Hands up, chin down

I visited a remarkable place this week in my travels. It is a boxing gym that works with inner city kids who are involved in gangs and gang culture. Although this will sound like a cliche from an 80’s movie the first thing I noticed was that while every building around the gym was tagged with graffiti, the gym was clean. The gym is a color-free zone where skin and set color are irrelevant and the only currency is hard work.

One of the coaches told me about being locked up when he was young, how week after week this guy from the gym would visit him, relentless in his message that he could help him be somebody else, somebody better. He said he resisted until he began to miss the dude when he didn’t come around, and he would think about what he had said. He described the moment that he just grabbed onto that message and that hope and said okay, I will do whatever you ask. That was years ago and now he is the coach, he is the one who is relentless.

216 adolescent boys and girls work out there. The coaches and trainers don’t ask a lot of questions about past as they are future-oriented people. The strategy is work out, do your homework, eat right. The walls are covered with pictures of their fighters, some of them amateur champions on their way to the pros. Everywhere you see their messages, “Elbows in, hands up, Chin down” and “Will you answer the bell?”

I think to myself, “I’m damn sure trying.”


10 Responses to Hands up, chin down

  1. The only real freedom any of us have is the freedom to choose what we will think about ourselves, others and our circumstances. I like these folks style. It always comes down to who do you want to be and do you believe you can be that person. It helps to have people who believe in you being that person. May all encourage someone today!

  2. Despite the fact that I think that humans hitting each other with as much power as they can is just somehow wrong, this sounds like good advice. Especially answering the bell.

  3. I used to think boxing was awful, too, until I took boxing lessons for a year in Dallas. It wasn’t cardio boxing, it was actual boxing and it was awesome. Definitely more to it than I realized.

    This gym sounds wonderful.

  4. I’m an old-line, pointy-headed Lefty, and thus not a big fan of violence, myself. Working all day for two years with underserved adolescents has taught me the beauty of what higher-minded folks in my field call “harm reduction.” In other words: They could be gang-banging or selling drugs. And likely would be.

    I wonder if they want to open a branch in the town I work in.