Beating Definition

Do You Get Beat Up In Boxing?

Once in a while someone asks me if I get “beat up” in boxing.

It’s a weird thing, this fierce sport. And I completely understand why people associate it with phrases like “getting beat up,” “taking a beating,” and so on. But after studying and practicing boxing for several years now, I have a different perspective on it than I used to.

Boxing is and extremely complex and challenging sport. Risky, yes. Potentially painful and dangerous, certainly. But it’s also a sport with lots of rules and boundaries, and it’s even more mental than it is physical. To me it feels less about “beating people up,” and more about mental and physical fitness and a very particular set of skills.

I feel fairly certain that a skilled boxer with her wits about her could put a street brawler on the pavement in seconds flat, not because we are more violent than other people, but simply because we’ve trained so hard to understand the dynamics of fighting. Boxers work hard to be physically strong and mentally powerful. We’ve practiced the simplest punches thousands — hundreds of thousands — of times. We train our reflexes against flinching and looking away, we can see punches coming, and we have an arsenal of defensive tactics at hand. We are carefully mentored and guided into the ring, protected with the right equipment and challenge levels. And we know the rules of our sport.

It’s fairly uncommon for us to experience “getting beat up,” or even “beating someone up.”

Consider this: the number of hours a boxer spends in training that is not actual sparring or fighting in the ring far exceeds her time in the ring. One hundred percent of a new boxer’s time is spent outside of the ring; only after showing aptitude and willingness is a new boxer allowed to spar, and even then, it’s fairly light, careful training. My regular training week typically includes about six or seven hours a week of training, and around eight rounds of sparring. Those are 3 minute rounds, so I’m only spending 5% of my time in the ring. (Of course, that’s the time I tend to focus on and talk about the most.)

However, we do get bested in the ring.

My trainer loves to say that you don’t get to choose whether you win or lose in boxing; you only get to choose whether or not you will perform. Every boxer loses some of the time, whether in an official match or in their own gym. But we almost never consider a regular (or even a bad) day of sparring a “loss” or a “beating,” unless something went particularly wrong and an injury was involved.

Yes, we get out-matched, out-maneuvered, hit hard, and even stopped in the ring. Mostly that happens in an actual competition when we are in the ring with someone better than we are, or if we are sparring with someone new and inexperienced, particularly a person who is scared. Those terrified new guys tend to throw punches like their life depends on it, but they often can’t last more than a round or two. Working with — and sometimes getting bruised up by — those people is a regular hazard of the sport, and the better boxer typically takes the blame for her injuries since we should have been able to defend better.

I don’t help things when I talk about getting “beat up” myself. During my first year in boxing I said it when I felt someone took advantage of me in the ring. I’ve since learned how to protect myself against this situation by returning fire, demanding a different level of work, or simply rolling out of the ring.

These days, saying I got “beat up” is a rueful way to mention my hard-earned bruises and sore muscles, and it’s normally followed by my determined recitation of new training plans and efforts.

Interestingly, I almost never talk about “beating up” someone else when I am boxing better than they are, or even if I win a match. (Although I do like to talk about kicking ass. I like to be an ass-kicking woman! But that feels just a little bit different.)

Otherwise I tend to use it when I see a particularly intense, damage-producing professional boxing match. Ten or twelve rounds with a heavyweight will temporarily (and sometimes permanently) change the shape of your face, whether you win or lose.

So there is that. But those people are at the top of the field; most of us aren’t doing that. And even the pros don’t do it all the time. A seasoned pro may have 30 or 50 career fights, but you can bet your ass that most of their time is spent doing ordinary, hard, repetitive training.

If you are new to boxing and just starting to train, you should definitely expect this sport to hurt. Most contact sports do. Football, basketball, hockey, soccer, rugby — all of them require training that is difficult and painful at times. Even non-contact sports like skateboarding or BMX bike riding can pack some serious pain.

Learning to take a punch is a slightly different skill, but it is, in fact, a skill. Much of it is mental. And there are “tricks” to it, like staying relaxed, keeping in your stance, moving constantly so that blows glance off. And of course there’s the protective gear we wear and the rules about hit zones. But it still hurts plenty, and anyone going in should know that.

But boxing isn’t first and foremost about beating people up, or getting beaten up. It’s about long hours of hard work and practice, it’s about building speed and power and quickness, and eventually it’s about sparring and fighting for a small percentage of your training time.

And more than anything, it’s about the challenge and the reward. There is very little that feels better than standing in the ring, dripping with sweat, shaking from exertion, and having your fist raised by a referee as the winner of a fight.

Damn, but that’s good.

Image by CBS_Fan on Flickr.

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13 Responses to Do You Get Beat Up In Boxing?

  1. Margaret Reyes Dempsey January 19, 2011 at 10:15 am #

    Great blog, Lisa!! Here’s to ass-kicking women everywhere. 🙂

    I’ve been flirting with the idea of looking into boxing. Something about it appeals to me from an exercise point of view, but definitely not the “hurts plenty” part. Don’t know if I’m up for that.

    • Lisa Creech Bledsoe January 19, 2011 at 10:36 am #

      Thanks for the kudos, Margaret. And don’t forget that you can always take up boxing without having to get in the ring. Working out with a heavy bag and practicing punches (and kicks if you take a kickboxing class) are a serious workout and will definitely put you on a higher fitness plane. The great majority of people at my boxing gym do not get in the ring. They’re just there to get in shape. And because they’ve heard that a boxing workout burns up to 1000 calories an hour (which is true). And you still feel like an ass-kicker! ‘Cause you are. 🙂

  2. Helen E. H. Madden January 19, 2011 at 3:12 pm #

    I’ve been training in karate for 10 years now, and a lot of what you say here reminds me of the things I’ve been through in karate. I don’t spar very often any more, due to knee injuries, but practicing kata and drills and working with weapons still makes this a fierce sport to participate in.

    One of the things I miss about sparring is that I’m no longer used to getting hit. After sparring for a month or so, people get used to being hit and it doesn’t bother them so much any more. Sparring then becomes more mental than physical. You focus on strategy, finding an opening, drawing an opponent in for a surprise attack or avoiding being attacked yourself. I still get a lot of that with kata training, since at the level I’m at, we study a lot of application, but it’s not the same as feeling it in action when you’re getting hit.

    I’ve had ribs broken, my nose broken, and my sternum fractured while sparring. But if it weren’t for my bum knees, I’d still get in the ring and spar.

    • Lisa Creech Bledsoe January 19, 2011 at 3:47 pm #

      That whole knee injury thing is part of what brought me to boxing (which is pretty easy on the knees) from running. And it’s also why I am not a kickboxer or Brazilian Ju Jitsu queen. (Sigh. I love BJJ.) I like to think of boxing as the “easy” or the “lazy” contact sport ;). You karate women are way tougher than me.

      Ok, the damage list: one broken rib and a few black eyes for me. I’m not a bleeder, like some of our guys who get regular nose bleeds. I have a laundry list of regularly-occurring minor whiny injuries which I need to post about someday. But karate definitely takes a higher toll, I think. Why do you think people put boxing so high on the injury list when every other contact sport seems to be more potentially damaging? That is so weird to me.

      WEAPONS!!!!! That is the coolest. Oh, girl, you bettah gimme some links to your posts about that. Nothing could be more awesome than a woman with a sword.

      I’m also putting you on my “Artists and Writers” blogroll. Why did I not think of that before now?

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Helen!

      • Helen E. H. Madden January 21, 2011 at 7:50 am #

        Weapons training is definitely fun, although we rarely work with a sword. We do a lot of stuff with staffs, sai (sort of like swords, only shorter and we use them in pairs), kama (mini-scythes), and the eku which is a giant boat paddle. That’s a lot of fun to swing around.

        I did one cartoon on training with nunchaku. That’s probably one of the more hazardous weapons.

        And yes, I need to add you to my blog roll too!

  3. Girlboxing January 20, 2011 at 10:02 pm #

    Fabulous post — especially your point on the ratio of ring time versus workout time.

  4. niamh January 24, 2011 at 10:10 am #

    So I commented on this over at WTS, but want to get in here too – it’s so so true what one of the posters above says, you just get used to it. I spent years with bruised legs (Thai Boxing) and just got over it – always a shock for new friends ha ha You do feel tougher when you train, no matter what the sport, more in control of your body. Great post!

  5. Laura January 24, 2011 at 4:30 pm #

    *Sigh* Oh, Lisa! You always manage to articulate exactly what I think and feel about boxing. With the start of the new legislative session I’ve seen many people I haven’t seen since I started boxing. I’m always asked about “getting beat up” and the like. I find it hard to explain to people that my time in the gym, or even in the ring, is not full of violence. Nor am I worried about suffering severe brain damage. I’m sure it’s a possibility (anything physical can hurt you) but is a 130 lb female going to do that kind of damage while we’re in the gym, our controlled, monitored space, sparring? Doubtful. And knowing that makes it much easier.

    I’m going to share this. Hopefully it will shed some light on what I feel like is a highly misunderstood sport

  6. Lisa Creech Bledsoe January 26, 2011 at 10:17 am #

    I guess I didn’t think about the fact that you might get used to the bruised legs in kickboxing, just like you get over the shock of normal punches in boxing. Makes sense, tho, Niamh.

    Laura, thanks for sharing this on Facebook; I’m honored. AND I’m looking forward to seeing you again this spring in Atanta. If you plan to be around for Atlanta Corporate Fight Night, I might ask if I can get a ride from weigh-ins back to the hotel again… 🙂

  7. Laura January 26, 2011 at 10:29 am #

    It’s my pleasure! I’m hoping people will read it and become enlightened. I will definitely be around for ACFN! Terri and I are trying to work out what I’ll be doing but I certainly want to be involved. It will surely be another fantastic time!

  8. Amy Scheer March 7, 2011 at 1:36 pm #

    New to boxing here and enjoying your blog so much. Though I’m a writer, at the beginning here I’m having trouble articulating the experience of the sport; I appreciate seasoned folks like you who can and do.

    • Lisa Creech Bledsoe March 7, 2011 at 5:39 pm #

      Just visited your blog and totally enjoyed reading about your experiences, Amy! Hang in there and keep your readers — including me — informed of how it goes. And don’t worry about having trouble articulating this crazy sport; I’ve been trying to do it for years now and only rarely seem to be able to nail it down to my own satisfaction. 🙂 Boxing is almost as hard to write about as it is to do, huh?

      Thanks for reading and commenting. Hope to hear from you again!

      • Amy Scheer March 7, 2011 at 10:47 pm #

        You will, you will! I’m anxious to follow your adventures. Thanks for visiting mine!

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