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Zach Zinn
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advice for boxing

So, I finally pulled the trigger on one of my bucket list (Covid kinda pushed me to check it off) items and joined the boxing gym here. Whenever lockdown lifts enough I'll be starting.

I'm 43, and I'm guessing I'll be on the older end. Wondering if anyone else has done this, and what advice you have, especially if you are middle aged or older.

Iain Abernethy
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Awesome! I think a lot will depend on the nature of the gym. I know of some that are very focussed on producing fighters and future champions, which may not be ideal training when you’re looking for something to support and inform your karate.  If they are OK with “recreational boxers” then the training should be appropriate and fun. Great for fitness too!

I find I’ve always got more out of all cross training by seeking to learn something on its own terms before contextualising it. I just turn up and do as I’m asked. I can then work out what is appropriate for differing objectives at a later date.

Please keep us in the loop as things progress.

All the best,

Iain  

Zach Zinn
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Iain Abernethy wrote:

Awesome! I think a lot will depend on the nature of the gym. I know of some that are very focussed on producing fighters and future champions, which may not be ideal training when you’re looking for something to support and inform your karate.  If they are OK with “recreational boxers” then the training should be appropriate and fun. Great for fitness too!

Yeah I called the coach beforehand to try to get the vibe of the place, I got a good impression but couldn't really get my main question answered - which is basically whether or not people engage in hard contact to the head regularly in sparring. A bloody nose or fat lip is ok, CTE isn't..is basically how I look at it. There are all kinds of people at the gym though, so I think if you want safe sparring (once that even becomes possible) it's probably available here. I also asked a friend (another Karateka) who trained there for a couple of years about it, and he had nothing but good things to say. I also have some injuries/conditions that I know will affect parts of the conditioning routine, and the coach seemed just fine with helping me through any issues.

e wrote:

I find I’ve always got more out of all cross training by seeking to learn something on its own terms before contextualising it. I just turn up and do as I’m asked. I can then work out what is appropriate for differing objectives at a later date.

Please keep us in the loop as things progress.

All the best,

Iain  

I try to go in with an empty cup for sure. My brains starts processing things in "Karate mode" automatically, but I tried with Judo to just be a new Judoka, which was not hard, because I was not good at it. They could tell I had some kind of training, but never asked much about it, minus one guy who was nice enough to actually ask me "what do you want to learn here" and then work with me personally - really awesome. I expect it will be much the same at this gym. Much like a traditional dojo, the coach seems to put a lot fo emphasis on mutual respect, responsiblity, etc.

Iain Abernethy
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Hi Zach,

Zach Zinn wrote:
I also asked a friend (another Karateka) who trained there for a couple of years about it, and he had nothing but good things to say.

Personal recommendations from trusted people are great. I think it’s something everyone  should look for when starting training at a new place.

Zach Zinn wrote:
Much like a traditional dojo, the coach seems to put a lot of emphasis on mutual respect, responsibility, etc.

Sounds perfect! I’d be really interested to hear about your thoughts and experiences going forward.

All the best,

Iain

Zach Zinn
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Iain Abernethy wrote:
I’d be really interested to hear about your thoughts and experiences going forward.

Will do, the gym got the OK to open up as of Monday, so I'm starting next week. Should be interesting, a whole new world.

Zach Zinn
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Figured i'd share my first day Boxing experiences:

Well, I truly felt like a beginner again.

The stance and method of punching is different enough that I could barely even concentrate on stuff that is second nature to me in Karate - such as breathing. I'm also not used to only breathing through the nose. The super-rotation of the punches and the tightness of the guard is tough to get used to, but I made some progress.

The stuff that was the same: simply being able to throw punches is throwing punches, no one needed to show me a cross or jab exactly, just heavily adjust what I was doing. Foot movement was similar in places, and very different in others. It's going to take a while for me to get used to what seems like very exaggerated movements by Karate standards. It reminded me in some ways of Shotokan training I had as a kid, in that the basics seemed to involve teaching beginners to exagerrate movements at first.

My fitness is just good enough that I think I will be able to get through workouts without completely dying, but only just, and once he throws in more conditioning I'm  a bit scared! It was me and a couple guys I would estimate to be between 18 and 22 years old, so guess who gets tired first:) I expect this to improve as I drop a few pounds...hopefully.

The leaning forward so much in stance will be tough to get used to as well, I feel like the Judo, Jujutsu and "clinchy" stand up stuff i've done in Karate particular makes me automatically not want to learn forward like that, but here it's a neccessity it seems.. All in all I can say my years of Karate helped me in some very basic ways today, but it is so different it is almost starting from scratch, almost.

It was somewhat difficult for me to empty my brain of previous habits, but I felt like it went well for a first session, and I'm really liking being a total neophyte again.

Iain Abernethy
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Hi Zach,

Zach Zinn wrote:
Figured i'd share my first day Boxing experiences:

Congratulations on being able to train with people again … I am not jealous at all! ;-)

Zach Zinn wrote:
Well, I truly felt like a beginner again.

Always a good thing :-) A sure sign it’s a new experience with new things to learn.

Zach Zinn wrote:
My fitness is just good enough that I think I will be able to get through workouts without completely dying, but only just, and once he throws in more conditioning I'm  a bit scared! It was me and a couple guys I would estimate to be between 18 and 22 years old, so guess who gets tired first:) I expect this to improve as I drop a few pounds...hopefully.

I had the same thing with Judo. I was mid 30s at the time and most of the people I was training with were much younger full-time athletes. Did wonders for my fitness, but it was not “fun” :-)

It remined me of the Norse myth when Thor is tricked into wrestling an old woman. He’s humiliated and unable to beat her … but it’s later revealed the woman is old age manifested and not even the strongest of the gods can defeat the ageing process. There’s some wisdom in those old tales :-)

Zach Zinn wrote:
The leaning forward so much in stance will be tough to get used to as well, I feel like the Judo, Jujutsu and "clinchy" stand up stuff i've done in Karate particular makes me automatically not want to learn forward like that, but here it's a neccessity it seems.. All in all I can say my years of Karate helped me in some very basic ways today, but it is so different it is almost starting from scratch, almost.

I’d again take all that as a really good sign. If I’m training in something new and it feel very “samey” then it’s stuff I know and can do; so it’s not really expanding my knowledge base or helping me improve.  It’s nice to have some recognisable “crossover” to connect things to of course, and it seems you’ve identified some of that as well.

Zach Zinn wrote:
It was somewhat difficult for me to empty my brain of previous habits, but I felt like it went well for a first session, and I'm really liking being a total neophyte again.

I love that feeling of being a total beginner. It’s nice to be able to simply show up and practise. Those rapid “newbie gains” are also fun too :-)

Thanks for sharing this Zach! Please keep us in the loop going forward.

All the best,

Iain

chrishanson68
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Congrats on joining the boxing gym.  I train it on it's own separately from my Karate.  It's a great delivery system.  I show up, and follow the drills.  Be careful of your sparring partners.  Choose them wisely, avoid getting hurt.  Have fun, and mix it up into your karate later....it will help your footwork and striking fluidity.

Chris.

Zach Zinn
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chrishanson68 wrote:
Congrats on joining the boxing gym.  I train it on it's own separately from my Karate.  It's a great delivery system.  I show up, and follow the drills.  Be careful of your sparring partners.  Choose them wisely, avoid getting hurt.  Have fun, and mix it up into your karate later....it will help your footwork and striking fluidity.

Thanks Chris. yeah that was part of my concern with boxing, I'm simply not going to train in a way that puts me at risk of CTE, period. So once we are actually doing sparring we will see, I think it will be a while, just in terms of what I'd need to learn, and Covid 19 still limiting things. With live work in Karate, I've found the more people understand and respect one another's goals the easier it is for individuals to get what they want out of it, I hope it's the same here. I have good communication skills and boundary setting from my work in counseling, and I tried to be explicit with the coach from the get go that I'm fine with occasional bloody noses, fat lips etc., but not with hard -thud-thud-thud on the head. I did watch a few videos of sparring from the gym and they looked sane.

Part of the issue I can see here is that I am training mainly with young men 18-22 or so, some of whom have designs to compete.

Once I actually know enough to be a useful opponent I'd be happy to help the young competitors too (that seems to be part of the culture of the gym, as is being willing teach other people once you know how), but I don't want to get beat to a pulp by them, heh. One of the reasons I chose this gym is that they teach everyone, they have a kids program, etc. So, I figured of any boxing gym around my area it would be a good place to learn. My friend gave it glowing reviews, Is about the same "type" of karateka as me, and is my same age.

Today (day 3) we worked on defense, mainly pivoting, shuffling, counter punching. One of the things that made me interested in boxing for so many years is the footwork, it really is something. Really impressed with the coach, the environment is pretty similar to my first Karate dojo, very respectful, focused on mental clarity and learning the material before letting you loose on anything. he clearly is quite passionate about boxing and definitely has me excited to learn it. The amount of stuff I've learned in three days really is pretty awesome.

One thing that has really thrown me off is the heavy rotation of the punches, but I'll get it. The other thing is wrapping your hands just the way he wants, it's hard,

I went three days in a row this first week (going to try that during my post-lockdown activity lull, one day reserved is for my Karate class)

My calves in particular are insanely sore.

chrishanson68
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I am glad that you are there! I LOVE BOXING, it is the ultimate delivery system for me in terms of understanding striking in karate.  The 5 punches are just basic staples.  A gazillion ways to deliver them, and the footwork is insanely amazing, multidirectional.  I find that when you look at Karate with a boxing lens , it opens things up for different bunkai and application etc.  Boxing has informed my Kihon.  I can honestly take ANY, and i mean ANY kihon waza and make it come alive with boxing type drills.  Just the dynamic nature of the footwork, and utilizing various joints in the upper body (the shrimped stance, the shoulder rolls etc.) and stacking your bones in a protective manner (chin tucked, shoulders up) have a tonne of validity in a street fight.

If you think of it, boxing, in my opinion is a very natural acfivity.....if you look at a lot of CCTV footage, people strike how? They clench their fists and swing....bad boxing basically.....if you look at highly trained fighters, under pressure of a "real fight"...striking surfaces as what?...clenched fists and swinging....better boxing! (as they are trained).....boxing is king of striking AND mobility in my opinion.....

A famous gung fu fight in 1953, I believe, that happend in Macau, my father in law was there to see it live..happened between 2 grand masters....tai chi vs white crane I believe....they duked it out in a ring, full contact.....if you see this fight, there is absolutely no gung fu at all! Basically bad boxing....lol...point is....people resort to their fists when they are angry...it's natural.....so.....a simple solution.....learn boxing!

Enjoy it my brother! Be safe, train with a friend, and build good relationships at the club....you will enjoy the journey, it will change the way you move and break you out of the linear mold that I find most Karate Ka have engrained in their muscle memory.

OSU

Chris.

Zach Zinn
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chrishanson68 wrote:
I am glad that you are there! I LOVE BOXING, it is the ultimate delivery system for me in terms of understanding striking in karate ... [/SNIP]

I have and have had unusually good Karate teachers, so generaly I'm not so much doing it because I think my Karate is lacking neccessarily, more just continued growth. About a decade ago I spent some time in Judo because I felt like I couldn't get any further in the area of Karate I was exploring (throwing and kazushi) without learning from specialists. It's the same with boxing, I want to understand fluidity in footwork, body shifting and evasion on a deeper level, and I know that exists in spades in boxing. I don't plan on getting in street fights, so that part is less of a concern, but I get what you are saying.

One question for you, is it a standard thing for people to learn over-rotating their punches? It feels so awkward to me and I can't figure out how I am supposed to (for instance) throw a jab with any speed when I over-rotate like this. For clarification, it's rotating a full 1/4 past where a Karate punch would go, so the thumb is facing the ground.

I asked my coach and he said to practice in front of a wall so my elbow doesn't flare out. That's fine, but it still feels slow and weird because my whole arm binds up to the should when I rotate it all the way over like that. It may just be a question of time. Do you have any advice on this?

Anyway, we did defensive movements this week, just working rolls, bob and weave and pivot has changed my approach to a couple of applications, and that's just with a weeks worth of lessons, so I am pretty excited about it. Still a little intimidated about being near 44 with some physical limitations etc and working with an 18 year old as a partner lol, but the challenge is really good for me. I can tell it's really going to bump up my fitness to a new level.

Iain Abernethy
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Hi All,

Zach Zinn wrote:
I have and have had unusually good Karate teachers, so generaly I'm not so much doing it because I think my Karate is lacking neccessarily, more just continued growth.

As you say, there is always value in learning from those who have specialised in a given area. However, just to capture a point that I feel Chris’s post raises … we need to be mindful that there is not one “karate”. Any given experience of karate (or boxing) is not going to be universal.

As an example, whenever I post a video that involves me throwing a reverse punch with the back heel up, a guard up, and rotating from the hip, there will be someone that states something along the lines of, “That’s boxing; not karate.” However, in my very first karate class as a child I was taught to throw a reverse punch like that (along with the close-range version that has an active hikite and factors in stability). It was found in our combinations and two person drills too. I needed to show that punch for my very first belt test and every other one that followed. To me, and thousands of other karateka who share my lineage, that way of punching is karate punching.  

My main karate instructor was a pure karateka (did not cross train). He trained with numerous karate instructors (not all karateka of the same style), but never boxing. My three other most influential karate instructors (none of whom were practitioners of my original core style) all trained boxing too, and two of them fought full contact with national and international success. That came later though, and when I studied with them the differences and nuances they added (including the boxing influences) were still karate to me because it expanded what I’d been doing since I was a kid.

No doubt that boxing are the premier punchers because that is their speciality. There is therefore much we karateka can learn there (and then contextualise for our objectives).  However, I think we need to mindful that the similarities and differences will be wholly dependent on which “karate” we are discussing because there are many.

chrishanson68 wrote:
I LOVE BOXING, it is the ultimate delivery system for me in terms of understanding striking in karate.

I’d agree from the perspective of striking pre-grip. Boxing is not the ultimate when it comes to striking post-grip because it does not have the grappling elements needed to control limbs and clear paths for strikes. The use of gloves, the lack of consideration of takedowns, etc are obviously issues, but more importantly the rules only allow limited clinching for short periods of time. For that side of things, there are better cross training options.

chrishanson68 wrote:
I find that when you look at Karate with a boxing lens , it opens things up for different bunkai and application etc.

100%. That’s one of the values of cross training is that it widens your thinking. Funakoshi nailed it when he said:

[Itosu and Azato] would present me to the teachers of their acquaintance, urging me to learn from each the technique at which he excelled.” – Gichin Funakoshi, Karate-Do: My Way of Life

Boxing excels at punching and many aspects of movement, so it is both good sense and traditional to learn those methods from them.

chrishanson68 wrote:
Boxing has informed my Kihon.

Mine too (albeit recontextualized). Interestingly, I was once warming some kyu grade children up at a big grading and one of the parents came over and asked me to explain the linework. Turns out the guy was a boxing coach and he liked the idea of people being lined up to correct basic form without any external factors to consider i.e. focusing solely on your own movement. To him, that was a very “innovative” thing to do. Three month later, he’s there again and he tells me “kihon” in lines was now part of his coaching and that it was helping.

chrishanson68 wrote:
boxing is king of striking AND mobility in my opinion.....

I’d refine “striking” down to “punching” (no kicks, elbows, knees, etc in boxing), but I’d agree. Boxing’s footwork is highly developed and that mobility is useful in numerous contexts.  

Zach Zinn wrote:
One question for you, is it a standard thing for people to learn over-rotating their punches? It feels so awkward to me and I can't figure out how I am supposed to (for instance) throw a jab with any speed when I over-rotate like this. For clarification, it's rotating a full 1/4 past where a Karate punch would go, so the thumb is facing the ground.

Not all boxers do that. My understanding is that some encourage it because it automatically rises the shoulder as it rotates and that provides protection for the chin (main reason), it can help the punch sneak over the opponent’s guard / arm (can add in a slight arch if needed), and some argue it creates more power (not sure I agree).

I will sometimes do that if appropriate, but generally I keep a vertical fist or rotate to the horizontal. For me, I find that gives better alignment along the arm; especially when hitting with a bare fist.

The full rotation seems to be a more modern thing which is entirely absent from older boxing manuals; such as this photo from Heavyweight World Champion James J. Corbett’s 1912 book “Scientific Boxing”:

"A lead left or jab should be landed this way"

He does talk about lifting the shoulder to protect the jaw, but notice how his right hand is actively covering the path of a potential counter as opposed to being up in a “guard” (presumably because the light gloves at the time would not provide sufficient cover). “Husband and wife hands” right there :-)

"Here is the left hand punch well delivered at close quarters, with the left shoulder preventing a possible counter on the jaw. The right is ready to stop a return ..."

All the best,

Iain

Zach Zinn
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Iain Abernethy wrote:
...To me, and thousands of other karateka who share my lineage, that way of punching is karate punching. 

Yes, my first Karate teacher also taught kihon with gaurds and some "boxing style" punches - he had also done some boxing- in addition to more traditional kihon styles. It's funny, I was just reflecting on what I didn't and didn't get from my first dojo recently due to reviving all that old stuff in my Zoom sessions. Turns out that the kihon I learned from him as a kid were a bigger deal to me than I'd imagined, pretty cool.

Iain Abernethy wrote:
No doubt that boxing are the premier punchers because that is their speciality. There is therefore much we karateka can learn there (and then contextualise for our objectives).  However, I think we need to mindful that the similarities and differences will be wholly dependent on which “karate” we are discussing because there are many.

Yes, I  agree for sure - the range of expereinces that consitutes Karate are so wide that's impossible to generalize.

Iain Abernethy wrote:
I’d agree from the perspective of striking pre-grip. Boxing is not the ultimate when it comes to striking post-grip because it does not have the grappling elements needed to control limbs and clear paths for strikes. The use of gloves, the lack of consideration of takedowns, etc are obviously issues, but more importantly the rules only allow limited clinching for short periods of time. For that side of things, there are better cross training options.

This is part of what makes the forward leaning - stance awkward for me actually, if you add in throws it's a very vulnerable stance, and I spent the last years training in Jujutsu with people who can indeed throw you very easily or quickly create a dominate position if you tip forward and shrimp your body or bring your energy upwards by shrugging. As I was first learning the stance my body kept revolting from years of posturing myself to minimize the risk of  walking into throws. I think this is the same reason you don't find this kind of stance in older boxing or really in modern MMA as well. However, the increased mobility is very cool, and i'm guessing has it's own interesting benefits in the pre-grip stage...I am just starting to feel it. Interesting though, I had the idea previously that I already knew how to punch with my heel up etc. and that the postural adjustment would not be that huge..it is, it's far more significant than I had thought it would be, and is a whole new way of moving.

Iain Abernethy wrote:
I’d refine “striking” down to “punching” (no kicks, elbows, knees, etc in boxing), but I’d agree. Boxing’s footwork is highly developed and that mobility is useful in numerous contexts. 

I think this is not just a tactical question, but also a question of development of individual attributes. There is plenty in boxing that I don't think will directly transfer to my Karate personally, but the improvement in my own attributes will carry over, and can then be modified to fit my Karate framework. For now of course I try to keep them totally separate in my head so that I do not confuse myself in one or the other. I also enjoy just learning it for it's own sake of course, boxing has a rich history and tradition, it's interesting how much paralell there is with all the 'character development' stuff in Karate and other Eastern arts.

Iain Abernethy wrote:
Not all boxers do that. My understanding is that some encourage it because it automatically rises the shoulder as it rotates and that provides protection for the chin (main reason), it can help the punch sneak over the opponent’s guard / arm (can add in a slight arch if needed), and some argue it creates more power (not sure I agree).

I will sometimes do that if appropriate, but generally I keep a vertical fist or rotate to the horizontal. For me, I find that gives better alignment along the arm; especially when hitting with a bare fist.

Interestingly, I noticed that neither the coach nor more seasoned students seem to do it in practice when hitting faster, it seemed to almost be a "kihon" sort of thing for new people. I'm gonna do my best with it, but like I said, it feels really awkward right now.

Iain Abernethy wrote:
The full rotation seems to be a more modern thing which is entirely absent from older boxing manuals; such as this photo from Heavyweight World Champion James J. Corbett’s 1912 book “Scientific Boxing” ... [Snip]

Thanks for sharing that Iain. It's interesting how much of modern boxing technique is due to the gloves. My coach starts people out with a high and tight peek a boo style guard and seems very defensively minded. When I first talked to him he was very adamant that you can't move onto anything else without first understanding the defensive movements and their application. We went through a number of the basic defenses, it's interesting to look at which ones I could immediately relate to Karate and which I could not. A lot of it would certainly transfer, but all the stuff where you use gloves as a shield of course are their own thing, and have no Karate equivalent.

The last lesson was very impressive though and I got some real insight into how some of the strategies in boxing will carry over into my Karate. Providing I can physically survive it, I think it's going to be a fantastic experience and excatly what I need for my Karate at this time, in addition to simply being a rewarding experience of and within itself.

colby
colby's picture

Zach Zinn wrote:
Thanks for sharing that Iain. It's interesting how much of modern boxing technique is due to the gloves ...

Oh dude, the gloves change a lot, bare knuckle is a very interesting thing since it doesnt seem have a lot of face combinations or loads of complex combinations. It would be interesting to see modern boxing combinations with something like bagua palms or if you can insert some fajing into the punches.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Hi All,

colby wrote:
… bare knuckle is a very interesting thing since it doesnt seem have a lot of face combinations or loads of complex combinations.

I’m no expert, but I am an someone who is fascinated by old school boxing. In all the manuals I have access to, there are a fair amount head strikes and combinations. Obviously, the style of boxing has changed a lot over the years, but I don’t think we can entirely put that down to the gloves; although that’s obviously a significant part of it.  

Worth noting that although the photos shown above are all bare knuckle, the boxers of James J. Corbett’s time did complete with gloves on (as he did); but those gloves were very different from the gloves of today (they are more akin to modern bag gloves).

Bare knuckle boxing exists today too of course. In many modern bouts wraps are used, and most use some form of wrist support; so we can ask if that’s truly “bare knuckle”. Either way, we do see the “hands up cover” with blows being taken on the hands and arms. That is probably a cross over from the more popular gloved version of today.

In general terms, I’d rather have active control of the enemy’s arms than take a blow on my arms, but I’d rather take blows to the arms than to the head. We can make good use of all of it.

As regards self-protection, if we end up with guards up circling one another, then both the criminal and ourselves have made numerous tactical errors … or, more likely, it’s not self-protection at all but an illegal consensual “street fight”. So, while “guards” are no longer appropriate, active limb control and covers most certainly are.

All the best,

Iain

Zach Zinn
Zach Zinn's picture

One thing I find interesting is that you can actually find covers that exist Karate here and there in boxing, cross arm gaurd, use of the elbows and hands to stuff, philly shell position, etc. It exists in a different form when you are talking boxer vs. boxer - rather than the more chaotic (rhythm-free) world of non consensual violence-, but the crossover is pretty interesting to me.

colby
colby's picture

colby wrote:
… bare knuckle is a very interesting thing since it doesnt seem have a lot of face combinations or loads of complex combinations.

Iain Abernethy wrote:
I’m no expert, but I am an someone who is fascinated by old school boxing. In all the manuals I have access to, there are a fair amount head strikes and combinations.

Really? Was it like what see now with 3 or 4 combinations to the face. Or was like 2 combinations? Or is combinations the wrong way of thinking?

Regardless, for me and my practice punching to the face scares me. I worry alot about having a broke hand or two broken hands. It's why I like palms a lot, at least to hard areas.

Its also why I really this cause it's that same boxing framework just different kind of hand and its looks just mean.

https://youtu.be/RxbuReJyVds

Zach Zinn
Zach Zinn's picture

I've heard (second hand, via video) and maybe read somewhere that bare knuckle boxers actually often were hitting with palms, basically make a fist, do a corkscrew type cross punch (usually longer range than a modern one I'd guess), but instead twist out the under side of your palm as you punch. Do the same thing with an uppercut, and even a hook, though those feel way less powerful. If you do this you get strikes that look really similar to some palm strikes found in Karate and Kung fu, etc. I was taught at my first dojo to do palm strikes in a way similar to this, almost a lose fist where the palm substitutes for the knuckles, just make sure you pull back the curled in fingers and thumb enough. I've tried it on a heavy bag, weirdly it works, you can do the basic boxing punches with this fist..it feels weird but seems to be reasonably effective.

I'll look around and see if I can find documentation etc. of this, the explanation I've heard is that it was one way for bare knuckle boxers to try to spare their hands.

Shane Fazen talks about it in this video, I could swear I've also seen/read very old boxing manuals (like 1700's or so) that show this exact thing, it looks bizarre visually. If anyone knows where to find this kind of actual documentation, I'd love to see it.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Iain Abernethy wrote:
I’m no expert, but I am an someone who is fascinated by old school boxing. In all the manuals I have access to, there are a fair amount head strikes and combinations.

colby wrote:
Really? Was it like what see now with 3 or 4 combinations to the face. Or was like 2 combinations? Or is combinations the wrong way of thinking?

The rules had you winning by knocking a person down such that they could not continue. Head strikes were the best way to achieve that then just as now. Therefore we have lots of punches to the head in the older manuals. We can also see it in some of the old footage we have from the early 1900s. Plenty of repeated punches to the head.

colby wrote:
Regardless, for me and my practice punching to the face scares me. I worry alot about having a broke hand or two broken hands. It's why I like palms a lot, at least to hard areas.

I have a balanced view on this one. It’s discussed in this video:

 

Zach Zinn wrote:
I've heard (second hand, via video) and maybe read somewhere that bare knuckle boxers actually often were hitting with palms …

In James J. Corbett’s 1912 book that we touched on above, it’s mentioned a foul.

Misuse of the Glove: The blow which is shown here is a foul, because the heel of the glove is used, but it is not always a deliberate one, as many young boxers, in the excitement of a bout, will do things which they know are wrong. So in striking a blow be careful to strike with the fist clenched, as that is the way it is intended it should be used.

To hand, I also have an 1878 manual which also talks of avoiding “palming”. I’ll have to dig deeper, but my understating is blows were delivered with the fist.

All the best,

Iain

Zach Zinn
Zach Zinn's picture

Interesting for sure. When I watched the Shane Fazen video it triggered an old memmory of looking at some plates of very old boxing, and I do remember these weird hand positions and wondering at the time what they were doing. What did you think of the video Iain, do you know where he is getting his information from?

Here's another random intersting article:

https://www.bloodyelbow.com/2014/6/11/5797848/archie-moore-cross-armed-guard-solving-styles-part-1-reverse-engineering-the-lock-history-analysis

it mentions the Queensbury rules as getting rid of "unmanful" (ha!) strikes such as those done with the heel of the hand etc. and also mentions the lack of combos in earlier boxing.

I also found a reply to the Shane Fazen video I posted, where he refutes a couple of points, including the palm strike thing:

 

e wrote:
Regardless, for me and my practice punching to the face scares me. I worry alot about having a broke hand or two broken hands. It's why I like palms a lot, at least to hard areas.

I actually think in practical terms (physical self protection) wise there is not that much to worry about with hurting one's knuckles. I know I've met some martial artists who swear you should only use palm heels, but this actually opens up it's own avenues of injury, and I think a combination of decent training and adrenaline makes knuckle damage less of a worry than it's made out to be. Particularly because self-protection encounters last a small fraction of the time that something like a boxing match does. Palm strikes a great too, they're valid of course, I just feel like the concern about broken knuckles is overblown maybe. The one guy i know who completely wrecked his hands on someone's head was a guy who had done boxing and said he used exclusively hook/bolo type punches in the encounter - another argument for the fact that boxing style hooking punches are the real worry for your hands if they're unwrapped and ungloved.

I also recall Geoff Thompson saying that with all the people he'd knocked out, he never broke his knuckles. I've personally been in a few encounters where I punched someone (much younger and dumber), and also never really hurt my hand - it was usually other stuff that hurt. Though granted, these were 20-30 second affairs really, and only some when I was the size of a full-grown teenager or adult.

I think "knuckle safety" becomes a much huger issue with pugilism simply because of the extended nature of the contest and the fact that punching a foreheard etc. becomes more likely.

Zach Zinn
Zach Zinn's picture

Figured i'd add another entry.

I had a week off due to illness and returned for my third week of boxing classes today. At this point I've learned the basic stance and the defensive moves the coach has you memorize, do solo, and be able to repeat verbatim.

The most interesting thing so far is the footwork - incredibly fast, but very unstable by Karate standards, and it's taking me some time to adjust to the general expecation of grealty increased mobility, and much less stability, and being on toes virtually all the time. I learned how to move on the balls of my feet in Karate, but not in the same way, and the posture is so different that it's a considerable adjustment. I have not explicitly been taught punches yet, he basically just corrected my Karate jab+ cross to be "boxing style" and called it good, we have not done uppecuts, hooks, or overhands yet in any formal way.

Most of class is practicing boxing "kihon" - something like a punch combination with combination of directional movements, or the defensive boxing movements combined with punches. Usually the last 20 or 30 minutes is when it really gets tough. Today for instance was ten punches as fast as you can on ten punching bags two times, moving up and down the gym laterally. Two sets, so four times total. I am training with fit young guys, so I was proud to be able to get through it at all, though my technique really began to suffer near the end. I also had a tendency to move to a new bag, then just stand and slug on it without moving. You think this would tire me less, but somehow it was worse, once I got moving more I didn't wear out as fast, can't figure that one out.

I am beginning to see how much of the training will require a kind of re-balancing of effort, technique and speed in comparison to Karate, it's just a different deal. I also caught flack for doing "Karate moves" unconsciously..ha. Part of the drill today was about constant lateral movement combined with managing exhaustion. After some advice from the coach I did much better the second run through.

I'm really enjoying it. During this strange, uncertain time it is very nice to have this to focus on. I'm also getting in really good shape cardiovascularly, mroeso than anything else I've done probably. Judo workouts were tough, but not quite like this.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Thanks for continuing to share your experiences Zach. It’s making for a really interesting thread!

Zach Zinn wrote:
The most interesting thing so far is the footwork - incredibly fast, but very unstable by Karate standards, and it's taking me some time to adjust to the general expectation of greatly increased mobility, and much less stability, and being on toes virtually all the time.

This is good example of how all things are context dependant. Judo footwork – where stability is vital and the grip rules out the kind of back and forth mobility associated with boxing – is the opposite when flat feet are strongly encouraged. When we compare such methods it’s not “better vs. worse” but “appropriate vs. inappropriate”.

Are you noticing any fitness improvements yet? Any potential influences on your karate?

All the best,

Iain

Zach Zinn
Zach Zinn's picture

Iain Abernethy wrote:
This is good example of how all things are context dependant. Judo footwork – where stability is vital and the grip rules out the kind of back and forth mobility associated with boxing – is the opposite when flat feet are strongly encouraged. When we compare such methods it’s not “better vs. worse” but “appropriate vs. inappropriate”.

Are you noticing any fitness improvements yet? Any potential influences on your karate?

Yeah, I remember someone at the Judo dojo teaching me "Judo walking" as a warm up, it was flat-footed even by Karate standards! Being non-flat footed ala boxing is even more difficult for me because I have some neurological problems that make standing on my toes tough, but I am doing my best.

Fitness improvement yes, I think I've probably already lost ten pounds. Judo conditioning was tough, some of my early Karate teachers really emphasized conditioning too, but honestly this is the hardest thing I've ever done physically, by far. So much of the training is geared towards the format - 3 minutes of incredibly difficult constant punching with someone yelling orders/corrections at you.

I won't know until down the line how it will effect my Karate, but here are the things I am taking away at this point:

1) I'm going to teach the basic boxing footwork to all my students, only using a more Karate-like stance and hand positioning, it's just too vital and simple to leave out. My very first Karate teacher was also a boxer and I remember him teaching it as "step drag" footwork, but he didn't do all the detailed footwork drills of boxing.

2) Bagwork is going to become a bigger deal in my class once it resumes, one of the coolest things about learning boxing is that they are reall masters of the heavy bag. I feel like most Karateka (though I think the internet is changing this) just kind of "blitz" the bag and not much else. There are advantages to that approach, but I feel like it's not taking full advantage of the tool, particularly as regards martial arts and fighting aspects. Karate bagwork should look different from boxing, but it's giving me some ideas.

3) Conditioning is important, and I'd let it slide too much in my class, and for myself. I guess one of the things I'm learning is that higher levels of conditioning can truly enable better technique, even though better technique isn't entirely dependent on conditioning. Seems like a small nuance, but an important one.

and lastly a huge one, and the most exciting thing so far:

4) Shadowboxing is really important, and I can't believe I wasn't really doing it before. I still don't know what this will look like long term, but I've been experimenting some and liking the results. One of the issues here is that in boxing of course you have some set defensive moves, and what.. six to eight punches? Karate of course has five trillion techniques. So, the kind of thing I've been doing so far is picking out two cover/crash motions, two hand/elbow/forearm strikes and a kick, or something like that and shadowboxing with them. Alternately, I've been taking one to two Kata movements and varying those in shadowboxing. Kata movements are so "compound" that it's easy to go overboard, so I'm trying to keep it simple.

5) this one is more technical, but it is making think more about 'evasion' in Karate. Of course responses to skilled cues like slips, rolls etc. are boxing specific, but it is simply opening my eyes more to how body shifting and management of space exist in Kata and bunkai. If you take the Rule of Kasai about backwards movements in kata being "defensive", this gets particularly interesting. The evasiveness of boxing is completely different of course, being based on such a different and specific format, but it really is opening whole new ways of thinking about bunkai for me, and that's after just a month.

I really can't overemphasize how much this improving my general ability. Again the challenge is keeping it simple enough to be an effective practice, kata in particular is deep stuff that operates on a number of levels, so to do this kind of pratice you have to extract manageable "chunks".

My boxing coach really emphasizes shadowboxing and understanding the basic motions, he doesn't even let people do any partner work (the status of it is up in the air with Covid anyway of course) until they have a decent level of solo competency, so it's simply a part of the basic competencies of the art/sport to be able to move around and "improvise" well. I think this in an area really worth delving into in terms of Karate too.

Anyway, I really like boxing. I liked Judo a lot too, but this is somehow more "my thing" intuitively, I guess just because it's about hitting stuff. I plan on being here a year, so it will be interesting to see how it develops for me in that time. One thing that is very cool about it is that (like Karate) I can take the basics and they can be a lifetime thing. I now have memorized the basic stance and movement, as well as the 19 defensive moves he teaches, very much like "kata" lol.

It's also a great environment, very encouraging (though tough, and with real expectations), he emphasizes early that it's everyone's responsibility in the class to lend encouragement, give correction, etc. In short, it has and environment in some ways similar to what you'd get in a traditional Karate dojo, and in fact is -very- similar in tone to my early Karate training.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Hi Zach,

Fantastic post with lots of great things to consider in there! Thanks for taking the time to share that!

Zach Zinn wrote:
One thing that is very cool about it is that (like Karate) I can take the basics and they can be a lifetime thing. I now have memorized the basic stance and movement, as well as the 19 defensive moves he teaches, very much like "kata" lol.

I like this. It’s seems there are similar learning processes at work in the boxing and functional karate. It’s not just “what” we do, but also “how” and “why”. Both karate and boxing have their “kihon” and “kata”, but how they drill them and why is also critical.  In 3K, they have their “kihon” too, but it’s often isolated from a wider training process with little consideration as to what it is meant to achieve combatively.

Great thread this Zach! Thank you!

All the best,

Iain

Heath White
Heath White's picture

Zach, I'd really like to hear more details about #4 and #5 in your list.  What you are doing specifically, what you are getting out of it, what you are seeing, etc.

Zach Zinn
Zach Zinn's picture

I'll see if I can provide more detail Heath:

On #4, the Shadowboxing part, I'll try to just explain my logic on it. I think as a Karateka I've become good at a fairly narrow way of executing technique - as it appears in Kata. There are a couple ways around that, one way that I think has some "traditional" weight behind it (in that it's often what's taught by good bunkai practitioners, and has historical validation) is to practice variations with a partner when working bunkai applications. That way I have gained some spontaneity with techniques before moving onto less structured drills, live work, etc.

In my experience though, I am still sort of "on rails" in that how I am moving is fairly rote, and somehow not always "three dimensional" if that makes sense. Actual Shadowboxing seems to quickly make for more ...flexibilty in technique.

What I am trying to do (as I learn shadowboxing in boxing) is to figure out how to shadowbox with my Karate as well. We had a thread on this a while back and Iain posted some nice video on it. Here's an example of a thing I've tried: I choose the techniques of mountain block, seiken punches, horizontal elbows and simply move around improvising with these techniques.  Now, there is a format to shadowboxing, for instance when we have done it in boxing class it was not spelled out explicitly, but the ring is cut into four quarters with slip ropes, and you use either balls attached to the slip ropes, or the intersection of the ropes as your "center". Meaning, you can move around however, but you are always using the reference point as your center. you move around this point, in and out, throw your punches, and use your defensive movements, including trying to "exit" properly after attacking, which seems to be a whole science unto itself in boxing. Here's a video from Precision Striking (which is a truly fantastic Boxing youtube channel by the way) explaining how to shadowbox for people who are newer to it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yPm3x62dhr8&t=304s

The toughest part of doing a Karate version of this is that 1) we have way more techniques to choose from and 2) we have multiple approaches. For instance, we could approach it as either a competitive drill (knockdown or point style fighting) or a self-defense drill, and the format would change immensely. Since I am most oriented towards self defense I'm trying to focus on shadowboxing for that format. I think what that will mean ulimately is shorter bursts than the 3 minute boxing rounds, and more "blitzes" rather than shorter in and out combinations. So the format is different, but I think the basic format of what JT explains in the video, visualizing a "hula hoop" as your zone of combination, and then some kind of moving ball as your target probably works with any format. You could also use it isolate techniques. For instance, I am not a very good kicker. When I feel like I want to work on that in terms of developing general abilities, I'm going to work on just throwing higher roundhouse and sidekicks in this format. Once I develop my "Karate shadowboxing" to sufficient quality, I'll post a video of my ideas.

That said, Kata do have some "exit" moves, which brings me to #5: I have been experimenting some with the notion of "framing" off of opponents for a while. At least in the Goju Ryu kata, I think there are a number of places where this is an option for what you are doing, it can be done more offensively (usually ending with a hit to neck or back of the head), or it can simply be way of using your opponent to pivot off their line of attack and put them into yours when they move next. There is usually one logical place for the opponent to move depending on where you are, so it is not hard to deduce. So for instance, in shadowboxing you can do your attacks, then lets assume they move to the outside of your right shoulder, at which point your pivot your right foot back ala Gekisai's third technique, and visualizing framing or hitting their neck with your left hand, your right being chambered and ready strike as your track their head. Playing this way, it also explains precisely why some punches are chambered low, and alternative hikite explanation. There are also the evasive use of the stances, parts of kata where you drop in stance to go under attacks, "get small" ala neko-ashi dachi etc.

I've been playing around with these with my one training partner (being Covid an all) and interestingly, finding the same sort of thing is done by boxers in places:

 

You can see George Foreman in this video doing stuff that can be directly related to many Karate movements, this is the sort of thing I am talking about in terms of "exit strategy" and evasion. Of course the context is different in Karate. At about 1:03 he does the same angle as you would for Gekisais step back, gedan barai, only of course in boxing you are not allowed to strike the neck or back of the head, picture what it would look like if you were, and you'll get an idea of what I'm talking about. Anyway, I am focusing on learning this kind of thing in particular because in Kata we do not step back very often, so when we do (at least if you follow the rules of Kasai) it involves some kind of evasion or "defensive" move.

Anyway I hope that makes sense, it's hard to put some of this in words, but it's a fascinating journey exploring this. The toughest part of doing boxing is just that at age 44 the conditioning really is quite brutal. I can really see how much my age limits my gas tank, though I am improving. Thanks for reading my rambling.

Heath White
Heath White's picture

Thank you,  Zach, that was quite an essay and very informative.

On shadowboxing: I've never done any with karate, maybe I will try that.  

On the evasive/exit moves: there is some tension here between the tactic you are exploring, namely an efficient "break" after landing some shots, and the competing idea that the sequences in kata aim to incapacitate the attacker.  For example (I don't do Gekisai but I did look at it once, and this was my first impression) I had thought of the third move in Gekisai--step back "low block"--as a takedown, the same chin rip as in the third move of Pinan Nidan.  The idea that it was a strike had not occurred to me.

I  do agree that footwork is an important and often under-studied aspect of karate though.

Thanks again for the lengthy reply.  

Zach Zinn
Zach Zinn's picture

Heath White wrote:
On the evasive/exit moves: there is some tension here between the tactic you are exploring, namely an efficient "break" after landing some shots, and the competing idea that the sequences in kata aim to incapacitate the attacker.  For example (I don't do Gekisai but I did look at it once, and this was my first impression) I had thought of the third move in Gekisai--step back "low block"--as a takedown, the same chin rip as in the third move of Pinan Nidan.  The idea that it was a strike had not occurred to me.

Again i'm trying to apply the Rule of Kasai which states that backward movements are "defensive". I am not taking this as a black and white thing, obviously many defensive movements have offensive capabilities and vice versa. Clearly though, if that rule exists, it stands to reason that it should be applied to some part of our analysis of Goju Ryu kata.

In places I think the evasion is combined with something offensive, in the Geksai case it's something like a snap down motion as you step back so you can hammerfirst the back of the head, this also puts you offline and with a "frame" that is quite good defensively, in terms of being able to either disengage, or use the husband/wife hand concept to immediately track the head and strike with the other hand.

I don't think there are many places with strictly evasive movments, in Goju Ryu kata for example, there are some specific places that involve stepping or pivoting back, but compared to forward momentum, they are very few - which makes sense. I get the chip rip application, I have worked that or something similar as a variation, and that technique is featured prominently elsewhere in Goju kata - Sanseiryu and Kururunfa for example. I don't feel it fits all that well with the Gekisai footwork, though I may be visualizing it incorrectly.

As to the video, I don't want to give the wrong impression, this kind of evasion in Boxing would play out quite differently than Karate, in that firstly you cannot do things like hit the back of the head, grab hair, grapple etc. in boxing, additionally the pacing and rhythm of blocking and countering in boxing is not found in non consensual violence. I posted the video to show the simple physical movements, the context of course is different from what Karate aims for, which would likely not look like the "evade then re engage" seen in the video - which is a strategcy pretty exclusive to combat sport. So, I'm not seeing evasion as something excluding offensive techniques here.

Zach Zinn
Zach Zinn's picture

So I think I am through most of the super-fundamental training now. We've moved on to more bagwork, and working the combinations taught in the gym. This is very cool, it's making me realize just how much more "three dimensional" boxing heavy bag work is than what I would usually do with a heavy bag.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Hi Zach,

Zach Zinn wrote:
This is very cool, it's making me realize just how much more "three dimensional" boxing heavy bag work is than what I would usually do with a heavy bag.

Could you give some brief examples of these new dimensions? I think that would be really interesting to hear, and it could help give people ideas to get the most possible benefit from their bag work.

Preferred training kit, and how that kit is used, always has a big influence on the system. Karate has definitely been shaped by the Makiwara. The introduction of modern kit (i.e. focus mitts) has also had a big influence on karate and the drills that compose it. We can see the karate way of using the bag is a little different from the boxing way (i.e. boxers don’t tie belts etc to the bag to mimic limbs, we kick, we elbow, etc). However, karateka can certainly learn from boxing’s use of the bag. Personally, I think many karateka use it as a “makiwara variant” and hence miss the use of the bag’s motion, promotion of footwork, cutting angles, etc. I’d be really interested to hear your thoughts?

All the best,

Iain

Zach Zinn
Zach Zinn's picture

Well, I used a heavy bag  in addition to makiwara growing up doing Karate, but we basically just kind of blitzed the heavy bag, not a lot of nuance. We didn't spend as much time working with the fact that it was moving around for example. In boxing we are constantly moving around it, pivoting to get out of tight spaces - for instance up against the wall behind the bag, and incorporating all the defensive moves while hitting with combinations.

So basically yes, I think I've definitely been guilty of the "makiwara variiant" thing. Not so much in terms of format - though what I was doing before was limited in that sense as well. I've  noticed that while I can hit bags very hard (one of the positive things that has come through in boxing - I can throw a decent punch), I tend to focus way too much on just power, and "feeling: power, which is of course not really something I should do outside of makiwara training. One of the things I am learning to do in boxing is use the bags to adjust footing and distance on the fly, practice angles, etc. I have done some of that with my Karate bagwork, but not nearly this amount.

Basically, in boxing bagwork you treat the bag just like an opponent. Seems intuitive, I thought iw as already doing that, but somehow this is different.

I did my own workout today on my home heavy bag (the first time I've done Karate techniques on heavy bag for a while) and I found that I moved and angled nonstop, rather than needing to kind of remind myself to artificially take angles, I think this is aresult of the boxing footwork, which I plan on integrating into my Karate program (albeit with a modified stance).

I've also been experimenting with stuff that exists in both Karate and boxing in slightly different forms - such as the cross arm guard and "philly shell" type position in boxing. These are both fairly prevalent in Karate technique, though of course the timing and usage differs. Until doing boxing I wouldn't use these sorts of techniques much in in my bagwork, but after integrating the defensive boxing movements, doing the same with Karate cover/crash motions seems much more natural.

I also notice that my overall movement and transition between strikes generally is greatly improving. Letting go of needing every hit to be earth-shakingly hard really opens up the possiblities. It's interesting to me that I did not realize how stuck I was on power until training boxing.

 

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