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Adopting a Warding Gait

I have been in almost a thousand fights, including stick, machete and boxing. I found early on, in my teens, that one must relax before a fight or gas out quickly. Knowing that I always relaxed after getting hit in the head or face, until age 27, I would intentionally eat a power punch to get into the groove. Since that time I have evolved to a defensive-minded fighter and coach.

By age 32 I had become accustomed to entering trance prior to combat. By age 40 I would find myself nodding off to sleep before a fight, bringing the benefit of relaxation wich aids fluidity of motion, increases power, conserves energy and helps reduced the effect of getting hit.

I now have an unconscious warface, the relaxed body and emotionally washed out face often seen in prefight stare-downs. Some stare-downs are feature piercing eyes, some an actively relaxed person, some a relaxed commitment to the imposition of will, a few clowning, all a loosening of social chains and a harnessing of something purely lethal.

The most important thing about prize-fighting arts in terms of self-defense and survival is the ability to sink into a warface, just to wash yourself out of the human race and become an uncaring weapon at a moment’s notice.

I came to realize this Monday past, when I walked around the churchyard—which was undergoing renovations—and into my favorite alley in Baltimore. The alley between Brannen’s Pub and the oxygen supply company building is slightly wider than my shoulders, and would necessitate a slanted gait for a big, broad-shouldered mean.

As I turned down the alley, half limping, tired, head splitting, right hand frozen half shut, I immediately relaxed, felt fantastic, felt like a fighter again; I had instinctively stepped into my warface, as this is an uncompromising artery in Hamilton, a narrow tunnel where bad things are meant to come to pass.

I love this alley, feel like a hunter every time I step into it, feel like I can taste the last moments of my life among these degenerate beasts…

I have wondered often why walking into this alley, dark even by day, has always had such a transformative effect on me. Just as my aches and pains and infirmities disappear while fighting or sparring, they wash away here too.

I don’t understand this magic place of mine, this stone slot of rejuvenation, this time portal back to my physical prime.

But the further I journey from my prime to my end time, I feel it the stronger.

I do not understand this, have no desire to, suspect self-examination might ruin this magic.

I do know where it comes from, where it was cultivated: standing in front of Redds as he smeared my face with petroleum jelly, laced my gloves and pleaded with me to avoid at least one punch—the both of us knowing that Joey was going to beat my face in. It was born there, in the furnace room of the Washington, PA YMCA, in my tiny brain, when it realized that I would never be the next Roberto Duran, that I would remain a punch-catching dunce among boxers—and realized as well, that my better, Joey was scared to death of me, the little welterweight who wouldn’t stop coming.

Somehow the dichotomy of those two realizations gave birth to something in me that made me sleepy in every fight to come and culminated in my greatest achievement as a stick-fighter, being KO’d by the very best among us, men who could have contented themselves with shutting me out on points, but who looked into my lesser eyes and were—every time—driven to destroy me.

So, that dark, dreaming place in my faulty mind that chased Joey, caused Aaron to kick me into the second row, that warded off the point man of that crew on Middle River Bridge last month, and which made me feel immediately monstrous stepping into that one-man wide alley three days gone is my takeaway from boxing, the arena in which I found my warface, the face that paints itself.

I dare not domesticate it, so fail as a coach here, in explaining it.

I do suggest you find it in one of those arenas where it is commonly found among men and combine it in your waking life with an evasive vigilance, not an aggressive, outgoing posture.

Mirko Crocop vs Wanderlei Silva staredown

Boxing Staredowns

Everyone has their own style, with Tyson’s probably the cleanest. As you can see, those who talk can’t keep from pulling the trigger too soon. Don’t talk. Done properly, the staredown before a bout is an act of internalization [Silva, above used it to link his mind and body], not external expression and helps the fighter sink into his trance while focusing on his objective, and is supposed to relax.

Being a Bad Man in a Worse World

Fighting Smart: Boxing, Agonistics & Survival

Add Comment
seventeen17October 28, 2017 11:12 AM UTC

A good novel about rage, shapeshifting and martial arts is The Kundalini Equation by Steven Barnes. The author used to write for Black Belt Magazine back in the !980s. Amazon quotes :

"Adam Ludlum has always been an underachiever. Then, as his father lays dying and his girlfriend gives him one final chance to shape up, Adam determines to take control of his life."

"While early changes in Adam's fitness and physical strength seem positive, as his abilities grow Adam finds himself unable to control his anger or his reactions. He has gained superhuman powers—and become a fugitive from the law as well as the focus of a sinister cult."

Out of print in paperback, but available on Kindle :
seventeen17October 26, 2017 11:30 PM UTC

When you write "trance" and "warface" it reminds me of Somafera, "the body wild". There is quite a lot of info about fighting in a trance, both from various ancient cultures and the guy's own modern experiences at

As for boxing, Mike Tyson is my favorite fighter. Well, him and Marvin Hagler. Tyson's staredown with Peter McNeeley is one of those I can watch over and over again. The controlled intense determination in Tyson's eyes is just awesome.
responds:October 27, 2017 10:10 AM UTC

The very first illustration of men boxing indicates that they did so to the beat of a spirit drum.

Thank you so much for the fascinating link.
ShepOctober 26, 2017 3:33 PM UTC

Then he said: "Right foot, hospital. Left foot cemetery."
PROctober 26, 2017 3:15 PM UTC

I met Crocop on an elevator in the Mandalay Bay in Vegas one time. I told him how much I missed Pride. He smiled and said, "Pride was a good time."