Friday, April 18, 2014

It’s Habitual – Forming the Right Habits

by Doug Ward on November 15, 2011

Habits are formed through repetition, doing the same thing time, after time, after time. This especially applies to boxing.  How you prepare to fight and what habits you then take with you when you enter the ring are born and fed in the gym.  That’s why it’s called “training”.

Habits are developed when an action or thought is carried out so often and in so much the same way that a neurological link is created and the behavior becomes “automatic”.  This is the process by which a behavior becomes habitual. The more often this connection between context and the action is carried out, the more ingrained it becomes and instinctively it is performed. If the action or move is a good one, then a good habit is formed and that is the desired result.  But, if the habit shows itself in the way of improper technique or a predictable fight pattern that can be exposed, like dropping your hands, stepping with the wrong foot or running out of gas in the later rounds, then your bad habit could leave you vulnerable.

An average fighter spends hundreds more hours in the gym training than he does in the ring competing, so it’s no secret that this where his habits are formed.  Every minute a fighter spends in the gym he is creating a good habit or a bad habit. There is no grey area…it’s pretty much black and white. Every minute of training you are creating habits…are they beneficial or detrimental?

Do you drop your left hand every time you jab?
Do you ever step with the incorrect foot first and cross your feet over each other?
Do you always load up on your right hand, making it easy for your opponent to see it coming?
Do you drop your hands after you finish a combination?
Do you immediately let your guard down when the bell rings?

When repeated over and over, these types of bad habits become weaknesses that your opponent can expose and capitalize on.  The problem is…some habits are unintentional.  Sometimes you may not even know you’re doing them.  They are a sign of a lack of awareness and neither trait has a place in boxing, in the gym or in the ring.

Habits can also work the other way.  Through consistent and conscious action, good habits can be formed and executed. Correct form, technical proficiency, accurate counter punching, sound defense all come through repeating the basic fundamentals over and over, until they are routine. A fighters’ natural response comes more from repeating the same movement time and again, more than it comes from instinct.

Once the concept of developing good habits instead of bad ones is understood (and is being reinforced) there is an extra level of responsibility on the fighter and accountability on the coach to be sure that every move made in the gym is geared towards ingraining only good habits. It is easy to get lazy, stray from the basics and let technique slide, but becoming complacent and settling into bad boxing habits comes at a cost. Pay the price by being aware of what you’re doing every second you’re in the gym and be willing to change it if it is not good. Everything you do in the gym is creating a habit…a good one or a bad one. The time you spend there is ultimately the same, so why not spend it wisely so that someone else doesn’t “cash your check”.

Doug Ward is the President and Trainer for the Underground Boxing Company.

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