I admit, I am not a very active person. I would rather read a book or play a game than take a walk outside. But I have a “hobby” that I was doing for years now: boxing. Even though I don’t have other physical activities, boxing helps me to keep a reasonably healthy body.
So what do I like about boxing?
You are on the same ground as the greatest
What I mean is: you have the same basic equipment as the all-time greats. All boxers started with the same equipment and the same routine that you are doing in the gym.
Wherever you go, every boxing gym has these three tools: the speed ball, the double end, and the punching bag.
The speed ball is used to establish rhythm in your punches. After I finish my starting run/stretching, this is the first bag that I use. For three rounds, you will punch the bag in quick successions, but you will need to keep the rhythm or else your punches will not land on the bag. This is for conditioning your arms to get accustomed to the “gaps” between punches and combinations.
The double end is a multi-purpose bag. It can train your accuracy by looking at the bag as your opponent’s head. It can also be used to train your defense by dodging the ball as it comes back after you punch it. This bag can also be used for punching rhythms (similar to the speed ball).
Perhaps the most iconic equipment in the gym, the punching bag strengthens your arms and increases your punching power. In addition to that, it also provides a very intense cardio workout! I find it the most difficult part of my routine as I exert my best on each punch.
I want power, not “gains”
After I said that I was going to the gym, a good friend once asked me, “What are your gains?“. I honestly didn’t know how to answer. I said I am not focusing on having muscle mass, but to have power.
Growing up watching professional boxing matches I sometimes wondered why the fighters didn’t look intimidating on the outside. While their body is lean and in top shape, I don’t see any large muscles like the ones I see in bodybuilding competitions. I equated power to large muscles, but that is not necessarily true. I have seen boxers and fighters who don’t look that intimidating on the outside, but I know I will be in serious trouble if I got into a fight with them.
Compared to bodybuilders who want to accumulate as much mass as they can, fighters need to balance strength, power, speed, and endurance in order to perform optimally. Having a large bulk of muscles may give strength, but can reduce agility and speed that may result in a loss.
Our gym has weight lifting equipment, but for the many years I have been going there, my trainers never instructed me to use them. Instead, we focus on dumbbells, small barbells, and kettle bells.
The art of boxing is complex enough
As a child I enjoyed watching boxing matches on TV. They made them look simple enough: you punch your opponent until they go down.
Once I started boxing myself, I learned that it is not just a physical game, most of it is a mind game. You need to balance your offense and defense. If you only focus on offense, you will be easy prey for a counter-punch. Too much defense and you will not be able to deal damage.
On top of that, you and your target are constantly moving. If you stay still, you are dead. Punches need to be fast, strong, and accurate. If your punch is too slow, it will be easily dodged. If they are not strong enough, then your opponent will just laugh them off. And perhaps you will get tired more from punching the air than when you actually hit your target.
And this is just one side of the whole. The same thing applies to your opponent, so you will need to have quick reflexes to dodge, parry or block their punches. If you don’t, then being hit with a single accurate blow can end the match.
This is the reason why I do not do Muay Thai or kickboxing at this point. I can see that there are still so many things to learn from boxing itself. Adding kicks into the equation would be too much for me.
Your weapon is yourself
Another advantage of boxing, as well as other martial arts and combat sports, is that you are your own weapon. Granted, you wear gloves when in the gym to protect your fists, but in general the only weapon you need is your body.
I say that it is not only your fists, but you also need your core to supply the power, and your legs to move and generate power as well. I am not saying that going to the boxing gym will somehow magically transform you into a great fighter. From a practical standpoint, boxing has still some disadvantages compared to other fighting styles such as mixed martial arts (MMA). However, having trained arms and body will help in case you cannot back down from a fight.
Best physical therapy
As someone making a living doing software development, I tend not to move too much during the day. My entire workday is mostly done sitting on a chair, facing a laptop or a monitor typing away. After more than a decade of this kind of work, it takes a toll on your health.
I stopped boxing for a year and during that time I found out that I have scoliosis of the lower back. This was not a recent condition but was only discovered because of my back pain. I was complaining of back pains towards the end of the day and I can’t stand still for long. The doctor suggested that I need to lose weight and also do therapy.
Boxing provided a way to achieve that. It strengthened my muscles and also helped my back to carry my weight (which is also being controlled thanks to boxing).
All the good side effects
We have a weighing scale in our house but I do not use it at all. When you start to exercise you are tempted to check your progress often. However, that can be both an inspiration and a downer depending on your perceived progress up to today.
I decided that I will not box in order lose weight or look better, but instead to develop my strength and power. I ignored my weight and did not pay attention at all to how I look in the mirror. Rushing things to achieve results will result in me having burnout and abandoning everything altogether.
The law of compounding applies here. I only go to the gym twice a week at the maximum, but by doing this consistently over many years, the results eventually comes in. Not only do I see improvement in my power, but at the same time my body starts to look better. I could choose to go three or five times a week and achieve results much faster, but I feel that I would be tiring myself too much and would not fit in my current schedule.
If anyone is thinking of a hobby or a sport to take on, I highly recommend boxing. There are few equipment required, it is a great cardio workout and it will also help your confidence, knowing that you are building power within yourself.