Thursday, April 24, 2014

Seeing is Believing

by Doug Ward on May 29, 2012

Being a couch potato and boxer do not necessarily go hand-in-hand, but there are distinct ways you can use visual technology to your advantage.  You can incorporate the better parts of it to enhance your technique, develop new aspects of your game and perfect a fighting style that suits you in the ring. Spending hours in front of the TV or on the internet is not a good replacement for actual training, but you can use them both to reinforce what you’re doing in the gym.

First of all, learn from past and present fighters.  There is an immense amount of knowledge to be gained from studying fighters and their various approaches.  Fighters from past eras had an amazing amount of mental and physical toughness and it came through in the brutal way they approached this sport.  Modern day fighters, on the other hand, have developed an athleticism and ring intelligence that is a thing of beauty.  All eras have a handful of elite fighters who would stand out in any time period.  Watch them.  Find their fights, no matter who you prefer, and soak in their images.  Just by watching their highlight reels over and over, you will take on certain ring characteristics you admire in them.  You won’t necessarily be copying them, although that’s okay too, but you will still unconsciously develop certain attributes that they do well.  Mimicking others we admire and taking on similar traits that we admire is human nature.  Through the simple task of watching and wanting, you will take on some of their best punch combinations, how they use their feet or the way they move their head.  Mike Tyson often shared stories of how he used to devour old fight films.  A virtual fight historian himself, Tyson grew up with former trainer and guardian Cus D’Amato watching old fight films, dissecting the moves and styles of the old-time boxers.  “Cus and I used to talk about fighters for hours before I went to bed,” Tyson has said.  His favorite fighters were Joe Louis, Jack Dempsey, Sonny Liston and Joe Frazier…all fighters you can see reflected in his personae and fighting style.  Watch, look and listen and you might bridge the gap between the fighters you wish you were like to the fighter that you want to become.

Secondly, record yourself.  Any camera will work.  It doesn’t have to be the best quality to capture enough to see what you need to.  This is especially important if you often train by yourself, don’t have a trainer or wish you got more advice from the coach you do have.  Record your gym sessions, sparring and actual matches.  There’s no better teacher than reality and cameras don’t lie.  Review your sessions and be your own worst critique and best cheerleader. Don’t just look at your mistakes, but also learn to recognize what you’re doing well.  The trick is to be honest.  Be objective about yourself and your abilities.  Examine how well you execute the basics.  Do you keep your hands up?  Is your footwork good and balanced?  Are you moving your head well or are you a stationary target?  The only downside to this is that most fighters, who absolutely LOVE what they do, could usually stand to be more critical and those who are most critical of themselves, tend to be overly harsh, so try to find a balance.  Take note of what you do, both good and bad, and work on it.  You will never replace a good coach, but some self evaluation is always beneficial.

Finally, one last technological tool you can use is the internet.  In this Information Age, you can find how-to videos on everything.  There are some great resources out there that cover nearly every aspect of the sport, they are readily available and cost nothing to watch.  The only challenge lies in finding the right ones.  Along with all of the good information, there is also some real crap.  There is no real guide to finding the best, most useful footage out there, so it just takes applying some common sense.  If it sounds unorthodox, sells itself as being the “secret to boxing mastery” or totally goes against what the majority of other sources say, then it’s probably a little questionable (at best.)  You just have to be a little discerning.  When watching it, ask yourself “Is the core belief behind what the person is saying, backed in science, basic psychology or is it theory?”  Boxing basics and human nature have dynamics, but the root of either of those disciplines is still fundamental.

No matter how you choose to go about developing it, the human mind is an incredible machine. Research conducted by the 3M Corporation concluded that we process visuals 60,000 times faster than text.  Use that to your advantage and make sure you’re feeding it the best pictures and running the right movies in your head.  If time is an issue, then do yourself and your boxing endeavors a favor by replacing your current television viewing schedule with a few minutes of real reality TV.  Take that TV time and turn it into a study session of what you could be doing better, what the best teachers in the business have to show you and how fighters you admire turned their talents into the only “ratings” that really count.  You might miss a few of your favorite shows, but there’s no question that it will do you more good to learn Sugar Ray Leonard’s best moves in the ring than those performed by him or anyone else on Dancing with the Stars.

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

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