Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Why Fighting is Important

Isn’t life a fight for all of us to one degree or another?

And we don’t win all of those fights and even the ones that we win often leave us marked up, sore and exhausted.  I box as a hobby and part of the reason I do it is because it is a metaphor for everything else I do in life.

I’ve fought for 34 years, first getting my black belt in Tae Kwon Do and then moving on to boxing. I’m glad I can defend myself and I think it is important for everyone to know how to throw a punch or kick if they have to.

But these aren’t the main reasons I fight.

I do it because it still scares me and I do it because it teaches me over and over again that I can take pain if I have to.


The more pain I can endure, the more I can get out of life. The more I can put off the immediate gratification addiction the more long-term hedonism I can enjoy. Getting hit, feeling it and dealing with it, let’s me know I am not a slave to always feeling good.

Doing what scares me over and over teaches me that I can deal with emotions I don’t like and move forward anyway.

My character, Duffy, lives by this.  He’s scared to fight but terrified of getting too old not to fight. In my-work-in-progress he’s sent in to crisis when it looks like boxing is going to be taken away from him. He knows it’s who he is not just what he does and when that’s taken from him he realizes he might not be any different than anyone else.

I judge pro boxing and last Friday I did the ESPN fights. In two of the bouts guys took beatings that no reasonable person would ever endure. When the fights were stopped by the referee both fighters complained. They wanted to keep going.

They were both bleeding from several facial lacerations and their eyes were swollen. I watched the replay of the fights and television homogenizes the brutality of the sport. Up close it’s real trauma, real blood and real hurt.

To do that willingly you have to be special. Some might even say insane.

But if you’ve done it you know that there is something intoxicating about it.

Facing what scares you and keeping on when you’re hurt is its own special high.

You don't have to fight to get this but for me it is the cleanest of the metaphors.

What do you do?


  1. Tom, I think you have a point about facing our fears and once doing that, feeling a kind of special high. All of us, to some extent, write about things that scare us internally, externally—or both.

    But I have to say I worry about brain damage when someone feels an intoxicating high when they're bruised and bleeding, and inflicting the same on another person.

    A very thoughtful post about what surely must be a complicated protaganist.

  2. I loved this post. I try to live the "what doesn't kill me makes me stronger" life too. My fears are more mundane, such as a fear of freezing to death, but I go out for cold bike rides all winter to prove to myself that I can survive it. Thanks for the reminder to be grateful that we're alive to feel the pain. Going out for another cold ride.

  3. Of course the first thing I'm thinking about boxing is all those brains snapping back and forth inside their skulls, held by slender stems. But I do like the IDEA of boxing. I was actually thinking of learning to box, just to feel myself throw a punch and make contact... with a bag. Not another person -- unless I have to.

    Nice post, Tom.

  4. Boxing holds a special fascination for writers, perhaps because of the contrast between the solitary and sedentary process of banging out a piece of writing and the physical immediacy of a fight.

    I admire boxing in the abstract, but as I get older, and see how fragile life is, I have a tougher time appreciating the violence. But I agree that facing your fears is the key to growth.

    A.S. Clarke

  5. I hate pain, any and all kinds of it. I can't watch boxing or any other fighting and see men smash each other with vicious punches. I'm a wimp. In my twenties, I practiced Shotokan karate, but as I advanced up the levels and started squaring off against black belts, I stopped. I didn't enjoy the constant contact with the floor or their delight in wiping my feet out from under me time and again. My dislike of fighting makes it harder for me to write fight scenes in my books.

    I do enjoy reading a good fight scene, although I prefer mental battles. You are right though, Tom. Life is a fight to one degree or another. I just try to minimize the pain.


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