Tag Archives: beginner’s sparring

Putting yourself in harm’s way

I love the training in boxing.  On the boat I’m able to train everyday.  When I’m at home I train to a lesser extent.  Yesterday I went to Lusby’s and I wasn’t expecting Lewis to be there let alone do any sparring.  It was nice to try and put into practice some of the movements that I’ve tried to work on.

When I watch action-type movies you see a lot of people getting into fist fights and bar brawls, all different types of fights.  It all looks easy.  Someone comes towards you and bang, they strike or get struck.  What’s incredibly tricky though is judging the distance when you’re able to physically hit someone.  Not many people have been involved in physical confrontation and gauging that distance accurately isn’t something you can just pick up instantly.

It’s alright if the person isn’t expecting it.  Sure you can just walk up and sucker punch someone no problem.  They’re hardly in a position to offer resistance.  But if someone’s waiting, ready for it… you’re talking inches.  Just inches and centimetres.  The difference between being able to land something and hitting plain, thin air…  and then you have to be aware that you can also be hit back in return.

Pawing jabs and punches…

I love watching this Ukrainian boxer called Vasyl Lomachenko.  I’ve mentioned him before but he’s a wonderful boxer to watch.  His movement is really fantastic and there’s a lot of stuff you can learn when you watch him fight and train.

One thing I see him do in a ring is that he does a lot of these “pawing jabs” and punches.  Just light taps.  They’re not really going to hurt anyone but he uses them to occupy someone’s vision and whilst that’s going on, his feet are moving to a better position.  It’s then he’ll stop pawing and strike you somewhere exposed with more force.

  • This takes a lot of practice. My head movement, my guard… You’re trying to pay attention to what the guy opposite you is doing too.
  • Against an orthodox boxer I’m always trying to secure an “outside” position with my foot.  Against another southpaw, we’re even, so I have to box well, look for my openings and react well.
  • Harder to put into practice than you think. Fitness has to be good of course but more experience in the ring is essential.

Pivoting fast…

I’ve watched Lomachenko practice this on a heavy bag and there’s countless examples where he’s done it in a fight.  His movement is amazing.  The only way I can describe it that one minute he’s in front of you and in a flash he’ll skate around and just land a body shot or an uppercut.

  • The very first thing I realized when I tried this is that you have to be close to the other guy.  It’s more of an inside fighting move.  When I tried it on Lewis, I was too far away and he didn’t have to do much to just react to it and as a result, I was too far away to land a body shot at times.
  • I think you have to condition yourself to get used to being close to your opponent.  I have to learn to be able to block well (because at such short distance, I’m going to be vulnerable too) and then be able to see the chance to skate around.
  • I need to get close but that’s tricky in itself.  You have to train your mind to accept you’re jabbing your way into harm’s reach.


There were a few times when I invited Lewis to come on at me and I would just block with my gloves in front of my face and and my elbows tucked in.  I was trying to condition myself to get used to the feeling of someone pummelling me.

  • When I tried this I forgot to open my gloves every so often so I could see where the shots were coming from.  I need to work on that.
  • Thinking about it now I should have thrown a few inside shots of my own but I didn’t, which I regret.  Thinking about it again, this would have been a good moment to try that fast pivot I mentioned above.
  • I escaped by just pivoting away and maybe in an ideal world I should have pivoted away and thrown a few shots quickly.


So that was it!  Four rounds.  It goes quickly.  It gave me plenty to think about though and I’m further away than I thought as usual!

Here’s a great video of Lomachenko. You can see him doing the two things above and there’s an amazing track I love listening to just now.  Tom Day – “Who we want to be”.


10 rounds and some fear factor

I’d already had an hour’s session in the morning when Jim poked his head into the instrument room in the afternoon and asked if I fancied doing some sparring.  That morning consisted of a 4km run and around half an hour of drills on the heavy and double end bag.  I was going to do another session in the evening but I didn’t expect to take my body into battle in the evening.

I had a little more trepidation this time.  Maybe because I knew my body had only just recovered from the 12 rounds on Sunday but I wanted to warm up this time.  Jim has his own 12oz gloves and I tried dropping a hint to him as he was wrapping up his hands mentioning there were some unworn 16oz gloves in the gym but he didn’t bite.  I have my pair of 16oz gloves which I always use but I also have a pair of 12oz I took with me, this time.  I haven’t used those yet, this trip.  Jim has only 12oz and it’s a slight advantage.  I didn’t do too badly last 12 rounds so I didn’t mind doing the same again.

One punch of his came and somehow slipped through a gap in my head guard and partially onto my right eye.  It rocked me back and I had to stop momentarily and shake that off.  I wondered if I was going to have a black eye but I had to put that to the back of my mind.  That was only Round 2.

I’ve been boxing for just shy of 6 months now and to be honest, the time and practice that I’ve put in equates more than what an average person would do.  But if you talk ring-craft, I only hold around 24 rounds of experience.  It shows.  I still have tendencies to turn away, my feet are not always balanced, I’m leaning forward or back a little too much.  There are a few hooks that come my way that I don’t even see coming and although a head guard can block off some peripheral vision, that’s lazy eyes on my part.  It tells me I’m not reading body language or aware enough yet.

Jim had gone for a run right before the sparring as well and I know he felt tired too.  It was near Round 7 we decided just to take it to 10 rounds only (and not 12) but even then I was flagging a little.  The first 12 rounds I practiced in that first week, my footwork was way better – I circled around much more and I was much more active.  This session, by the time I reached the 8th, all I wanted to do was Philly-shell up and keep Jim at bay but you can’t do that.  Even though you’re too tired to throw, you have to look like you want to throw otherwise you’re only inviting the other guy onto you.

I managed to survive the 10 rounds but I have a raft of questions that were in my head, that are still in my head today.  They’re all about how I can improve my balance so I am always in a position to throw punches.  Like someone commented… Boxing is about balance.  Keeping yours and taking it away from the other guy.

The two blows to my right pectoral that stopped me dead in my tracks during the sparring made it painful for me to sit up in my bed last night and this morning but it’s minimal stuff.  I’m going to give myself a week from Sunday before the next sparring.  I’m also going to put on my 12 oz gloves next time if Jim continues to wear his.  That will make it even.  My hand speed will be faster.  Faster to come back and protect my head, faster to jab out and ward him off.

Last night was good but I felt trepidation and I didn’t have that the first session.  Maybe because I knew this time I wasn’t 100% and maybe I knew Jim was faster than me which got into my head a little bit.  The bag work, the running, the jumping rope, the drills… that’s where you go to get the techniques.  Sparring?  That’s where you go to learn to fight.  You come to understand what works in the ring for you and what doesn’t work, what you’re doing good and what you’ve got to improve on.  It can’t be about you and someone else inflicting pain on each other – that’s pointless.  If I match up in glove weight with my opponent that will help me answer some more questions, I’m certain of that.  I won’t make that mistake again next session.  I’m getting hit more than Jim, that’s what I feel at least.  That’s not just down to the weight difference in gloves, of course not.  They call boxing The Sweet Science and in science experiments you need certain variables to remain constant in order to solve the other unknowns.



Powers of recuperation

I remember reading this interview that Arnold Schwarzeneggar did while on the set of Terminator 3 way back when he was making a comeback as an action star (he must have been in his early sixties) and something he said stayed with me.  It was, “Look, I feel great.  I can do everythng I did when I was thirty years old… it just takes me longer to recover from it.”

Arnie nailed that last part in a nutshell.

Those 12 rounds that I sparred, you don’t realize it until after but parts of my body feel like they’ve been tenderized by a meat mallet.  I blocked off a large portion of shots and obviously Jim and me weren’t going at it hammer and tongs style but occassionally, some blows sneak through and the punches absorbed by the defense of your arms and shoulders… you can feel those the day after.

When I mentioned to Jim I was still aching yesterday I was thankful he said the same.  I think it would have demoralized me if he turned and looked puzzled at me and said “No, I feel great.”

The sparring was Sunday and this is Wednesday.  I took Tuesday-night training off and my body felt better this morning for it.  I think I may have been caught under my right arm, somewhere close to my armpit).  It’s tender when I throw an uppercut.  I just gave away my Ibuprofen to a guy who woke up with a cranky neck but I may ask for a couple of tablets back!

I’ve just been eating vegetables and rice this whole week.  I’m not a vegetarian so I’ll happily spoon the sauce from the cook’s chicken curry (for example) with my vegetables!  I can’t quite bring myself to give up desert though!  Saturday I’m going to let myself eat a steak.  Just the steak though.  Rare, bloody.  I can’t wait!  (To hell with it – I need some protein, right? I didn’t bring any Vega with me this time)

We were going to do another sparring session this Sunday which I’m really looking forward to but then Jim just walked into the instrument room just now (now being Thursday) and asked if I was alright for tonight.   I thought about it for a split second before I said yes.  I read a lot of comments on people who sparred for the first time.  There’s a handful that had an awful first-time experience being paired up inappriopriately or having a masochistic coach that insisted on the beginner “toughing it out” as a kind of ritual rather than something useful and progressive.  That’s such a waste.  How many good people who could have really enjoyed and become decent boxers were lost because of someone like that, teaching them?  I can only hope they found another club eventually and felt a little better about themselves instead of being made to feel useless.

When the buzzer goes on my iPod app and we touch gloves the adrenalin is already there.  Sometimes with things like this there’s a fight or flight response that kicks in.  Every animal has it.  If someone spits in your face in the middle of the street society tells you that it’s inaproproate and unlawful to to retaliate and those things are in the back of your head (for many decent civilians out there).  Most people aren’t cowardly – they’re only concerned about the repercusions – that’s what civilisation does to you.  But in a ring, you’re training.  The conditions are fair.  If you can hit me then I can certainly hit you back.  You’re free.  Truly free of any burden.   Some people go through life and don’t get the chance to experience what that’s like.



Sparring, speed-dating style

It wasn’t the 2 hour open session slot that got me in the end.  That was actually pretty civilized.  I had a shower afterwards and made myself a cup of tea and sat in the lounge while I waited for the kids class to finish.  It was the sparring.  Those old hurts got to me in the end.  Someone cuffed me on my bad elbow and I could feel that nerve crippling numbness shooting straight up my arm.  Anyway, I just shelled up and moved around for the rest of the round waiting for my elbow to stop throbbing.

It was a touch too busy.  You’ve got like sixteen or more people waiting to spar and the whole thing is like masochistic speed date where you find a partner, spar 3-minutes and then a minute’s rest and then find another partner.  The other problem is that if you’re not in a ring you’re just fighting to find some open floor space.  I can count a handful of occasions where I must have bumped into a hanging bag or some other guy.  I watched as one guy moved backwards, tripped over something and flew backwards straight onto his back, onto the mat.

I was so conscious of where I was in relation to everything else I didn’t feel like I could move feely enough at times.  It’s not like a ring where you know its set dimensions.

It does seem like a weird speed date because there’s such a mix of people of different abilities.  One kid had the strangest movement you’ve ever seen.  It was wild.  It was like watching Ben Stiller when he’s dancing in that movie Along Came Polly and he’s jigging side to side.  If I wasn’t concentrating so much I may have actually smiled.  I can’t see me going to something like this again any time soon.

I preferred the open training because it’s still only 4pm – people are at work, there’s only a handful of people – maybe five or so.  You can just walk up to someone and ask them if they fancy a spar. I don’t know how to describe that – it just feels like a more natural, organic experience.

I did actually approach someone with his trainer at the open training but he apologized and explained he’d just had laser eye surgery so he was strictly only doing pad work for a while.  That was a good conversation actually!

The speed dating-style sparring…  I got through seven rounds with different people. I missed having the guidance of one-to-one with someone watching over me pointing out stuff.  If you’re up against someone better they’ll give you some advice and there was a couple of people who spoke to me afterwards and I appreciated that.

… people learning to box are some of the friendliest people you’ll come across.  Everyone’s helpful.  Maybe it’s because it’s a hard sport to learn or that it can take so much out of you.  It’s like a strange family you don’t know but you share something underneath.

I was driving home and I was trying to think about what I had learned from that session.  Well, I tried using a Philly Shell defence and I actually really liked it so I think I’ll persevere with that kind of a style.  I managed to roll off a few blows to my head that glanced harmlessly off my shoulder.  There’s a whole lot of stuff to learn though.  Like when someone jabs I need to practice jabbing back over the top of it or hooking with my lead right and not just ducking.  General ring craft stuff.  There’s nothing like being humbled by other boxer to make you concentrate on how hard you have to work in future.

I’m looking forward to next time I’m home and Gary’s back from his holiday and I can hopefully show him some more stuff in the ring and he can give me some constructive feedback to work on.  Like I say, that’s what I missed most of all.  I don’t think I did too badly for a someone who’s just been boxing for a little under half a year but there’s a lot of learning ahead.

My elbow’s still sore this morning.  I had to brush my teeth with my other hand!  I need to rest.



Studying boxing – trying to probe and defend

I was still thinking about my sparring experience from last week and how I reacted against Umar who had a slight size advantage and more experience.  I wasn’t throwing nearly as many punches against Umar because I was a lot more wary of him so I figure I need to learn and practice techniques for probing someone’s defence without getting whacked in the chin.

So what I enjoyed doing for some of yesterday was trawling YouTube for videos of pros and amateurs boxing.  I found a highlight reel someone made of Lomachenko’s, a gifted Ukranian southpaw boxer.  It was really interesting from a boxing perspective.  He’ll do things like “paw” away at your guard with light taps and then suddenly he’ll change the tempo and ferocity of his punch.  Another thing is he’ll feint a lot and watch your reaction and then he’ll employ the same feint again shortly after.  But because he knows how you’re going to react to it, Lomachenko will punch through whatever gap is created.  That all sounds like simple stuff but to have the intelligence and speed of thought to employ it while you’re in a fight is really impressive.  Plus his movement is really good.  In and out, side to side.  I really enjoyed watching him box on those videos.

I also caught some highlight reels of Floyd Mayweather Junior.  I never really watched any of his fights.  All I heard was that he “runs” and doesn’t want to box but when I watched the videos of him, I didn’t see a man running from anything.  His defence is absolutely amazing.  The way he tucks himself into that shell and just dips and rolls away from someone trying to hit him.  Most of the time his opponents are punching thin air.

I went on Expertboxing and used Pinterest to save little guides of the tricks Mayweather will try.  One thing he does is he’ll just sort of lunge in with a jab and he’ll just duck and roll away immediately after.  He’s just probing someone’s defence – something I need to learn to do.

I went on a run this morning to warm up and used my double end bag in my garage to practice the things I need for when I spar against someone.  So I tried probing jabs where I just come in and quickly duck out of the way of the bag.  Quick in; quick out.  I’d practice a quick two or three punch combination and get my body into a shell like I see Mayweather doing.  (I’m trying to create some muscle memory so that my reactions become more like an instinct)  I want my hands to automatically be in a certain position when I’m trying to pull away from someone.

I really enjoyed that session.  I’ll let you know if it helped when I try and put some of this stuff into practice next week but I’m a great believer in practice makes permanent.


Those videos I studied below and the links so you can have a look if you’re interested!

My first supervised sparring session


The sparring? – That was great!  I can’t even remember the name of the kid I was sparring with – that’s really bad – I went off on a tangent writing this – that’s why my memory has gone.

It was just light stuff – no need for even a gum shield but I chose to wear my face guard because I didn’t know the guy.  I didn’t know how hard he would hit.  Plus I hate it when I get punched in the face and it knocks out a contact lens.  I thought it would be good to get used to wearing a face guard… and lastly in the back of my mind… maybe I thought the face guard would encourage the kid to come at me a bit more.

Hmmm I was catching him in the face a little more than he was catching me (at least that’s how I felt it was going) and I read somewhere that the person who’s stronger should  let up a little and try and encourage the other guy to box more.  So I tried not to discourage the kid completely by unloading non stop and not let him get near me.  I was fitter as well but I knew the kid had spent the week boozing at the T-In-The-Park Music Festival so he hadn’t exactly been conditioning himself prior to today.

I tried to work on my movement a little and tucking into my guard just to get used to taking a few body shots.  I think we had something like a total of 3 rounds of 2-minutes.  I got some good feedback from Gary afterwards.  I was a little stiff in my movement and I need to just relax everything and flow a little better.

I really enjoyed it and I hope it didn’t put off the other guy either.  He’d just started out as well.  (Jeez why can’t I remember that kid’s name!? – Was it Kevin?) – I asked Gary if he was in his early twenties – he was seventeen.  Seventeen.

I would love more practice at sparring.  I told Gary that’s where I wanted to be.  Eventually I’d like to get my medical card so I can box at amateur level, competitively.  There are a couple of clubs that offer days that are just sparring and if I start to go to some of those evenings regularly I’d improve but if Gary can find me regular people I can spar with and help with my ring craft then that’s even better.

I always get a little nervous coming back to my trainer.  I try and reason it out and I think maybe I just care about Gary’s opinion and I wouldn’t want him to look at me training, one day and think he was wasting his time.

In a fantastical, ideal world, I’d be 27 years old (not 37) and I’d at least have a chance to win something where Gary would need to put up a shelf to hang a trophy on. Some small amateur competition or a piece of fighting memorabilia like a fight poster of mine.

There’s nothing wrong with an older man dreaming. 🙂

Some things you do in life are purely for your own selfish reasons – maybe even ashamedly so at times but that doesn’t mean I don’t think about the people close to me… Helping me, training me, putting up with me day in, day out.

Even if they despise this sport I love, or can’t see or feel what I see and feel when I lace up my gloves.

I always imagine my first competitive amateur fight will be alone – I don’t think I’d want anyone I know to see me go through something like that.  But it doesn’t mean they’re not in my thoughts in some deep recess where my heart and guts are.

People can think you don’t care because you never call, or you’re never at some family function/special occasion. Maybe you haven’t taken time to meet a new baby that just popped out but those people are always part of you.  I see their faces and hear their voices for a split second when I’m struggling to push myself up or when I’m crying into my towel.  I love those people.  They don’t know it but I can make their strength my own and even on the bad days when I hate myself, I can convince the damaged part of me that I can still do anything.  That it’s not too late.

Is that being over dramatic?  What was this about again?…


It was a great feeling being in a ring.  It really was.