Dispatch from the Razor's Edge, the Blog of Michael Stephen Fuchs
2008.05.12 : Is That All You Got?
"How much can you know about yourself if you've never been in a fight?"
- Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

Regular Dispatch readers may recall previously reading about me getting handed my ass. Well, lately I've switched to getting my block knocked off. That is to say, I've taken up "the Noble Art" – of boxing.

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I've been doing early morning training sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays, for about six weeks now. And, I'm here to tell you, and have been telling people in other places for some time, that it is just an enormous ass-kicker of a workout. Man. An hour of beating on pads, and bags, and mannequins, and (occasionally, sort of) other people – combined with a wildly creatively murderous regime of calisthenics (starting with, but only merely starting with, skipping rope) – pretty much leaves you a big, sweaty, destroyed pile of yourself. So, of course, I've been loving it (despite being disabused of the notion that I was already in good shape).

Well, if you followed the link above, you saw that the class I go to is pretty non-contact, and non-intimidating, and basically non-lethal. Almost no sparring, and the sparring done is extremely light. However. They also have special, longer, much-more-involving-an-actual-boxing-ring Saturday classes for the especially hard of core (and/or cool on life and/or straight facial features). I went to my first one day before yesterday.

And, let me tell you, this stuff is a lot harder than it looks. I mean, it was pretty hard before – trying to concentrate on proper technique (for each flavour of punch), plus footwork, plus breathing (that is to say, getting enough air to stay alive), plus balance, plus always reeling your hands straight back in to keep your guard up. Now try doing all that with a huge guy bearing down on you in an enclosed space and walloping the shit out of you. (Plus with a big apparatus strapped around your head and face, and a big hunk of molded plastic in your mouth.) Now that's hard. And after three two-minute rounds, I felt as tired as if I'd just done all my previous six weeks of classes back-to-back. Too tired to fall over and die. I would have had to try and catch my breath and recover some before I could die.

My first couple of rounds were pretty much a disaster. But I learned a number of extremely important lessons. Lesson number one: no matter how much you're getting the shit beaten out of you, no matter how many punches you're taking, and no matter how overwhelming the urge to do so – do not turn away from your opponent. Because all of the above will continue, and get worse, only now you can't even see any of it coming.

After that, with some slightly less formal sparring outside the ring, I'm pleased to report things only got better (they only could have). I started learning to slip punches a little bit. I started to learn to slip punches in – and that I've got a fairly quick left hand, and I can take advantage of it. And I learned to stay squared up and keep moving.

There's also a very strange psychology to all of it, I've found, as follows: It's friendly, you see, and we're all (inexperienced) amateurs, and we're all really just there to have fun. But there's simply no getting around the fact that what you're trying to do is: punch your partner in the face. And, not merely that, but you're trying to wait until he's not really looking, and then punch him in the face. Or, better yet, trick him into not looking, and then punch him in the face.

And it's even a little more complex than that: It's supposed to be light sparring, you see, and you're not really supposed to really wallop someone, especially if you get an open, straight shot, which could wreak havoc on your buddy's soft facial tissues. So you're not really going full out. The first problem with this is that it's not all that easy to punch both fast and light. And you have to punch fast if you want to get one in there without it being blocked. The second, and bigger problem, is sort of the psychology of aggression and intimidation. You realise different guys have different temperaments. For instance, I was sparring with this one really tall and big and long guy, and he had the ability, with his greater reach, to really come after me. But if I landed a couple of solid ones on him, he got a little spooked and tentative and backed off. (This was a helpful thing for me to do.) On the other hand, there were at least two different smaller, bulldoggier guys – and if I, for instance, got hit, and then ramped up my aggression and went back after them in response . . . so did they. And you'd end up in this spiraling arms race, which clearly neither party really wanted. So you had to try and achieve some kind of balance of aggression.

But, all that said, it's really good fun, and a hellacious workout – and, no denying it, it sounds cool when I tell people I'm boxing. (You also can't help but swagger when you're walking home with your headgear swinging alongside your gym bag.) With luck, I'll stick with this one for longer than I did Krav Maga (which, weirdly, was taught in the same gym, one studio over).

Sweaty Naked Post-Run Addendum: Readers of the previous dispatch will no doubt be pleased to know I'm once again sitting here naked and dripping, post-run – only this time dripping rather more, as I was forced to jump in a cold shower to cool down before taking a shower. This because it's getting properly hot out now and, moreover, I've been working in 100m wind sprints into my regular run, in an increasingly desperate bid to get fit enough that boxing doesn't routinely kick my ass twice (or thrice, now) per week . . .

  danger     exercise     music  
close photo of Michael Stephen Fuchs

Fuchs is the author of the novels The Manuscript and Pandora's Sisters, both published worldwide by Macmillan in hardback, paperback and all e-book formats (and in translation); the D-Boys series of high-tech, high-concept, spec-ops military adventure novels – D-Boys, Counter-Assault, and Close Quarters Battle (coming in 2016); and is co-author, with Glynn James, of the bestselling Arisen series of special-operations military ZA novels. The second nicest thing anyone has ever said about his work was: "Fuchs seems to operate on the narrative principle of 'when in doubt put in a firefight'." (Kirkus Reviews, more here.)

Fuchs was born in New York; schooled in Virginia (UVa); and later emigrated to the San Francisco Bay Area, where he lived through the dot-com boom. Subsequently he decamped for an extended period of tramping before finally rocking up in London, where he now makes his home. He does a lot of travel blogging, most recently of some very  long  walks around the British Isles. He's been writing and developing for the web since 1994 and shows no particularly hopeful signs of stopping.

You can reach him on .

THE MANUSCRIPT by Michael Stephen Fuchs
PANDORA'S SISTERS by Michael Stephen Fuchs
D-BOYS by Michael Stephen Fuchs
COUNTER-ASSAULT by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book One - Fortress Britain, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Two - Mogadishu of the Dead, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN : Genesis, by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN Book Three - Three Parts Dead, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN Book Four - Maximum Violence, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN Book Five - EXODUS, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN Book Six - The Horizon, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Seven - Death of Empires, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Eight - Empire of the Dead by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN : NEMESIS by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Nine - Cataclysm by Michael Stephen Fuchs

ARISEN, Book Ten - The Flood by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Eleven - Deathmatch by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Twelve - Carnage by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Thirteen - The Siege by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Fourteen - Endgame by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN : Fickisms
ARISEN : Odyssey
ARISEN : Last Stand
ARISEN : Raiders, Volume 1 - The Collapse
ARISEN : Raiders, Volume 2 - Tribes
Black Squadron
ARISEN : Raiders, Volume 3 - Dead Men Walking
ARISEN : Raiders, Volume 4 - Duty
ARISEN : Raiders, Volume 5 - The Last Raid
ARISEN : Fickisms ][ – This Time, It's Personal
ARISEN : Operators, Volume I - The Fall of the Third Temple
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