Despite its punishing brutality, boxing is one of the most graceful sports. Fighters move with a deftness that often defies their hulking frames, their combinations are smooth yet devastating, and they are among the fittest athletes on the planet. As a recently qualified personal trainer, and with all this in mind, I decided to enrol on a course that teaches trainers how to coach clients in the noblest of arts.
With very limited exposure to boxing I had a lot to learn. Fortunately I had ex-amateur fighter, Ian Burbedge, now coach to British light-welterweight champion Lenny Daws, as an instructor. Boxers often have nicknames to reflect their particularly strengths. If teaching me was anything to go by, Burbedge's would have been 'Patience'.
My training started with Burbedge talking me through the basic punches that, when strung together, form crunching combos: left jab, right cross then left and right hooks and uppercuts. My punching was OK, my footwork dire. When moving forward you lead with your front leg (the left one if orthodox, the right if southpaw), while the back leg follows. When retreating the back leg leads. At first, moving your feet at the right time to maintain optimum balance and body position while throwing punches is a little like rubbing your stomach while patting your head, but after ten minutes it all falls into place.
Once I understood the theory and the movements, I pulled on some gloves began throwing the punches at a pad-wielding Burbedge. Double-jab, cross, left hook, right hook. Left uppercut, cross, left hook. He held the pads just where they needed to be, which made it easy to connect. It was exhausting work but after a battery of punches I felt like I was starting to get the hang of it.
But throwing punches is one thing, holding the pads and constructing a boxing workout for a client is totally different. I started with some basic combinations – jabs and crosses – while moving Burbedge around the ring. I gradually worked in some hooks and uppercuts, but soon found myself asking him to perform punches you just wouldn’t do in the ring. Throwing double right hooks from an orthodox stance is hard – your arm has to swing back a long way before punching again – and it leaves you exposed to a counter-punch, so a real boxer wouldn’t do it.
Like most things, practice makes perfect, and the more I tested Burbedge the more confident I became. But even towards the end of the session I was far from perfect – there a couple of occasions where my pads weren't where they needed to be and I was lucky not to get punched. Nonetheless, I ended the two-day course confident that boxing was something I could now offer clients who want to increase their strength, co-ordination and stamina by pummeling me into next week.
For more info, go to padbox.co.uk. For more fighting workout stories, check out the UFC section of the website and subscribe to the magazine. We'll give you five issues for £5.
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