Mel Epstein & Systolic breathing . . . By Rick Farris
Like the "old school trainer" fraternity in which he was vested member, Mel Epstein, knew the tricks of the boxing trade. How to get an edge.
Having an edge can make a big difference, and Mel was concerned about my deep breathing, my oxygen consumption during a bout.
Mel was not a "certified" anything, like the so-called educated gurus who charge champs six figures today.
Actual experience was Mel's guide, advice from the likes of Dempsey's trainer, Teddy Hayes, and Ray Arcel back in the Benny Leonard days.
He also got some advice from another valued source, his mother.
"Mrs. Epstein, of the Boston Epsteins," Mel would kid, was an opera singer when Mel was a young lad.
She learned to breathe as a singer breathes, pulling oxygen deep into the body, beneath the lungs into the upper stomach.
"It's called systolic breathing, and that is what I'm going to teach you," Mel promised.
He continued, "My mother taught me, and I saw Dempsey practicing it but they didn't call it systolic breathing. That was my mother's term, and my mother was educated, you know, she came from a good family."
Mel was right, I began to breathe different and it also aided my runs with Bob Seagren.
Mel did some boxing, and has the nose to prove he was probably best suited in management, training and promotion - and he did it all!
Today a college degree and good line of bullshit will land documented smoke blower a spot on some champ's ship of fools. A "Physical trainer."
Mel is rolling in his grave, and he's laughing.
Just last week I saw a "physical advisor" on TV who is going to mentor a world champ on the "bodies rhythm".
He will try to show the athlete how to take deep breath, using a computor screen, high tech graffics and statistics.
The physical advisor will need the finest in high tech equipment attempting to demostrate his theory.
All Mel needed was a good story about his mother and a quick demonstration. Everyday he'd remind me as I walked along side him.
We'd be walking down Wilshire Blvd., near Vermont, Mel would bark . . . "Breathe deep, into your stomach. Systolic breathing."
I'd begin to breath to his staisfaction and then he would bark, "Toes in! Walk with your toes pointed inward, punchers are pigeon-toed!"
That's what he'd tell me as we walked . . . "Breathe, toes in!"
Mel Epstein, he was really something. Bless his soul.