Buddhist boxer infuses spirituality into his work
By Aimee Heckel, Daily Camera, June 21, 2009
BOULDER, Colo. (USA) -- Only in Boulder: a Buddhist boxing gym. The walls of Front Range Boxing are lined with Lao Tzo quotes, alongside photos of Dave Gaudette with famous boxers and trainers.
<< Dave Gaudette at the Front Range Boxing Studio
Gaudette was 16 years old when he fell in love with boxing. Another twist: At the time, he was studying to be a Franciscan priest.
"I've always been drawn toward the ultimate, the bigger picture," he says. "Every once in a while, the time and the ego melts away. And that's the closest you're ever going to get to God. I'm talking about the 'dis-ease' of philosophy. If you're satisfied with everything, there's no impulse to look beyond your next experience."
He continues, without a breath in between: "Do you know the story of the Buddha?"
Ah, yes. The preceding is a typical conversation with Lisa Gaudette's father.
His endurance and passion about philosophy and spirituality rivals his endurance and passion in the boxing ring. And a boxing Buddhist is no contraction, he insists. But before we get swept into another intense discussion about transcendence and the infinite, let's pause to wish Gaudette a happy Father's Day.
Lisa Gaudette, 24, who works for a construction company in Carbondale, plans on visiting her dad for the holiday, probably going out for breakfast. She is his only child.
"I just stopped when I reached perfection," Dave Gaudette says, followed by a chuckle and an "Aww." He continues, "She is the light of my life."
Dave Gaudette, originally from New Hampshire, came to Boulder for his master's degree because the town had one of only three universities that offered an East/West Philosophy program. He realized after high school that priesthood was not for him.
Rather, he says he was attracted the wisdom of Buddhism and its existential origins. Today, almost 15 years after opening his gym, philosophy remains a very important part of his life and his boxing. He tries to meditate at least once a day. Boxing, he says, is a metaphor for life.
"Boxing is a very existential sport. Just like life, it requires training. It requires discipline. It requires hard work. It requires courage," he says. "It can end at any moment."
For Dave Gaudette, boxing is about empowerment. It's a way to learn about your body and your mind. You learn to realize how much power you have and how to unlock it.
And the Buddhist principles help with that.
"You learn to get over the ego, to move beyond it," he says.
Instead of worrying about losing, or wondering if the other guy hits hard, Dave Gaudette says his spirituality taught him to focus on the present moment.
"The ego can subside into the background in the face of the intensely focused activity that you're doing," he says. "That's being in the moment, and being in the moment is the only place god is."
A thinker -- and a fighter? In light of Father's Day, we wanted to know more about this curious combo, so we asked him five questions about boxing and life and how it all fits together. Then we asked his daughter the same questions.
Here's how it went down:
1. What is something your clients might be surprised to know about you?
Dave: I don't know if they'd be surprised that I like poetry and art. I'm pretty much an open book.
Lisa: That he has a master's in philosophy. Until they talk to him. And then they'd be like, "Yeah, of course."
2. What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses in boxing?
Dave: I've got a good jab and I've got a good left hook. But I'm too humble. I was a little too nice of a guy. I had a hard time getting that aggressive edge. The virtue of which I am most proud is my humility. (Irony intended.)
Lisa: I think he's a great teacher. He has really good technique and he's awesome with kids, teaching kids. He knows everything there is to know about the sport. The only weakness I can think of isn't in boxing, it's in business. His business is about giving people confidence, strength and ability, not so much pushing papers. He doesn't have a secretary or anyone to help with that side of things, so it would be hard for anyone.
3. Why did you decide to open your own gym?
Dave: I didn't have a job. I tried a lot of different things. I thought, "I just want to do what I love and what I'm good at." I don't know if I could be happier. ... Beyond being a priest and beyond being a teacher, this is what I was meant to do. It may not save the world, but it'll save a kid or two. It'll enrich a couple people's lives.
Lisa: I think that he's passionate about boxing. He's always been real passionate about it. He's done it since he was a young kid. He knew that he would love to do this. Most people can't do what they love.
4. What woman has had the biggest impact on your life?
Dave: My mother, Edith Gaudette. She is a kind, nurturing person. She tries to make everybody in the room as comfortable as possible, even if she isn't. She is a real lady. She is the (female) counterpart of a gentleman.
Lisa: His mom. My grandmother. Absolutely no question. She is the most wonderful lady ever. She's picture perfect. She's like June Cleaver.
5. What inspires you?
Dave: Compassion. This is one of my favorite lines in literature: "Compassion is the chief, perhaps the only law, of human existence." It brings tears to my eyes. I try to have compassion for all things. But it really bothers me when people try to victimize people.
Lisa: I think the Buddhism type religion. He gets a lot of faith from that, his groundedness. It keeps him in check almost. Emotionally, he doesn't sweat the small stuff.