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NOW that old Winter has barred the Charles alike to the single-scull and the six-oar, driven even the most enthusiastic lover of baseball from Jarvis, and made foot-ball a chill pleasure, we look around us for other means of keeping our muscles firm and our joints supple.
The Gymnasium, to be sure, is open all day; but when recitations crowd as close upon one another as people in a Cambridge street-car, the journey there and back to our rooms, together with the attendant nuisance of getting into exercising costume and out of it again, consumes more time than we can spare.
Then it is that we feel the want of some kind of exercise more quickly and easily taken. Some men, too, fear the odorous, chilly air of our model Gymnasium; for them other physical relief from study is needed.
What kind of exercise can supply that need so well as the old and well-tried art of boxing? What is so good to teach the eye attention and he hand agility, to push back the drooping shoulder and quicken the sluggish blood; to put the whole body into a pliant, healthy condition?
Dumb-bells are good, because we may always have them ready at hand to use, even for a few moments; but the use of boxing-gloves, while almost equally convenient, is better, because it is more cheerful, and hence more healthy, to exercise in company than in solitude. Once provided with a set of gloves, you are ready at any time for five minutes' lively sport, - your own room the arena. The chairs and table are pushed back and you begin. As you meet your opponent's shoulder-hit and cross-counter by a ready guard, or escape them by a quick toss of the head, or by a light step backwards, you smile in conscious power, and feel a keen pleasure in thinking how the blows would sting did you not so skilfully shun them. To tap your adversary lightly on the forehead, or playfully swing your right hand against his ribs and see his look of injured innocence, gives a sense of calm satisfaction, - 't is an animal pleasure, if you please, but none the less real on that account, nor is delight in the manly feeling of being able to defend one's self to be condemned.
If, however, your opponent's blows strike where he intended to have them, while yours fall harmlessly on his quick strong guard, your satisfied feeling of power is changed to one of chagrin, vexation takes the place of pleasure, - a vexation which will stimulate in you, if you are wise, a resolve to become more strong and skilful, but if foolish, will make you renounce the "manly art" for the future.
It will probably seem nonsensical to many to speak of any practical use to which boxing may be put as a means of self-defence in this law-abiding country, in this age of the "frequent peeler." It is likely that many of us will never fight a battle with our fists; yet there is a strong possibility that the time may come, once at least, in each of our lives, when the ability to knock a man down without fear of his "returning the compliment" will be well worth all the time and trouble spent in practice now.
No man in college, then, should say caestus artemque repono; but every one should learn the art, if he do not already understand it, and should practise it as an easy means of gaining health and pleasure.
The tournaments - so to speak - in boxing and fencing, occasionally held in private rooms, are good in that they promote a friendly rivalry, and afford chances for practice with many different men. The only thing to be regretted is that they are such rare occurrences.
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