You’re the Arts Department Chair and You Box?!

Posted by Merryl Goldberg, Mar 15, 2011 11 comments

Merryl Boxing

Merryl Goldberg

Yup, I’m the Chair of all the Visual and Performing Arts at California State University San Marcos, and I go to a boxing gym three to four times a week.

I say this as if it was a confession, and when I do say this out loud, I get the most curious looks. I would be last person on earth you would imagine as a boxer.

First off, I’m pretty tiny – almost 5’1” (!).

And, I’m over 50, not the profile one imagines for a boxer:  Ms. teeny tiny almost-senior-citizen, artsy administrator wearing wraps, gloves, and beating the heck out of an innocent bag.  But, I love it - both the surprise of identifying as one who boxes, and the actual act of boxing.

Alright, this is how it happened.  

L.A. Boxing gym is right between an organic food store and the dog groomer. I pass it all the time between buying food and getting Daisy, the dog groomed.

For at least a year, each time I passed by the gym I felt a curious envy for those in the gym hitting and kicking (there’s kickboxing too!). When I admitted to a friend that I had a fantasy with regard to the gym, she drove me straight there and brought me inside. I asked a few questions, was told one burns an average of 800 calories in a workout, and before I knew it – I was signed up to try a class.

First class, the instructor wrapped my hands, lent me gloves, and led me toward my bag. After the warm-up, we began the punching sequences: Jab jab cross. Jab jab cross hook hook. Jab cross hook cross…and so on.

It was music and rhythm to my ears. I couldn’t believe it. And my feet – choreography.

In a million years, I never expected a musical connection to boxing – and yet – it is all about music and rhythm – and choreography.

Even better, speed bags: it is all about triplets – I learned how to work the speed bag – and guess what?!  You could do an Irish jig to the rhythm!

More than music, rhythm, and choreography, however, boxing is about discipline, practice, focus, and pushing oneself beyond limits.

Boxing has given me enormous insight into understanding the depth with which I can push myself – even more so than art-making.

Since it is so physical I actually feel myself as I push myself. The feeling in my body as I sweat and struggle with the 15th push-up or as I jump down into a burpee (don’t even ask!), reminds me of the potential I have to go beyond my own limits.

My boxing has also renewed my focus with regard to practicing my particular art form, which is music.

Now when I practice my saxophone, I want to be able to reach the point of burning those 800 calories.

The relationship between boxing and the arts is one that I am just beginning to write about – and in fact this blog is my first attempt at reflecting and writing about the connections – and I suspect there will be more to come.

11 responses for You’re the Arts Department Chair and You Box?!


March 15, 2011 at 4:21 pm

Ms. Goldberg -

Great post! I love the connection between boxing and choreography that you cite. My headline would be similar, except for me it's playing ice hockey several times a week before work. Thanks for sharing!!

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March 15, 2011 at 6:37 pm

LOVE this post! Reminds me of Elizabeth STREB, become your own superhero, and defy gravity through action choreography. Thank you!

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March 16, 2011 at 2:44 pm

Thanks Kim!

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March 15, 2011 at 8:16 pm

This was fun reading and loved your creativity in exploring for music, rhythm and dance "out of the box!"

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March 16, 2011 at 11:40 am

Merryl, that is one of the most inspiring blogs posts I've read in a long time. Good for you!

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March 16, 2011 at 8:51 pm

Awesome!!!! Is there no limit to your energy and creativity? And I congratulate you on your ability to think outside the "box" and relate "boxing" to your "art." How do I get an autographed copy of the photo?

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March 17, 2011 at 1:11 pm

Merryl, this is great! We'd love to feature your story on the LA Boxing Blog as part of our Day 1 campaign. Would you mind?

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March 17, 2011 at 1:51 pm

Thanks! I would be honored to have my story featured. Sounds terrific. Please send me the link when it is ready so I may share as well.

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March 28, 2011 at 2:15 pm

Well this is quite inspiring reading Meryll. For myself, running is the physical link to my creativity. The meditative trance-like mode clears my head as I take in the scenery and concentrate on my breathing. Thanks for the link.

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Tim G says
October 08, 2012 at 7:00 pm


Do you think boxing has had an impact on your sense of Rhythm and Time in your music? My son is a trumpet player who has great tone but stuggles with his timing and rhythm. I was wondering if boxing could help him with this and in doing some research found your blog.

Thanks and much success in your music and boxing endevors


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October 09, 2012 at 2:57 pm

Hi Tim,
I definitely believe that boxing would support your son's sense of rhythm and timing. I don't have any research to prove it...but it can't hurt! Professor James VanDemark at Eastman also writes about boxing and music, specifically linked to's a link:
Thanks for writing to me....and I continue to work out and love it! Merryl

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