Imposing One's Will

I'm a hobbyist boxer. I don't compete but I enjoy training and I like to spar. My boxing ability could be accurately described as "not bad...for a 37 year old accountant."

This morning, early, I was sparring with a guy named Plinio. So Plinio is probably 80 lbs lighter than me, and despite being 15 years younger than me, he has been boxing for likely 15 years longer than I have. Plinio is good.

When you box there are a couple ways you can get beat. The first is to get hit hard in the face and body. This hurts. After a while you don't want to get hit anymore. So you cover up, don't attack, and your opponent, sensing this starts bombing you with hooks and crosses that you are blocking, but it doesn't matter. It still hurts. You're toast.

The second is how Plinio beats me. He moves constantly, relaxed, in rhythm, no wasted energy. He moves his feet well and sets up angles. Once set up he attacks those angles in creative ways. I'm more of a one two guy. Plinio throws shovel hooks that look like uppercuts and uppercuts that look like shovel hooks, mistaking the one for the other is a great way to get hit hard in the stomach or chin. He jabs well. He counters with a right hand that is very fast when I drop my left.

So when we start sparring I can sort of stay with him. I'll eat a jab or two, but with good concentration I can move my head, work a jab to keep him at distance, press him by moving forward, and it's a competitive fight. But that level of concentration is very hard to maintain. As I get tired, the angles are harder to see, it's harder to move out of the way, and even with a smaller opponent, a lapse in concentration gets you hit hard. When I lose to Plinio it's because I'm mentally worn out from the effort of seeing his angles, reacting appropriately and not losing concentration.

So which way, a more straight forward and brawling style that wears down an opponent physically or a style with difficult angles, footwork and timing fits the definition of imposition of will? To my mind, when you're on the losing end of it, it doesn't much matter. But I want to highlight something. Will is in the mind. There was a moment fighting Plinio when I said, "damn it I just can't see this, I don't know where it's coming from, I don't know how to move to prevent it, I don't want to be in this fight anymore." None of it happened from being punched hard....well not much of it.

Kirby Smart talks about imposing will and breaking the will of an opponent. I think he is absolutely right about this. But I would suggest that deploying an offense that forces an opponent to concentrate, make difficult decisions under stressful conditions, and fatigues the mind as much as the body is a better way to impose one's will than physical brute force. Roberto Duran was one of the world's toughest human beings. No could physically beat him into quitting. But by fighting in a style that confused, frustrated, and ultimately humiliated Duran, Sugar Ray Leonard imposed his will on that fight. He became legendary. If you're not familiar with the ending Duran, in a fight that was still very close, quit after the eighth round. Famously (possibly apocryphally) saying two words that I suggest Kirby Smart say about the offense we call Man Ball: No Mas.

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