You shut your eyes just for a moment......
As you open them you see a red glove coming directly towards your face. Before you have time to move your head the glove makes contact like a targeted missile. You are dazed, a little stunned, wondering what just happened.
Getting #punched in the face is a big fear of many people and not something that too many of us look forward to. However, if you have ever taken part in combat sports, you know there is a good chance you are going to take a hit. Initially this might scare the shit out of some people - the thought of stepping inside a ring or cage with another individual whose main goal is to try and hurt you. I like to think I am quite an extroverted character and an individual who is open to new experiences, however I can admit the first time I got inside a boxing ring to spar, I was definitely shitting my pants a little. All of a sudden you get thoughts rushing through your head…..
What if he smacks me in the head? How much is this going to hurt? Is this a good idea? Maybe I should just stick to pads?
As you get inside the ring it is too late to turn around now, just you and the opponent, no one else to rely on. Within the first minute you have taken your first hit, and to your surprise, it really wasn’t that bad! Obviously, the goal in combat sports is to hit your opponent without getting hit yourself, but both competitors are likely to take their fair share of punishment in any equal competition (unless your name is Floyd Mayweather). As someone who has been punched in the face a number of times in sparring and competition as well as the occasional mug shot outside of boxing, it is fair to say that some definitely hurt, whilst other shots you barely notice. Unfortunately for myself, I seem to have skin which bruises very easily, and doing a lot of work in youth settings it doesn't look fantastic walking around with black eyes. So why do I think getting punched has its benefits, and why would it not be that bad for us all to take a hit once or twice?
There is no doubt about it that children who participate in sports such as rugby, boxing, mixed martial arts etc. develop a hardiness of character which can be essential in later life. I am not saying that children should be breaking bones and getting beaten up every week by any means, but the odd injury or punch to the face in a controlled environment can teach us that it's really not that bad. The adversity of getting crunched in rugby or getting punched in the face in boxing might be a quite dramatic and painful experience the first time, however we quickly become desensitised and what may have once seemed like a highly stressful situation is now something we know we can overcome and is part of our sport. A significant proportion of the population that have an older sibling are likely to have experienced getting a bit of a hard time from their elders, and whilst it may have been frustrating at the time, it certainly causes you to grow up faster and learn to stick up for yourself.
As with a lot of things we are afraid of in life, it is not the actual event itself that is the problem, it is the build up to it that creates fear in our mind. I can give a few examples of this:
The first is bungy jumping, it has been one of my life long fears, and one that I conquered in 2017 in New Zealand at the infamous Nevis Bungy. Jumping off a 143m ledge into an abyss actually turned out to be the experience of a lifetime, however, the three hours prior to jumping off the cliff were so of the most nervous of my life. I spent the three hours wandering around the AJ Hackett Bungy centre, envisioning myself at the edge of the jump off and not being able to take the leap; over, and over, and over! But when it finally came down to the moment to jump, 3-2-1, whoooooa! Off the ledge I dived. It is times like this in life where it is best not to think, just do!
Although getting punched in the face in a boxing match isn't quite the same as a bungy jump, there is definitely still the element of overcoming fear, and realising that something which may have terrified you, really isn't that bad (unless you're taking a real ass whooping). To overcome our fears we must put ourselves out there, it is ok knowing that something scares us or makes us uncomfortable, but if we are ever to get over this we must tackle it head on eventually.
By taking part in a combat sport that involves getting punched in the face, you often learn a new level discipline which you may not have previously had. Furthermore, I believe it instills a level of calm and control; it is quite often those who participate in combat sports that are very laid back outside of the sport, they don’t have the desire or need to try and prove themselves. Also, whilst boxing and MMA can look very brutal at times during the competition, there is a mutual respect like no other at the end of the bout. Few things in life develop respect for another man like knowing the hard work, blood, sweat and tears he has put in to getting ready for the fight, just like you.
No matter what age you are at, try taking up a combat sport, and get in a ring to do some sparring, you may love it or you may hate it, either way its an experience you won't forget, and you'll be better for it!