Exploring the Unknown

Exploring the Unknown
Representing the 99%!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

10 Tips for Your First Ever Sparring Session - A Review

10 Tips for Your First Ever Sparring Session
By JT Van T

Nothing scratches an itch like a 16oz boxing glove right hook to your jaw. Yesterday was my first sparring session and all things considered, I was told that I did pretty well. Though, I can imagine that my boxing instructors weren't too sure of me at first. Excited and nervous, I accidentally put the groin protector on the wrong way and nearly jumped into the ring with 12oz gloves (*Facepalm). It was also the first day that they allowed us to to spar together in the ring with an instructor and or experienced boxer. No offence to Bob the Punching Bag, but nothing quite prepares you the way that sparring with an actual partner does.

Your Main Goal

How We All Feel Before Our First Fight,
Sparring or Otherwise!
Learn as much as you can. On top of what I am learning from my boxing teachers at Club Boxing De Sherbrooke, I have also been reading as much as I can online. Particularly, Precision Striking with JT Van T has been really useful in this process. I was apprehensive at first about entering the ring, not least of all because I was going to be facing an opponent who has considerable experience under his belt. There is an array of emotions that ran through me, ranging from not wanting to embarrass myself to wondering if I still could take a punch, no matter how reserved, after all of these years. Of course, there was a sense of anxiety and fear leading up to the initial start. However, once in the ring, a sense of calm and clarity came over me. I was not nearly as nervous and or afraid as I thought I would be, or at least, not after the first jab to my face. Arguably, the experience was cathartic and I found myself surprisingly at ease trying to punch my opponent. I even managed to block several jabs. I made plenty of mistakes, naturally, but that didn't stop me from trying and that is the point. If you don't at least try, you won't learn. Sparring with a real partner brings everything together that just doesn't happen with a punching bag or shadow boxing. I felt invigorated after my first sparring as much as I did exhausted. So you can imagine my surprise when I was invited back into the ring, this time, to spar with an instructor. It helped me set a new goal... cardio. Being asthmatic, I found myself struggling to breath after a while and and I realized that I was going about sparring the wrong way, particularly where my breathing is concerned.

Listen to Your Coach

Makes sense, right? But when you have sweat dripping into your eyes and your chest cannot seem to get enough air and the fucker in front of you keeps sending your head back to look at the ceiling in an impressive yet angering array of jabs, trying to focus on what your coach is saying feels like the last thing you need to be doing. But listen you must as your coach is trying to save your head (if not your neck) from being the next slinky toy. The whole point of sparring is to learn and hone your craft. So don't hesitate to put your arms up and pause if you need to. My sparring partners were both really conscious of the fact that it was my first time so they went easy on me. But don't kid yourself, your head is still going to ring from time to time if you don't block the left or right hooks in particular. I have to learn to pull back more and dodge the punches, something that doesn't come as naturally as you might think without practice.

Combos off the Jab

Buy the Book - Gary Vaynerchuk 
Let's be honest. Any attempt on my part at using a combo after just one month of training made me look more like I was having an epileptic fit than a precision fighting machine. Still, even if it seems like an impossible task, you would be surprised at how easy it is to get into some kind of rhythm if you just relax. I found the more tense I was the less I was able to even land a punch, let alone get my glove in the same zip code of my opponents head or body. Easing up on the stress and being more fluid, yielded better results. There are not many 'boxing tactics', so to speak. So using combos will eventually come naturally. Whilst sparring, I knew that I missed a few key opportunities to throw a couple of hooks and or uppercuts. But what's a noob to do? Practice, practice, practice.

Eyes on Your Opponent

'Crazy Eyes'
Surprisingly, I had no problem with keeping my eyes on my opponent(s). I was too afraid not to look in case I received another right or left hook to my head! Think of it the same way you would whilst countersteering on a motorcycle. The latter applies to throwing punches as well.

Exhale When You Punch

Beginner Boxing - How to Breathe in Boxing
By JT Van T

Admittedly, by the end of my second sparring session I was gasping for air. I am not breathing correctly at all and though I may have started on the right foot, the excitement and physical exertion it takes to maintain your defence and offence inevitably took its toll on me. I really, really, really hate to admit it but I am going to have to start jogging. I loathe jogging. However, I also hate being completely out of breath in the ring... whilst being punched... and trying to block... not to mention throwing jabs and or combos. So yeah, a jogging I must go... albeit, begrudgingly.

Go To The Body

Fear of Getting Hit in Boxing
By JT Van T

My first sparring partner is still healing from a broken rib he sustained from a match a few weeks ago (tough as nails that boy is!) so body shots were out of the question. My second sparring match saw me against my instructor who was just too quick for me to land any meaningful hits on his body. That being said, JT Van T is absolutely right here. Not only is the body a great place to go when your up against a superior opponent, its often wide open when dealing with a jab happy opponent. As beginners we often don't even think of body hits because it goes against our natural instinct to protect our head and body from the onslaught of hits from your opponent. That is why I added another of JT Van T's videos. The fear of getting hit is often scarier than the reality of it. If you can take a few hits than you can exploit that opportunity to throw a few body punches. It may sound counter productive but when up against a superior opponent you have only two choices. Be his or her punching bag or give them something to think about. Just saying... ;-)

Expect to Defend the Jab

Ok, this is going to sound rather insane, but one thing that I think works really well in defending the jab is old school hand clapping games. Bear with me. It makes for rather extraordinary eye hand coordination. If you have kids, its great fun too! It also gets you use to matching your opponents movements and so you end up finding yourself blocking your opponents jabs more fluidly. At least, I found this worked for me. It doesn't replace traditional training naturally but it is something that I think really enhances the latter. 

Have One Takeaway

Thai Zone... Oh So Tasty...
No, not that kind of takeaway silly! Although, admittedly, I did pig out yesterday. Soooo goood.... but sooooo bad. Shut up - Don't Judge Me! :-( Anyways, I digress. Both Sparring sessions taught me many things though there are too many to list here. In the end, it did teach me that there were things I would have to start doing if I was going to take boxing seriously. I came across this excellent boxing workout regime that I will be implementing this week... just as soon as I finish yesterday's Thai Zone left overs.... mmmm.

Move After You Hit

Admittedly, I exerted too much time and energy in my offence and not enough in my defence during yesterday's sparring matches. Whether your belief is that a good offence makes a good defence (or vice versa), what is clear to me is that there needs to be a balance between both. Specifically, going in for the knock out is likely never going to work unless you plan on boxing a two year old. Which would be wrong... and illegal, not to mention hardly a fair fight. This is, however, where everything came together for me in terms of my moving around the ring. It's not that I don't have a vivid imagination, on the contrary actually, it's just that shadow boxing and or moving around the punching bag is difficult for me to do with any meaningful precision. Despite popular opinion, I am naturally shy and hence, I am too self-conscious. However, having a live opponent coming at me grounds me in reality and I was told later by my instructors that they were happy with my movement in the ring. Sparring with a partner makes boxing all that more enjoyable and realistic.

Simulate the Sparring Intensity in Training

I work out at Bishop's University Sports Complex. I am surrounded by young men and women who make guys like me feel like Ron Burgundy on a hot summer's day. I use the sports team weight room because I can't stand being upstairs in the boutique gym where there are just too many mirrors and too many peacocks prancing around. Adding to my discomfort is the fact that I teach at both schools on campus and thus, I often have to contend sometimes with students wanting to talk to me about their school work if I use the public gym. So I hide, I sweat, I suffer, mostly in silence and thankfully alone; well, at least most of the time. However, there is no intensity per se. I need to remedy that as I realize now that I will never make it past two rounds if I don't increase the intensity of my workouts and push myself harder. I am lazy and need to get off my ass and do more. There I said it. Think of it as group therapy. Admitting your lazy is the first step in your recovery. My name is Fat-Ass and I am a lazy, Thai Zone eating middle-aged man.  Cue self-satisfying confession and warm welcome from my fellow Fat-Ass middle-ages kin. Now, let's begin our recovery, shall we?! ;-)

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