pain

So one of the things they don’t tell you about boxing is the constant ache and pain – and I don’t necessarily mean an aching nose after you‘ve blocked a firm right with it, but the general all-over-ache the days after the work out.
I’d been doing pilates to make sure I was stretching correctly and building strength in my core – even though my trainer reckons I’m still weak and uncontrolled there, which compared to him I am – but also to stop the back problems getting worse and so far it has worked. However I now have constant aches in my back and tight left quad/calf/hamstrings as well as tight left glute. I’m in my 40s so its probably more pronounced even though I have a reasonable level of fitness/mobility. When I walk back from the gym on a Sunday morning I can feel my whole body pulling to the left due to the time spent in the same position whilst working the heavy bag. I have to stretch all the major muscles every day and get a regular massage.
I have considered stopping due to the aches and all round pain-in-the-ass (literally) nature of the body problems but… once you’re in full flow moving around, sparring or on the bag and “in the zone” everything else disappears and the mind refreshes. Plus its fun. I guess I’ll push on until it becomes unbearable.

Speaking of the heavy bag.. last week I was working with it and a large, built guy comes over asking how long I’ll be

“About 20 minutes”
“Ok, I’ll use the other one”

He goes up to the free-standing punch bag and puts his gloves on. Does some stretching. Moves around a bit then steps in and WHACKS it, knocking it over with one hard right. I’ve had it rocking but not knocked it down in one. Imagine taking a punch on the nose from that guy.

injury

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.

 

left

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.

fight

I started training with an ex-pro about 4 or 5 months ago and its been an education. I trained in rowing when I lived in London and that was hard work, harder than anything I’d done before but Boxing..? These are the ultimate athletes.

I have an hour training on a saturday morning then on sundays I go to the gym and go through the drills I’ve learned. Some people hate the drills but I love them – the repetition allows you to really get inside what is going on and it becomes hypnotic. The body learns the movements but the mental side requires work, maintaining the concentration to keep the movement the same each time, over and over again. This requires body awareness from head to toe as the whole body is involved in many of the punches and slips or blocks. For example a simple straight right (bizarrely even though I’m right-handed this is my weakest shot) involves pivoting the back foot (the right foot) turning the hips and torso to get the torque and reaching the right arm to land the punch, keeping the left on guard by the chin to avoid taking a punch. I’ve done this thousands of times but still cant get it consistently to hear the satisfying THWACK on the heavy bag every time. Keep good posture, move the front foot first stepping forward, back first stepping backward, left stepping left, right stepping right, take little steps to keep a solid stance, chin down, arms up, side-on to be a smaller target, keep guard up, make each punch crisp and return to stance after every movement, keep improvising and don’t be predictable, don’t stay still, stay alert…

I’ve changed what I do in the gym to make it more sports specific which used to involve 60-80 press-ups but that kills the wrists so I’ve been using the machines to lift weights. Lots of stretching, jumping rope (I still find this impossible) and some obvious cardio. Then it’s the drills.

This usually begins with stepping up and down the gym in stance, first time adding a jab, second time a jab then right, third time jab right duck, block or slip etc and so on. Doing this stepping backwards takes concentration but will come in handy later on when sparring – throwing a jab or two when stepping back means your opponent will either walk into one or back off allowing you a few seconds to right yourself.

Next its a brief shadow box – providing there’s room in the mirror with the young pretty boys lifting weights and grunting – then onto the heavy bag and more drills. Starting simply with a few jabs and rights, some hooks, upper cuts then onto combinations, blocks, footwork before a free session of whatever feels good. When I started I’d do 50x jabs and 50x rights before anything but now it can be more general depending on what I’ve learned with my trainer.

Sparring is completely different and a great way to show just how little you actually know and how unfit you are…
6×3 minute rounds and by round 5 I can keep my guard up, move and throw a few jabs but not much else. Absolutely exhausting. But yeh, my trainer is going easy on me and will put in a few light shots to show when my guard is open or to shake me up. The last 6 rounds we did I landed 2 decent shots – a left hook and an uppercut, that was it – 2 shots, as he moved or blocked everything else..

Now when I watch boxing I view it in a different light, observing the boxers footwork or blocks, the craft and subtleties, who takes the bigger hits or moves the lightest, quickest and looks strong, who has the most heart, the ebb and flow of a fight when one is on top before fading as the rounds go on or changing their game-plan when it’s not working..
when done well its more than just two guys beating each other up.