Regarding Perspective, Boxing
I was going to reflect on what I've been doing for the last few days but I felt that I was veering away from the sort of topics on which I'd like to concentrate. I'd like to write a lot less about me
, than about other things
. I'm often led away from this goal by my style of writing, which I find unfortunate. "Formal" is the word I'd like associated with the vocabulary I make use of and the ways I put grammar to work for me, possibly accompanied by "terse", focusing on the "effective" component of this word, though I would perhaps do well to concentrate more on the "short". Secretly, I would also settle for "old-fashioned".
However, my ambitions in this regard are somewhat stunted by my inability to escape from a personal perspective. I am, of course, quite capable of writing without asserting how statements relate to me, but I don't particularly like it. It feels somehow less truthful to produce writing which is "disembodied" from me. All writing, except the algorithmically generated, is a product of someone and a product of their perspective. It seems rather disingenuous to me to write as though that's not true. I feel the need to take responsibility for my claims as products of myself and my beliefs and goals, rather than posit them as disembodied facts.
I see this as a byproduct of a certain sort of intellectual hygiene; it is the inverse of the act of remembering to evaluate one's sources of information. Everything you read, from a scholarly paper to the packaging of products, was written by someone
for a reason
: this is important to keep in mind. Thus, I try to remain present
in my writing.
Onward: Boxing. I am somewhat fascinated by it. I can't say I'm a boxing fan
, because the things that go along with that are not true of me. I don't know who beat who and when. What limited experience I have had with boxing has rendered it an intriguing subject. I've truly "boxed" only once before, though even that is questionable because I was unsure of how serious my opponent was and the "match" ended in a single blow that left me with a small concussion. Let this not be an indicator that I am unfamiliar with combat. I practiced a certain brand of Northern Shaolin Kung Fu for a while and I've very loosely kept in practice in the years since I discontinued my training. However, sparring is very different from boxing in a number of ways, which I think directly translate into the differences between boxers and other martial artists.
To begin with, sparring is very much more like play
as I understand it. The "play" in sparring functions equally through the various senses of the word. Sparring is very obviously a game of sorts, like a sort of forceful asynchronous version of tag
. Additionally, I always felt that sparring had a certain amusing, experimental quality to it, that is characteristic of play. My opponent and I found the ways in which our bodies could interact with one another, given our styles and capabilities, and the nature of the rules of sparring. In this way it's like a conversation. We are both versed in a language of movement, though our vocabularies may differ slightly and certainly our grammar
does. We construct sentences of movement with one another, reacting to the tone of the other's stance and the well placed points they've composed out of the punches, kicks and blocks that are the linguistic units of our playful violence. We try to guide the conversation in the direction we'd like.
I've found that it's become very hard for me to associate the idea of violence with the type of fighting I do when I practice martial arts. Boxing is largely different. It's very clear that violence is a part of boxing, though it's a very strange, selective sort of violence. It obviously acknowledges the methods of violence, or at least a symbolic cross-section of them, and it does seem to acknowledge the psychological feeling of power
that is an important component of the acts of violence, but it does not (often) acknowledge the component of emotional malevolence
that has traditionally motivated intentional personal violence. I imagine that this is actually common, that societies other than my own, perhaps significantly less industrialized ones, have many forms of ritualized combat which are actually quite violent, however I can't help but see this as a metaphor for much of my own society. Men (and women) are made opponents of one another by the system they participate in, not due to any specific personal animosity between one another or often even a tangible conflict of resources. Boxing fascinates me because it is violence for the sake of itself as a cultural structure. On this subject, I could write very much more than most people would enjoy reading. Alas, I feel that the link between boxing
has probably been thoroughly explored before.
What really interests me about boxing is the technique
of it. There's a pattern I'm noticing among things that I love, that boxing fits. It's the use of constraint to more thoroughly and creatively explore a possibility space
. I don't mean this in the "let's see if I can write a novel while omitting a single letter" sense, though that sort of thinking has produced some interesting works. I mean defining a very particular domain within which to conduct a series
of investigations regarding the possibilities of expression within that domain. I don't know exactly why the idea of a series of investigations is important to me, though I get a certain iterative
feeling from the things that I indicate are illustrative of this concept. It is perhaps linked with the idea of the process of exploration of the possibility space rather than a single foray into it, the development of techniques in doing so and the recognition of patterns within the space you are working in, which often result from the shape of the space that is created through constraint. Particularly, I find that there's a point where a certain balance is found, based on the nature of the constraint.
This is why I enjoy the solo piano works of the various composers more than their orchestral work, it's why I enjoy Orchid's Dance Tonight! Revolution Tomorrow!/Chaos Is Me so much, and to a large extent, why I embrace certain forms of modern art so much. It's why I like boxing. It seems to me that there's a fine line between something that can be studied as a science, something that can be charted by rigorous study, mathematically modeled with combinatorics, and something that is deep in the domain of art, something impossible to map out or even comprehend without a deep experiential appreciation of the elusive patterns within it. Along this phase change, there are fields with properties of both the scientific and the artistic: they are limited in scope enough to allow for a manageable study of them without the possibility of a complete statement of their entire space of possibility.
Boxing as it's surely been said before, is both an art and a science. The possibility space of movement is quite constrained compared to most martial arts: you can't use your legs and you can't grapple effectively, or use locks or throws or any of the fancy stuff. What this means is that the space that consists of what you can
do can be studied in a much more methodical way. The repercussions of the rules of boxing change the topology of that space to make certain things effective, collections of behaviors can be sequentially linked to make strategies and styles. Some game-theoretical variant of the no-free-lunch theorem operates on the space, preventing one style from dominating all the others (though some have come close).
You can study the topology of the space, but you can't entirely map it out. It's impossible to work out every single style of boxing and if you could find some mostly optimal strategy, how would you teach it? The practice of boxing is one that retains the qualities of an art form. It is essentially imperfectible, and a large component of it is intellectually unassailable. It has to be experienced to be learned because the patterns of it are deeper and more subtle than can easily be expressed. You can know a lot about how to box but you can't box if you don't have the feeling
That is what I like about boxing.