By: Richard Casanova, Boxing Coach, Cambridge Group of Clubs & Rob Coates, Personal Training Director, Toronto Athletic Club
Boxing is a Dual-Combat sport, arranged according to specific rules. The primary goal in boxing is to strike the opponent with the knuckle part of a gloved hand without being struck in return. We knew that, right? I’ve seen a Boxing Match; how does this apply to me?
In boxing, attack and defense occur almost simultaneously. Picture tapping your head and rubbing your stomach while hopping on one foot with DIRE consequences, should you fail. With so much happening at any given moment of a match, you need to respond instinctively. That comes from hours of drilling and practicing.
Boxing training requires a significant amount of motor coordination and spatial awareness, placing demands on key areas of the brain, such as the somatosensory cortex and the primary & secondary motor areas. In addition, boxing training requires concentration and focus, which develop important regions of the brain responsible for attention and acuity.
This is especially important when we consider how our brains age – or more importantly – how we can keep our brains young, sharp, and ready to adapt. One of the most effective non-medical treatments for people who develop Parkinson’s are dance classes. In essence, learning new motor skills helps stave off the effects of the disease. This also applies to the aging brain: Want to stay sharp, learn a new motor skill.
Mindfulness can be defined as being in a state of present-moment awareness.
We have all read the numerous articles, studies, and abstracts or listened to the interviews and podcasts about why mindfulness is so important. It’s a principle that’s lost on most: Be in the absence of thought. This can seem impossible during something like a Seated Meditation. But when you’re diligently focused on your footwork, striking patterns and when to defend against a strike, there’s not a lot of time for other thoughts to enter your head. Boxing IS a Meditation.
Okay, so you’re sold on the Brain-based benefits of taking up Boxing as a practice. What about Fitness?
The Hoffman Method was developed as a means of dissipating negative emotions through the simple practice of batting a pillow with a toy bat. We’ve all wanted to punch something in a state of anger or frustration. What if you could do that in your workout? And, do it with the correct technique in order to reduce any chance of injury?
Boxing training incorporates many of the research-proven benefits of High Intensity Interval Training. The effort produced by the athletes are intermittent, and their intensity is high. There are few things more exhausting than combat and boxers are some of the best conditioned athletes in sport.
Strength & Power:
Boxing can help increase your muscular power by learning how to increase either the force of your punches (achieved by using the heavy bag) or by increased speed (achieved by using focus mitts and reactive drills). Power is the combination of Speed & Strength.
Punching techniques requires the muscles of the upper and lower body to transmit force from the ground up. This transfer of force via the Kinetic Chain is why we need a strong core: You need to develop force from the ground and transfer that force through your core to your upper body.
Boxing training is a great way to increase flexibility. We’re not stretching for the sake of it. We need to be able to accommodate certain positions and postures to both deliver blows and defend. In essence, we want to improve our ability to create and accommodate range of motion, but also have strength in those positions – an often-missed aspect of flexibility that might be more important than how much range you can accommodate in a vacuum.
This is where the trend of Fitness Boxing or Box-Fit came from: You don’t need to get in the ring, but there are few practices more effective at building every single aspect of the Brain and the Body than Boxing. We utilize all of the techniques of traditional boxing: striking, defense, mobility, movement, flexibility, mental, and visual agility, among others. It’s an intense but fun physical preparation with the inclusion of games, physical work in pairs or in groups in the same way a Boxer prepares for a fight.
At the Club, we’re working on ways we can add value to our members’ fitness routines. Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series where we'll outline a Workshop at the TAC that Richard has developed in order to introduce the Foundational Aspects of Boxing. We’ll be offering these Workshops to all of our TAC members, so reach out if you are interested.
Email Richard to set-up a one-on-one session.