Taming Fists + Fury: Three Rounds Boxing with Shaun Cooper – District Fry

fists. furious Power. Popular culture skews martial arts – from the iconic Bruce Lee movies to the Karate Kid romance epic about love and kung fu; To the pioneering and soaring feats of the “Hidden Crouching Tiger Dragon”; With the debut of the first Asian-led Marvel superhero movie, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings”. If it’s not (mostly) revenge, violence, and speed, it’s not selling.

However, far from the magic of the big screen, in unspeakable neighborhood boxing gyms and in soft corners, kids and adults learn martial arts and are tools to strengthen your mind and muscles.

Sure, there are punching techniques, sweep kicks, and strength and endurance training. But the art of defense is more than just a way to do harm (only when necessary). In harmony with high cardio, these skills are best developed along with lessons on balance, discipline, flexibility and self-control.

On a warm, rainy Thursday, I was invited to Alexandria, Virginia, to watch a boxing class by photographer Sean Cooper. Blessed with a charming smile and a keen eye, Cooper spends much of his time traveling the world, documenting tour stops of Grammy-nominated R&B artist, Ari Lennox, and oversees a photo scholarship program for ambitious young people seeking a higher education and taking on various projects.

The talented Maryland-born creator, with impressive client resumes — including Google, Youtube, Cîroc, and Vice — often moves with quiet confidence. Although on this day, Cooper revealed another side. His smile fades, replaced by a snarl, and he secures punch after venomous punch. Wrapped in a purple-and-black boxing hand wrap in the shape of a black panther, his fists are flying in the air. He and his five fellow drivers move meticulously through their warm-up ritual, before donning gloves and maneuvering through a comprehensive path of drills, putting on an imposing display of speed, agility and power. Jab jab. cross lead. Hook across the back step. Gap jab jab.

Negative energy hole

Cooper was attracted to martial arts at a very young age.

As a child, he escaped into the world of animation, including immersion in the long-running “Dragon Ball Z” series. The spiky-haired characters mimic skills that Cooper later learned can be acquired in real life, while imparting many impressive teachings: the virtues of teamwork, loyalty, and trustworthiness.

“Seeing them move the way they move, and then discover as I got older, that you can actually get training to move that way has been great for me,” Cooper says. “So far, I realize that movement is really good for treating trauma.”

As an adult, he participates in both kickboxing and boxing, and specializes in the life-altering basics.

What started out as a way to stay fit and gain confidence – he often found himself in situations with “abusive people” and people he feared, because he couldn’t fight – evolved.

Cooper’s constant pursuit of mastery has turned martial arts and boxing into weapons for peaceful navigation (and survival) in life’s challenges, as he embraces the principles of Eastern philosophy.

“When I don’t practice martial arts and community building to the same extent, there is a buildup of really bad feelings,” Cooper explains, explaining that piercing negative energy exercises makes it easier.

The movement is a form of liberation, like the dissipation of steam from a pressure cooker. It gives him control and clarity.

Through martial arts and boxing, he also discovered his tribe: a tight-knit band of brothers and sisters. As I sit watching the boxing group gather in their coach’s garage, a strong bond seemed evident. Avoid gentle teasing. Wipe off the dripping sweat. Ditch the training and break bad habits, and you’ll discover something consistent – the love of upgrading.

and listening to Cooper tell his story later that day, as I pondered the blunt aggression I had witnessed a few hours before, I came to understand his world better; The punches, the overhead jumps, the rudderless movement of the feet with no purpose, a supportive community and space to develop as a person.

“Once I graduated from college, I got really good at photography and realized that if I wanted to overcome my mental struggles, I needed anchors in my life that were there for me apart from martial arts, my grandmother, my sweetheart, and my family.”

Sean Cooper. Photography by Andrew J. Williams III.

“beautiful science”

Boxing is a battle of mind and body. It is an elk dance that dates back to ancient Rome, and made its official debut in Olympic competition at the XXIII Olympiad (688 BC).

Most amateur boxing matches are scheduled for 3 rounds, every 3 minutes. At the professional level 12 rounds with an average of 3 minutes for men; Women’s boxing consists of 10 rounds of two minutes each. Although most boxing bouts rarely go far, they end in a knockout, technical knockout, injury or disqualification.

Boxing, known as the “beautiful science”, requires fighters to use fierce tactical know-how to beat their opponent, while working against exhaustion, round after round endlessly. Conflict is complex and often has consequences. To this end, Cooper uses martial arts to fortify himself.

Among the many lessons he teaches, responding with the right intent and staying in the moment looms large.

“Martial arts teach me how to dance with life and how to submit to it.”

Cooper believes that our daily experiences with humans are a lot like a boxing ring. Confusing anxiety can be associated with reacting impulsively, especially in the moment the “punch” is thrown, even figuratively or emotionally. In his opinion, better results are achieved by stepping back, assessing the situation, and then responding – he calls it “reflection” on what is in front of you.

Mike Tyson once said of Evander Holyfield, “Everyone has a plan to get punched in the mouth.” The quoted phrase is a cautionary tale. the message? Expect the unexpected. Either you adapt or you fall apart – Cooper harnesses martial arts to evade the latter.

Sean Cooper. Photography by Andrew J. Williams III.

Earth, Wind, Water + Fire

As Cooper matured, his thinking became increasingly aligned with the pillars of Eastern philosophy: spirituality, wisdom, benevolence, and collectivism. Cooper draws from the principles of Mindfulness, Feng Shui, Taoism and the famous Chinese philosopher Confucius to gain an understanding of the world around him.

One such site is research on how manifestations of the natural world come into play in his practice, in the people he meets and in the places where they converge.

“I like martial arts very much [employs] Fire, wind, earth, and wood (breaking boards and bricks and walking on coals are common visual elements). “

As a person with a calm demeanor, Cooper directs land and water and likens aggressive individuals to the ferocity of fire. He explains through his martial arts that he learned to become water to face other people’s fire.

“When I meet very aggressive people, I know that whenever I deal with them, I have to deal with them from a point of view of understanding rather than attacking or disciplining them.”

Disarming others, avoidance and “do no harm” are the basic principles of his practice.

The dedication that the martial arts required bleeds into other areas of his life, such as photography, giving him the poise and attitude to stay in the fight, even – and especially – on the long, hard days. This is what is necessary, if he wants to refine his craft and grow permanently.

“I learned that if I wanted to be a great photographer, I had to become a great person first,” Cooper says.

Through his new philosophies, he became someone who was able to resist and conquer his demons (over and over again).

To learn more about Shaughn Cooper, visit shaughncooper.com and follow him on Instagram @shaughncooper


Tips from Mr.

Eric Oten is a 25-year-old martial arts veteran and a 15-year-old aikidoka (a person who practices Aikido), who has risen to the level of Aidan: a second-degree black belt in Aikido. Otten offers several tips for anyone embarking on a martial arts journey:

wear comfortable clothes long-sleeved / trousers; Depending on the martial arts, this will help prevent scrapes and rug burns on your body.

same. This helps you relax and is an essential component of all martial arts.

Be prepared to be sore. [After your first session]For the next day or two, you’ll likely feel pain from unfamiliar movements. This goes away with repetition.

Don’t get discouraged. Martial arts take time to learn and apply – remember it’s about building your skills and confidence and it won’t happen overnight.

Watch the coach’s feet. Martial arts are usually whole-body movements that work from the ground up.

drink a lot of water before, after and during.

Don’t do your best with every movement. You need to learn the techniques correctly so as not to hurt yourself in the process. Speed ​​and strength will come with time with practice.

Have fun.

Photography by Andrew J. Williams III.


Put Your Dukes On: Four Martial Arts Clubs To Try

DC Aikido Martial Arts Academy: 2639 Connecticut Ave. N.W. C-104, DC; dcaikido.com // dcaikido

Krav Maga Capitol Hill: 315 G St. SE, DC; kmcapitolhill.com //kmcapitolhill

NUBOXX: 701 2nd St. NE, DC; 1449 U St. N.W., D.C.; nuboxxfitness.com //nuboxx

Rumble Boxing Gym: 2001 M St. NW Suite 120, DC; Rumbleboxinggym.com // doyourumble

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