Everything important in life that I ever learned was in a boxing gym.
From birth to death, tragedy and happiness, the skills learned through the art of boxing have made me a better person, father, and teacher.
To the untrained eye, boxing is nothing more than two individuals putting on gloves, stepping into the ring and throwing punches in a ritual of violence and anger. In truth, boxing is a complex process of physical and mental preparation resulting in the ultimate story of courage, strength, and determination.
I never could have imagined on a cold March day in 1982 that when I opened the door and climbed the stairs to the legendary Gramercy Gym that my life would change forever. Mind you, this was no ordinary door and no ordinary place. When I entered the building, I was a painfully shy 15 year old, when I left, I was a boxer.
It took me several attempts to gather up the courage just to enter the gym. After leaving school on 16th Street, I would walk along the south side of 14th Street past Union Square. I had to walk around the park because in those days you only went to Union Square to buy drugs. I risked suspension from school if I was seen in the park and honestly, I was just plain scared to walk through it, even in broad daylight.
The path I took led me past the old Nedick’s then Tad’s Steaks, and finally just past Luchow’s. At first I would just look at the door and leave but eventually I summoned up enough chutzpah to open the door and peer up the old wooden staircase. I started a series of attempts at walking up the 2 flights to the gym but was overcome by doubt and fear not even half way up. I would ask myself, who am I kidding, I’m too young, short, husky, etc. It didn’t help that the stairs were old and rickety and the smell of the gym hit you like an uppercut to the gut.
Finally, the day came that I reached out and put my hand on the door handle and pushed it open. I will never forget the sound of the wonderful riot that was taking place inside that space. The symphony of jump ropes, heavy and speed bags beating out the notes for a full three minutes and then silence while everyone caught their breath and prepared mentally for the next round of imaginary battle. I must have stood watching in awe for at least half an hour before one of the owners, Bob Jackson, approached me. Bob was a big tough sergeant that worked at Sing Sing but still kept a pistol stuck in his waistband. He asked me if I was going to say something or just stand there all day to which I sheepishly responded that I wanted to box. He gave me a waiver to have parents sign and explained the rules of the gym. The signature on the waiver would of course be forged by my brother Martin as my parents forbade me from boxing or doing anything that was not “educational.” Little did they know the profound education that this boxing gym would have in store for me.
With the exception of the day my son was born, this was the happiest day of my life and just like that day, my life would never be the same. What had filled me with such fear and trepidation one day, brought me such excitement and joy the next. My wish for everyone that I teach is that they share in the lessons that I have learned and that they can experience the first day of the ongoing journey that I call boxing, everyday.
– John Snow, Owner