When I wrote a headline for Everlast that read, Everything You Need in Life You Learned in Woodshop & P.E. I was certain of two things: 1) that I got across part of what men get out of boxing, and 2) that I’d never be a boxer myself. Now I train two to three times a week.
Before moving to Portland, I followed some of Tony Horton’s home workout programs (Power 90 and P90X), but the set up wasn’t right in our current house and I let myself get out of shape. I needed an intense workout and I needed something outside my comfort zone. Boxing was my answer. It’s the most strenuous total body workout I’ve done, it’s forced me to accept new challenges, and it’s given me the opportunity to get to know people with experiences that are different from my own.
There several coaches at my gym, older guys who fought both as professionals and as amateurs. Now they coach because they love the sport and it’s obvious they love the guys they train. Of course, they’d probably never call it that. And I’ve never heard anyone talk that way in a boxing gym. But actions say more than words.
There’s also a group of young, Russian boxers at my gym—real tough guys—who are kind and generous when it comes to helping out a beginner like me, a beginner who you’d think would be considered an outsider. But maybe they don’t see me that way. Maybe I’m just another boxer, which makes me one of them. If so, I am honored.
Which takes me to when I first started. I had no idea what to expect, but the opening paragraph in a recent Wall Street Journal article on boxing explains what I’ve come to learn about the sport.
The great sportswriter Budd Schulberg once remarked, “As much as I love boxing, I hate it. And as much as I hate it, I love it.” Boxing is a rough sport, which may explain why it is used so often as a metaphor for life. It requires being able to move forward, take blows, and rise from the canvas. It demands acute self-awareness and respect for others.
That is why I box.
That headline for Everlast was always one of my favorites, it’s the inspiration for the name of my blog, and now it takes on added significance. Good headlines are good because they contain an element of truth. And, at least for me, Everything You Need in Life You Learned in Woodshop & P.E. is one of those lines and boxing is one of those sports.
A friend just asked me if the sentiment behind Everything You Need in Life You Learned in Woodshop & P.E. perpetuates anti-intellectual attitudes among young men. Sure, enrollment of males in colleges and universities has declined during the past 30 years. But it’s also true over the same time period that boys participate less and less in boxing and industrial arts classes, so boxing and woodshop are unlikely to be the culprit.
Most boys no longer benefit from the experience of success or failure in the ring and at the work table, which are lessons that build the character and perseverance (along with self-respect and respect for others) needed to do well in all other fields of study as well in work and in life.
Instead, boys are playing with video games, which offer only virtual rewards. The belief that video games increase cognition is in doubt. See story. What boys need is a better foundation for life and if they can get that from boxing, woodshop or ballet, great. The important thing is that they get it.