The sport of boxing provides many insights into social behavior, power, and love. As a political scientist and a woman, I am sharing my observations.
Rule 1: Control distance. Someone can’t just get up in your space and get away with it. Use your jab to keep them where you want them and establish your range. When you see their weakness while they’re trying to come in and get too close to you, strike hard and fast.
Rule 2: Every time you move, you expose a weakness. The same is true for your opponent. Observe how they move and time your reactions to catch them off guard. Make adjustments when they become accustomed to your responses, and try to be very strategic about the areas you leave yourself vulnerabe vs. the areas you leave exposed. Sometimes, sacrificing one area will open them up to be more vulnerable to a counter attack.
Rule 3: If you find yourself on the ropes, trapped in a corner, or in an otherwise hopeless situation, adjust your angle. Shift your feet to the left or the right and try to outflank them with a surprise attack from the side that they also won’t see coming. Change your stance from orthodox to southpaw. Make adjustments that make you harder to hit. The key to this is remembering that they are always, always, always more vantage points and all you need is one punch to end the fight no matter how desperate the situation may look. Just find that angle.
Rule 4: In the event of a knock-out, or if you find yourself unconscious on the floor slobbering or otherwise seeing stars, get your ass up. I repeat, get your ass up. Force your legs and body to carry you to face your opponent again. Go back to step 1 to keep your distance long enough to regain your strength and confidence, and continue the fight. Never give up. Keep moving because the moment you give up is the moment you’ve lost. It can be strategic to *pretend* to be defeated “aka rope-a-dope” in order to elicit a certain response or vulnerability from your opponent, but this is tactical rather than mental. Sometimes pretending to be weaker than your opponent can give them false confidence, which you can use to your advantage because it will make them careless and sloppy, causing them to underestimate you. This can work extremely well for you in setting up a counter-attack.
Rule 5: Study your opponent. Take the time to watch their shoulders and their feet. Assess the rhythm of their movement. Looking in their eyes is a distraction because everyone has a beautiful soul, but its the punches and footwork that will end up knocking you out. Watch out for the clear signs of danger. Learn to anticipate red flags so you can play good defense and stay out of harms way. When you see someone’s right shoulder drop, move left. When their feet switch, throw up your knee and crouch to block a left shin or body kick. Reading the eyes for emotions will only distract you from the brutal reality of the bloodsport you signed up for when you agreed to participate in a game of love and war.
Rule 6: Stay focused in the present moment. When you start to become distracted by the spectacle, expectations for your future, scars from the past, or anything other than what is right in front of you, you have disengaged from the challenge and are at your weakest. By focusing on your breathing and discipline, you will establish your own rhythm of the moment in which it is crucial that you stay. Turn off the part of your brain that is thinking about anything else except how to get out of this game alive.
Rule 7: Every encounter is not with an opponent. There are times when you find allies, and these are people with whom your are tasked with creating power. They are your teammates, your partners, your friends, your coaches. In loving engagements, power is created. In martial engagements, power is destroyed. Love and power, the two uncontrollable forces in the universe, are negotiated through careful attention to time and distance. Be smart, pick your battles wisely, and always try to know with whom you’re confronted. If you are engaging with an ally, relax a bit and open up. Smile, and enjoy the time you spend together as you teach each other how to become better game players. Many times, battles between people begin in opposition, but end in intimacy. This is the true object of any game, a win-win. Winner-take-all games (in which one person wins at the expense of the other) have no place in the world of love, and also don’t necessarily have to end in a lose-lose. Learn to evaluate the true possibilities of your engagements before you plan your power strategy, realizing that while there are both winners and losers in all games, careful communication, openness, and trust built over repeated iterations of the game can yield cooperative, mutually beneficial outcomes.
Rule 8: To achieve the optimal outcome (a win-win), there are no hard and fast rules. The more conflict can be diffused and as information between the parties increases, the likelihood for mutual benefit also increases. This is the art of war: changing a game from a win-lose or lose-lose into a win-win. There are critical junctures in which opportunities for game-changing decisions present themselves and your response will determine whether or not you can change behavior from destructive to creative.