The poetry of pain

Your fist slams into the bag with the sound of a man beating a bloody corpse with a stick. Again and again you try to build speed and ferocity as the heavy bag absorbs the best you have. It makes no judgement, it accepts all strikes and defies you to try harder. The fighter, the boxer, the mentally prepared, take heavy bag work seriously, although it takes everything you have it also gives back in invisible spades.

Each strike saps your energy and yet manages to increase your power. The top and bottom bag may frustrate the eye, but the heavy bag is where your visualisation, speed and power all come together. To stand in front of that bag without visualisation is to have only half a workout. You must see your opponent, imagine them crumpling under your punches, wincing in pain. As you smash the bag you can see the ribs breaking under your fists, like ‘Rocky’ attacking a side of beef and then Apollo Creed. Crack, snap and crack again. Body – head, head – body. Take the body and the head will fall; as boxers are taught to do.

What of the head? The control centre, where all pain is registered and all ideas form. Rapidly the hook travels from the body to the jaw. You take a step to the left, just slightly, and the hand flies up from the body crashing into where the jaw would be. You can imagine your hand destroying the face like a baseball bat: spraying teeth and fracturing the jaw or you catch him higher up scrambling his brains and destroying the message to the brain that says ‘stand up’. In your mind his body collapses and you continue to strike; when the body no longer moves then you will stop.

The seconds tick down and you move around the bag, seeing the opponent and looking for an opening. The jab whips out, rocking the head back. The cross is almost as fast, but harder, followed by two hooks, one to the body and the crashing blow to the head. Can you hit harder? Can you hit faster? Energy reserves are not important: this is all about doing the job; harder, faster, smash, crash, destroy. Your hands move in a rhythm and the bag sings the song of the victor. With speed, power and accuracy; you will not lose to someone who doesn’t train. The clock sounds the end of the two minute round. You rest for a minute and go again. UFS heavy bag

Seeking greater imagination: remembering Tyson, Sonny Liston. Roberto Duran, two Sugar Ray’s and the king of them all: Muhammed Ali. Even Tyson admitted that Ali was a killer. A surgeon of the square ring, hacking, cutting and chopping men down. You strive to emulate them all, but how? Through hard work and good coaching, but most of all dedication and perspiration. You have to want the prize. Many claim to, but most pay only lip service to the task. A thousand promises collapse in one series of exercises and a quick, fast run. Without commitment you have nothing and inside you know it. You must try harder, you will never give up. The sound of the buzzer brings you back to the task at hand. One more round, sweat drips down your back and off your hair. And then it is over.

All of you, given to the bag. Black and tall, arrogant, but silent. It views your efforts with scorn, but reminds you to pay it a visit again. You must improve every time. Stronger, harder, better, faster. You walk away, now calm. Your heart rate returns to normal and the aggression inside has gone. Now silent, peaceful, the black outside contrasting with the light inside, you strip your gloves off and take a towel to wipe yourself down. Just the sound of the gentle to and fro of the bag as the energy fades. The light goes off and inside a phrase comes to mind: the poetry of pain.