A user-friendly, highly illustrated, straightforward boxing guide that promotes fun, fitness, self-defense, and self-confidence. Endorsed by USA Boxing, national governing body for amateur boxing.
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A Beginner's Guide to Boxing
By Doug Werner
Tracks PublishingCopyright © 1998 Doug Werner
All rights reserved.
Learning ... to box ain't no overnight thing
Your introduction to boxing is a building process that will take awhile. This sport incorporates a complex array of skills that develop and dovetail through training and repeated effort. You'll think through them at first, then muscle memory takes over as you put in the hours.
As you train you'll condition your body to function at the high levels required to successfully last a succession of three-minute rounds with a teeny-tiny one-minute break in between. It doesn't sound like much but it'll be one of the hardest things you'll ever do. The three-minute round, by the way, is based on the actual time of a round in competition. Likewise the one-minute break. (Image 1.1)
Don't even think about sparring for a few months. Without knowing the skills, you'll box like Doris Day. And without conditioning, you won't last a minute before you become a wheezing wreck.
Training is everything. Respect it.
And for heaven's sake, have fun with it. Stick with it and you'll never regret the hard work. Figure around six months of training to acquire some basic boxing skills and the proper conditioning to successfully spar three three-minute rounds. Figure a whole lot more to get better. (Image 1.2)CHAPTER 2
A List: Right away for the boxer's workout:
Shorts or sweats
(if you have a partner)
B List: Later on for sparring:
This is the stuff you gotta have. You'll look at the loaded catalogs and see all kinds of other things, but this is all you really need to develop some basic skills over a six-month period. In fact, you shouldn't have to worry about anything on the B List until your initial training (which could very well last six months) is finished.
You're not going to spar with anyone until you've mastered your basic skills and can comfortably last three or four active three -minute rounds on the heavy bag. That's the right way to do it. That's the safe and sane way to develop as a boxer. Period.
Going over the lists in detail.
Assuming you already know what T-shirts, shorts and athletic socks are, we'll start with the footwear.
Athletic Footwear: Sneakers that fit well are fine for now. Don't bother with actual boxing shoes. If you're training in a gym you may need to avoid dark soles that could mark up the floor. High tops are nice because of the extra support.
Wraps: Before you put on gloves you must wrap your hands for support and protection with long strips of cloth called wraps. Get the kind that have Velcro ties since they're the most convenient to use. I like the Mexican-style wraps because they're longer and provide better protection. $6. (Image 2.2)
Bag Gloves: Bag gloves are different from sparring or competition gloves. Bag gloves have just enough padding to protect a boxer's hands as he whales on the heavy bag. Training or sparring gloves are more carefully designed to protect the hands and offset the force of a blow from a sparring partner.
Bag gloves come in various weights, styles and degrees of quality and convenience. For my training, I purchased a quality pair of 12 -ounce leather gloves with a wide Velcro strap closure for easy on and off. These are about the best money can buy, and depending on your size, cost $50 or $60 in 1998 dollars. The cheapest pair costs half as much, but heck, for $25 more you can get professional durability, design and safety. They're your hands, it's your choice. Like a good pair of shoes, make sure they fit and stay secure on your paws. (Image 2.3)
Heavy Bag: You're gonna need something to punch. Heavy bags come in a variety of styles, but your basic bag is about 14 inches in diameter, 42 inches high and weighs 70 pounds. I got a canvas bag with a so called regular or hard fill versus a soft fill. The soft fill simply has a thicker foam liner. Mine came with hanging chains, hooks and a swivel so it could be hung from a beam (or as in my case from a rope slung over the roof and tied off to a tree in my backyard — whatever works!). I spent about $80 for it. (Image 2.4)
Jump Rope: Should be one of your cheapest purchases. Under $10. (Image 2.5)
Punch Mitts: These are pads which slip over the hands in order to target and catch punches. If you have a workout buddy, one of you can practice stuff while the other makes like a punching bag. They are very effective tools if utilized properly. A good pair runs around $50.
Only if you wish to spar, and only when you're ready.
Headgear: Don't skimp here! Purchase a design that covers as much as possible: chin, cheeks and forehead. There are models with a face bar that protects the nose and mouth, but breathing in them is a little difficult. My headgear has lace straps that really keep the thing tight on my head. This is very important. You don't want your headgear slipping over your eyes after every punch you take. I spent $70 on mine. (Image 2.6)
Mouthguard: Very important unless you plan on never getting hit. The "boil and bite" variety are inexpensive (under $10) and work fine. "Boil and bite" refers to the method used to form-fit this type of guard to your teeth. First it's boiled in water to make it pliable, then you place it in your mouth, press it with fingers to your teeth and bite down. The mouthpiece is made of material that doesn't retain heat and won't burn you. (Image 2.7)
Sparring Gloves: As stated previously, sparring gloves are designed differently from bag gloves since they'll be used to strike a person and not a bag. My gloves are 14 ounces, padded with two inches of multi-layered foam and are secured with large Velcro straps for easy on and off. I paid $135 for a very good pair of leather gloves. Don't skimp here either. (Image 2.8)
Groin Protector: The mother of all jock straps. This is a girdle-type thing that protects groin, hips and kidneys. I spent $45 on mine. It's bright red and you can see me coming a mile away. By the way, a simple jock and cup aren't quite enough protection in this sport.
Note for Female Boxers
Women have their own designs to choose from for groin and breast protection. Gloves are specifically manufactured for women, as well.
Where to Buy
Your local sporting goods store or outlet will have stuff, but I suggest you buy from a catalog (often the gear found in the large retail outlets is crap).
Ringside: 913-888-1719 (Image 2.9)CHAPTER 3
Boxer's Stance & Basic Footwork
The foundation upon which all boxing skills are based is the stance. (Color me slow, but it took 15 lesson hours for mine to fall into place.)
Boxer's Stance: Basic Position, Legs & Feet
In front of an imaginary opponent, position yourself sideways so that you present a shoulder to your target. By and large, your leading side is the opposite of your preferred hand. Lead with your left shoulder if you're right-handed and vise versa. Your feet should be about shoulder width apart.
If you're leading with the left shoulder, place your right foot out in front of yourself so that the heel of your right foot lines up with the toe of your left.
toward your target. Flex your knees and bend a bit at the hips keeping your back fairly straight. Slightly lift your back heel off the deck. (Image 3.2)
With both heels in place, swivel your feet 45 degrees toward your target. Flex your knees and bend a bit at the hips keeping your back fairly straight. Slightly lift your back heel off the deck.
This is more or less a basic athletic posture in which you're balanced and solid on your feet. A push from any direction will not cause you to easily stumble. You are ready to move in any direction the action dictates. This is the lower half of the "on guard" or ready position.
Boxer's Stance: Arms, Hands & Head
To complete the northern half, tuck your elbows in close to your sides and raise your forearms up straight. Arrange the pillars of your arms so they protect that area of your torso that faces the target. Hold your arms with just enough tension to keep them upright. This position shouldn't be tight or rigid. Bend your head forward so that you're viewing your opponent partially through your eyebrows. At this point, your hands should be about chin to cheek level. Palms are turned in. (Image 3.3)
There you go. This is your boxer's stance. You are equally prepared to throw punches as well as defend against them. In this ready position you are relaxed. Never tense.
Boxing is a lot more like dancing than you might imagine. One immediately thinks of using hands and arms when you bout but not so much legs and feet. However, being able to move rapidly and economically, balanced and ready to attack or defend, is vital. (Image 3.4 and 3.5)
The idea in all movement is to maintain the integrity of your boxer's stance. Basically, that means you never over step, cross over or bring your feet together.
There are four directions you may go: toward your opponent, back from your opponent, to the side you are mostly facing and to the side at your back.
In each direction you have a lead foot which initiates the movement and opens your stance. After the lead foot has taken a step, close the distance with your trailing foot and regain a shoulder width stance. Steps are short in length and taken close to the surface of the floor — almost in a slide.
Pivot & Slide
Quick changes in direction are made by sweeping the rear foot in either direction and pivoting off the ball of your lead foot. Again, the sweeping motion of the foot is held close to the floor surface. (Image 3.6 and 3.7)CHAPTER 4
Make a Fist
You'll probably get it right the first time you try except for one thing. For the record, the thumb rests below the tucked in fingers, not curled inside, but then you knew that. What you might not know is that the fist is not clenched until just before point of impact. Hands are held loose in readiness (like everything else) – even on the way to the target. Ideally the fist tightens as it lands and immediately relaxes as it's pulled back. You don't use energy until you need it. And that's a law that underlines everything you do in boxing. (Image 4.1)
Note for Southpaws
For convenience, most of the book will focus on instruction for right-handed or left-foot-forward readers. If you're left-handed or prefer to box with the right foot forward, reverse the instructions where applicable.
Meet the most important punch in boxing – the one you'll use the most in your boxing career, whether you're fighting for fitness or glory. (Image 4.2)
In the boxer's stance your fists are held in a relaxed, palms-in, ready position. The jab is a punch thrown with the leading hand straight from the chin in a direct line toward your target. As the hand leaves its guard position next to your chin, the fist rotates a quarter to a half notch. As the punch is delivered, the fist gradually clenches and is completely clenched just before impact. It is then immediately relaxed and withdrawn into the guard position. (Image 4.3)
The jab is the busiest weapon in boxing because it can be thrown quickly without compromising a boxer's defensive posture. It's utilized to score, to keep opponents at bay, to set up combinations and power punches and to wear down defenses.
Although the jab is not considered a power punch, an effective use of the jab over the course of a bout will cause a considerable deal of damage. A boxer can also learn to stiffen his jab by turning his hips with the punch and stepping into its delivery. (Image 4.4)
I'm told that the jab is the only punch to use in a street fight as it can be thrown with a great deal of effectiveness without risking exposure, loss of balance or mobility. The wallop of a crisply thrown jab is more than enough to break a nose and hopefully end the dispute. (Image 4.5)
Watch any competitive bout and the jab count far exceeds that of any other punch. It's the bread and butter of offensive boxing.
Exhale as you deliver all your punches in short, spitting wheezes. Believe it or not, the tendency is to hold your breath when punching. Perhaps it's the excitement, but at any rate, not breathing is a bad habit to get into.
The jab is thrown directly from the chin with no windup or shrugging of the shoulders. The jab snaps toward its target and is pulled back immediately. A quick recovery is just as important as a quick delivery. (Image 4.6 and 4.7)
The right is initiated by a weight transfer to the right side and a pivoting right foot.
Your first favorite punch will be the one you throw with your preferred hand – naturally!
For the right-handed boxer, it's the straight right. From the guard position, the right hand is thrown straight from the chin on a direct line to the target. Unlike the jab, which is an arm-powered punch, the right is powered by a torquing torso and a pivoting right foot. Feel your back get into this one. The punch should accelerate and explode as the right heel of your pivoting foot swings outward. After impact the hand is sharply returned to guard. (Image 4.8)
Because of the weight transfer involved, the straight right is considered a power punch. But the weight transfer is also the weakness of power punches because for a nano-second the boxer is without a balanced boxer's stance, and is therefore somewhat exposed. Hence the importance of high tailing it back to guard. The risk of throwing this punch too often far outweighs the natural pleasure of launching your favorite hand. The straight right is best utilized behind the jab or as a counter after a defensive move.
The straight right should be thrown straight from the chin without wind-up or dips of the shoulder. The punch accelerates as it tracks toward the target. Immediately before the explosion the fist clenches. Tension is immediately released as the hand snaps back to guard. (Image 4.9)
The legendary left hook is the most difficult punch to learn. Unlike the jab and straight right, the left hook has mysterious nuances that simply take time for most boxers to discover and assimilate.
The hook is generally misunderstood. Most beginners think the left hook is some sort of sweeping, roundhouse punch thrown and powered by a loopy left arm. I did, anyway. But it isn't anything like that.
The hook is an inside power punch. It's most effective when you're close to your opponent. The punch begins with a weight transfer to your left side. From the guard position the left elbow is brought up, almost parallel to the floor, so that the arm forms a sort of hook (hence the name). At the same time the fist is rotated either palm down for a very close target or palm-in for targets farther away.
Here's the secret. The arm is held in place as described above, and the punch is delivered by pivoting left foot, left leg and torso sharply to the right in a powerful, one-piece torquing action. The arm doesn't move independently of the whole. Like a gate swinging around its hinged post, this punch is powered by leg, hips, back and everything else in the barn. When it's thrown properly, it's one of the mighty weapons in boxing and is held in very high esteem.
When I work the hook, my coach tells me to crush peanuts with the ball of my left foot as I swing it around and to think hey buddy, come on over here! as I bring the punch to completion by tucking it into my chest (like I'm hugging him high around the neck). Like all punches, the hook accelerates as it tracks to the target, the fist clenches before impact and is sharply returned to the guard position along with everything else that went for the ride. (Image 4.10, 4.11 and 4.12)
Remember, recovery is everything. Punches should never hang. Punches SNAP! Think acceleration, SNAP!, recovery. (Image 4.13)
Uppercuts are stock and staple for inside fighting and are thrown with power coming from the legs and torso. They are not wind-up arm punches. From the guard position, dip the left shoulder so that your elbow nears your hip. At the same time rotate the fist palm -up. Without cocking the arm back or winding-up, propel this punch with the left side of your body. Accelerate, SNAP! and recover. The right uppercut is a mirror image of the left.
All punching action is best executed from a balanced boxer's stance. This ensures power, accuracy and recovery. Punching off balance is ineffective and risks maximum exposure.
Jabs and straight rights or lefts are delivered directly from the chin with no preamble (wind-up, dips, shrugs).
Excerpted from Boxer's Start-Up by Doug Werner. Copyright © 1998 Doug Werner. Excerpted by permission of Tracks Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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