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The goal of the website will be to help optimize the growth and development of people by analyzing human nature.

Writing

Martial Matters

Alexei Muravsky


Quintus: People should know when they’re conquered.

Maximus: Would you Quintus... would I?
— Gladiator (2000)

With your back against the wall rationality flies out the window along with your ability to take flight as well. Your only choice is to fight, or face death on your knees. Boxing will teach you how to fight your worst enemy – yourself.

Wild beasts, when at bay, fight desperately. How much more is this true of men! If they know there is no alternative they will fight to the death
— Prince Fu Chi

It is believed that the most peaceful time for man, woman, and child is the present, since we began to walk this earth. You might ask then, what’s the relevance of threatening situations driving me to such desperation? This is where our problems stem from. The problem we create for ourselves, is giving into the illusion that we are safe. Thinking we are safe we trade the potential of freedom for the ease and comfort of security. [1] In an age of opportunity we must wage war with comfort and the apathy it carries with it. [2] This will be our training. Violence has decreased but our need to channel it has not. Taking advantage of our primal nature and the war in our minds, we’ll be able to capitalize on our opportunities as they arrive. I have come closer to such a realization through boxing.

Martial business still matters in this day and age and my goal will be to help you understand it’s ability to increase your potential in the physical, mental, professional, and spiritual realms of your life.

Physical

We are bound to our body in this life, and with it we must make the best of what we are dealt. When our health fails us, nothing else seems to matter except our own survival… everything falls to the sidelines. Boxing will significantly decrease this marginalization, by increasing and maintaining your physical health.

Of course I have to point out the elephant in the room. How is getting shots to your face good for your overall health? In truth it isn’t, in fact it has been extensively documented with research, and through observing professional fighters, that it is dangerous. However, if one goes about the sport intelligently, then I promise you that you will have your intelligence in tact afterwards. If you don’t want to be a pro or even take a swing at the amateurs [3], and are only pursuing it as a hobby, follow these steps:

  1. Use your body (shadow box, bodyweight exercises, etc.).
  2. Train with equipment (punching bags, jumping rope, etc.).
  3. If you do decide to spar, only spar to the body and with people you trust. [4]

All these steps can be accomplished on your own time, or through a gym that caters to your needs. Stay within these rules and your head will stay screwed on correctly.

If you are bored with having to run, bike, swim, etc. to maintain your health, boxing is a great alternative. It enables you to interact and grow with other people while reaping similar benefits.

Professional boxing matches typically have 3-minute rounds with a minute break in between rounds for a total of 12 rounds. Coaches like to have their students train under similar time constraints while sparring and using equipment. The break in between rounds creates an interval-based approach to your training, which is fantastic for building cardiovascular fitness and in turn cardiovascular health.

The same intervals provide a ready start for you to lose weight, maintain it, and even put on muscle mass, if supplemented with the correct diet.

Finally, boxing can reduce the risk of bone loss and consequently osteoporosis. Up to 90% of our bone mass peaks around the age of 20 and then begins to slowly fall after the age of 30 (decrease in bone mass occurs significantly quicker in women). Since boxing is a load bearing exercise it reduces bone loss and may even increase bone mass.

By creating a regular boxing routine for yourself, you may keep your health in check and worries about it at a distance. Remember that it is easier to continually put in work than to jump into a boxing class after a significant break from the gym. Because the first day you come back you’ll feel like you’re putting in all that lost time into one session – it will be an exhausting experience. The fact that you returned already says a lot, you had the tenacity to rise to the challenge again and face your fears.

The head boxing coach at the gym I train at had this to say after some sparring rounds: 

You guys are freezing up… you’re just standing there and taking shots, waiting for your turn. You have to keep moving, block shots, shoot back, and take what’s yours. Do you guys have girlfriends? Classes? Jobs? What would happen if you froze up and didn’t deliver on those responsibilities? We both know what would happen… you’d lose them and the opportunity. The same goes for boxing…. you can’t wait. You have to overcome your mental pain, and keep moving forward. It’s not your bodies failing to keep up; it’s you giving up through your mind…
— Ryan Grant

Mental

Our minds can be our greatest allies and our worst enemies, as evidenced by our biggest successes and lowest moments. [5] Boxing will pull you toward the former and beyond as well as help you gracefully move past the latter and let you learn from the mistakes that you made.

The one hour you put in is not about anyone else, it’s the day you take care of yourself... the phone doesn’t exist, it’s just you, the universe, and your fucking thoughts.
— Joey Diaz

Personally, the greatest gift boxing presents me with is clarity of mind, and the release of anxiety that always follows that clarity. When I box my mind is liberated from the past, liberated from the future, it's completely focused on the present and the task at hand, which is usually making sure not to get knocked over onto my ass. I seem to have come to this conclusion during a conversation with my father over dinner. My dad asked me if I feel fear, if I'm scared when I box. I answered:

I feel fear every time I’m getting ready to box, every time I step into the gym to box, and with some people more than others. The fear is good; it lets me face my fears physically. In life, fear manifests in various ways and many times we aren’t able to define these fears, grasp onto them… it’s harder to face them. The fear you feel when you box is nothing compared to the fear we feel in our daily lives. Boxing enables me to release the anxiety associated with that fear. Afterwards it helps me confront masked fears more easily.
— AM

In addition to freeing you from everyday anxieties, boxing can aid you stave off depression, keep anger and other emotions in check, as well as gather a scattered mind – most notably one affected by ADHD.

 If your routine does come out of place then the fear you feel will rise and may even grow to such a height as to dwarf the fear you felt when you first started. I cannot clearly distinguish the reason for this. It may be because you’re embarrassed for not coming in for a long time, fear for the fact that your skills have probably diminished and you don’t want to witness that, or may be because of the fear that is ingrained in all our psyches – that of getting hurt. In all actuality the fear you feel most likely stems from a combination of all these factors. It is normal to be fearful to the point of excessive anxiety and faulty rationalization but you must conquer those thoughts that fear creates and face the challenge wholeheartedly.

Interestingly enough you will witness yourself grow the fastest when you face that which you fear the most – you quickly become confident in facing all aspects of your life, not just the ones that give you nightmares. Because when you face the possibility of death, everything else seems harmless… what’s the worst that can happen to you? You don’t believe me? Study 50 [6] (and the law he mastered). Always remember that your fear will dissipate once you step in the gym. It will be completely gone once you leave.

Most guys are at fight club because of something they’re too scared to fight. After a few fights, you’re afraid a lot less
— Narrator, Fight Club

Professional

As individuals we all eventually reach plateaus in our professional lives, non-dependent of the paths we chose for ourselves. The only way to keep growing will be to exert supreme focus on the tasks at hand and diversify our knowledge of the world. [7] Boxing will enable you to kill these two birds with one stone and keep your development steady.

Look at any sport, and you will frequently find the most humble and confident players to be fighters, especially those involved in mixed martial arts. They know that they could get hurt at any time, and that they are not invulnerable to loss. Knowing this, they undergo the most exhausting training regimens in order to be confident before a fight – they know that their health and lives are at risk. This combination of variables enables them to stay focused and be open to new experiences and knowledge that may give them the upper hand. This combination would skyrocket anyone to success if applied correctly. This is what boxing has the potential to bestow upon you if you put in the time and keep the right mindset.

2/3’s of all Fortune 500 CEO’s have one thing in common… military background… 2/3’s of those 2/3’s [40%], have something else that you can probably relate to, martial arts…
— Dan Peña

You might be wondering why such a coincidence exists. The reason why is that it’s not a coincidence. Either those same CEO’s garnered the discipline and focus needed to become leaders through the military and/or martial arts, or their characters on principle attracted them to these institutions after their successes. I’m willing to bet that it’s the former, and you better hope it is, because then there is hope for all of us. Mr. Peña mentioned another benefit he received from the military (OCS officer training):

It was the first high-performance thing that I could measure myself with, with other people… that were also striving to be high performance individuals.
— Dan Peña

Boxing will give you this same opportunity. You will see yourself build a skill over time, have the ability to track your progress, and gain constructive criticism from ambitious people that train with you. And since you are the average of the 5 people you surround yourself with, connecting with these same individuals may be an asset in your professional life, as well as theirs.

The last jab has to be the hardest punch… you’re finishing the job with it.
— Ryan Grant

An excellent boxer persists and doesn't lose focus. The same goes for the professional... you must always be closing. [8]

Spiritual

Having a belief in something is important for us as humans. Whether it is religion, atheism, or a political stance, guiding principles laden in these beliefs take us a long way by keeping our minds at peace, giving us a code to live by and goals to direct ourselves toward. Other martial arts (i.e. Jiu-Jitsu) may have a greater emphasis on philosophy but boxing can also lead us to the same understandings. By undertaking the art of boxing you can follow the principles that you learn in your sessions and apply them on a daily basis – no matter what business you have to attend to, big or small.

The biggest lesson I took from my boxing experience thus far and my research into martial arts is this; stay in possession of a strong will and emotion that will face any challenge it is presented with in this life, even at the expense of its loss. [9] Keeping this in mind helps me ward off fear and the excuses it produces. Like many pieces of wisdom it is obvious, but difficult to put into action day in and day out. Take this principle with you and every time you do something, no matter how inconsequential you think the action is, ask yourself if it’s the right thing to do. How is it going to advance your goals and how is it going to help those around you? Now “the right thing to do” will be guided by your morality and that is yours to manage.

The model for the application of your principles is the boxer rather than the gladiator. The gladiator puts down or takes up the sword he uses, but the boxer always has his hands and needs only to clench them into fists.
— Marcus Aurelius
You guys are punching in blocks, in patches. When you’re throwing your punches they have to flow out of you with no stops. You’re an artist and you’re painting a whole picture, not just bits and pieces of your masterpiece.
— Ryan Grant

In that sense the war doesn’t stop, every day is a new battle and you already have everything you need to face it – you’re human and therefore adaptable. [10]  

I will leave you with a warning before I sign off. Once you embark on learning the art of boxing, or any martial art for that matter, it will become an addiction. You will begin to realize what you have been missing all this time and how much it helps. Knowing this, it will be hard to function without a regular hit of it. You won’t be yourself. It’ll already be in your bloodstream. So do you want the easy way out? Look around you and take your pick... sex, drugs, food, gambling, whatever suits your nature. If you decide to take the red pill, it will be a continual battle between your will to need for it and your own inner resistance. No matter what you choose, deep down inside you’ll know if you slipped up, because by then you won’t be ignorant of the consequences of your actions. Take the blue pill and such battles won’t intrude into your mind.

Bob & Weave

You see a guy come to fight club for the first time, and his ass is a loaf of white bread. You see the same guy here six months later , and he looks carved out of wood. This guy trusts himself to handle anything. There’s grunting and noise at fight club like at the gym, but the fight club isn’t about looking good... and when you wake up Sunday afternoon you feel saved.
— Narrator, Fight Club

These are the things I learned in a few short months while boxing. For your sake you don’t have to take boxing, most other martial arts will bring you the same high. The feeling you’ll get walking out of the gym exhausted is unbelievable. The only way I can think of explaining it is a feeling of total peace, like you know exactly where you’ve been and where your heading.

You need to be there to believe me, to lose yourself. Boxing will break you down. Maybe self-destruction is the answer. So that you may rise again, stronger than you were yesterday.


Notes:

1. “People willing to trade their freedom for temporary security deserve neither and will lose both.” – Benjamin Franklin (more on Franklin here and here)

2. In 2014 it seems that the opposite of courage is not outright cowardliness but the slipping into comfort and comfort zones. Or is that just a symptom of a coward? What is a coward? Something to think about.

3. Pun intended.

4. Boxing gloves are not designed to protect the head of your partner but to protect your hands. In fact padded gloves enable fighters to fight longer by safeguarding their hands from injuries and therefore letting them do more damage to each other.

5. On the other hand our minds have the ability to turn on us after our biggest successes (and they do so as frequently as they can), making us arrogant, lazy, complacent, and unoriginal.

6. I’m reading it a second time because it was that good.

7. Read “Mastery” by Robert Greene to understand how to overcome these plateaus more easily.

8. That's reality for you, and if you want to understand it better read this article.

9. This principle connects to stoicism and a slice of Japanese philosophy (namely Yamato-damashii). A great place to start learning about stoicism is by reading “Meditations” by Marcus Aurelius.

10. “According to Darwin’s Origin of Species, it is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives; but the species that survives is the one that is able best to adapt and adjust to the changing environment in which it finds itself.” - Leon C. Megginson  (Yes, Darwin did not say that himself, he is often misquoted with this famous line.).