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Training Memoirs 2009 – 2006

For the Love of Boxing

Musings of an Incidental Athlete 

this love affair began somewhere between the ropes 4 years ago and hasn’t quit. boxing became a unexpected landing ground for Emily, a first-time athlete, who stumbled into the sport like it was her job. experiencing spiritual and philosophical overwhelm in the gym, she turns to written word to share and celebrate her experiences as a competitive amateur boxer.

Read pieces in the archives.


Best fight ever. No one filmed it.

Short version for those with limited time to indulge me – I won! 5-0 decision!!! I’m fighting at Madison Square Garden Friday April 17th!

Photos were graciously and speedily sent to me by Ken Goldfield, the Daily News photographer who asked for my email address right after the bout! Wow! great shots!

I tried to sleep, but 45 minutes later, I find myself here at the computer, full of gratitude. It’s incredible how distorted our own image of ourselves can be – especially around the learning curve – as adults, learning is so jumbled up with judgment, comparison, analysis, FEAR, FEAR, controlling outcomes, worry, more fear. As my new literary mentor, Dan Millman says, imagine if babies feared being wrong, laughed at, saw their mispronunciations and tumbles as a reason to quit life? We’re born as creatures with an innate desire to learn and to become. As we acquire skills, so too grows the ego. Coming into this experience of fighting tonight, I was consumed with mundanity – or details that I could not control (which I call mundane precisely b/c there’s nothing to be done about them = boring and point waste of precious energy): who I’d be fighting, which bout we’d be, I even had a wild idea of ODing on water to not make weight – all sorts of hooks to enable the get-away-with-not-doing-my-best game. The back door option, the creeping spider that is fear of your own potential (cue Marianne Williamson!). If I try and fail, then the inadequacy parade is proven true, so is the self-fulfilling prophecy of negative self-criticism. I say again and again, I’m not afraid of “losing” – I’m blessed with indifference to the whim of judges, their scores and favoritism that make boxing the politically renown sport it is. I am, however, terrified of not doing my own personal best, of “failing myself.” Plagued by this fear – so desperate to control my own outcomes, my own thinking, state of mind. And that’s the irony of boxing – in order to do well, you have to be calm, relaxed, able to listen to your opponents’ moves before they even make them. Intuition is an asset that I cannot access in a state of fear. I know this, and yet cannot control the fear, nor the voices of sabotage. In response to this cunundrum, I have been guided to practice the principal of non-resistance. Instead of hating myself for not being able to control my fear, the voices, my body, my mood, my own personal outcomes – I pray to accept this litany as part of the game. This is moving meditation – to move thru these moments of challenge – as a dear friend quoted today Serenity isn’t freedom from the storm; it is peace within the storm. How true and poignant.


As per usual, there is chaos before the fight. I am feeling calm, but my profuse and pungent sweat betrays me – the fear stink, showing up right on schedule. And how amazing that I dont’ have to do any work to set in motion the course of physical preparedness. My body went thru stages of butterflies, heaviness, lightness, hunger, lack of appetite, then sleepiness which I succumbed to for 20 minutes on the way out to Long Island during a mental training session (how cool, I can have these whenever I want, do whatever I want in them and they are free! The trick is to not rehearse the mistakes, which I often do inadvertently, wincing and cursing within my own fantasy). I, Emily, the thinking mind, somehow, am completely uninvolved in all of the above – these experiences simply pass thru me, just as crazy thoughts do. My mind is out of my hands, and thank god I am finding acceptance of this. Back at the rainy Freeport Recreation Center, boxers begin to collect – the buzz of grandeur close at hand, the clip of officials wanting to act official. First we find out one girl dropped out, rumors of a car accident, how terrible. Next, one opponent is quite late again. We need the scale again! Where’s the doctor? We’re the only female bout of the night? You’re on in 10 minutes! Damn they always do this second string thing with the women. This is all part of the experience, a part which I’ve used to fodder blame for my own fear-based short comings — If only I’d had time to REALLY prepare instead of rushing out to get in the ring; if only the Gloves respected women a little more, I’d do better. This exceptionalism (or victimhood..) keeps me from the real truth, which is that circumstances never dictate my well being. All of that peace really comes from that unnamed place within – call it god, call it your higher self, call it anything but the ego – and I felt that tonight. I learned that I can be prepared when I am willing to surrender to the experience, with all its unknown variables, including whether or not I will be able to access my skills. I have alos surrendered the word “try,” which actually is a bar to jumping any real hurdles. It’s do or don’t do. This try business is a fools trap, offering the option to opt out. This was my 7th fight, and the first fight where I did not find myself gasping over the death well between rounds, sincerely asking, why the hell do I do this?? only to pick back up and … do it again, and then again, and then again between all 4 rounds. I dread that minute. Tonight, I could listen to my corner, reset and begin again. I can remember the bout, I walked away not beaten down – the game plan worked. Use the jab – keep her off, move throw 1 2 3. I first thought, wow, she’s not throwing punches like I expected – she’s got good sparring at the gym, a similar record to mine – what’s going on? what is she doing wrong? My first thought was my lead is a fluke. Turns out, my jab is really effective, and she couldn’t get in. That was the game plan, after all. Turns out I’m strong and can move. Isn’t this what people have been telling me? How amazing to go into an experience with Not Good Enough Chorus wailing (nevertheless being willing to accept their cries as a part of the soundtrack) and to be shown, with hundreds of witnesses that all every song is formed from lies. Maybe the laws of accommodation apply to my 4 years of training – that simply showing up is 90% of the work, and over time, progress and change is inevitable.

How blessed I feel to have so many shining lights in my corner. I am of course, already afraid that I won’t be able to access that calm centeredness that made this experience so positive. I have the incredible opportunity to once again fight at Madision Square Garden – the creme de la creme glitz and glamour of the local amateur scene, of which I am decidely now a part. Where else would it make sense for me to gain cred with your garden variety dudes from Long Island Irishmen to Brownsville hoodies?

My coach, decrying USA Boxing Metro’s bozo nature which he believes cost him the wins of several of my promising amateur teammates, told me in earnest, “you are the last link, you’re winnin’ this shit.” I’ll do my best, always my reply – focusing on the outcomes will do me in. He shakes his head, “go and collect those gloves. just 8 minutes away, they’re waiting for you.” We’ll see.


Why not be a nerd 😛

Dan Millman: “Body Mind Mastery”

Marianne Williamson, from “A Return To Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles”: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.