Sunday, 9 October 2011
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 that 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.
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.