I’m not sure I should include boxing in a blog about mental health. After attending a training session this evening I was told by my psychologist friend that due to a quirk of evolution the brain moves about too much when you get punched in the head (as you tend to do in a boxing match.) And there is this unfortunate jagged part inside the skull that rubs against the brain tissue, and causes a particular type of boxer’s dementia.
He works with dementia patients so he knows his brains. I might ask my boxing coach what he makes of that. I reckon he would say- Keep your guard up, and try not to get hit in the head too much.
I’m a million miles away from hitting anybody in the ring yet though. I think I need a lot of footwork training, and the ability to remember which is the right hand and which is the left, when you can no longer feel your arms. This seems like a basic requirement before I get anyway near enough to a man to let him punch me in the face.
I learned tonight that punching a bag one hundred times is really hard work. I could feel the weaknesses in my arms, and wrists, and that was interesting. I learned my core strength also needs a lot of work. Interestingly this is the most anaerobic work out I do in my week. In case you haven’t worked it out by now, I am attempting to fix myself Mens sana in corpore sano- Which means a healthy mind in a healthy body. And part of that is by doing things that connect me to my body, as I have felt so dissociated for a year and a half, I figure good habits formed now, will help me in the future if I start to deteriorate at any point. There are many codes that advocate a healthy life, for a healthy mind, and many of them share the ideal of discipline, and the ability to come to terms with hardship. It’s funny how hitting a bag one hundred times can make you think of Jesus, telling his disciples to take up their cross, or the Buddhist ideal of self-forgetfulness. It’s not so surprising that I have been looking at the warrior codes of Bushido, or the embracing of hardship espoused by Greek Stoics, (Derren Brown’s Happiness talks about the stoics at length. And just before I wrote this blog, I had a conversation about the existentialists, like Viktor Frankl, who survived Auschwitz and wrote the most beautiful book of hope, from his experiences there, or Camus, and Satre, who taught us that we create our own bonds if we follow the crowd, and that freedom begins in the mind. We can be free in our minds, even when put to the hangman’s rope.
Now, the last example is problematic. It is after all easy for two rich, famous french philosophers to make this argument about freedom beginning in the mind, and I wonder if they would have still made this case, if they knew they were going to spend a lifetime working for a dollar a day, or scavenging on toxic rubbish tips, for something to sell, or spent their childhood mining silicate, so that Westerners can have shiny sparkles in their makeup. It looks nice though doesn’t it? That sparkly makeup.