Friday, August 26, 2011

Lessons Learned While Boxing, Part 1

So, if you have been following my tweets, you'll have noticed that I've been boxing for some year and a half now. It's been a regular fixture in my weekday; just drop by the gym after work on the way home, for a cheeky hour to hour-and-a-half session. Over the next week or so, I thought I would jot down my musings (and also some fun videos!).

Some initial thoughts:

1. Healthy Body, Health Mind

I'll be honest: before I started boxing, I did not do any regular exercise. And my belly was a proof of that. I felt more tired at work, and also that much 'heavier' as a result. Sure, I would go for the occasional run in the weekends, (even training for a full marathon in Spring 2010), but it just wasn't fun enough. Running three times a week quickly became once a week, and then it was all downhill from there.

Then I heard about how boxing is one of those sports that you can do well into your old age, as long as you keep away from sparring. I had never considered boxing till that point, but my interest was suddenly piqued, and I looked around for a boxing gym nearby.

I found boxing enjoyable. This was quite surprising to me at first, because so much of boxing is just repetition: the obligatory skipping rope exercise to warm up, the "shadow boxing" in front of a mirror, followed by punching sand bags. I think what I enjoyed the most was sense of progress. Slowly but surely, I was getting hooked on seeing myself getting better and better at each of these activities.

And almost immediately, I found that I had more energy throughout the day. Even though I was almost always worn out at the end of the work day as I was entering the gym, I was considerably more rejuvenated after the session as I walked out of it. The renewed energy meant that it actually enabled me to pursue meaningful projects in the evenings. In short, I had just found my sports. ;-)

2. The Basics

Almost everything about boxing was new to me when I first started. Even the rope-skipping required considerable persistence on my part, because I was just so rubbish at it at first. I just couldn't get the rhythm right. The skipping rope would get tangled up around my legs, arms, and yes, even my neck. Soon enough though, I got better and better at it, and now, I can confidently say that skipping ropes has become second nature to me.

Skipping ropes is such an integral part of boxing, it's as if they were meant for each other. It trains the body to snap the wrists in sync to the stepping motion, and leads nicely on to the jab, the one-two, etc. It also helps in getting the right footwork down, and the importance of good footwork in boxing cannot be overstated.

It's quite depressing for me to say this, but: I still haven't got the basics of boxing down. The straight punches: the jab, the one-two etc... they all rely on the snap, and it takes considerable amount of practice. I'll cover this in more depth in a later post.

3. Sparring

I initially shied away from sparring matches; I just didn't like the idea of killing my brain cells on a regular basis. About six months in though, I couldn't resist the lure of the ring, and ever since then, it's been my boxing highlight. The rush of blood, the feeling of connecting a well-timed punch on the opponent's face and following through.. There's really nothing quite like it. It's more exciting and exhilarating then any action/fighting video games I've played (yes, that includes Wii boxing).

Here's what I've come to realise: confidence tops almost everything else in deciding the outcome of a sparring match. Sometimes, towards the end of a round in which I'm consistently hitting the opponent, I can see in the opponent's eyes that he has lost the will to fight. His confidence is drained, and from that point on, I might as well be punching a sand bag. Confidence is key.

Related to that, I found that whoever keeps the cool head also has the best chance of coming out ahead in a match. At the end of the day, boxing is all about mixing the fakes and real shots in a way that deceives the opponent, and if you lose your temper after getting hit a few times, you are robbed of all capacity to do that. Maintaining a cool head and calmly adjusting your stance after a heated exchange, is so crucial during the three-minute rounds.
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