Helping The Warrior get rid of the anger

I've had reservations for several weeks about using this week's subject for a blog. I feared it being misunderstood, I feared it igniting a debate, I feared it sparking an unpleasant reaction.

Then, the subject was raised at last months meeting of my local branch of Headway (, the charity for survivors of traumatic brain injury. The branch leader began a discussion about interesting ways in which survivors of traumatic brain injury, including stroke, try to combat the anger and frustration issues which come with our situation; the issues which scream ''Why did this happen to me?"; "Why can't I do what I used to do?"; "How am I supposed to cope with the crushing fatigue/headaches/mood swings which plague my life now?"

Some members said they use meditation (I've tried and failed, but I'm working on it), some use mindfulness, some play a musical instrument, some paint, some do a variety of crafts, some use a variety of relaxation techniques. After some hesitation, I ventured the fact that I go boxing.

Not, I hasten to add, getting-beaten-around-the-head-and-body boxing. Not even The Warrior is stupid enough to do that. For one thing, it could cause another stroke. No, for an hour on one evening every week, I go to my local boxing club, put on a pair of 12oz gloves and thrash hell out of a punchbag for an hour.

I find it helps to get rid of those anger and frustration issues, while it also helps with (BIG WORD ALERT!) my proprioception, which is to say the way and the speed the signals get from my brain to my limbs. Rebuilding proprioception is a key part of stroke recovery and as my stroke affected the cerebellum, the part of the brain which controls my balance, anything which can help me to regain my balance and not walk as if I'm steaming drunk has got to be worth it.

I'd like to be able to claim that this was my idea; in fact, like most things to do with my recovery it was first suggested by #breathebalancebeactivatedemily. Once she had unlocked and un-knotted my body after the stroke, a process which took the best part of a year, we began working on strengthening my core and helping my balance through gym-work. She would have me running around a gym, catching balls thrown high and low to my left as I went; she would get me balancing on the edge of rowing machines to replicate a beam; and she would have me hitting a punchbag every week, getting out the frustration but also getting my technique right - watching where I was putting my feet whilst throwing punches.

I enjoyed it and I found that it worked but, for various reasons, we stopped using that particular gym and I couldn't continue boxing. I investigated purchasing my own (they cost as little as £30 on the internet) but Warrillow Towers isn't really suitable for storing or hanging a punchbag. Then, I had a lightbulb moment. Tamworth Boxing Club is based near the church which Mrs Warrior and I use. I have known head coach Alan Keast for 30 years, since I worked on the local paper and dealt with the club on a regular basis. Would Alan let me use their facilities?

I approached him, he made the suggestion for me and I have been using the gym since July. It's helping my fitness, it's helping my proprioception and it's definitely helping my anger and frustration issues - I'd rather have a mental picture on the punchbag of that motorist who cut me up the other day than get into a road-rage incident, after all.

It definitely isn't for everyone, of course; plenty of stroke-survivors couldn't contemplate it or wouldn't want to, but it works for me in my situation at this moment.

And the reason I've decided to write about it this week is that I now have pictures of me in action. A few weeks ago, I arrived at the club one night to find members of Tamworth Photographic Club taking pictures of the 'real' boxers (16 to 18-year-old lads with muscles like footballs, you know what I mean....") And one of the photographers recognised me from my local-paper days. I told him my story and he and his colleagues took a range of pictures of me, some of which I've used to accompany this piece. I'm grateful to Alec Benwell,  David Bowen, Roy Chambers and Les Cotterill for the pictures and to Alan and his coaches for the opportunity.

I do try to stay out of their way, but I also learn from what they tell the youngsters about boxing technique. As I say, it's not for everyone and I wouldn't suggest it for everyone - but I feel it's doing me a terrific amount of good in lots of ways.