Sportblog: Learning to box, part two

SPORTS editor Graham Smyth continues his series on learning to box at Manton ABC.

Part two...

WHY do people do this?

In the three boxing sessions I’ve attended at Manton ABC I’ve been driven to that point where my body starts to disobey me.

But in those few trips to the facility at Manton Athletic Club, I’ve started to catch the bug.

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The feeling of utter despair as I struggle to keep up with clubmates on the ‘road work’ (outdoor runs on the athletics track, and sprints on a five-a-side pitch), is soon forgotten as I limp out of the gym.

I’m already thinking about next time.

There’s a definite high that you experience after pushing your body to what feels like its limit. And that high is addictive.

My third session felt no easier than my first, but there were some highlights.

Not being last on the jog, completing more exercises than a couple of newcomers and finishing stronger as others tailed off. These are reasons to be proud, not out of competitiveness but out of a personal drive to improve.

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I’d hope that the longer I train, the smaller the gap will get between me and the fitter members. And the bigger the gap will be between me and those joining for the first time.

Another highlight was a moment of encouragement from a more experienced lad, who appreciated that I was struggling, but struggling on.

This came at the end of a horrendous set of floor exercises, which culminated in press-ups with a difference - a knee-to-elbow movement on the way down.

They hurt, a lot, but I did them, and the simple phrase, ‘good work, that’ was a more than ample reward.

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There is a culture of encouragement at Manton, and it cascades down from the top.

Coach Harry Watson lets you know if you’re doing well, and he lets you know if you’re not. But there’s very little in the way of verbal body shots.

Harry is surprisingly softly spoken for one who has had a career in such a tough sport.

He wants his fighters to watch their language around kids, he insists that things are done correctly.

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“I want us to be known for our boxing, not our swearing,” he reminds some older lads.

It was in my third session that I got the chance to throw some punches for an extended period of time.

Three two-minute rounds of shadow boxing in the ring, and three two-minute rounds on the punchbags. It’s during these rounds that Harry wanders around, giving tips on technique.

It seems he wants newcomers like myself to concentrate on straight punches first and foremost, with some movement thrown in. He reminded me to snap the jab out.

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When it came to variation, Matt Brierley (two-time national finalist) instructed me to bend my knees when throwing a hook to the body, to really drive the punch home.

The fitness aspect of the sessions will do me the world of good, especially when a lot of my working day is spent sat at a computer.

But it’s these little moments of tuition that I’m really enjoying at the Retford Road club.

And I think in the few things I’ve mentioned here, you get a pretty good idea as to why people take up such an intense sport.

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Training your body, learning a new skill and enjoying the banter and camaraderie that comes from a group exercise are all part of the feelgood factor.

I suppose walking into a boxing gym for the first time could be intimidating or daunting, but I’ve experienced no cold shoulders and no discouragement.

My body may ache for a day or two afterwards. And I question my sanity when my skipping rope clatters into the back of my head for the sixth time in a minute.

But the ups outweigh the downs.

My lung capacity will be improving through all the running and cardio. My core will be strengthened from all the push ups and sit ups.

In a few months I expect to be able to end my blog with ‘so far, so fit,’ but for now I’ll settle for ‘so far, so good.’

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