Boxing, Fist Fighting, Rage, and Release
To those who know me personally, it will come as little surprise that the sport of boxing has been an influence on me over the last few years. I took lessons about three years ago (six months’ worth, about 40 completed in that time) that affected me rather strongly. To be clear, I have not sparred, although I have been punched in other circumstances. While I had previously studied a number of martial arts (jiu jitsu, tae kwon do, kung fu), boxing affected me physically, mentally, and spiritually in ways I had never felt before. Boxing has no philosophy, mysticism, or “forms” that come with it. It is very pragmatic. In addition, like many heathens, I am an amateur historian; boxing appeals to that part of me as well. I can read about a match from last week or the “Thrilla in Manila” with equal interest. I also think that the raw physicality of boxing unleashed a side of me that many other things (martial arts, hiking, service in the Army infantry, shooting, swordsmanship) did not. I now use it not only for a great workout, but also as part of my spiritual practice. I primarily practice through heavy bag work, but also with things like shadow boxing. As part of that three year effort, there are three things I would like to talk about here: a metaphor/realization, a book, and a documentary.
Realization – Rolling with the Punches
“We have an expression in prize fighting: ‘Everyone has a plan until they’ve been hit.’ Well my friend, you’ve just been hit. The getting up is up to you.” (from the movie “The Ghost and the Darkness,” in reality, the quote is attributed to Joe Louis)
A lot of life is about getting knocked down and having to get back up. Some use equestrian examples, eg, “getting back on the horse.” I prefer boxing metaphors. I have experienced a number of situations since I began my Work where just standing back up was terribly hard, but also proved to be the important lesson. Standing up can be literally a physical challenge, or it can be the recognition that something traumatic happened, and sometimes it takes a LOT of fire and courage to get back up to face things again.
Having said all of this, I now want to move to the book and documentary and talk about the prices we pay if we use Rage, Anger, and Hate but do not understand them. These emotions are a spiritual and mental form of fire. Fire can be used for light (as a candle) or to burn down a house (arson) or can even do both by mistake. It is something to understand fully before using it, so that it is used responsibly.
Book – Ghosts of Manila
This book deals with the price of hate, anger, greed, insults, and boxing as it pertains to Ali and Frazier. One man lost his body and the other his peace of mind. The price of a blood feud, ignorance, laziness, greed, and other things are all included. The author clearly has his own demons as well, but that is what makes it interesting.
Film/Documentary – “Knuckle”
“Knuckle” is a documentary about feuds in the Irish Traveler community. The feuds are illustrated via video; escalating insults exacerbate the situations until a sort of duel challenge is issued. The feuds are then “settled” by bare knuckle fist fights. The truth is that nothing is ever settled, and the main subject of the film, James Quinn McDonagh talks at the end of the price he has paid for being a champion. Although the concepts are quite old, the film itself is modern. One could argue that resolving disputes in such a fashion is much better than guns or knives but, in the end, it does not seem to solve anything and you get to watch two grandfathers trying to beat each other up.
Remember, ultimately, that Rage is Fire and is therefore a force that can burn out of control. The whole point of the Path of Fire is to understand this truth intimately and find a way to harness it to a positive end.