Tips for starting to Box
July 24, 2004 2:28 PM   Subscribe

Does anyone have experience with boxing? (more inside)

I'm oldish (32) and no longer in shape (played sports through high school), but I'm thinking about doing this in that kind of face-your-fear kind of thing. I was that guy in high school who, whenever I saw people start yelling and shoving each other, slipped away while everyone else gathered around to watch. I dread being around violence. But I'm beginning to think it would be good for my mental and physical health to get some experience with it. I want to get in better shape, get stronger, and know how to defend myself should it ever come to that.

So . . . 1) is this a good idea, and 2) how do you ease into learning to box without getting hurt? I don't have a death wish here. Should I be considering a martial art instead?
posted by _sirmissalot_ to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I've boxed at ametuer level and wrestled. Wrestling has less reprecussions physically, and can be very challenging at the same time.

Boxing is a good start. Look for a local boxing training ring and see how they can help you. I have also tried Tae Kwon Do and that was a blast.
posted by Keyser Soze at 3:30 PM on July 24, 2004

I dread being around violence.

Who said dreadding violence is a bad thing?

Boxing can quickly lead to facial disifgurement and brain damage. Are these things you crave?

Keyser Soze makes a good point - organized martial arts are a great idea. Consider the popular Asian arts like Tae Kwon Do, Karate, Kendo, Jujitsu. There must be some western martial arts other than fencing worth considering. Don't forget Brazilian capoeira.
posted by Kwantsar at 4:25 PM on July 24, 2004

Didn't I see this episode of Friends?

I took boxing classes at my local park and rec (Milwaukee's south side, so it wasn't nearly as pansy as it sounds). While I never got as far as sparring (ok, I did land a punch once one a guy who was actually in training)... it was a great workout, I felt more confident, and I think my testosterone levels went up.* I'm sure any martial art would have had the same effect.

Not as wierd as it sounds. This was nice at work, because instead of crying when I got angry, I got ANGRY and did something about it. Yeah, bad job. Long story. Nevermind. (Note: that is not where that punch got landed.)
posted by mimi at 4:34 PM on July 24, 2004

It is true your natural testosterone level increases with physical activity, possibly an offset of the fight/flight response. This in turn creates more self confidence, which is instrumental in, well, many things in your life.

Boxing can quickly lead to facial disfigurement....

Yeah, but it won't get to that point. People who just want to try it out aren't going to break their opponents nose. Martial Arts is a very beautiful thing. It teaches you *internal* discipline. Discipline you make for yourself, which is gold as external discipline is to lead.
posted by Keyser Soze at 5:04 PM on July 24, 2004

Response by poster: I do instinctually like the idea of martial arts better, but it seems like wimping out. Or maybe I have the wrong impression -- are Karate, Judo, etc. actually for taking care of yourself when a big angry drunk sets his sights on you (yes, this has happened! -- of course I practiced the old "escape through the backdoor" method of defense . . . )

And I don't think you'd get your nose crushed if you were wearing one of those headgear things. Plus I'm married-- doesn't matter if I get uglified anyway.
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 6:34 PM on July 24, 2004

As far as getting mangled in the martial arts, it depends an a) the discipline you study and b) the dojung you study at. For instance Tae Kwon Do is generally the more aggresive of the traditional Korean arts. However, some instructors will keep things at bay and not make it a sport, but more of an artform. However, some are all about the contact and will make the artform into a contact sport.
Some classes I've observed get very visious, while some rarely ever spar. I would take the martial arts over boxing in a heartbeat (martial arts also teached you how to use things besides your hands), but I would observe a few classes to see the head instructor's vision.
posted by jmd82 at 7:04 PM on July 24, 2004

Every martial arts school is different. I've been through 3 different Goju Kai schools. The first was the toughest all around. We were continually sparring, the training to build up our bodies was near torture and you'd be verbally berated for not making progress. I was a kid (about 12 years old), albeit a big one, and I was sparring against full grown adults. Sparring was always full contact except that there were no blows to the groin and no maiming strikes. We wore gloves but no foot or head gear. I eventually tore my anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus after an adult bent my knee the wrong way during a match, mostly by accident but the injury was enabled by my sensei who loudly insisted I do more high kicks. Because I'm not built for kicking very high it was easy for my opponent to grab my leg because I lost a lot so much velocity.

He'd also bring in guys off the street, bouncers, bikers or whatever so that we'd experience a more real fight.

After a three year hiatus my second school was pretty boring, we mostly just did repetitive drills and exercises. Belts were given out with clocklike periodicity regardless of skills.

My third school is my favourite, I wish I still lived back home so I could attend classes. The exercise and flexibility portion of the class was tough, but progressively tough. Rather than just "do 100 push ups" the philosophy was to do as many as you can in a given time period. We'd do the basics for a few weeks, then we'd spar half the class for a few weeks. We'd also learn the art of the sword just because my sensei really loved it and he was continuously learning something new from other disciplines.

If I was going to spend the rest of my life as a bouncer I'd want the first school. It emphasized ways of damaging people and was very 'real' in terms of effective street fighting. For anything else I'd want my final school, there were still a lot of effective techniques and opportunities to spar but the emphasis was on karate as a sport. I haven't bounced in years (engineering pays better and I don't always smell like smoke)

The middle school was useless, it was a belt farm and designed to part people from their money not by providing useful instruction but by letting people see false progress.

I've also taken boxing (in the first school, prior to my injury I also started kick boxing) from a retired middleweight champion. I don't think that boxing itself has anything on karate and in fact the most useful thing is probably grappling. Most fights end up with both parties bear hugging each other. If you can land a few good blows and block a few good blows eventually you'll end up on the ground.

Also, your present "escape through the backdoor" defense is actually the best. You can spend all the time you want but if the bully is bigger than you and has spent an equal amount of timing learning to hurt people you are fucked.
posted by substrate at 7:35 PM on July 24, 2004

I'll agree that it has everything to do with the school you choose. One thing to keep in mind is your body type - boxing is best for larger, upper body strength, less flexible bodies. different martial arts seem to fit different people.

I do a korean form called hapkido; it has both yin and yang elements - we do sparring, sometimes with gloves and gear; we do judo/wrestling style moves, and throws/falls. But in reality the yin moves, or defense techniques, feel as if they'd be the most useful in a street situation - we do defenses for various grabs & chokes, and for knife and gun attacks/threats. Of course, I'm small - 130 lbs, 5'6", female - so even if I were a well-trained boxer I'd get the crap beaten out of me going strength against strength.

Basically, I'd advise visiting schools and gyms and getting a sense of the environment, the program, the people, the art/sport (the master at my dojo emphasizes that we practice a martial art, not a martial sport, and I have found that practicing hapkido has affected my life much more deeply than just as a workout... discipline, confidence, comfort, calmness, even patience...) you're interested by, and choose among the options.
posted by mdn at 9:10 PM on July 24, 2004

Response by poster: this is great advice. thanks everybody.
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 9:53 PM on July 24, 2004

Don't discount boxing. Boxing is great fun and a good boxer can easily defeat a master of any martial art (Ali vs. that Japanese guy, anyone?).

If you really want to get interested, buy a bag of some kind. I personally own a wavemaster bag that I love and are cheap. Spend a few weeks on it and see how you feel.

If you still like it after that, most local police departments (FOP) offer some courses. Try that out and then consider joining a local boxing gym.

The martial arts are a waste of time. Most focus solely on avoiding danger. Belt promotions are done through watered- down matches. Boxing is much more fun.

Also, boxing is not any more risky than the martial arts. Most boxing training centers on protecting the head and strenthening the body. Most martial arts focus on perfecting moves that have very limited effectiveness.

The only downside I have observed to boxing is that punching becomes such a trained response that it seems like a correct responses to nearly everything you respond to.

Just remember that martial arts are for people that are afraid of boxing and you will be alright.
posted by ttrendel at 2:57 AM on July 25, 2004

martial arts are for people that are afraid of boxing

You're creating a false opposition here. Boxing is a martial art.

However, I do concur that a good boxer can outfight most other martial artists. This is because boxing training focuses on the attributes which win fights - stamina and the ability to take and give punishment.

For good all-round fighting skill, I'd recommend Thai boxing cross trained with some groundfighting (shoot wrestling, judo or bjj).
posted by the cuban at 6:06 AM on July 25, 2004

Boxing is great fun and a good boxer can easily defeat a master of any martial art

Um, seriously? Maybe you should watch some UFC #1 before making those kind of blanket statements. Most boxers are ill-equipped to handle a good grappler.

Nothing against boxing though. It's an excellent martial art, especially (as mdn notes) if your physical tools include upper body strength but not so much flexibility.
posted by Galvatron at 6:51 AM on July 25, 2004

Boxing can quickly lead to facial disfigurement

Is it a sure thing that, when boxing , your nose will eventually get broken when sparring?
posted by the fire you left me at 7:44 AM on July 25, 2004

Being made unconcious, for any length of time, due to being struck causes permanent brain damage.

The only boxer that i have regular contact with suffers from various boxing related injuries. He is a man of 22, he studies other martial arts and plays football as well as boxing.

If you want to have a rough guide to which fighting style is most effective, the open fights which allow any form to take part can be informative. During the 70s Karate was dominant, 80s Thai Boxing and 90s Brasilian Jui Jitsu.

I can reccomend Shinseido, Brasilian Jui Jitsu and Ninjitsu for their practical content.

Thai Boxing is good if you want to do a lot of sparring.

I would not expect your fist to work as an effective weapon for a while after you start. My sensei says it took him 10 years to develop a reasonable punch. Certainly the boxer mentioned above has not developed a punch that does not strain his hand yet.

I have found that it is the teacher, their interpretation and character, that make the most difference to what I get out of a martial art. There is a wide gulf between competition forms and practical forms. It depends what you want to get out of the activity.
posted by asok at 7:44 AM on July 25, 2004

I should mention, that like yourself _sirmissalot_ i would not watch a fight at school (unless one of my friends was involved). The spectacle of real violence is so limited in enjoyment for me.
I did, OTOH, start an unofficial wrestling club, during the breaktimes. This seemed to soak up alot of the violent undercurrent in the male part of the school.
The non-joining trouble causers (borderline personalities?) still managed to be aloof from the action. Eventually getting bored enough to attempt a rape on one of the girls which got them all suspended and fucked their reps up with the ladies for the rest of the final term.
posted by asok at 7:52 AM on July 25, 2004

_sirmissalot_ - If you're doing this as a "face your fear" thing, but don't want to get injured, you need to find a school or gym that will work with you progressively. The key is to consistently stretch your comfort zone, without ever throwing you in over your head, until you are at a place where you can handle the contact.

Most martial arts schools are good on the progressive concept, but many of them never go all the way to giving you the intensity of a boxing match. Any serious boxing gym will give you the intensity, but many of them aren't geared to the beginner who needs a slow, careful progression. If you spend some time shopping around and talking to instructors/coaches, you can probably find something appropriate. Explain what you're looking for and see how they respond.

As others have pointed out, boxing is a martial art. As a form of martial arts training, its strengths are: 1) will teach you to punch as hard as possible for your size quicker than any other art, 2) will build cardio conditioning, 3) will build good footwork, 4) will force you to overcome your fear of getting hit. Weaknesses: 1) long-term hard-core training can take its toll on your face and head, especially at the pro level, or even at the level of serious amateur competition, 2) doesn't teach grappling skills.

I'd second the recomendation for checking out a good grappling school (judo, brazilian jujutsu, catch wrestling) that includes lots of free-style grappling practice as part of their curriculum. You'll get plenty of opportunities to face your fears as some big guy throws you through the air and ties you into a knot on the ground. However, the nature of the practice makes it easier for the more experienced practitioners to take it easy on the beginners (as compared to boxing). You also should have less worries about concussions, as long as the school enforces proper safety practice. It'll also get you into really good shape.

Good luck. When I was younger I was always the guy who was terrified of physical contact. I couldn't even face up to a pillow fight. I spent a lot of years training in some martial arts which didn't demand a high level of contact. That helped build my confidence and conditioning, but I knew I was still limited. Then I found a good school that had Muay Thai kickboxing & jujutsu. This brought me up to the point where I was actually able to fight in the ring & do okay. I haven't suffered any brain damage yet, so it is possible to get to where you want to be.
posted by tdismukes at 8:38 AM on July 25, 2004

I've boxed, been a fairly good fencer, learned some judo, hapkido, tae kwon do, and tai chi in my time.

Boxing is an all-around good work out considering the training methods. I sparred, never without headgear, I wanted the mechanics, but refused to risk the damage for nothing.

If acclimating to violence is really a problem, try some fencing, good leg work out and the violence is minimal and sort of abstract so it isn't such a shock. It could serve to ease you into an aggressive posture where you are attacking someone else but inflicting minimal damage. I'm talking foil here, if you get into epee and especially saber, the violence, aggression get much more apparent. Physically you'll have to supplement it with an upper body workout, maybe 100 push-ups after a workout, as our maitre used to make us do.

Judo is practical, and seems to me less abrasive and angry than the more hardcore grappling that's risen in prominence in the past 10 years or so, that stuff gets pretty ugly. I'm not saying it's pretty or refined in comparison, but to me it never seemed quite so cutthroat.

Hapkido was cool, lots of tricks for bad situations and centered on self preservation, but not combat.

Tai kwon do involves quite a bit of kicking, might be sort of hard to start at 32 unless you're pretty limber.

Tai chi..relaxing and taxing. You'll be soaked and worn out without even realize it..minimal violence.

Most of the other contributors make an important point, the character of the instructor is very important, research and observe his or her methods before you commit to a course or school. Also, I've never been into violence of any sort, but started boxing at 14 (I'm 32 now also) to build myself mentally and physically and to be ready for life. You may branch off to different things like I did, but however you decide to start, good luck!
posted by tetsuo at 9:58 AM on July 25, 2004

If you don't want to get hit, or if you want to ease into full-contact boxing, check out your local boxing clubs for non-contact or "boxercise" classes. Not the "punch-2-3-4, and take it to the left"-style boxing-influenced aerobics that popped up a few years ago, but real boxing; just without the sparring.

You do all the exercises real boxers do - running, bag work, shadow boxing, skipping, medicine ball, weight training, a ton of push-ups - but never see the inside of the ring.*

If you're looking for a good all around workout, I can't recommend it enough.

*Actually, that's not entirely true. After taking a couple of classes a few of us were given the chance to spar. I never thought three one-minute rounds could last so long. I also never thought at 10 stone I could drop a 200-pounder with a well-placed (some would say "lucky") jab to the nose.
posted by Monk at 11:44 AM on July 26, 2004

Amateur boxing, when done using all the right protective equipment, does not lead to an increased frequency of neurological damage compared to other sports, according to a study I reported on several years ago. I doubt that has changed.

It's professional boxing that fucks you up.
posted by joeclark at 4:01 PM on July 27, 2004

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