Starting a new sport...

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Post by Fists of Fury on Wed 28 Sep 2011, 2:54 pm

Afternoon all

I recently started writing a blog, just as something to do in my spare time as writing is something I have always enjoyed, and decided to document my own experiences in undertaking a sport that I had never participated in before. Here it is, please feel free to leave any comments/suggestions for improvements etc. Like I said, I don't write for any particular purpose and it is just for my own enjoyment really, so no offence will be taken!

Thanks

Ever held an interest in participating in one of the more 'blood, sweat and tears' adrenaline fuelled sports, but not quite had the minerals to do so? On many an occasion, I have sat there with friends - beer in hand, empty pizza box sat on the table, and EA Sports Fight Night on the Xbox blaring away - conversing about how much we would like to be able to fight, to be in similar shape to the real life versions of those we were controlling with the push of a few buttons, and to possess the supreme self confidence that would surely come with knowing how to box.

Well on my way to becoming 25 years of age, I sat there one night and decided in my own mind that I was going to take the plunge and get myself down to a local boxing gym. After all, these are my 'prime' years, and if there was a time to learn the fight game it'd be now, wouldn't it?

I'm not usually one for excess self-indulgence, but this next series of blogs will document my experiences in the boxing gym on a monthly basis, and will hopefully go some way to showing why an ordinary office worker, who has barely had a fight in his life, can step into a gym and (hopefully) reach a point where he can hold his own with those that have been in the game considerably longer.

Prior to my first session, I consulted British boxing coach Kevin Campion. "Any advice for a novice?" I enquired. "Get fit, running is a key part" he said, "and the jab is the key, it can help you in defence or attack. If you learn anything, learn how to throw a good jab". With that in mind, I set off for the gym - butterflies in my stomach and with no idea what to expect.

Located in the degenerated back streets of Digbeth, Birmingham the 'Executive Boxer' gym looks more like a disused warehouse from the outside, sitting above an old car garage and a far cry from the Dodgeball-esque 'Globo Gym' I had perhaps been expecting.

After climbing the staircase, in the sort of state that you encounter in a multi-storey car park only minus the stench, I see the gym in all it's glory - concrete floor, a few heavy bags and a solitary boxing ring sat against the back wall. Add to it what I imagine is the familiar smell of many a boxing gym around the world and I might as well have been in 1960's Philadelphia training alongside 'Smokin' Joe Frazier.

At this point the resident trainer, Anthony, introduces himself to me. "Hi mate, I'm Anthony, the first few sessions are going to hurt, but you'll soon pick it up". Very comforting, and did nothing to add to the butterflies that were by now in the midst of a particularly violent hurricane in my stomach, as you can imagine.

I consider myself a relatively fit bloke, playing football and squash once a week, in amongst a handful of gym visits for some casual weightlifting. After a warm-up containing numerous variations of running around the gym I was swiftly beginning to change my opinion.

On then to my first experience with the gloves on, as I was paired up with another member of the ten strong group. Thankfully, the technique work wasn't overly complicated, with variations on jabbing, throwing a 1-2 and slipping punches being the focus of the exercise. One thing that did astound me, however, was the difficulty of staying balanced at all times. Footwork, it would appear, is not in the slighest bit as easy as it looks. Next to the regulars, it felt like I was wearing old school diving boots and moving with fluidity comparative to that of three month old milk.

It would appear that it'd be some time before I could declare the arrival of Pernell Whitaker reincarnate.

Anthony, whilst making various comments and corrections to my technique, couldn't stress enough the importance of the legs as a solid base from which to throw your punches, and the burn could certainly be felt as I constantly rocked my weight back to slip the incoming jabs. Thankfully for my face, my partner took pity and certainly wasn't throwing with any gusto!

Unarguably the most physically exhausting exercise came in the form of circuits. I'd heard stories of first timers being sick after a mere ten minutes of circuits, so it was with a degree of trepidation that I approached the first station in week one.

One minute intervals of squats, heavy bag, military presses, sprints, punching with dumbells, bench step-ups and the like and I was on my last legs, with every muscle, including those I never knew existed, an inferno. The abs session to finish up with was most welcome, which is something you wouldn't usually hear me saying!

The remaining sessions of the month focussed more on defensive technique, the slipping and parrying of incoming attacks, and the ability to set up attacks of our own through use of the jab. It has to be said that it was the defensive side of things that I found most difficult - it certainly wasn't second nature to stay in range of my 'opponent' when attempting to slip punches, and that was something taking some degree of getting used to.

In terms of general fitness, you'll find that it rapidly improves if you can couple your boxing sessions with a three to four mile run each week. The next day aches won't stop, but as those old weightlifting sages might tell you, "pain is just weakness leaving the body".

All in all a good month of training, and one where I had realised two things. 1) Boxing requires a lot of patience, and in the words of the great Floyd Mayweather Jr "hard work, dedication" in order to master the various techniques and reach the required fitness levels. 2) An average Joe office worker could head into a boxing gym without completely embarassing himself. Plenty of hard work and learning ahead, but the wheels were in motion.

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Post by D24tress on Wed 28 Sep 2011, 3:11 pm

very good read mate, really interesting

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Post by Fists of Fury on Thu 29 Sep 2011, 9:32 am

Thanks mate, just had an idea to write about it when I was bored one day - thought maybe it wasn't such a bad idea to let others know that sports which may appear scary at first aren't all bad, and we can all do them!

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Post by westisbest on Tue 11 Oct 2011, 1:00 pm

Good read FOF.

I wish I had the determination to do something like you have done when I was your age.

Digbeth, been there a few times, one to the Anchor.

From a fellow Villa fan I wish you all the best mate.

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Post by Fists of Fury on Tue 11 Oct 2011, 1:42 pm

Thanks very much westisbest, it's certainly something I'm enjoying doing, though I'm a bit apprehensive about starting sparring next week... Should I survive, I may write a piece on how that went.

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Post by MtotheC's Wrasslin Biatch on Tue 11 Oct 2011, 2:46 pm

Excellent read Fists - and that's from someone with no interest in Boxing.

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Post by Thomond on Tue 11 Oct 2011, 5:23 pm

A good read. I'm not a boxer but I can tell you circuit training is the most diffciult type of training I have experienced, it tests everything. Keep it up and you will reap the rewards!

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Post by Fists of Fury on Tue 11 Oct 2011, 5:37 pm

Thanks guys.

It is an absolute killer isn't it, Thomond?

Feels great once you have got through the pain though.

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Post by Fists of Fury on Thu 10 Nov 2011, 4:16 pm

Here is the follow up blog, guys, after I had sparred for the first time:

In the first of this series of blogs I spoke of my desire to take those first few tentative steps into the world of boxing, with the ultimate aim of stepping in to the squared circle and managing to hold my own against those far more experienced in the 'sweet science' than myself.

As a 9 to 5 office worker whose experience of throwing punches didn't extend much past the free Wii Sports boxing simulation game, it had appeared an intimidating prospect. The intention of that first blog however, and I hope it had the desired effect, was to show that somebody with no fighting background and with a tendency to live the easy life could step out of their comfort zone, and find it wasn't quite as petrifying as it may once have appeared.

Nevertheless, it's still an intimidating place, the gym. During our various drills in technique I take time out to look around at the others, assessing the competition, if you like. What I see is something that doesn't sell sparring too well to me. My main concern? They all look like they know what they are doing. 'Mean Business' read the slogan on one gym mates T-shirt, and the way he was hitting the heavy bag showed it wasn't in jest.

Despite only having stepped in to the gym for the first time all of six weeks ago, I realise I'm becoming far more confident in things even as simple as shadow boxing. I'm now concentrating on slipping those imaginary incoming punches, of manoeuvring my opponent around and ensuring it is all done with the correct technique. Turn back the clock a couple of weeks and the only thing I'm concentrating on is not looking like a clueless buffoon in front of the regulars.

The question I had been mulling over almost endlessly in my own mind was whether I could live with these guys in sparring, where the drills became real and instinct takes over. That old adage of fight or flight would certainly apply, with my worry being that it'd be the latter. After all, the last time I'd been hit on the nose was a good fifteen years ago, I didn't like it much then, and as to how I'd react now even I didn't know. One thing was for sure, I would most definitely be getting hit - my dexterity in the slipping of punches had only slightly improved from that of off-milk to a badly made porridge after a few extra weeks attempting to sharpen my skills.

After the obligatory Google search of 'how long do people box for before they start sparring' I was left none the wiser, with advice ranging from one month to six months. "You'll be fine" says one of my gym mates, "once you realise you aren't made of glass, and get used to being hit, you'll start to enjoy it." This may be boxing, but getting hit was something that wasn't exactly at the forefront of my mind when I signed up. I vowed to redouble my defensive efforts in training.

Upon finally purchasing a mouth guard, one of those self-mould jobs that barely fits, gives you a mouth appearing similar in shape to that of King Kong and falls out every time you try to speak, it was time to give sparring a go. If I thought I was nervous before my first group training session, I was wrong. I spent my entire day at work with what I can only imagine is the type of dread that a Death Row inmate suffers as he peruses the menu choices of his final meal.

Hands up, chin down, I told myself as I was first called in to the ring - quite typically against the biggest, meanest looking guy in the vicinity. Thankfully, our trainer Anthony had us work on a two jabs each policy to begin with, so I was able to get a taste for moving about the ring and being able to try and defend against the incoming jabs without worrying about a monster right hand follow up wiping me out.

I must admit, my greatest fear beforehand was being overwhelmed by punches I couldn't see coming. Whether by design or fortune, it actually suited me well to be in with the biggest, but consequently slowest member of the team. I wouldn't necessarily class myself as fleet of foot, but I was able to get in and back out again using quick raiding tactics with the jab before I could be found with a counter. Jabbing to the body was where I enjoyed most success, with the majority of my jabs to the head being blocked or parried. Not at all surprising, given that I most likely announce an impending jab with all the subtlety of a stampeding Rhinoceros.

There were five of us in attendance, boxing two minute rounds each, but changing opponent after one minute of each. Words fail me when beginning to describe how much hard work a two minute round is, and it really brings home just how well conditioned professional boxers must be, who are fighting three minute rounds remember, and twelve of them!

"The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses - behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights" - Muhammad Ali

Despite not quite being ready to begin comparisons between myself and the great Muhammad Ali, one thing I can say is that I now understand what he was talking about - difference being that he was preparing for a gruelling 15-rounder with Joe Frazier, and I was hoping to survive two minutes against Dave from the local building site.

We had completed plenty of tough strength and conditioning drills in the gym across the past six weeks, but nothing could have prepared me for the rigours of sparring. That combination of sharp foot movement, the throwing of punches and, of course, being punched in the face, chest, arms, everywhere it seemed, does take it out of you, and rather rapidly. Concentration is another aspect that cannot be overlooked, causing a sweat to break out after mere seconds through my sheer will to pre-empt punches that had my name on them. Things had started well though, despite the almost immediate screaming coming from my legs that they'd had enough.

Alas, it wasn't to last. On a list of things you most definitely would not want to do when faced with an ogre-like opponent with arms like hams, hitting him low would appear pretty close to the top. As I lunged in for another of my by now specialist jabs to the body, he stepped back, leaving my jab to fall low and cause his eyes to water somewhat. After a ten second break where he checked they were still there and gathered himself, he came tearing out of the corner like a bull to the matador, except this particular matador wasn't quite as skilled in the art of evasive action.

Before I knew it I was under fire against the ropes from a barrage of left hands, managing to block most of them to my credit, though I did take a particularly painful one right on the end of the nose. Another jab to the eye later and it appeared that Taurus had finally started to run out of steam. Chance to capitalise? Not for me, dead on my feet and genuinely thankful as the buzzer told me it was the end of the round. I'd held my own, but certainly had a scare upon awaking the sleeping giant.

The rest of the session saw us focus upon techniques we had been working on so rigorously in training in recent weeks - defensive manoeuvres and counter-punching. One half of the round was spent being the aggressor, whereas the other half had a stipulation; you could only throw a punch back if it was a legitimate counter. Needless to say, I was far too concerned with getting out the way of my opponents punches to be much of a success at getting my own counter off, though I'm reliably informed that everyone feels this way during their first couple of sessions.

I'd been told it was addictive, sparring. Beforehand such a notion was pretty hard to believe, though I've since found myself throwing combinations in every mirror I manage to walk by - when nobody is watching, of course. There is no doubt that sparring was the scariest thing I have ever participated in, but did I enjoy it? Absolutely. Will I be going again next week? You bet. I'm not fooling myself, I've got a heck of a long way to go before I can start getting the better of people in there, but it was comforting to know that I could step between those ropes and hold my own, particularly given that I'm still a complete novice in the sport.

One thing this session highlighted is the immense role that confidence plays in a sport such as boxing. I went in feeling like a lamb to the slaughter. After somehow managing not to disgrace myself, I left feeling like the next super-middleweight champion of the world.

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Post by B91212 on Thu 10 Nov 2011, 7:04 pm

Enjoying the blog FoF (your username is now very appropriate) and glad your enjoying it. You make a very good point at the end where you state how much your confidence has improved - could be very useful for people with low self esteem. My brother in law's step-son has very low self-esteem and borderline learning disabilities. To try and improve his self-esteem he took him driving tanks for the day and it helped but I think what your doing would be better. Unfortunately the sister-in-law is a bit of an idiot who stopped that tank thing and I'm guessing wouldn't let him box in a million years.

I know a guy who makes a point of learning something new every year. I think that is a good way to go - he got his motorbike licence one year, learned to ski last year and not sure what he is doing this year but it will have been something. I thought it was a good idea and am going to try and follow it myself from next year.

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Post by Fists of Fury on Fri 11 Nov 2011, 9:23 am

Thanks, mate.

I'd definitely recommend anyone doing it. It's great for fitness, confidence and is just an all-round enjoyable experience.

You don't get badly hurt, as the sparring sessions aren't anywhere near free for alls, and the training either side of that is mostly non-contact.

That was kind of the reason why I started to box. I wanted to do something a bit different, and have always been massively into boxing, so it seemed like an obvious choice. I'd wanted to try my hand at the sport for a few years but actually getting the courage to go and do it is a different thing altogether. Once you do, however, you realise it isn't half as bad as you originally imagined.

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Post by westisbest on Fri 11 Nov 2011, 10:05 am

I wouldnt mind trying MMA.

Massive fan.

Keep it up FOF.

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