Posts Tagged ‘sparring’

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I haven’t sparred in a couple of months because of travel,my trainer’s schedule, judging fights and vacation. I’ve been working out but I haven’t been sparring.

Sunday I got back into it and felt awful.

I was sore from a Friday boxing workout and that might have made the joints creakier than usual but I think it had more to do with muscle memory. Sparring felt foreign, not at all natural and my movement felt clunky.

I figured the first round would warm me up.

It didn’t.

The toughest blow wasn’t a head or body shot it was to the ego. I could tell my trainer was holding off. He always brings it to my ability but I could tell even if he didn’t say much that he was being careful.

I went straight back. I left the jab out. I gave ground too easy. I clinched stupidly.

I’m glad i did it. I’ll be better next time if not too much time goes by which is a big if.

My shoulders tightened up bad that night which also told me how tense I was.

I hope this isn’t the week Holyfield calls.

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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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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.