Blood, sweat and tears

My face suffered heavily, my pride even more.

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger - or at least leaves you with a mouthful of blood and a couple of gashes above your eye. The first time I had my face opened up in the ring at the Jerusalem Boxing Club was as important a rite of passage as my first kiss or pint of beer. Love it or hate it, boxing's allure has stood the test of time, appealing to the base instincts of boys and girls alike who are tempted under the ropes and onto the canvas stage. Each second spent dodging punches in the ring is an adrenaline-fueled roller coaster ride. Pupils dilate, eyes dart in every direction in anticipation of the next jab. It's hard to imagine as exhilarating a situation. After a grueling one-hour circuit training session in the airless club, the ensuing sparring sessions are a welcome reward for boxing devotees. I trained three times a week at the club, marvelling at the dedication of the more serious students. I soon realized there was no reason I shouldn't put in the same effort as those around me. The rigorous warm-up seemed a chore at first, especially for those itching to lace up their gloves and duck into the ring, but soon came to feel as important an exercise as the fighting itself. Practicing combinations on the heavy punch bags was the hardest part of the evening since there was no danger in the activity - and hence no adrenaline surge to carry me through the workout. However, once it was time to wind the tape around our hands and fit our mouth guards over our teeth, all the hard work seemed worthwhile. I took a hammering at the beginning as I barely knew where to hide as I was pummelled by a flurry of well-rehearsed punches. My face suffered heavily, my pride even more. But as the weeks wore on, I grew in confidence and with that came an ability to make my own impact on the fight. I drew my opponents' blood as they did mine, and, anomalous as it may seem, the whole experience was thoroughly pleasurable. When the trainer's cry to cease fighting came, my opponent became my friend again - from combatant to fellow student in the blink of an eye. That's what it's all about: Immersing yourself in the moment as soon as you step into the ring, putting all your best moves into practice and coming out again on the other side feeling you gave it your all. This is why - regardless of the pain and the cuts across your face - the fighting's visceral pleasure is worth all the blood, sweat and tears.