoughts and making changes to practiced routines is scary but do it once and you’ll be hooked.

“I can entertain the proposition that life is a metaphor for boxing-for one of those bouts that go on and on, round following round, jabs, missed punches, clinches, nothing determined, again the bell and again and you and your opponent so evenly matched it’s impossible to see your opponent is you …” Joyce Carol Oates, On Boxing

Image by karpov the wrecked train

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2 Responses to Boxing and Brains

  1. niamh August 23, 2010 at 10:53 am #

    Thanks for giving me space to chat on Lisa. Boxing and brains is a contentious issue but from an athlete’s point of view, you need one to be good at the other. Look forward to seeing what your regular readers think, thanks.

    • Lisa Creech Bledsoe August 24, 2010 at 9:54 am #

      I love the language you used about boxing being “fluid by nature.”

      It’s such an apt description; it made me think of the way my trainers describe different styles of boxing: “technical,” “Philly-style,” “brawler.” And a southpaw totally threw me for a loop in the ring just recently — I just couldn’t make a mental shift! Mental agility is absolutely critical to moving well in the fluid — sometimes chaotically so — currents of fight sports.

      Lovely post, niamh!

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