boxing and spirituality

Boxing and the Bible: On becoming a disciple.

Training to become a great fighter is more than just putting in the work at the gym. You also have to study your craft by listening to your trainer, watching other fighters, sparring, and perhaps most of all, learning from your mistakes. All of these things make you a student of boxing. But if you want to become the best at something, just being a good student isn’t enough. To become a GOAT, you must first become a disciple.

The word disciple is the root word of discipline. Disciple, in its general definition, means a student or adherent of a teacher or master through the act of discipline. It also means, of course, to be a follower of Jesus. Taken this way, it’s important to note that Jesus’ followers, or disciples, didn’t just watch, listen, and learn from Jesus. They didn’t only write down his words and follow his counsel, although they did both of those things. But they went far beyond that.

The disciples actively strived to be more like him through a daily practice of self-discipline and self-sacrifice. They were students of the teachings of Jesus, but they became disciples because of the desire burning in their hearts to sacrifice their own lives for their one and only savior. The 12 disciples were chosen by Jesus because of their willingness to surrender to Him, and to be disciplined without losing heart, or faith. It was their faith that kept the men going, and it was through faith that they gained knowledge, wisdom, and ultimately, eternal life.

’So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.’’ – Luke 14:28-33

A student of boxing will learn how to box by learning the ropes, the footwork, and the offensive and defensive skills required to fight. Those skills are all crucial, but a disciple will learn all of that, and much more. A disciple is willing to give up many things in order to become who he is meant to be. That means long days, hard work, and not very much fun sometimes. It means staying in when you’d rather go out. Eating grilled chicken and broccoli when you’d rather eat pork belly tacos (my personal favorite). It means developing self-control, and a sound mind. Becoming a good disciple also means being ready and willing to make many mistakes, and then learning how to fix them. It is a life-long commitment to a way of life.

Ultimately, the goal of this level of commitment shouldn’t end with you and your achievements. After all, we were all made in God’s image, and put on this Earth to serve a mission. If we view our lives through that lens, the paramount goal becomes to pass on what we have learned to others, just as the disciples of Christ shared the good news throughout the land.

In the book of Matthew, when Jesus delivers his sermon on the mount, He calls his followers “the salt of the Earth.” This means we are here to “season” the Earth with our faith, set a good example, teach others, and live our lives as living testimonies to Christ. What if we apply the same principles to boxing as well? If all men are both spiritual and physical beings, this way of approaching boxing and life, of aligning the physical and metaphysical, the body and spirit – is surely a powerful combination.

French author Charles DuBois once wrote, “The important thing is this. To be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become.”