Archive for the ‘Boxing’ Category

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Wondering where I’ve been?


Well, you could pretend.

I’ve gassed up the virtual Cadillac and have been touring the country visiting friends blogs. here’s a road map in case you missed any.

Gar Haywood’s crazy interview on Murderati

Elizabeth White’s great book review site where I blog on what’s wrong with most fight scenes

Joe Konrath’s Newbie’s Guide to Publishing where I wrote about risk and the mystery writer

Amy Alessio’s Reading and cooking blog where you get to read about my vegeatarian Buffalo chicken wing recipe

Ebook and Kindle Reader Blog where I wrote about reviving the tired boxing metaphor

Crimespree Blog on how to write a novel in an hour a day

The ABC Basset Rescue Blog where I wrote about the importance of basset celebrations

Dana Cameron was nice enough to host me on the Femmes Fatale blog. i wrote about what people don’t know about boxing

LJ Sellers hosted me on the Crime Fiction Collective on punching up your fight scenes

Deb Baker had me at Cozy Chicks where I wrote about dogs in mysteries

Sueann Jaffarian was nice enough to host my favorite TV personality thoughts on Steve McGarrett at Criminal Minds

If you have a blog and would like me to come visit just let me know!


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I’m not a parent.

At the age of 17 I began to train in karate, eventually got a black belt and then got involved in boxing. The fighting arts or sports or whatever you want to call it are a large part of my life.

Since I started training 33 years ago I haven’t got in a street fight, despite jobs in bars, pro boxing and rehabs.

Still, I feel good  knowing I’d be better off with the training and I believe it does something for your spirit. There are clichés like, “The best way to insure peace is to be prepared for war…” but I don’t know if that explains it.

Not everyone shares my view. Some don’t want their children any where around fighting.

Others want their kids able to protect themselves. And what about how the children feel about things like fear and bullying.

I’m curious–how do you feel?

For a fun video showing boxers fighting karate guys click here.

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The diary of a 50 year old never-was gym rat who wants to keep sparring and is working with a couple of pro fighters as trainers and sparring partners. A look at the physical, psychological and emotional aspects of boxing.

I slept well and I was well rested having budgeted my workouts intelligently this week.

My trainer just signed on for a pro fight and he is well into his training camp. He lets me know that he’s getting a lot of work in but he’s glad to work with me because I’m left-handed. Southpaws give him trouble and he likes the practice.

Now this may not seem like a compliment to the uninitiated but it is and it is a significant. This pro thinks there is something worthy in my sparring to give him work. Nothing more, nothing less but it is something and it means a lot to me.

The bell rings for the first round and we start to move. Very soon into the round I notice something disturbing and I would love to hear from other fighters about if they can relate to this: I can’t concentrate.

I’m pushing my thoughts out of my head, I’m internally demanding to concentrate and still, I find myself thinking of other things–my day, my writing, my headgear, the noise in the gym. I think demanding in my head to concentrate is making it a bit worse.

Three quarters it is still going on and I find myself with my back to the ropes and my trainer throws a three punch combination that i catch mostly on my gloves by they rock into my headgear and i feel their force. they don’t ring my bell of register as pain but they register as force and as danger.

Instantly my concentration problems disappear.

Funny how that works.

Danger is an important and effective motivator. It let’s you know what is important in the here and now and it involuntarily narrows your focus like nothing else. I guess it occurs outside of the ring and it may explain why some people seem to get addicted to stress and trauma and may even seek it out.

It wasn’t pleasant being scattered mentally. it felt orderly to have my concentration back.

Anyone else feel this?

For other sparring diary and boxing blogs click here.

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The diary of a 50 year old never-was gym rat who wants to keep sparring and is working with a couple of pro fighters as trainers and sparring partners. A look at the physical, psychological and emotional aspects of boxing.

My trainer was out of town and it was too late to find someone to spar with this weekend.

So what is there to write about?

Well, as you know most of this diary is about the psychological and emotional aspects of fighting. Not sparring has very definite consequences.

There are some weeks where I’m looking for my trainer to cancel. That way I don’t have to do the work (both psychological and physical) and I don’t have to feel guilty or cowardly for calling it off. This week I wanted to fight and I felt pretty good.

The consequences of not fighting are very clear. i feel a bit more listless and I feel like I lose my edge and not just boxing wise. I feel like I didn’t do something exceptional, I didn’t test myself and I didn’t feel like I faced any adversity.

I did one of my p90x workouts as a substitute. It was physically challenging but not emotionally or psychologically. I felt like I worked out and I felt the right amount of fatigue and soreness.

I don’t feel any of the exhilaration. I don’t feel like I did something out of the ordinary.

Monday I felt a little irritable and I little more anxious about things. I also didn’t feel as sore or fatigued and in a weird way I missed that. The body soreness reminds me of what I did. it reminds me that I fought and I like that feeling.

I didn’t get it this week.

Click here to read other sparring blogs

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The diary of a 50 year old never-was gym rat who wants to keep sparring and is working with a couple of pro fighters as trainers and sparring partners. A look at the physical, psychological and emotional aspects of boxing.

I hadn’t sparred since 12/11. There were holiday events and then the holidays themselves fell on the weekends. The weekdays were caught up in, well, the holidays and i took the time off.

I write this diary mostly to take a look at and share the psychological angle of sparring. I think the reason most people who train in boxing or want to train in boxing never get involved or quit sparring is because of psychological reasons. Mostly it is fear.

It is something that people just don’t talk about. Mike Tyson talked about being scared to death every time he went through his ring walk but he’s the exception to the rule.

The fear is the opposite side of the coin of exhilaration I feel from doing it regardless of my performance.

I notice things when I miss more than a week. I found myself wishing my trainer would cancel. That way it wouldn’t be my fault. I found myself feeling anxiety about everything in my life on the way to the gym. Not so much about sparring but about work, school, the future, the health of my family and pets. I’ve noticed over the years that there are times when my anxiety goes sideways and doesn’t focus on what’s in front of me.

All of this becomes a metaphor for dealing with adversity in my life. I know that dealing with emotions ahead of times is hard, the activity is reinforcing and exciting with a little danger and the feelings afterwards are going to be great. I just ignore the feelings before hand.

This translates to just about every challenge in life. ignore the fear and anxiety, act consistent with what i value and want out of my life and carry on.

Now to the sparring.

I felt weird at first like I had lost what i was concentrating on when I was working every week. I remembered I wanted to “see’ my opponent at all time. I remembered I wanted to recoil the jab and I remembered I wanted to be on guard on the ropes. My trainer, a pro fighter, just signed for a bout so I also knew he’d be working on some things for his own game.

The bell sounded and I got my jab going right away and tried to double it up. I threw hard lefts (I’m a southpaw) even if I knew they were going in to his guard to get the respect and keep him from coming in.

He pressured me and I went to the ropes. I lost sight of him and got out of position. It reminded me I had to work on this. This more than anything else seemed to respond to time on task–when i get away from sparring this happens.

Something cool happened in the second round. He came in on me to pressure  me and he came in with a fast step. I was ready and countered with an uppercut with my left hand. It landed hard and on target and a couple of the guys watching ringside gave me some props. My trainer acknowledged it as a good shot. (Which goes to show the quality of his training–he didn’t go to pay me back right away or really put it on me.)

At the end of the round i got my best compliment. A couple of the coaches gave my trainer some pointers. it wasn’t so much that i was challenging his skills but that he was working toward his fight. I felt a measure of respect because I was good enough work for him that he was getting to do some of his work in and I was presenting some questions for him to answer. That’s a huge compliment in this world.

At the beginning of the third another trainer gave me water and very sternly said, “This is always where you tell yourself you’re tired. Don’t do it.”

He was right. I did my best to stay strong and not give in. It worked.

For awhile.

I stayed busy with the jab even though I could feel the fatigue in my lat. That meant I had to really pay attention to recoiling because my body didn’t want to. I could also feel my legs and they didn’t want to crouch as much as they should.   I was too tall and not in position to move effectively.

With about 45 seconds to go I was out of gas. I did everything I could to tie up and hold on. Fortunately i didn’t eat a big one–probably more a tribute to my trainer than to my luck or defense.

When we got done my other trainer said, “that’s the best I’ve seen you look.”

Not sure if he was right or being nice but I’ll take it.

For other sparring diary and boxing blogs click here.

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This makes four straight weeks of getting good sparring in. it’s been a long time since I’ve been able to do that.

Today I wanted to build on the fundamentals I’ve been focusing on, namely keeping my vision, bringing my jab hand back and keeping my guard in so I don’t get caught with the uppercut. My goal today was to stay off the ropes, move side to side instead of back and not reflexively give up ground.

My trainer is smaller than me and he perpetually comes in, never taking a backward step. My first reaction is to backpedal which is wrong, puts me in a position to do nothing offensively and it’s exhausting.

I did very well with holding my guard and I noticed it slowed everything down. I had to pump the jab and really concentrate to move to the side but it definitely worked. I had to focus really hard in staying in the right stance and time the jab to counter his moves in on me. When I wanted to score i had to commit myself and move forward which is where I became vulnerable. I was pleased with my stamina though all of my good strategy began to erode as it always does when fatigue set in. In the third, trust me, fatigue set in–though not as bad as in previous weeks.

Something else of note. I felt like crap going to the gym today. I didn’t sleep well and I had a few things on my mind bothering me. In the past when I’ve made myself spar when i felt like that i wound up taking a headshot that I didn’t want to take or exhausting myself and really feeling like crap for a while.

Today I felt like I needed to spar. I didn’t want to lose the traction of three straight weeks, I wanted the camaraderie of the gym and I wanted the mood boost it always gives. I got all of that and it was better than any time on a shrink’s couch. It has always been that way for me and I’m not sure why.

Sparring is exhilarating, it tires you out and it gives you a chance to burn off steam. it does something else that i think has to do with the concept of mindfulness. While I’m fighting I HAVE to think of fighting in the moment. I have to be fluid in the moment and keep an empty mind while being able to react. i can’t obsessively go over bullshit that I let bother me. For these nine minutes I have to focus and be fluid at the same time.

Nothing else has ever put me in the moment like fighting.

More than anything else that explains why I want to do it my whole life.

Here’s some of my other sparring diary entries.

Here’s some of the Duffy Dombrowski Fight Club blogs.

Here’s a really cool interview with John “The Ice Man” Scully on the life of a sparring partner

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Three weeks ago I started to write about my sparring sessions with my trainer, a pro fighter. You could read the first  entry here and the second entry here.

This was the first time I’ve sparred three weeks in a row in years and I already noticed something important–I was less anxious. I was aware I was about to get in the ring and see punches but it was more like I felt before a softball game. I wanted to perform well but I didn’t feel as  much concern for my safety. (I couldn’t bring myself to type the word “fear.” psychoanalysis welcome here.)

Actually there was more concern than softball.

Saturday night I watched two great fights for studying boxing technique. Pawel Wolak vs Delvin Rodriguez and Miguel Cotto vs. Antonio Margarito. Wolak and Margarito both stalk their opponents while Rodriguez and Cotto score their points while backing up, evading and counterpunching. Saturday night the two evaders won.

My trainer is smaller than me, is obviously a better fighter and he never ever takes a step back. It’s exhausting to fight an opponent like that. if I stand and trade with him he’ll out score me and it will hurt. My fight is to move side to side, jab to keep him off me and somehow try to make him pay for coming in on me. I try to be an evader. The difference is the guys who do it really well have unbelievable stamina. it is freaking exhausting and knowing the strategy is one thing while applying it with your conditioning is a world of something else.

I know this. I really do.

In the ring Sunday I did it until I got tired which was within the first 45 seconds of the first round. I tried to stay relaxed but it isn’t easy. The tension wastes energy and makes you less fluid. When a hard punch comes in on me I tend to back up instead of going to the side because that’s reflex. Hopefully sparring a lot will make going to the side more natural.

Like last week I’m trying really hard to not ever lose sight of my trainer but in the first round I ducked and found myself out of position. I wasn’t where I could be hit but that was just luck. My jab worked well and somewhere in the second round I landed one off the ropes that i felt in my knuckles. I say it felt hard to me because sometimes you can feel the bone of your knuckle hit the bone of face. My trainer acknowledged the shot verbally but showed no physical reaction to it.

There in lies the problem. In fighting a peer a good shot calms the action. A good shot against someone at the level makes them think, it makes them less aggressive and they often back off for a little while or they charge in out of anger and become even easier to hit. In a me vs the pro that’s not happening so I get no break.

We wound up doing 2 minutes of additional round for 3 2/3 rounds. It was tough catching my breath and in the last round I couldn’t execute the evading counterpunching that I wanted to.

Still, I felt more comfortable and though I didn’t feel it my trainer said this was the best I’ve looked.

Did I mention I pay him?


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I felt better going to the gym yesterday.

I slept better and though I did a lot of yard work the day before my body loosened up well.

This week I wanted to focus on “seeing” while I was sparring. last week I took a right hand that was hard and needless because iI backed up tall, didn’t have my legs under me and lost sight of my opponent.

I was determined to not let that happen this week.

In the first round I concentrated on being relaxed and staying busy with my jab. if you’re busy with the jab it keeps your opponent from coming in on you…for awhile. My guard was high, my legs were bent and I was moving well. My stamina felt good. The round ended.

My trainer said he was going to pick up the intensity and try to score on me when I left my jab out and when I squared up. That meant this round was going to be harder. i stayed focused on keeping my balance, bending my knees, getting the jab out…and back.

He kept at me harder and i took a right hand early. No problem, I saw it and it landed but I was ready. My trainer is shorter than me and never, ever backs up. Now he was n me forward and I was doing my best to stick and move. The problem with that is it is tiring…very tiring. It was getting harder to focus on all of the things I wanted to do because my legs were fatigued and my arms were tired.

I got caught in the corner but handled it well. My guard was high and my knees were bent but due to being tired i let my elbows get just a tad wider thab they should’ve been. I paid some tuition with an uppercut.

Later, I timed him coming in and landed a good solid uppercut and spun out. that felt really good.

The third round started and I was heaving. i tried to stay relax and keep my legs underneath me but its hard to stay in a crouch when you’re beat. I forced myself to throw combinations to keep him off me. He answered back and my guard was high so he through three punches into my sides. I felt them but it was better than getting hit in the head. i tied him up three times in the last minute and the round ended.

I asked my trainer how to keep from making fundamental mistakes when you’re really tired. he answered with a real gem of genius.

“There’s no secret. That’s boxing.”



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I got back in the ring for the first time since September 2.

I’ve noticed over the years that for me sparring twice a week is ideal and where I can see a lot of improvement. Once a week is almost as good at keeping me feeling sharp. After two weeks without sparring things start to happen.

It seems more foreign. It seems detached and when that happens I get tighter. I start to question whether it’s a good way to spend my time.

Yesterday I slept poorly but I wanted to keep my training appointment. Because of the above it becomes very easy to not “feel good enough to spar.” Today was legit. I ran on Saturday, didn’t get the restorative sleep and I felt uncoordinated.

I also got a new trainer to work with. Here’s what I ask my trainers who are experienced fighters. “I want to go hard, I want you to test me but if I’m wide open I don’t want to get blasted.” They always nod and say they’ll tailor it to my intensity. That’s good but it also means if I start feeling cocky and pick up the pace they will do the same. The beauty of working with an experienced fighter is they have the skill level and the temperment to do this in increments. Fighting with peers or those with less experience doesn’t guarantee this and guys get mad, or frustrated and that’s when you can get hurt without learning anything.

In the first round I felt odd and like it had been two months. I threw the jab and doubled it up but when I got crowded in the corner I felt less confident. My trainer split my guard with an upper cut and it landed on my nose. That doesn’t happen often and I tasted my own blood. In 35 years of karate and boxing I now had my third nosebleed.

Tasting blood makes you feel alive. It will sound very weird but in a remote way I can identify with those people who cut themselves. Feeling pain in the right doses feels …not sure if “good” is the word but the feeling welcome. It makes me feel alive.

By the end of the first I’m getting winded and certainly by midway through the second the cardio is getting tough. The discomfort is one thing, what it makes you do is something else. I’m out of position, I’m not bending my knees and I’m standing too tall. When he steps in I’ve lost position, lost sight of him and bang–I take a straight right hand that lights up the inside of my head and sets off that buzzy, ringing thing.

My bell has been rung. I stay up but I ask for a second or so. This is tough on the ego but at 50 I’ve left the ego at the door as much as I can. It’s not the worst I’ve been hit and I finish out the round and I’m fine though I know I’ll feel it.

The third round I do on vapors, trying to protect myself. Protecting yourself also means throwing punches so you’re not a sitting duck. Every one I throw is exhausting. I get through the round and my three rounds are over.

I’m soaked in sweat. My head and shoulders hurt a bit and I can aready feel the tightness in my traps that I’ll feel more this week, probably through Wednesday.

My trainer and another trainer break down the right hand I took.

I panicked. I went back tall. I was out of position and most of all I lost sight of my opponent. All boxing 101 mistakes that I could pick out easily if I was watching them on TV. The problems is executing when you’re chest is heaving and you can’t breathe from exertion.

Training goals will be to get back in sparring asap to develop more comfort, focus on seeing my opponent and keeping in a fundamental stance.

To order DUFFY TO THE RESCUE here!
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To order a Duffy book, click on one of the covers to the left.

Those were the most popular posts on this blog last year.

I’m thinking of only posting on those topics or trying to weave them all together in every post.

Something like this:

So there Jen and I were in Lancaster again, walking hand in hand through the country side. She’s big on the whole sunset thing and was sighing as she rested her head on my shoulder.

Then, out of nowhere this dude in a top hat and an Abe Lincoln beard blows past me in a horse and buggy. He just about clipped my shoulder.

“Hey, you ultra late-adapting prick, you almost hit me!” I yelled. Jenn started to whimper.

The guy slammed on the horse brakes and jumped off his buggy cockpit.

“Thou wanst a piece of thee’s ass, does though?” He said glaring at me.

I glance up at his cargo–a dozen or more basset hound puppies.

That was all it took.

Lincoln dropped into a traditional southern Chinese martial arts stance. I guessed Kenpo.

I got my hands up, right hand first, reminscent of Hector “Macho” Camacho. He lunged at me with a tiger’s mouth technique. I stepped to my right caught his chin with the jab and delivered the number two straight down the pipe, crushing his nose and sending him to the dirt road. He was bleeding all into his funked up beard.

“Mine ass is kicked!” he utterred right before I released the hounds. They all relieved themselves on or around the Amish puppy mill operator. Jenn just looked up at me, her eyes all glassy.

“You are such a man. I am so attracted to you!”

“I know.” i said.

You looking at me? Feeling lucky, punk?

And we walked into town, held a basset hound rescue event and found good homes for all the dogs.