Advertise - Print Edition

Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

New semester brings new chances for activity

Published: January 24, 2014
Section: Opinions

A rainy Saturday seemed like as good a day as any to try something new. I could have easily slept in that morning. Instead, I chose to be a little productive, learning a couple of things about boxing and getting a heck of a workout. Do not be mistaken, though. I did not join boxing on a whim, but I also had absolutely no idea what to expect. I walked into the gym, and heard the shouting of an instructor, “Two, three, two.” Every few minutes, he would change the combination of numbers. The boxing number system, in which a number from one to eight is assigned to a certain punch, may be familiar to some. I was clueless.

Nevertheless, I really did not have anything to fear. A more seasoned boxer quickly showed me the basics, “One is your jab, two is your cross …” and so on. He even taught me how to properly wrap my hands, something that must feel like second nature to those more experienced boxers. Nonetheless, one of the many things I learned on my first day of boxing is that basics are the key. Safety and proper technique are important. It is pretty easy to get hurt. Let’s face it, though, I could also trip on the sidewalk and land hard on my face if I do not pick up my feet properly. Boxing is the same. Not paying attention can lead to the equivalent of a twisted ankle and a bruised ego because it is avoidable.

The instructor called for people to warm up, whether that included stretching or shadow boxing was up to you. Again, I had no idea what I was doing. I knew how to warm up, but the large room filled with rows of punching bags reminded me that I still did not know for what. A few minutes later, I found out. I was sweating and looking around the room, and so was everyone else. We switched between floor workouts and combinations on the bag. I slid my gloves off after the first round, releasing a stench I did not notice before, a smell I did not know existed before. I had officially shared my sweat with the other users of the borrowed gloves. As unhygienic as it sounds, that is the moment I realized how much of a bonding experience boxing is, literally sharing sweat together.

The first practice was a struggle. By the end, I was drenched in my own sweat and feeling the onset of stiffness slowly come over my muscles. Then, as I walked back to the locker room, everyone kept saying good job, congratulating each other and me on getting through a tough workout. My day may have started out a bit intimidating. I did not spend my Saturday morning in a room of ruthless fighters who made me cringe, however. I spent it with a supportive bunch, who were willing to help me through that initial state of confusion and patience associated with not really knowing what is going on.

Naturally, after any good workout, we were all ravenous. Together we made a trip to Usdan through the flurry of snow to eat lunch. The boxing club is a community. Talking to them, I learned that they did other activities together, too, such as movie night screenings of “Fight Club.” It is not just about the fighting. Just listening, I could hear what boxing really meant to some of them. For some, the aspect of discipline allows them to strive and make themselves better after every practice or even for their own accord in their academics.

My favorite story was when one fellow first-year told me how it felt to finally get her own gloves last semester. Finally investing in her own gloves was not just about the hygiene, escaping others’ sweat and stench. It was a physical representation of her progress, the dedication devoted, the sweat given and the soreness overcome. Having her own gloves is like committing to the sport, proof to herself that there is something about boxing that is now a part of her life, under her possession.

Boxing can be simplified to the practice of punching, but it is something more. It is the kind of activity where people are allowed to be aggressive. Unsurprisingly, people tend to feel less vulnerable if they box. It is not the mere physicality, though. Feeling your fist on the bag, watching it swing away by the force in your hand, gives you confidence. You discover this small force that can affect the world, a small power that reminds you that you have the ability to do something. You always feel better after the practice than before, partially due to the logical and scientific explanation that may include endorphins and so on. Nevertheless, it is a true stress-reliever, where you get to use your time productively, and there is something so satisfying about waking up sore the next day.

While boxing does entail punching, I think people get the wrong impression. It is like any other club where you meet new people who happen to share an interest. You all did end up there for one reason or another. People join boxing for a good time, and even a good workout. Just because you box does not necessarily mean you fight. As I have said before, boxing is not something to be intimidated by despite your first impressions. The club does not even let you spar until you have trained for a full semester. So do not let a little fear to try something, like boxing, stop you. You may be pleasantly surprised.