(See the previous post if you haven't already.)
This isn't yet the answer to my question about boxing and violence. But I think it's probably worthwhile to start out with a sense of what training at an amateur boxing gym is like.
I was actually startled by the atmosphere the first few times I went to my boxing gym. In fact the first time I went in, I stood outside and took a couple of deep breaths before I sauntered in. I mean - come on - it's a boxing gym just north of the bad part of town (which is where I live), it has a grafitti-style sign painted on the wall - Bad to the Bonz - the gym name. It's between a body shop and a custom cycle shop with chromed bikes outside and a big rottweiler inside. I was prepared to be intimidated.
This wasn't just social profiling either. I've been in gyms all my life. I've never been a jock but I've always enjoyed a casual bit of weightlifting. A little excess of testosterone usually goes with the territory.
The atmosphere at this particular gym, however, is among the most friendly and open I've ever been around. Half the time there are little kids there, either training with a relative or just hanging while their parents train. And I haven't had a bad experience yet - there's no pressure to fight, nobody striking a pose, less "macho" by far than I would have expected.
And this extends to the fighters. When outsiders come to our gym to spar the sparring intensity level approaches a real match. Punches are thrown at full speed and people hurt when they take a punch. But I haven't yet seen any anger, haven't yet seen any bad sportsmanship. Even the TKO I saw ended shortly after with a fighter's embrace and mutual congratulation.
The reasons for this are eminently practical - boxing takes discipline and anger simply isn't helpful - at least in the context of sparring. The combatants enter the ring to learn something, to work on a particular skill and the pain they endure is simply the price that must be paid to learn.
I said I wasn't going to answer the question of nonviolence yet; I'm trying to keep these posts short. But my interests in nonviolence and boxing begin to merge at this point. How many self proclaimed pacifists do you know who could take a punch to the face and embrace their attacker? Me neither - yet boxers do it all the time. Could it be that pugilists have something to teach the peacemakers?
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