Buddhist boxing


Boxing may seem like a strange stop on the path to inner peace. From outside the ring, the sport resonates violence, fury and chaos. The most direct path to victory is to knock your rival into a stupor. Fat lips, black eyes and missing teeth are all part of a normal day at the office if you are a professional prizefighter.

But there is another side to boxing that has more in common with yoga, martial arts and meditation than sophisticated street brawls. Boulder happens to have a gym that blends the toughness and athleticism of the “sweet science” with the focus and control of spiritual reverie. Front Range Boxing, owned and operated by Dave Gaudette, is a shrine to low-tech, high-minded fitness.

First, let’s be clear about what we mean by “boxing.” This is the real deal, not a diluted version of boxing fundamentals modified for mass consumption.

If you step into the ring, be ready to get hit. Workouts are brutally taxing and require a high degree of focus. Even experienced athletes are quickly humbled by the ferocity of training.

Conversely, a skilled boxer must also have the coordination of a dancer and a quick ability for pattern recognition to pinpoint weaknesses in his opponent. But if you are serious about getting your fitness and mental focus to a new level, there may be no better sport.

World’s most difficult sport

Until you have tried it firsthand, it may seem like a conspiracy that boxing regularly tops many lists compiled by sports experts as the most difficult sport. True, it does not require the grinding endurance of marathon running, the twitch reflexes of connecting with a 100-mile-per-hour fastball or the finesse of driving your tee shot 300 yards down the middle of the fairway. But it has very high levels of all these skills, combined with the very real consequence of being hit hard, square in the face.

The physical and mental endurance needed for a three-minute round of boxing is unexpectedly exhausting. Even those individuals honed in triathlons are often gassed midway through a single round. There’s a lot going on in the ring. The sustained, intense focus is unlike the spurts of concentration found in sports like tennis and does not allow for zoning out, like in cycling. Coordination, footwork and the ability to take a punch all play roles in making a quality boxer. And if you buy into Gaudette’s approach, this combination is the ultimate in letting go and living purely in the moment.

A Buddhist approach

After arranging a meeting with Gaudette at Front Range Boxing, I approached the encounter with some intimidation. I am a decent athlete, but certainly no fighter. My inner pugilist has lain dormant since a flimsy high school baseball brawl. My impression of boxing gyms is that they are tough, gritty places where eye contact is reserved for the nastiest, burliest dudes.

Yet, mere steps after walking through the door, my palpable tension was eased. The handful of boxers slugging away at heavy bags or shadow boxing in the ring were friendly and unpretentious. As it turns out, these are two of the requirements to be part of Gaudette’s gym. When he came out to greet me with a wide smile and a friendly handshake, my reservations melted away. He stands about 5 feet, 10 inches, and is built like a bull. He looks much younger than his 60 years, with a boyish aura that belies his dedication and devotion to boxing.

Gaudette’s pedigree is legit. After taking up the sport in 1967, he earned the New Hampshire Lightweight Championship in 1969 and the Southern New England Junior Welterweight Championship in 1971. He takes his philosophy just as seriously, earning a master’s degree in comparative East/West philosophy from the University of Colorado.

“Boxing and Buddhism really go hand in hand,” explains Gaudette. “It gives you strength and confidence without pride. It makes you strong but keeps you humble.”

Beyond physical fitness, boxing helps reduce stress and gives even the most peaceful practitioners knowledge of how to defend themselves in extreme situations.

“My goal isn’t to make bullies tougher,” Gaudette says. “My gym is here to give people an outlet to find balance and get stronger in the process.”

The myriad of inspirational stories, quotes and images posted throughout the gym support this notion.

The ultimate cross training

Those who aspire to spar in the ring are more than welcome to, but many of the athletes in Gaudette’s gym are there just for the workouts. Technique and safety are emphasized, and custom programs are available. Cross-training athletes have seen tangible improvements in their respective sports, including triathlons, rock climbing, mountaineering, baseball, marathons and mountain biking — and few of these individuals are driven for glory in the ring. They are there to boost self-confidence, channel inner discipline and, for many, learn a new and fun skill that has a way of radiating into other facets of competition.

And after a few visits and a one-on-one session with Gaudette, I can attest to being more focused, certainly wellworked and possibly a bit enlightened.

For more information, visit www.frontrangeboxing.com or call 303-546- 9747.

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