boxing injured s

Sparring Lesson: Use ANYthing You Have

Our gym currently has not one, but two coaches with injuries. Both injuries mean they can’t use their power right, at all. Not even a little bit.

Interestingly, on sparring night both of them were in the ring with only one glove. Sinclair can’t even get a glove on his right, it’s so swollen, and Sam could have gloved (his injury was to his shoulder), but didn’t. But they still confidently put on one glove and started moving everyone toward ringtime.

Since we had a gym full of young, messy fighters, I had been expecting to get more work than usual with my two gloves.  And while I did work with several different boxers in our gym, I was reminded of a few things I hadn’t thought of in a while, and I also learned something I wasn’t expecting at all.

Gear is a good signal

Sometimes when my sparring partner Yvonne and I work together, we spar without headgear. For us, this is a good signal that we’re not hitting our hardest — just working easily for speed and score. When we started this practice, I was instantly able to double my ringtime and utterly eliminate the joint stress that I had been having as a result of too much hard hitting on the heavy bag. During a regular sparring workout, when you see someone has no headgear, you ease up on your power. It just works.

We use this tactic with brand new boxers, too. Putting a geared-up experienced boxer in with a newb who is wearing no headgear or mouth guard is a great way to visually remind the experienced fighter to work only defense, and it also helps the new boxer feel more comfortable trying to land shots.

A handicap can make you into a superhero

Daredevil is the shit, y’all. He’s blind, but he can read your private snail mail by feel (probably your email too, sucka), hear your damn heartbeat if you’re hiding around the corner four blocks away, and kick your ass for you without ever getting your nasty fear-sweat on his nice red superhero suit. (Daredevil’s dad was a boxer, of course.)

As our boxers rotated in with Sam and Sinclair, I noticed there was absolutely nothing lacking in their game. In fact, several things were heightened…

They NEVER, EVER squared up.

They worked the HELL outta their jab. I saw a higher rate of left hooks and uppercuts, too.

Their footwork was supreme, children. It was superhero-level footwork. They were like hyper-powered ninja hovercraft.

The only thing that was hard for Sinclair to remember was to keep his right hand out of the way of stray shots. Essentially, he fought with half a guard. That meant he kept his right down, or behind his back (like a fencer — it was weird to watch). But I don’t think he ever took even the lightest tap to his right.

Don’t judge a boxer by their looks

Before we transitioned to sparring, the group was training together and, as often happens, there was a little smack talk going around as everyone anticipated their turn in the ring. Sinclair heard a fair amount of it before he finally stopped and good-naturedly called for everyone’s attention.

“How many of you people think you have what it takes to beat me in the ring? Raise your hand.”

I grinned and looked out over our crowd of 30 or so young boxers. Sinclair is skinny, tall, and easygoing. About 25 hands went up.

“What? What??!” He pretended to be outraged. I laughed and told him he had his work cut out for him. At this point none of the kids knew that Sinclair would be boxing with only one glove, either. I bet when they saw him roll into the ring they just about wet themselves in excitement.

As the only female, and the oldest in the gym, I’m used to being constantly underestimated as a boxer. I use it to my advantage, as you can imagine. It doesn’t take long for someone to learn, when you can make them suffer in the ring. But this happens less to the other coaches. I rather think they enjoyed it, and possibly even stirred the pot a bit.

Sinclair and and I started running them through rounds with us. After the first few boxers, the crowd around the ring thinned noticeably. This is the geography of boxing guts. The farther you are from the ring, the less likely you are to get in it. Some of the smack-talkers were making themselves scarce.

One young man in particular just wasn’t throwing anything, presumably because of Sinclair’s single glove. Their first round together mostly consisted of Sinclair jabbing at him and arguing with him to get him to work.

At the bell I gave Sinclair the signal. He immediately stopped berating his guy, and instead grinned and pointed at me. The kid looked over, and his entire demeanor changed. “Yeah, I’ll work with her,” he said.

There was an audible surge of support and encouragement from his peers, and the other coaches warning him that I was not what he believed. I gave him a good going-over and he finally did put a few good ones out there. Sometimes the risk of being shamed in front of your friends will make you get your ass going.

Fight with ANYTHING you have

This was the surprise, both for me and everyone who sparred with Sam and Sinclair. As I was working with some newer boxers, I began to hear Sinclair cornering boxers who were flagging. One guy was complaining that his arms were too tired. “Then use your footwork,” he called, “You gotta use what you have.”

Another one had no gas, and thus no footwork. “Then move your head,” I heard Sinclair shout. “Use what you have.”

It became a refrain, and one that never had a better reception than on this particular sparring night, when the two best boxers in the ring were still going strong with only one hand, and the third was… well, a woman.

When you don’t have your power hand, use your jab. If your feet are nailed to the floor, keep your head moving. When you got no gas in the tank, keep your guard up. Fight with anything you have. Not dumbass illegal moves or street bullshit. The real goods.

Just don’t quit. Make it to the bell if you have to crawl.

Remember when this happened to YOU?

Ever had one of those rounds? Weeks? Seasons? Leave me a comment below and share your story!

Image of Kotobukiya’s new Daredevil fig via Tomopop

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9 Responses to Sparring Lesson: Use ANYthing You Have

  1. Zoe March 27, 2013 at 12:45 pm #

    Wow, this is exactly what I needed today! I’ve been avoiding sparring for the last two months. I broke my rib in the fall, and when I finally had recovered from that, I pulled something in my left shoulder that makes it just give out after a while. I was worried about trying sparring again when I wasn’t at full strength, especially since my full strength is pretty lame! This makes me want to try with whatever I have. Great post!

    • Lisa Creech Bledsoe March 27, 2013 at 1:07 pm #

      Broken rib…Damn that sucker hurts, don’t it? I had one of those myself when I first started boxing, and it took me a SOLID three months to even be able to consider boxing again. Then it just took a while to get back on track, as you might expect. My cardio was for shit.

      The good news is that you DO come back! So hang in there, and don’t give up. Everybody starts at the beginning, and some of us start there more than once, heh. 🙂 (I’ve started over quite a few times, I believe)

      DOOO EEEET. And report back and let us know how it’s going!

      Best to ya.

      • Zoe March 28, 2013 at 9:58 am #

        Thanks for the motivation! Went to sparring and did my best. I managed about 3 rounds at a fairly slow pace with my coach, but was able to work on footwork and movement, learned a lot and got a good workout in as well. Tired and sore, but I’m very glad that I went!

  2. Tulisa April 2, 2013 at 4:03 pm #

    Oh my I hope you get better soon and recover so you can get back to your usual self. I once had 3 broken ribs in a car accident when I was younger so it wasn’t through boxing. I sure hope I don’t get anymore. Good luck Zoe!

  3. Shelby April 8, 2013 at 11:31 pm #

    I loved this post, Lisa! I esp laughed at “the geography of boxing guts” (that is so true!!) and I long for the days when I moved like a “hyper-powered ninja hovercraft.” Okay. Maybe I long for that one day, that one time when I moved like that… and maybe it wasn’t quite hyper-powered, but it was faster and smoother than usual and I can still remember the feeling. 🙂

    • Lisa Creech Bledsoe April 9, 2013 at 8:38 am #

      Yo hey, Shelby — I promise, hyper-powered ninja hovercraft feet *does* come, but it takes a lot of effort and practice, which makes me think I should post on how I finally got good feet in the ring. I can’t do it all the time (not enough gas) but I can do it, and the single best tool for getting there was a form of dot drills:

      http://www.theglowingedge.com/agility-dot-drills/

      You don’t have to use the dots, just keep your feet moving without touching the same spot twice in a row for a round at a time. It’s killer, I promise. But that, along with ring slides, will flat give you ring feet or kill ya, one. 🙂

      Thanks again for reading and commenting. I always enjoy hearing!

  4. Anna March 19, 2014 at 7:49 am #

    Hi Lisa
    Thank you for such an amazing blog with so much information and especially being from a woman’s point of view, and do I dare say more mature one. I’m 42 and took up boxing a year and a half ago to keep fit. Surprisingly I absolutely love it. This post rings home though as I have a shoulder surgery coming up as my joint is loose and keeps popping out. I am so worried about the recovery time and the fact I have been told no contact sport for at least 6 months. But this post has given me some encouragement. Last week my coach asked me if I would ever consider a bout, as my punch, attitude etc had come a long way. I had to remind him about my upcoming surgery. Luckily my coach has promised to help me keep fit in other ways. I don’t want to loose the momentum I’m in, feeling stronger and fitter than ever. And hopefully in a years time I will be having my first fight at 43.

    • Lisa Creech Bledsoe March 19, 2014 at 12:15 pm #

      Hi, Anna— Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. And double thanks and a fistbump for giving me the benefit of the doubt on that whole “mature” thing. Hah!

      I was 45 when I had my first sanctioned fight, so you’ll be coming in there a young ‘un, by my standards. 🙂

      And you can recover from damn near anything, I’ve found. You don’t always return to how you were, but there are work-arounds and ways to keep active, even if you can’t still do eight gazillion burpees or forty hojillion unassisted chin-ups. Hell, there’s plenty I don’t do any more (currently dealing with a torn meniscus, dammit) but I’m still sparring twice a week and enjoying the hell out of boxing. And now I’m a certified boxing official, so I get to ref at local boxing events, which is awesome.

      Good for you for looking ahead to that first fight; I hope you absolutely love it! And I hope you’ll drop by again and let me know how it goes for you. ANY time…

      Stay strong!

      • Anna March 21, 2014 at 3:27 pm #

        Thanks for the reply and encouragement. Reading your blog have completely made my mind up that I want to at least get in the ring ones (as long the op goes ok, which it should as it’s pretty routine one). Before, I just thought I would be too old, slow, not technically good enough. So whilst I’m catching up on all your old posts I’m getting just more inspired and might have to sit my coach down and accept his offer as I was rather surprised when he asked me I and just said we’ll see and I would think about it. Although it is white collar as I think amateur top age limit in the UK is 40. For me it makes no difference though. A bout all the same.
        Hope your injury heals ok. Pretty tough cookie still sparring with a dodgy knee!!! Guessing its a boxing related. Still I’m always saying I rather get these injuries from exercising (also get shin splints regularily from running), than a bad back or hands/arms from sitting by a computer/ in front if TV all day and night. At least I’ve earned my injuries ; )

        Have a lovely weekend!
        Anna

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