Pugilism: A new adventure

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Minoan youths boxing

Pugilism, more commonly known as boxing, is a brutal sport where two people must fight with their fists. In everyday life this is understandably frowned upon, but when layers are stripped and squidgy gloves are donned, a spotlight appears and an area is cleared and ringed for the amusement of the crowds.

Boxing is not only a modern game. There is much evidence pointing to ancient rituals/games involving bare-fist fighting and indeed gloved fighting; according to Wikipedia. Some of the earliest records date back to the Bronze Age Minoan civilisation of Crete (1500-900 BC), a civilisation sharing with me, possibly among other things, a love of Nike and halloumi (but Wikipedia could not shed any evidential light on that one). Mine is an unyielding love for a turquoise blue training top and the cheese excellent when grilled, theirs for the winged goddess of strength, speed, and victory and they had cows so who knows?

So after I have wrapped my hands and wrists with Lonsdale attire and pulled on one and then a second glove with my teeth (since once one glove is on it is virtually impossible I would say to get the other on without the aid of my choppers) I am baying for blood. I envisage how similar and yet different this Upper East Side luxury gym setting is from the cruel ancient world of early boxing. Legend has it, for example, that the heroic ruler Theseus, said to have lived around the 9th century BC, invented a form of boxing in which two men sat face to face and beat each other with their fists until one of them died. It is possibly less straightforward to pick out the similarities here as I jab, upper cut, hook the standing bag in front of me while Beyonce blares out of the speakers in between a few squats and a star jump or two, but they do exist. At least punching is involved. Death, less so.

Here, in the confines of the mirror bounded gymnasium, our aim is not a fight to the death, it is a fight for chizzled abs. We do not wish to destroy our fellow woman, we want to battle with our inanimate opponents alongside them, sweating profusely, and best case scenario, acquiring more toned upper arms.

Lest this needed further explanation, my new cross training regime involves Akin Williams’ Combat class. This martial arts expert is an intense trainer and even after only three sessions I am all too aware that it is probably best not to disappoint him. If I were to spend some time contemplating on what makes boxing a good and effective work out (in this setting where a bruise is rare) I would probably say it is the concentration to perform, accurately, the routines Akin demands of us. Thus essentially distracting us from the effort we put in.

Jab. Upper cut. Hook. Cross. Weave. Cross, upper cut, cross. Left kick… Right kick… Left kick. Off you go again!

One does not have time to consider how much their arms are aching. One does not have one second of free space in one’s mind to consider this to be an unhealthy volume of sweat. One does not have a moment to think about anything other than obeying the master. So one ends the hour long class devastated, physically crushed. Now one is ready for a cupcake, a long bath and a lie down while watching Steve Buscemi in “Who do you think you are?”, a step back in his ancestoral past, that does not require any input from me.

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