Ok, so getting hit isn’t much fun. Second session of the year and during sparring last week my trainer stepped it up and kept on coming at me, which was unnerving as he usually does this alternate rounds not every round. I found myself covering up, moving my torso and stepping backwards (but not with any purpose) and as my stamina got less and less so did my punches. It kept the blows on my gloves or elbows but at some point you’re going to have to come up and throw some back or you’ll just get battered. This is where the mental side comes in – If you come up and engage, chances are you’ll take a few (most likely in the face) and you know this. So I came up to engage and took a few in the face, and yeh it hurt! He wasn’t going full-on or obviously I’d have been on the floor but he was jabbing enough to make me worry about showing my face again – one time I came up to the side to throw a left hook and just missed a straight right as it whizzed past my cheek. Conquering the fear of this is also about learning the technique and trusting in it.
When you’re getting hit there’s 4 basic options –
1. Block the punch – with the correct technique, not just throwing your arms in front of it. e.g. elbows down and tight in to cover your ribs or arm up by the side of your head and elbow across half of your face, at an angle.
2. Catch the punch – open palm and respond with an appropriate punch or move.
3. Move out of the way – head to the side (known as slipping), moving your torso, squatting downwards or stepping back but always with purpose and economy of movement.
4. Take the punch.
The key is not to panic, keep breathing and keep moving, watching your opponents feet to indicate shifting of balance/movement and if at all possible work out his timing and combinations he likes to throw. Once you’ve got this then when you’re hit in a specific place respond with a specific movement or punch. e.g. a blow to the body = upper cut response, as you should have an idea what is coming next or where your opponent is. Sounds relatively easy but I also have this habit of blocking punches by trying to throw my own. My trainer knows this so fakes to throw then moves and I’m wide open. BOP!
Moving your head a couple of inches to the left or right (economy of movement) when a fist is coming at it instead of trying to deflect it or just stepping backwards takes discipline and nerve and this is something I’m trying to learn. I’ve been hit enough now to know what it feels like but I’m more interested in the movements and technique that come with the art. Down the gym some guys come in and wail on the heavy bag for ten minutes then leave (which can be fun) but I find the movement, combinations and responses fascinating so I spend ages dancing with the heavy bag or throwing a few light punches then moving. Hopefully I’ll be able to put everything together and it’ll all be one glorious movement of slipping the punch(es) then throwing some back in a useful way whilst saving energy and moving with purpose! But not for a while yet.
So it happened. Not that much of a surprise considering my age and how physically demanding boxing is but I’ve injured my back and now have 6 weeks out. My posture was too tight, left shoulder too high, my left side was leaning forward (due to leading with the left, hundreds of jabs) and stretching the left side of my back – specifically the mid-area – which then pulled on the lower part of my back above the pelvis. I was aware my posture wasn’t loose enough and (conversely) I wasn’t keeping compact enough in the right areas but adding this onto coordination, balance, footwork, guard, movement etc was hard work even though I spent time trying to correct it.
I actually “did” the injury whilst stepping down off a chair after changing a lightbulb but the origins have been around for a while… on the train to Barcelona last year I picked up some heavy luggage and turned my torso to move it which stressed my lower back causing the initial lower back injury – very painful! After, I’d had treatment but not given myself enough rest time and just carried on my usual exercise, which considering I’m a massage therapist and work with sports injuries, was stupid of me.
The plus side is now some actual rest (with lots of stretching the right areas) and time away so my brain can process what I’ve learnt. The last session on my own was a struggle as I kept repeating the same patterns (jab, upper cut, always looking for the left hook) and was getting tired quickly so hopefully I can re-think things and watch some videos of the old greats to get some tips.
Missing it already.
I’m getting the importance of the jab now and the left in general.. and I don’t just mean as a punch. Using the heavy bag or sparring really brings home how the left is the main weapon. Moving around your opponent means judging the distance correctly and when to attack, which is what fighters spend the first few minutes of the bout doing – testing each other. The left will help with this if you keep putting it out there, finding your range and keep your opponent working.
Obviously a tight jab is a good punch but the left is also the first line of defence, blocking or parrying punches. It can hook, upper cut and double jab, can strip the opponents arm away from their ribs or head and allow a quick blow plus it can also set up the straight right or other combinations.
On Saturday I was using it for defence and then counter-attack. Simple drills such as a quick jab then moving the head down and gloves up to the face (keeping the elbows close together to stop an upper cut) to block a punch. To simulate the punch I stepped into the bag –not exactly head-butting it but moving in quickly so it struck me – then stepped back and throw a double jab before blocking again then stepping to the right and throwing a combination jab then right. There are variations on this such as dropping left after the block then hooking or upper-cutting or whatever feels good. This takes coordination so I was all over the place by the 7th or 8th time in a row but with practice can be done without thought. It’s a good way to get used to taking the blows, stop shutting the eyes and keep breathing and moving.