On Taking a Punch

by A Manly Guest Contributor on July 26, 2013 · 64 comments

in A Man's Life


Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Billy Coffey.

Four years ago…

It started the way most good stories do, over lunch with a friend. This particular friend was named Charlie, an iron-fisted brawler disguised as a nerdy engineer who worked in the building next to mine.

“You should stop by tonight,” he said. “Great workout. It’ll make a man out of you.”

“I’m already a man,” I answered.

Charlie nodded and said, “Maybe. You ever been punched?”


He put his fork down, looked me in the eye, and said, “A man never knows what he’s made of until he gets punched.”

I didn’t know what that meant, but it sounded philosophical enough to get my attention. “I’ll be there,” I told him.

All true boxing gyms are located in much the same place — the nearest poor neighborhood of the nearest city (you’ve seen Rocky III, right?). Which made getting there from the quiet confines of the country an adventure in itself. Charlie had warned me that the gym was much more old school than new, and he was right. There was no heat, no air, and no bathroom. There was merely a ring, several punching bags, dirty mirrors for shadowboxing, and a bucket to throw up in when the trainers pushed you that far. Written in bright red letters above the ring were the words “JESUS SAVES.”

It was, in a word, perfect.

I met with Charlie, the fighters who were warming up, and the trainers. “Gotta hand it to you,” the head trainer said. “Takes stones to show up the first time on sparring night.”

“Sparring night?” I asked. I looked at Charlie, who had looked away. I could see the smile on his face, though.

“You’re gettin’ in the ring, right?” the trainer asked me.

Gettin’ in the ring? No, I was not gettin’ in the ring. I was not stupid.

“Yeah, I’m gettin’ in,” I said. Because macho manliness trumps stupidity every day of the week and twice on Thursday.

“Good,” the trainer said. “You can get in with me, then.”

Charlie looked at me with a look that was part humor and part “Oh, boy.”

“What?” I asked him.

“Nothing,” he said. “You’ll be fine.”

I stared at him.

“He won Tough Man last year,” he confessed. “But don’t worry.”

Don’t worry. Famous last words of rednecks everywhere. On par with, “Hey ya’ll, watch this!”

So. Into the ring.

Charlie adjusted my headgear and said, “Move. Don’t forget that.”

I nodded.

“And keep your hands up. Block and punch. Make your defense offense.”

I nodded again.

He checked my gloves and wiped them against his T-shirt. “And for the love of God Almighty, keep your chin down. You expose that chin, and you’re a goner.”

“I ain’t goin’ down,” I said, and smiled to prove it. “So what is this, sparring or more?”

Charlie looked across the ring, paused, and said, “He’ll let you know. And wipe that smirk off your face. This will not be fun for you.”

“What makes you think—”

And that’s all I managed to say. I was silenced by Charlie shoving my mouthpiece in and yelling, “Time!”

We met in the center of the ring (“Hands up,” Charlie shouted. “Move…move!”), touched gloves, and nodded to one another.

I’d taken plenty of martial arts, and sparring in a dojo was very controlled and normally done at half-speed. But this wasn’t a dojo, and I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do.

“So,” I said to the trainer, circling him, “what am I—”


He threw a jab that managed to sneak between my headgear and connect with my nose. And it was not at half-speed. It was so fast I didn’t see his hand until he was pulling it away from my face.

“Move!” Charlie shouted.



“Don’t stand there, do something!”

Boxing is controlled violence. It is technique. It is the mastery of punches and angles that are honed to precision by countless hours of training. Anger won’t get you through ten rounds in the ring.

It will, however, get you through one. Because when that right cross snuck through my headgear and cut my eye, I got mad. Very mad.

He threw another jab, but I slipped it to the left and threw a hook into his side and another to the side of his head. His eyes widened a bit, and Charlie yelled, “Yes! Stick and move! Thirty seconds!”

I learned that night that thirty seconds in a boxing ring is a lot longer than thirty seconds outside of one. Because it felt like we stood in the middle of that ring pounding on each other for an eternity.

“Time!” Charlie shouted. Finally.

We stood there in the middle of the ring, smiling. “Awesome,” the trainer said.

Awesome indeed.

That gym was my home away from home for a while, but in the end family and a lack of time forced me to quit. But there’s still a heavy bag in our exercise room, and I still go a few rounds on it every night.

Because Charlie was right. You don’t know what you’re made of until you get punched. And whether that punch comes by standing in the middle of a boxing ring or the middle of a life, you survive the same way. You keep your chin down, you keep moving, and you never stop swinging.

We’re all going to get hit sooner or later. It’s a given in this world. But I know this. I can take a punch. I’ve taken many. But I can give one, too.


Billy Coffey is a part-time writer and a full-time father. Check out his newest novel When Mockingbirds Sing and meet him on his blog, www.billycoffey.com.


{ 64 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Seth July 26, 2013 at 6:37 pm

Man, the first time I ever took a full on punch I was stunned. Not from the punch, although it hurt, but simply from the fact that I had gotten hit. Martial arts had never prepared me for getting hit. Then I started boxing with a friend (who had been a member of the Oxford U. boxing team), and realized that there is a lot more to fighting than learning to hit. Getting hit is a part of fighting, and if you don’t learn how to get hit, you may not make it through the fight. You may be the better fighter by far, but the shock of getting hit for the first time may slow you enough that you will lose. Be careful by all means, but learning how to take a hit is a valuable part of manliness.

2 Daniel O. July 26, 2013 at 6:40 pm

“thirty seconds in a boxing ring is a lot longer than thirty seconds outside of one.” What an understatement.

Boxing was a mandatory class for all male freshman at my college, and Billy is right: a man doesn’t know the stuff he’s made of until he’s taken a hook to the head…and kept on swinging. I wouldn’t quite call it fun, but man, what an experience.

3 Thomas P. July 26, 2013 at 7:33 pm

I took my first punch in middle school, and the overall exchange put me in the nurse’s office with a huge shiner and a swollen jaw. I took up boxing over at a place called JAB fitness, and I’ve been fighting ever since. An absolutely great way to stay in shape, and build both physical and mental toughness through discipline.

4 Myles Barlow July 26, 2013 at 9:01 pm

Well…I want to take a punch now.

5 Brian July 26, 2013 at 11:10 pm

Does being stomped on by my older brother with shoes while crying count?

6 Jack July 27, 2013 at 12:11 am

Very nice essay. I enjoyed it. AoM should have more “On…” type essays, rather than simply explanations and instructions (which I love). Some manly personal pondering in essay form does a lot for the inspiration factor.

7 Yuriy S. July 27, 2013 at 4:27 am

Yeah, me too.
It also makes me want to watch Fight Club again

8 Skweekah July 27, 2013 at 4:31 am

People take a punch often on a Friday and Saturday night in Kings Cross Sydney. Many of those who take a punch never know that they were hit and never wake up. It’s a sad reality and I think youre more of a man if you manage to keep your hands to yourself.

9 David S. July 27, 2013 at 6:10 am

Man, I would love to have a Naismith Basketball that is awesome

10 Trojanhorse July 27, 2013 at 6:17 am

Oh boy. I thought I was ready for some sparring after months of heavy-bag “working out” at our local gym – they put me in the ring with a kid I later learned had won the Golden Gloves. What an eye-opener that was.

I kept thinking, why is the trainer not giving me some sort of instruction, telling me what to do? It felt instead like a straight-up brawl and VERY quickly showed me what poor shape I was actually in compared to “the kid.”

Boxing is brutal, and it’s damaging to get hit a lot in the head. So if you do it, take it seriously – because the other guy is. And it really sucks just being a punching bag for someone with crazy skills.

11 Paul July 27, 2013 at 7:46 am

I remember takin’ a hit in college. I sparred in the ring with a guy I was learning under, an amateur mma fighter. Great guy! He went easy on me, but I’ll never forget “the punch.” “Cleaned my clock,” as he explained it. But I’ll tell ya…nothin’ made me feel manlier than getting back up…and there was his hand to help me. Ain’t that what brotherhood is all about?

12 badbonz July 27, 2013 at 8:43 am

I have taken one or two to the face in my life.The best one’s are the one’s I walked away from.
There are very few things the keep you more focused than getting punch thown at you and just waitiing to jab one back.

13 John McDaris July 27, 2013 at 9:16 am

Handsome Dan Football please!

14 Andrea H. July 27, 2013 at 10:46 am

I’ve been following Art of Manliness for a while and surely this is one of the best articles I’ve read.

I had to share it. :)

Have a great weekend!

15 David Tindell July 27, 2013 at 11:00 am

Martial arts training can prepare you for real fighting only to the extent that the training is realistic. In other words, allow full contact, full force. In sparring training, my taekwondo students and I suited up with appropriate gear and went at it about 50-60%, but I warned them that in actual competition, it would be 100%. Some found that out the hard way.
If you are looking for a combative martial art that really teaches you how to take a punch and survive, try Russian Systema, http://www.russianmartialart.com. I had never been really hit hard until I took one from one of the trainers, a Russian Spetsnaz vet. They know how to hit.

16 Ryan C. July 27, 2013 at 11:03 am

I don’t know much about boxing, but reading your story made me feel like I was right there in the ring with you. Beautifully written! Please contribute to AOM again!

17 Eric Howard July 27, 2013 at 11:12 am

Reminds me of that Mike Tyson quote: “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth…” When I was 14 I went head to head with a much older high school boy to defend my sister’s honor – the first of many 30-second scraps – his first shot split my lip and sent me to the ground. Everyone laughed and clapped. When I got back up my plan changed – telling him off wasn’t going to make a dent. He left in an ambulance 15 minutes later and I in a squad car, but it was a moment in time where I found out what kind of man I was.

18 Gail July 27, 2013 at 11:39 am

Haha, reminds me of when I first got punched in the face. I was 14 and waiting for the bus to take me home from school. This younger boy came up to me and one of my girlfriends and started swearing at us, angrily and without provocation. My parents raised me to stand up for myself and I wasn’t going to be the silent little girl to just sit there and take it like my friend was, so I stood up and asked him what his problem was. The next thing I know–WHAM!! His left hook clipped me straight in the jaw, knocking my head backwards….and straight into the bus stop sign pole, knocking me out. I crumpled and blacked out, coming to about ten seconds later completely surrounded by other kids and teachers. Everyone was stunned–this guy had flat out slugged me in the face and indirectly knocked me out only to turn on his heel and run away!! Everyone knew who he was and he faced suspension for a good long time (only to be expelled the day he got back because he got in another fight with a boy who stood up for me!). Since then, I’ve been lucky enough to avoid a second punch to the face, but I’m glad I had the experience. Apart from giving me cred with my manfriends (many of whom haven’t ever been punched) it makes me feel as if I know what to expect should it ever happen again. The shock is by far the worst part when receiving an unexpected blow–but next time it happens, I will know how to process that information and move fast. Hopefully there’s just no poles in the way next time!

19 Dmitri Witharana July 27, 2013 at 7:05 pm

I can’t stop reading the last two paragraphs. They give me chills! Fantastic article.

20 Don Odom July 27, 2013 at 9:03 pm

I took my first punch in the 8th grade. I learned I had a “glass jaw” LOL. One fist to a spot on my jaw and I went down like a sack of potatoes. I’m 50 now but I’ve never forgotten the exact spot where I was hit.

21 Rob July 27, 2013 at 10:37 pm

Growing up with a brother, you learn this very early on. And, really, never stop learning it.

22 shane July 27, 2013 at 10:53 pm

Dead on. Excellent post. It is invigorating. There is something satisfying about that sting on your nose, especially after you stick with it and look down at your opponent on the ground and know you didn’t quit when it started hurting.

This stuff keeps me coming back. Thank you.

23 Tim July 28, 2013 at 8:24 am

Never been punched, but I have been hit in the face more than a few times by everything from sticks to rocks to construction cones. In fact I still have an indention in my skull from the rock.

I don’t expect it’s all that similar to getting punched, but hopefully it’ll still let me react faster.

24 Sam July 28, 2013 at 1:18 pm

I was 17 the first time I really got punched. I had just started taking Tai Kwan Dao, I know, usually this is kind of lame when its American style but my teacher was the Captain on the local SWAT team and trained in Korea, in other words, most of the lessons hurt. Before this I had been hit in the body, several times but never really taken a face shot. We did what my teacher called “Street sparring” that had rules like “No eye gouging” and “don’t take it to the ground” but most everything else was a free for all as long as you or your opponent didn’t get seriously hurt (like a broken hand, foot, nose, etc…). The first shot to the face stymied me! I remember thinking “He hit me!!!” than the second shot took me in the nose and it was on. I learned a lot in those classes; how to go with what you have and not give up even when it seems like you can’t win. When life hurts you suck it up and keep swinging. Since than I’ve taken several different kinds of martial arts and fighting styles, but the lessons I learned from those first days of class have stuck with me through all of them.

25 Haiz July 28, 2013 at 1:32 pm

First time I got punched was in a bar, a dozen or so guys of a local gang collared me on the way out of the bar. Thankfully only one of them punched me, I recall it to this day, I stayed up and the shock on his face was priceless. They let me through I I ran like hell. A couple of years after I saw the guy in a club and he came over, apologised and said it was one of his best shots. Had a few hits since then one that knocked me out, elbow to the nose, fell and cracked my head on the pavement. Third time so coward came up behind me and punched in the side of the face, broken jaw. Last one, ended up with a cut brow. Ive never hit back, fearful of hurting someone.

26 dave.t July 28, 2013 at 2:39 pm

“Now, will someone please have the decency to punch me in the face?”

27 Berkeley Andrus July 28, 2013 at 2:42 pm

I was expecting a description of how to stand, roll, or dodge to deal with a physical confrontation. This article instead was a much better description of how to press on through hard times in life. What a great metaphor!

28 Rob B July 28, 2013 at 3:38 pm

I don’t remember when I first got punched, probably at primary school in a play fight. Been punched and gave punches countless times, mainly at high school but a few ocassions since.

It amazes me how a bloke goes through life without a few punch ups, I’m no roughneck, a nerd even and I’ve ended up in loads.

Never been to a boxing gym, I live in an urban working class area in northern England, perfect place to find one. Somehow I’ve not managed to find one. Great article.

29 Joe Bassett July 28, 2013 at 3:55 pm

“A man never knows what he’s made of until he gets punched.”

I was fifteen the first time I was punched in the face. It was a sucker punch that split my lip and snapped my head around. Before I came back around three of my friends jumped him and started whupping up on the guy. They scared me more than the punch did, because they were seriously hurting the kid. I broke them off because I had been a smart a$$ and deserved the punch.

I’ve never thought about it revealing the kind of man that I am, but I guess I’m the kind of man who has friends that “have his back.” And I’m cool with that.

30 Trevor July 28, 2013 at 4:56 pm

When I joined the Metropolitan Police in 1981, boxing classes and then sparing was compulsory, not to teach you to fight, but to get punched and deal with it. Having played rugby, not such an issue for me and others, but some guys, straight from university for example, found it difficult. Better to find out in the gym than out on the streets. Shame they don’t do it any more.

31 Liam July 28, 2013 at 6:27 pm

First proper punch to the face was this year in freshman year of college, was in a city-wide karate tournament and I got hit with an illegal wild hook from a guy that only started a month before. Never will forget that even though he was 2 stone heavier and much faster, I took the punch and got 2 back on him straight after his warning! Makes your heart race and your hands itch!

32 VIC July 28, 2013 at 9:05 pm

1st time I got punched was a sucker shot from a guy taller and heavier than me I’m 6ft 2 in so he was a large type .didn’t go down but everything got blurry I closed with him grabbing his arms and kneed him .I think it was his surprise I stayed standing that allowed me to accomplish this.From training I have discovered over the tears I have a hi pain thresh hold .I don’t remember feeling much pain just numbness.

33 Alan Andrews July 29, 2013 at 8:21 am

Great article. I was punched and kicked in the stomach a few times when I was a kid by a couple of different cowards who were trying to pick a fight with me (unsuccessfully), but never been punched in the face. Even though I’m past the half-century mark, I still think about finding someone to do some sparring with.

34 Claude July 29, 2013 at 10:00 am

The first shot I took was well deserved. I was probably 12 or 13 and smarted off to the wrong guy. We were both surprised at how little impact the punch made and it was a weird end to the “fight”. He only hit me once. I didnt go down or cry, but I knew I deserved it, so I just picked up my stuff and went home leaving him standing there expecting me to pounce, I think. Got a black eye out of it and more humble attitude.

35 morris July 29, 2013 at 11:54 am

great post

36 tim_lebsack July 29, 2013 at 12:58 pm

I was a 120# high school geek when I first took a bare fist to the face. The fight was short lived because the only adult present pulled the attacker and me apart. I was angry at the guy that jumped me but more angry at several friends that were present. Television had taught me that when you get jumped your buddies will come to your rescue. Mine just formed a circle to enjoy the melee. Fighting reveals character also in those on the sidelines.

37 Jason July 29, 2013 at 2:32 pm

I just took my first punch two weeks ago at my first Krav Maga sparing session. The other guy got me square in the face. I have to admit, it threw me. I had to take a few steps back and shake it off, but I got back in there and managed a good jaw shot or two before we were done.
It taught me I need to learn to take face shots better, and I need to defend a lot better.

38 Rachel July 29, 2013 at 2:52 pm

Nice to see Systema cited here – I’ve been studying it for 10 years. Our conventional approach is that you will get hit in a real fight, no matter how good you are, especially if there are multiple opponents. It’s best to get used to it rather than training as if you will magically be able to avoid all strikes – that only happens in the movies. If anyone in interested, see the cover story of the July 2013 Black Belt magazine for more on Systema.

39 Tom King July 29, 2013 at 3:00 pm

As the Bible says, and this principle jibes perfectly with the whole experience of taking punches, “It is better to give than to receive!”

40 demian July 29, 2013 at 3:20 pm

I took up boxing when I was 19 (I’m 54 now.) My much older brother had been a commando and his best friend a Golden Gloves champ. So, with their instruction, I set about learning the Sweet Science. I’ll never forget the first day I got into the actual ring and sparred with my brother. Even with the 16oz gloves and headgear, EVERY punch he landed felt like a freight train. As others have mentioned, it wasn’t so much painful as it was stunning. Its a shock to the system if you’re not used to it. Besides your instinctive flinch reaction, there is just part of you that “can’t believe it.” Its scary, not so much the fear of getting hurt, but all the emotional storm that wells up in you when you get hit — fear, panic, anger, frustration, etc. “Controlled violence” is quiet right, as alluded to earlier. Its keeping that firestorm of physical and emotional impulses under control as you work the ring. And, yes, as a life metaphor, its the getting right up — in the ring or in your daily life — that makes all the difference.

41 Fred July 29, 2013 at 4:32 pm

I don’t “get punched” took enough from the old man as a kid. There is nothing quite like taking one in the solar plexus at 8 years old with a giant of a man screaming, “GET THE F*CK UP!” while you gasp for air. I’ve had all of that, I’ll ever take in my life. Boxing? Fine, not for me. Nor MMA. I’m all the man I need to be without the need for fisticuffs and the man who feels the need to test that will wind up on the wrong end of my .45. No machismo intended, I just do not have the luxury of risking myself for schoolyard BS.

42 Richard July 29, 2013 at 6:05 pm

Thank you for this essay; I needed it today.

This past weekend, I was foolish and wasted a not insignificant amount of money. I was spending almost all of yesterday wallowing in melancholy, worrying over how I could re-earn those lost funds. I have enough in my savings to cover it; it’s just that my stupidity had me gloomy and morose.

Then I read this – about being able to take a punch.

Not every punch is physical, but in any case you have to pick yourself up off the mat and get on with things.

My mood instantly improved. Thanks again!

43 Sean July 30, 2013 at 5:58 am

Good stuff ! Thx

44 voice940 July 30, 2013 at 2:50 pm

Never throw the first punch. Just try to make sure that yours is the last one.

45 Derek July 30, 2013 at 2:57 pm

Dang this site for making me want to take a punch…

46 Keagan S. July 30, 2013 at 7:28 pm

I took MANY wacks to the face as a youngster but if I tried to defend myself, I was beat harder. It wasn’t until I was 14 on a ski hill when a boy 2 years older about 4″ taller and 20 lbs heavier picked a fight with me. I will NEVER forget the calculated rage that came out of me. I don’t remember much after he sucker punched me, only that he regreted it after I snapped back to reality.

I have seen countless fights since then mostly from 16-22 years of age, and 75% of them were grown men (25-40) and mostly because I don’t like feeling inferior. I have the highest level of respect for another man, just not when they belittle or disrespect me for no reason…we will fight, no buts.

Anyway, in my fights I never threw the first punch and I was never the first one hit. I believe from taking my beatings growing up to age 14, I knew how to duck punches from all angles. Everything just slows down and for some reason I’m very calculated and precise. No training, just beat as a kid.

Moral of my story: Never go into a fight too cocky, I’m never confident when I go into a fight, in fact I’m scared to death. My nerves are running at Godspeed and I’m afraid of losing, but I haven’t lost a fight since age 14. Never underestimate your opponent, the guys who pick fights, talk tough, run their mouth are the first ones laying on their back saying “why did I just pick a fight with this guy?”

Thanks for reading.

47 Rob Roy July 31, 2013 at 2:19 am

Oh my gosh, this article is so well written and humorous!

– “Because macho manliness trumps stupidity every day of the week and twice on Thursday.”

– “Don’t worry. Famous last words of rednecks everywhere. On par with, “Hey ya’ll, watch this!”

I did boxing a couple of years but did quit since I have relocated. I really love this article!

48 Brendan Rowe July 31, 2013 at 12:44 pm

I boxed long before I got into martial arts, my grandfather being a coach and all. The mix of hand speed and lack of fear I brought to the table when I started practicing kenpo soon landed me the unofficial position as a sparring trainer.

49 LR July 31, 2013 at 1:36 pm

Different strokes for different folks…but I wouldn’t recommend starting to box this way. You can build bad, crazy habits if you walk in with no training–not to mention get seriously hurt. Also, from personal experience, you will want to build up your neck and shoulders before you step in the ring. You will soak up a ton of punishment when you start out and having a buff neck and shoulders lessens your likelihood for concussions and serious neck injuries. But that’s just me.

50 Pita July 31, 2013 at 4:13 pm

I took a right cross to the jaw when I was 17. It was from a guy I knew, and I provoked the punch. He was 6 inches taller than me and really rang my bell. After he threw the punch he was afraid I was going to kick his ass, although all I was seeing was stars at the moment. I don’t hold it against him. As I said, I deserved it. I still carry a slight sag in my lip from how his punch split it open on that night

I also took boxing in flight school in the Navy and I can vouch for the author when he said the 30 seconds in the ring is an eternity compared to 30 seconds outside of the ring. I could barely last 3 rounds with a similar rookie from my flying class. I can’t imaging going 10 rounds with a pro boxer.

51 MS August 2, 2013 at 12:00 am

My first full on punch was at 14, from my father, a Golden Gloves boxer. Knocked me out cold. The penalty for being a smart ass. No punch after that ever put me down. My height of glory was fighting three guys to a standstill after getting sucker punched. Frankly, it was a pussy shot because nothing ever matched that lesson at 14, and I was half expecting it, so I was ready. I’ll never forget the look on their faces. Don’t get me wrong, my father was hard, but a good man. A WWII and Vietnam vet. He knew a level of death, horror, and pain I cannot begin to comprehend. I honor him to this day. But I was never afraid to be hit after that, and fear of being hit or more importantly, hurt, will get you hurt if not killed. That lesson at 14 taught me what it was like to take a shot. And my father continued my education. He taught me to never start a fight, to never throw the first punch, but most of all, how to finish a fight . To do whatever and use whatever was necessary. Most guys run their mouth, preening around like peacocks. To me, it was serious business, and I didn’t F* around. I would put you down as fast as I could by any means necessary. These days, I’m too old. But, the lesson remains, and I have passed it on to my boys. I would add that learning to take a punch is one thing and absolutely necessary, but developing a level of viciousness or at least a willingness that to do whatever is necessary to not only survive, but to come out on top is imperative. My best advice, learn to take a punch , and hone your killer instinct, and if it’s on, be more willing than your opponent to do whatever is necessary to come out on top, including how to use the pain and the taste of blood in your mouth as fuel, whether it’s a boxing match or a street brawl.

52 Jerry August 2, 2013 at 1:52 am

Been sparring a lot with friends and botten medan punches to the head. Been knocked out, gotten dizzy and could barily stand up. Never backed down. However, the first time I got hit outside of the gym. I was shocked by how calm I acted. Took the punch, talked som sense in the guy whom I ve never met before, shook his hand and continued to hang out with my friends. As the article says, how can you know anything about yourself unless you’ve taken a punch. A real man take it and keeps controlling the situation, both literally and metaphorically in life.

53 Kory August 2, 2013 at 6:08 pm

I used to do local MMA competitions and have been hit more more time than I can count, and let me say, being able to fight and take a punch does not make you a man. Being a man is much much more than physical toughness; it includes integrity, character, compassion, charity and a sense of service to others. There were many guys that I competed against that lacked these qualities, and while they could kick my ass (and some did) that just meant they were more skilled than I, not that they were men but just boys trapped in grown up bodies.

54 Buga August 10, 2013 at 12:20 pm

My first hit came from my elder brother. Shocked and stunned. My brow gave way and then he took me to clinic, and we laughed :)

I enjoyed every bit of it… the sweet pain!

55 Luke August 10, 2013 at 4:29 pm

The only thing taking a punch teaches you is “how you react to taking a punch”.

What is the goddamn deal with people thinking they are going to level-up by seeing how they deal with physical confrontation?? If you picked up some nugget of wisdom from a trainer or sensei somewhere that applies outside the ring, hey great. There’s nothing indicative of your Relative Manliness Index about any of this. A man who works his ass off, takes care of his family, keeps his lifestyle in-line so that his children might do better than he did or does, that can’t ‘take a punch’ or shirks from physical confrontation? Is a hell of a man.

This is bro-code garbage you guys. It might have impacted the author in a very real and personal way and maybe this kind of interaction was something he needed to feel whole – but that only applies to the author. Your mileage may vary. These narrow definitions of what intrinsic qualities of what makes a man ‘a man’ need to be re-examined and thrown away.

56 Luke_too August 11, 2013 at 7:52 am

Fully agree. What a bull-s-word. I’ve taken a punch in a face few times, and I hated it. I did not learn anything from this, not even how to get hit. Only thing I’ve earned from being hit was a bruise.. and a dent in my ego..

57 Chris M August 12, 2013 at 5:01 pm

Mr. Coffey,
I have to say that I am now a fan. I can’t wait to share this article with my friends and to check out your blog. This was a great article. So well written and very well said.

This is now one of my all time favorite quotes:

“You don’t know what you’re made of until you get punched. And whether that punch comes by standing in the middle of a boxing ring or the middle of a life, you survive the same way. You keep your chin down, you keep moving, and you never stop swinging.

We’re all going to get hit sooner or later. It’s a given in this world. But I know this. I can take a punch. I’ve taken many. But I can give one, too.”

Thank you!


58 Kyle Nepo August 28, 2013 at 8:56 am

Great article Bill! Reminds me of my first time sparring in the ring. Thanks for reminding me that I can take a punch and give a couple back!

- Kyle Nepo

59 Ben August 29, 2013 at 8:27 pm

I am 16 years old and have been boxing for a little over a year. I’ve learned quite a bit in that time, but one of the things I remember most is one of the first things my coach told me. He said, “Boxing is punching, sure, but what it really teaches you is how to take a hit and keep on trucking.” this article hit that point right on the nose (no pun intended).

60 Nicolo September 13, 2013 at 3:21 am

“A man never knows what he’s made of until he gets punched”

That is the most accurate mantra I could think of for this excerpt. Hit the nail right on the head there. Sometimes, the challenge is to be able take a hit head on and recover back from it as quick as you can.

61 Cameron Eisses September 17, 2013 at 10:02 pm

At a party last weekend, I saw a man grappling with a friend. After they had finished, a nearby person commented “Well that was gay”. The man promptly approached the heckler and asked that he take the comment back. Whack…he punched him right in the face. The man who took the punch asked “What is wrong, that you would do this?” Whack…again, for the second time. The man who had now taken two punches said to his assailant “consider yourself as a human being, have some respect for yourself” after which he walked away. Three minutes later, the heckling assailant approached his victim with an outstretched arm. A firm handshake, and an apology ensued.

62 Marshall September 22, 2013 at 8:15 pm

I think the important lesson is you have to train yourself for some of the pretty bad things that can happen for you, so you know how to react. Whether that means knowing how to take a punch figuratively or literally. You don’t have to like violence to see the value in knowing you CAN deal with a punch, that you can defend your family or your friends if you have to.

63 loose December 13, 2013 at 7:00 am

Only punches I’ve ever taken were when I wanted to get punched by my friend so I could get sent home from school.Second time was when I took this much smaller kids bottle and drank from it.Suddenly he starts punching me on the nose.Came outta nowhere.I definately remember that forever.I didnt wanna do anything back since I knew I would hurt him very badly and I would get in trouble.Thats the thing.If someone messes with me,I’m always afraid to unleash my rage.This one time when I was drunk,my two friends wrestled me together on the ground.I was there for like 7 seconds then I got mad and just pushed them both off of me.Then they were like,man hes strong!My friends call me big daddy.

64 Terrance January 9, 2014 at 8:42 pm

May best advise is ” punch seen hurts a lot less”. Basically DO NOT close your eyes seriously work on that If its a problem.

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