The Heart of Boxing

By Tom Shook - Published in 2005

The fighting sports are amongst the most difficult athletic pursuits known. Most sports require a high level of physical conditioning and mental preparation, but only the brutal one on one competition of a fight can so absolutely invoke the primal survival instincts that each of us posses. There is something raw, wild and unyielding that occurs when a fighter steps into the squared circle. Preparing for this activity requires more than physical preparation, it also requires spiritual strength. What motivates a fighter to go on despite immeasurable fatigue, pain and injury? Standing alone, almost naked and facing an opponent bent on knocking you out is a very unnerving experience. Doing that more than once could be considered insane! Champions not only do this many times, they thrive in this environment.

Miles of roadwork and heavy bag punching will not prepare you for the moment when your opponent lands a crisp punch and destroys your equilibrium. The human nervous system is a marvel of evolution. It allows us to think, move, create and express ourselves in many different ways. Unfortunately, it is also subject to the forces of physics. Disrupted nerve impulses lead to all sorts of alterations in cognitive, emotional and motor ability. A fighter that receives a hard blow on the chin could find himself suddenly dizzy, disoriented and unable to move the way he wants to. Does a champion admit defeat and quit the fight? Hell no! He summons up his spiritual strength and fights on. The old timers call the ability to do this heart. It is what separates champions from every one else. The most physically gifted athletes in the world will never achieve success if they fold when the going gets tough.

How does one go about training his “heart” or spiritual strength? This is something that a lot of us are born with to some degree. We all know people with an absolute can-do, never give up attitude. Despite this truth, spiritual strength must also be cultivated. A fighter needs to forge himself in a crucible of focus, discipline and hard work. Each day pushing himself to do more and be more than he was the day before. It starts in the gym, doing one more round of sparring, attacking the bag with ferocity and determination, getting out and training in the cold, wet, uncomfortable conditions that all of us must face if we are committed to winning. Staying disciplined with preparation and making oneself impervious to pain and resistant to fatigue through training, training and more training develops it even further. But training alone is not enough. You can develop a great deal of physical skill and toughness through training, but spiritual strength must be taken a step further.

You have to ask yourself how bad you want to win and be prepared to do what it takes to achieve victory. The time to ask yourself how bad you want it is not when you are reeling from a hard combination. When the day comes, and it will come, that you must fight through the pain and punishment being inflicted upon you by your opponent you need to already have an answer to that question. You must know deep down in your soul that you will be victorious at all costs.

Don’t hide from the truth. Live in the world of the absolute. Boxing is a brutal business, and you will be hurt in the ring at some point during your career. The hidden key to boxing is knowing that truth, accepting it and being prepared to fight through that hurt when the time comes. You must go about all of your preparation for boxing with this fact in mind. This type of spiritual strength is not developed over night. It takes time and work. Don’t wait until you get your bell rung in the ring, get to work today preparing yourself to deal with and overcome adversity.

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