Originally Posted by Russell
How much is in the conditioning and how much is a state of mind?
Is there a 50/50 split between the two?
Is it any different with body attacks?
Can you be completely, as Chuvalo said he was, mentally invulnerable and therefore the same physically?
Can you condition yourself to take punches that should kill others, like Hagler did?
LaMotta emphasized that he put himself into a state resembling self hypnosis. He also discussed how by moving his head a fraction of an inch, he could muffle the impact of a blow which had the appearance of being devastating to obsevers. (Jake's discussion of this in "The Way it Was" program with SRR, Curt Gowdy and Don Dunphy is readily available on line.)
Trance states can indeed make one impervious to pain. Hypnotherapy is routinely used to relieve the intractable pain of terminally ill cancer patients for whom morphine does not work. (As pain is also a warning sign that something's wrong, such as a broken bone or infection, it's not generally a good idea to try going through life in such a state. You may wind up shortening your own as a result.)
Learning to pay attention can be crucial. Usually, a boxer gets knocked out by a punch which isn't seen. Any activity which conditions one to maintain attention can be beneficial in learning to do this. (Jack Blackburn favored table tennis.) Learn not to blink the eyes when within range of being hit.
A medical scan revealed that while Hagler's skull was normal, the band of muscle which surrounded his skull was one inch thick, where the average person has a layer one quarter inch thick. Certainly, we've all seen performing martial artists who were able to break planks and cinderblocks with their heads, so it's self evident that one can be conditioned to do this. The small muscles of the head can be reportedly developed somewhat through repeated contact with punches in sparring.
What about the jaw and sides of the face? Here comes an anecdote completely out of left field. It concerns a member of The Three Stooges. I think it was Larry Fine's son, ****** Wolf, who revealed that because there was no way to synthesize the sound of a slap across the face, Larry was actually getting slapped in rehearsals, and before the camera. According to this report, the sides of Fine's face eventually became callused as a result of this continual hard slapping.
There are some martial arts where students are conditioned to withstand blows to the head, through exercises such as butting swinging sandbags, until reaching the point of no longer having the senses compromised when contact is made. In Skehan's biography of Marciano, it was mentioned how, when Rocky was a kid, the boys would watch their uncles get drunk, and then compete with each other in head butting contests. That's right, two of them would take a position on opposite ends of the room, lower their heads, and charge each other like bulls to the cheers of the other men in the room, while the two who had just knocked heads were holding them, reeling in pain. (Male bonding for Italian immigrants.) Although I don't recall Skehan mentioning that the kids mimicked the drunken behavior of these grown men, it might not be too far a stretch to guess that Rocky may have done something like this with his buddies.
Not overtraining or undertraining can be invaluable in withstanding hard shots, or at least in recovering from them. Also, as the harder you work, the harder it is to surrender, the determination fueled by this principle can come into play.
Jack Dempsey chewed resin to strengthen his jaw muscles.
Developing the muscles of the neck and traps can be a big help in absorbing the impact of a heavy punch.
Tex Cobb could withstand massive kicks to the head. The fact is that there are other kickboxers who can do this. Not even Shavers could produce a punch to measure up to the power of a well executed kick.
There more ways to develop the ability to take a punch than I have the time or energy to describe.