"This isn't boxing. This is life."

Written by Cole Schafer

Over the past two weeks, I've noticed my body change and with it, my mind, as I've thrown myself headfirst into the bold, beautiful and brutal world of boxing, Muay Thai and Krav Maga.

I can see these changes in the floor-to-ceiling mirror that runs the length of the gym where I train.

Arriving in the evenings, when the sun is just beginning to make its descent, I begin by wrapping my hands to protect their knuckles and their wrists from the punches I will soon throw and jab and thrust.

I catch myself taking my time, getting lost in the wrapping as if it's a meditation, recognizing that it will be my last moment of solace for some time.

Once the wrapping is complete, I squeeze my hands into fists, two, maybe three times to make sure I haven't wrapped them too tightly, knowing from experience that if I'm overzealous, I will cut off the circulation and my hands will begin to cramp just a dozen punches in.

From here, I grab a jump rope, shake out my legs and arms like a bird fresh out of water and then I swing the rope over my head and under my feet, again and again, building momentum.

As the jump rope kisses the ground and kicks up tiny gusts of air, it makes the sound of a snake whispering beneath my feet.






I make sure not to step on it as I scan my body in the mirror in front of me.

My forearms have become denser with the constant clutching of my gloves and my shoulders and my biceps a bit more defined. I can see the muscles in my neck, some. Having never seen them before, I am surprised.

I've been a voracious runner for the past three or four years but my voracious eating has always left me with some excess fat caked to my bones.

But, now, as I watch my legs in the mirror, it appears the fat has begun to melt off of them some. It's very likely just a very forgiving mirror.

The buzzer sounds. I drop the rope. Coach Tramaine helps me slip on my gloves and motions me to follow him to a water bag that hangs from the ceiling like an upsidedown party ballon.

He starts the clock for 3-minutes and immediately lists off combinations.

"One. Three. Six."

"Two. Six. Three."

"Five. Six. Two."

When I fuck up a combination, confusing one punch with another, he quickly lists the same combination again, so I can right my wrong.

"Five. Six. Two."

In boxing, if you're right-handed, a "one" is your left jab, a "two" is your right cross, a "three" is your left hook, a "four" is your right hook, a "five" is your left uppercut and a "six" is your right uppercut.

So, when coach Tramaine is telling me he wants a "One. Two. Three. Four. Six." he's, in not so many words, telling me he wants me to jab with my left hand, rifle a hard cross with my right hand, throw a hook with my left, another hook with my right hand and, finally, an uppercut with this same right hand.

This final same-arm hook/uppercut combination is how Mike Tyson would knock so many people out back in the day.

He would smash a violent right hook into their ribcage, this would cause them to drop their left elbow in pain and this dropping of their elbow would expose a wide-open highway to their chin.

Tyson would then travel the length of this highway at an alarming speed and force with his right hand, and he'd send his opponent's chin through the ceiling, knocking him to the floor.

Throughout our session, I throw hundreds and hundreds of punches and at the end of it, my shoulders and my biceps ache as if I have gone twelve rounds with Tyson or Ali.

(I recall having read somewhere that even when someone had won a fight against Ali, they woke the following day so badly hurt they couldn't lift their arms in celebration; that he hit so goddamn hard that while in their minds they may have won, their bodies kept a different score...)

At the end of our session, Coach Tramaine and I flirt with the idea of me fighting in an actual match. He taps his head with his hands...

"You don't need to fight. You need to protect that brain of yours."

He smiles. I nod in agreement. He continues...

"In fact, just write about it instead. Start talking to us fighters. We all have stories. In between these stories write about what you're learning in here. This isn't boxing. This is life. There's plenty to write about."

On my way home from yesterday's lesson, a guy in a hurry, frustrated at me for driving too slow, pulled up beside me in a souped-up Supra, flashing me a terrible glare. He then sped up ahead of me and cut me off at the light.

I remember continuing my drive completely unphased, refusing to allow his momentary act of rage to penetrate through the window of my car and into the sanctuary of my mind.

I had nothing to prove. I had nothing to answer him with. I had no interest in sharing in his rage. I was at peace. Or, something close to it.

Perhaps, because I had gotten all of my anger out on the bag.

Perhaps, because I knew if it came down to it and this troubled soul meant me harm, I knew I had a right leg being constructed by a 3x World Champion Kickboxer on Wednesdays... fists being forged by a professional boxer on Tuesdays and Thursdays... and elbows and knees being sharpened by a 16-year Krav Maga practitioner on Saturdays and Sundays.

And, I suppose this is where the life aspect of fighting that Coach Tramaine was talking about comes in: as I'm realizing I can hurt someone, I don't want to hurt anyone. I don't want to hurt anything.

Yesterday, I helped a stink bug that had found its way into my car outside of it and I let the pissed-off Supra drive on by.

But, I digress.

By Cole Schafer.

P.S. You might also like this piece I wrote… I’m living my own f***** version of Fight Club.