“Only Boxing Prepares You For Boxing”

Today I had my first training session after five weeks. Since I returned from my trips I have been practicing, working out, running, doing my jump ropes. But there is just nothing like actually boxing with someone. As my trainer said, “You can’t prepare for boxing. Only boxing prepares you for boxing.” From my experience, that is true. I work hard during the week before my session so I can make use of the training and so I don’t have to take breaks all the time to catch my breath. But having to respond to someone, moving around constantly, taking punches, keeping my hands up, paying attention, and most importantly relaxing, is just not something I can really prepare for. It is always so much more challenging than I can possibly imagine….

It takes a crazy commitment to box because it seems impossible in the moment. And like in life you can’t prepare yourself to live. I try to be authentic and real in my relationships and bring presence to what I am doing  – but life is always fresh in every moment and I have to jump in with “Beginner’s Mind”, like Suzki Roshi said, a great Zen Master, who brought Zen to America in 1959. I can’t prepare myself for life, but I can practice to meet every moment with openness and vulnerability. Actually listening, not assuming I know already, really considering the other person and daring to not know – as terrifying as that might be, and as bad as I might look bad!

Well, one moment of “jumping in” like that happened just recently, when I had forgotten to bring my boxing shirt. I had two choices – not train and go home, or, train in what I had. This happened to be a dress. So, I boxed in my dress. Yes. I tried to roll it up over my pants which resulted in a sausage-like ring around my waist. And of course it fell down every two minutes. I let it hang and kept on boxing. You just have to have priorities 🙂 . Luckily, nobody was around watching me, and if so, it wouldn’t have mattered. With my dress I was bringing a bit of the feminine to the rather masculine boxing world where either Eminem or the Rocky theme song were blasting in the background.

And today, coming back to “training” – my trainer had me put a thick rubber band around my hips that he was holding on to. We worked on “explosions”. That means we were working on strengthening the explosive power in legs and core. That was after 30 minutes of boxing. I had just started my period – yes, if you are reading this blog, you have to read it all – and so there were a lot of inner explosions going on… Physical and emotional.  But, that wasn’t what was of interest in that moment and so I put my mind on running as fast as I could while he was holding me back. Even if this is not preparing me for boxing it puts me in the condition where I can meet the challenge to box. With great explosion!

To freshen up your memory – The Rocky Theme Song!

Heaven on Earth – Smashburgers and Gleason’s Boxing Gym!

tshirt 1

After the very bumpy descending of the plane through a New York rainstorm and an extremely hard landing, (with passengers screaming – not me though…), which made me think for a moment that our plane had actually crashed, I had made my way to one of my favorite places. New York City.

I had come to a city with some of the best restaurants in the world. Given the fact that I am a great lover of food it was a bit funny that one of the highlights of this trip for me was the visit to “Smash-burgers” in New Jersey – an upscale fast-food burger place, where I ordered a burger with portobello mushrooms in truffle oil. It was so good that I did not stop talking about it. And even now, a few weeks later, I am still thinking about it. So, if you have the opportunity and want to make yourself happy, go to Smash-burgers!

But this was not the end of highlights. I had planned to visit a real, old time boxing gym where I could watch people train and box. It was just like in the movies. I am not exaggerating. I walked through the streets of Brooklyn, just underneath the Brooklyn bridge, past a Sushi bar and a Starbuck’s, up the stairs, through a door and stepped into the boxing world of Gleason’s Gym. The oldest boxing gym in the United States that produced over a hundred World Champions. I could tell there was history in this place. Muhammad Ali had boxed here… I could just feel the sweat that this place had seen.

There were two boxing rings set up, lots of heavy bags, double ends bags and speed bags for training. And people were everywhere, punching the heavy bags, doing jump ropes, shadowboxing, liftting weights, doing other cardio workouts….Training was happening all around me.

And right at the moment I walked in two women were taking turns sparring with a skinny, muscle machine trainer and sparring partner. The women kept taking turns and eventually they boxed with each other. How great to see that, as I had never see other women box live in front of me!

I had brought my two women friends and we were all standing around the ring, watching. We were squeaky clean and nice looking women and we did stand out a bit, I must say. It was amazing that there was no attitude whatsoever from the male boxers around us. Everybody was extremely friendly, curious and encouraging. The trainer repeatedly invited me into the ring, which I vehemently declined, telling him I wasn’t ready yet. “We definitely created a buzz”, as my friend commented.

Mouthguard Needed


I ordered a mouthguard last week. For anybody who is seriously boxing this is probably not a big deal as it is simply a piece of protection gear that is needed to keep yourself from punches against the jaw. I learned that it is the punches against the jaw that can easily knock you out because the nerves from the jaw go straight to the brain. This made me a tiny bit nervous ordering it, but committed to boxing, I went ahead…

I picked up the mouthguard from the mail on my way to my boxing lesson the other day. Then I sat in the car and tried to put it into my mouth. It looked like a monstrous device designed for aliens. Then, when I had finally successfully placed the black plastic thing where it is supposed to go I looked into the back mirror. My cheeks were strangely puffed up with a black airfilter between my teeth. I couldn’t help myself from thinking, “what did I get myself into with this?” When I  started drooling without control while people walked by left and right next to the car, my only thought was, “how am I supposed to carry this and box at the same time?”

I promise I will not use it in the kitchen during cooking, as it probably will prevent me from tasting the food. I will also not bring it with me for tango dancing as it might not contribute to great intimacy with my dancing partner, since I resemble a Star-trek character from an undiscovered planet when I wear it. But, I promise I keep you updated on how I will put it to use in the boxing ring.

“Protect yourself, don’t defend yourself”


In one of my first boxing sessions my trainer was punching me and I panicked. I turned away from him, lost eye contact, forgot to keep my hands up and at the same time was trying to keep the oncoming punches away from me. He kept coming towards me, yelling, “Protect yourself, but don’t defend yourself!”

What a useful distinction, not only for boxing, but for how I relate to everything in life! I would describe myself as being defensive in general. Since I started boxing I realized that it is partly because I never really learned how to protect myself. And there is a difference between the two. “Defending oneself” is the act of having already given in to the belief that I am a victim. It is passive, closed off, a reaction. There is no power or possibility in that position.

“Protecting oneself” is active, it needs strength, attention and courage. And there is something quite vulnerable in it, because it implies being open and flexible. If I am not identified with the thought that I need to react there can even be space to be creative in the moment!

The picture of Muhammad Ali communicates the intelligence and power of staying open and flexible in the face of an oncoming challenge. Be it criticism, conflict, or a jab coming towards my head!

Mental Toughness – and Relaxation

M Ali quote and picture

Boxing is my lifeline right now because it is the one thing that pushes me so completely beyond of what I think is possible, physically and mentally. And I am not even close to talking about a fight here, just the training aspect itself is kicking my butt.  I hate it because it throws me against the deepest fear and resistance in myself towards the super-effort that I have to make in every training again and again. And, I love it at the same time. For the same reason. Because it gives me the opportunity to step into a whole other domain of power and energy than the one I usually operate on.

The other day I had to do 100 punches as fast and hard as I could into the heavy bag. I couldn’t lift my arms after 60 because I stopped breathing altogether. Complete contraction in the face of survival. I realized that when I am being pushed beyond limits I automatically contract and start breathing like those were my last seconds to live. There is no power without relaxation. As my trainer commented: “You have to catch your breath faster”.

How powerful I am (and how I think I need to breathe) is a mental concept. And what is needed is a much faster recovery time. 8 seconds to completely calm down in order to move on to another drill that is even more challenging.

There is a moment of choice. I either panic – or relax, move through resistance and step into a new realm of energy that opened up for me in the training a few days ago. This is “mental toughness”, to not give my mind a chance, to just not go with it. Stay focused. “Suffer now”, as Muhammad Ali said.

I will not be the heavy weight champion of the world. (I hope not…)  I aim for being the champion of my mind, instead of the slave of my mind. And I am boxing my way there!