What gives you away when you least expect it?
As documented previously, I’ve been doing boxing training for the last 4 years or so.
My classification is (just about) heavyweight, and whilst I certainly won’t be troubling Anthony Joshua any time soon, I do love the mix of fitness, discipline, skill and movement the sport provides.
Leaving London I knew one of the things I’d miss most were my weekly training sessions with the stern but softly spoken Paulo Muhongo. After a bit of time getting settled in New York, I joined Work.Train.Fight down in SoHo.
Rolling up there at 10am on a Sunday morning I had a feeling I was a bit rusty and the US food portions had taken their toll, but class number one was even more of an eye-opener than expected.
Under the tutelage of trainer Chris, my class partner John and I toiled on the spin bike, cranked out a few burpees and did a few shadow boxing routines to get warmed up. After 10 minutes I was drained and realising just how much one’s stamina can drop after a few weeks of relative inactivity (putting together flat-pack furniture clearly does not count as exercise, despite me trying to tell myself the opposite).
Far from being a sadistic cardio massacre though, Chris took us down a far more technical route that I anticipated.
Before we’d even got the gloves on, he was onto me – nudging the left hip back, tilting the chin, checking my feet. Observing every micro movement, what I thought was a reasonable boxing technique had been quickly deconstructed to be rebuilt almost from scratch. I was off-centre, off-balance and as of now, off the burritos.
Trying to keep my frustration in check, I took his feedback on board and got it back together again.
He threw a few encouraging words my way and then from nowhere – “hold it!”.
“Look at your reset. Look. It’s a give away, a tell tale sign.”
At first I didn’t know what he meant. I carried on what I was doing in the mirror to figure it out, and then I realised. Every time I threw a combo or even defended myself I reset back to my starting position in exactly the same way; back foot half a step back, small slide with the front foot. I could be as varied or unpredictable as I liked with what I was doing consciously, but my unconscious mind was resetting to my starting position to what felt safe, comfortable. The start position should be standard, but the route to get back there shouldn’t.
A skilled opponent would notice this and exploit it, just like a hypnotist can put someone into a trance by interrupting patterns from learned behaviours, like a handshake. The one thing I hadn’t given thought to was what would be my downfall.
It got me thinking – what other reset habits do I have in my life, and to what degree are they telegraphed?
Often these resets cause us no harm, but in which situations would having an obvious reset pattern be detrimental? Playing a board game, negotiating a business deal, writing a blog post?
And we’ve all got them. What are yours?
If you like to box, come and find me at Work.Train.Fight on Sunday mornings – I’ll be trying to reset in a way Chris hasn’t seen before.