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Tradecraft & Ringcraft - Boxing as a metaphor for trading!


As I write, it is Sunday morning April 1st 2018 (no this is not an April fool spoof), and I have this idea in my mind that I need to write out as its bugging the life out of me. It started a long time ago. A basic idea that trading can learn much from professional boxing. I´m aware that others have written extensively about trading and sports performance having strong connections but it was the words of Anthony Joshua in an interview with The Times newspaper published on the eve of his world championship bout with Joseph Parker that really started to crystallize my own thinking. In it he said “I used to go in there thinking about a knockout but if I just think about performance I will revert back (sic) to training camp — balance, position of hands, defending and coming back." It was this little nugget of wisdom from a heavyweight pro who looks destined for hall of fame greatness that really grabbed my attention.

These few words will no doubt resonate acutely with traders who´ve been around a while as they encompass the core of trading professionally for success and longevity in the trading ring. If you are out to hit knockout blows the only thing that will get knocked out is you! Defend yourself at all times, use your edge, dont try pushing the envelope when the time is not right, fall back on your experience, knowledge, expertise and tradecraft, keep your guard up and if you take a hit (when not if) get back on your game swiftly and come back again using the skills and expertise you learned (or should have learned ) at the outset of your career in the trade gym.

There´s so much more that can be read into that brief phrase of Joshuas but essentially its emphasizing the age old truth that real pros know that to win you have to know the basics, be better than anyone else at it and understand that repeating its application is the best road to success. Sure the odd KO along the way helps but if that´s all you know how to do, there will come a point when you yourself get taken out.

Whilst the points made seem obvious, I think they are nevertheless worth stating as it strikes me that many traders, mostly newer ones but some who've been around long enough to know better, still think in terms of knockout winners rather than the slow accumulation of points over time. Im not saying you should not have the knock out skill in your armoury, its just that it should be applied sparingly and only ever in the right circumstances; a repeating stiff jab being a much better technique and process to get the job done more regularly and effectively.

Which leads me onto the wider issue of using boxing and elite sport in general as an analogy for trading success. I wont go into all the positive associations between the two as I want to get this out quickly while the fight is still fresh in peoples minds ( if you're a boxing fan I suppose I should add here :)). There is plenty out there already from better writers like Brett Steenbarger and Steve Ward if you want to dig deeper. What came to mind after the initial thoughts about the quote above was a more general issue that I think might be limiting traders success - that of going into the ring with the wrong mindset.

We are all told when we start out in the trading business that the first rule of success is to protect your capital. This is a critical and extremely important rule and one rightly emphasized and hammered into traders minds for all the right reasons. I´m not disputing it in any way. What I am concerned about is that if you only ever go into the trading ring with this as you ultimate and only goal - you will most likely ultimately and only ever fail - or shall I say never make progress. I know this sounds a little contradictory to what I've said above but let me develop it further.

In Joshuas quote he mentioned "balance" and while he was probably meaning physical balance on his feet in the center of the ring there is a deeper interpretation - that of maintaining the right mindset or mental balance of protecting yourself but never losing sight of the fact that you are there to win. What I mean is if your goal is to not lose, you will not win! While defence and protection are crucial they are pointless without the attack mode and instinct. There are traders who think only in terms of defense just as there are those who are full of testosterone and only think in terms of knock outs. Both are dangerous mindsets but the latter gets all the coverage while the former which I think is just as limiting to success is rarely talked about.

All top sportsmen and women regardless of their sport have one goal in mind - to win. They know all the downsides to losing and how this can happen but they dont let it undermine their primary objective of winning. Its this that I´m trying to get at. You cant enter trading with a wholly defensive attitude - you have to attack. There´s an old saying from Nascar (I think) that if you are a driver who only thinks about hitting the wall - you will hit the wall. If he thinks about it and is gripped by fear - he will hit it. Its manifesting what you dont want. This is completely the wrong way around. We need to be manifesting what we do want. Ergo I feel that having a mindset solely focused on not losing is not the same as having one focused on winning. The former will help but it wont get you where you want to be. Defense should be part of your process - not your objective..

This leads me to a personal experience which goes some way to summing up what I´m trying to say. Many years ago I used to train at a boxing gym in Sheffield England. It was managed and trained by a great guy called Glynn who had fought professionally but never really made the top grade - no shame in that he was and still is a stand up guy. I used to love the training but I never had any intention of taking it any further - I was too old by this time and wasn´t good enough anyway - but loved the feeling of going mano y mano and the physical well being from the hard hours on the bag and in the gym. One week Glynn introduced us to a friend of his who turned out to be Richie Wenton, the ex British and IBO Inter-Continental super bantamweight champion and asked us if we fancied a few secs each in the ring with him. When it came to my turn (and I can tell you even though it was just messing around I was more than a bit apprehensive lol) I stepped into the riing! After about a minute or so we finished and his assessment was - "why are you wasting all that time and energy moving around and being defensive when your goal is to hit me to win - defending is what you do not what you want! Kind of gets to point. Make defense part of your process and your objective to win.

Nice one AJ by the way - next step undisputed glory.


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