“When self defense becomes complicated, it is no longer self defense.”
– Ryan Hoover
Why you need to learn boxing
Like every single kid who grew up during the 90’s I have a black belt in karate. I got it when I was about eight years old. It means nothing. If a fight broke out and prepubescent me had to defend himself I’d be dead. Sure I could break a board in half with my fists and do a triple axe kick, but these things are completely pointless in a real fight. They are superficial, glamor moves that have no functionality.
Boxing isn’t as flashy as most of the other fighting styles. Most people my age mock it for being outdated and only focused on hand work. There are no kicks, no one gets choked out, and throwing elbows isn’t allowed. As such, most guys gloss over it. Until I started boxing I’d never met anyone under 50 who had ever practiced the art. Most of my peers were into MMA and wanted to fight like their favorite UFC personalities.
While I don’t have a problem with this, and am by no means a combat snob, I think that boxing is something that everyone should take up. It’s just as hard, if not harder, than most of the other fighting styles. On top of this, it’s a very practical tool that can help out in a variety of situations.
You actually have to train for fights
Around Valentine’s Day I went to Chicago. On my way down I passed all kinds places that were advertising themselves as martial arts dojos. All of them had names like “Extreme Krav Maga Boot Camp” and they were plastered with images of rough men and women beating the tar out of one another. “Wow,” I thought to myself, “The average suburban schmuck must have really upped his game. Hand-to-hand combat have become really popular around here.” After a few inquiries I discovered the truth. The average suburban schmuck hadn’t upper their game at all. They simply went to cheesy “dojos” where they did aerobic exercises. It was like the martial arts equivalent of Planet Fitness.
I’m sure that there are fake boxing gyms where office drones pretend to throw punches against the air, but I have yet to see one. My boxing gym, and the others that I’ve seen, are all about fighting. You hit the bags, do some drills, and spar. There are no soccer moms or children present. Going to some Taekwondo dojo in the strip mall won’t get you anywhere. Shadow boxing and practice can only get you so far. At some point you’ll need real opponents.
Moves are functional
When I was about 16 I bought one of those overpriced Kung-fu instructional DVDs. After about a week I realized that the program was stupid. Every single move and technique was overcomplicated and difficult to reproduce. Additionally, they all had too many moving parts to them. Spinning around and telegraphing attacks is great for a movie or video game, but it’s worthless in real life. By the time you spin in a circle someone can crack you over the head.
Boxing might lack the flash that Ninjutsu or Capoeira has, but it works. UFC guys tend to train with boxing coaches for a reason. Jabs, hooks, and uppercuts are far more effective than some quadruple flip death kick. Action star Jean-Claude Van Damme was famously beat down after telegraphing his onslaught:
“Van Damme then took off his glasses and was ‘gearing up to come at me,’ Zito says. ‘I just didn’t give him a chance…’
Witnesses saw Zito hit the action star with a one-two combination. ‘It was a right hand and a left hook,’ said a source. ‘He went over, chair and all, boom.'”
Boxing might not have as much flair as some of the other disciplines, but it is practical and functional skill set. Learning how to actually fight is a lot more rewarding than knowing a bunch of superfluous moves that only work in movies.
You need to develop tactics
When I started learning how to box I sucked. At that point I’d already been lifting weights for almost a full year and I was in pretty decent shape. However, I didn’t have any kind of strategy for fighting. I’d go in and hit the heavy bag as hard and as fast as I could. After a few minutes I’d get tired, drop my hands, and have to take a breather.
Boxing isn’t a game of brute force. The idea that you can enter the ring and just hammer away at someone is pretty foolish. You need to have some tactics to back yourself up. The first time that I tried sparring I made the mistake of trying to go on the offensive the whole time. In fact, offensive fighting had been the only thing that I had seriously worked on up until that point. Defensive stuff didn’t seem cool so I phoned it in during those exercises. I got whooped. Things didn’t improve until I started to develop tactics and build up my defense.
While every martial art and fighting style does involve elements of strategy, a lot of them never allow you to implement it. Spending all of your time hitting a bag or practicing against the air will never be a proper substitute for actual combat. As such, you’ll never know what to do in a real situation.
Boxing has a bad reputation
When it comes to fighting people like to think that new is always better. This is only true when technology is involved. A World War One fighter pilot in his trusty biplane would never be a match for today’s supersonic jets and heat seeking missiles. However, fist fighting and hand-to-hand combat doesn’t really ever go out of style. The same uppercut that would have knocked someone out in 1890 will get the job done today. Boxing might be an old sport, but it has had longevity for a reason.