Don’t reach for it.

When I first began boxing, I made the same mistake almost everyone makes. A jab would come at me, and despite knowing the correct form of “catching” it while using a subtle flick of the wrist, I’d reach for the punch. It’s a common mistake with beginners and sometimes experienced fighters as well. I suppose it’s because our impulse is to react in a big way when something is coming at our faces. The hand wants to “attack” back before it reaches its landing target, so to speak. Even if the mind knows better.

With time, experience, and lots of repetition, this habit is easy enough to break. Sparring helps. Muscle memory fills in the rest. But I can’t say the same when it comes to reaching -instead of the proper “catching” when it comes to life’s difficult problems.

I don’t know about you, but when I am faced with a big problem coming at me, I tend to reach for it. I want to fix it before it happens, even though my anticipation and anxiety over the problem make it worse. Admittedly, I have a tendency to ruminate. I’ve done this all my life, but didn’t think much about it until a wise coach pointed it out.

We were doing mitt work one day and over the course of the hour, I went over all the (negative) possibilities of what was likely about to happen at my job, and what I was planning to do about it. When I asked what he thought, his answer surprised me. “I think you’re reaching for the problem. Stop reaching for it,” he said flatly.

But he was right. All that time I had spent planning and orchestrating my response to a problem that had not actually occurred was a waste of energy. It may even be dangerous, at worst. And at best it solved absolutely nothing. Such a simple lesson is actually quite hard to execute for the very reason that it’s so deceptively simple. It’s the same with blocking a jab.

This coach also taught me to “organize” the punches I deflect. This basically just means that instead of catching/pawing at a punch in any way I can to block it, to also think about moving it away from me to where I want it to go. I still find this to be particularly challenging, so let me know if you’ve mastered it.

All of this makes me wonder if we can harness some of the sweet science and repurpose it in everyday life. It also makes me realize when watching a particualr fighter’s style, how s/he handles his speed, timing, and whether s/he’s more of a brawler or a back-footed, defensive fighter – you’re watching everything about that person. It’s all on display. Their personality, impulses, confidence – or lack thereof – all of it. All the more reason to build sound character.

A good place to start on that journey of a lifetime might not be in what you do, but what you don’t do. Sometimes it’s better to learn to be still, wait for what may come, and then, with a simple gesture, move it away.

2 thoughts on “Don’t reach for it.

  1. I am always in awe reading insightful narratives that encourage me to take a look at my own life .
    Many times I fear that I too have invited a problem that may not ever come to fruition.
    It is as though my need to control outweighs my wisdom to allow time to correct the “ may or may not” moments .
    Thank you for reminding me that being still is an art I often overlook. Moving forward I will remind myself of this coveted gift .

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