Boxing is one of the oldest and well known of the Traditional” martial arts. Its a huge spectator sport in the modern world and was, at one time, something taught as the go-to self-defence in many countries. It was taught in school in the UK and in the United States and has a great tradition in Ireland whether in bare-knuckle boxing or gloved.
But how is boxing useful as Self-Defense in the modern world?
If you can make time to train in boxing technique, it can be very very useful when defending yourself, because,
You train to develop concussive punching power
Boxing sparring is one of the most realistic forms of sparring available
In boxing, the emphasis is on training to improve speed and reflexes, crucial skills when you are under a violent attack
The development of good footwork in boxing training helps with balance, evasion and creating counter strike angles
Boxing training is one of the best ways to get fit
Most people training in any form of combat sports or Self-Defense systems end up taking part in sparring sessions. It’s an important part of training but very often it’s not really made clear as to why you are actually doing it in the first place. So let’s have a look at it and see what it does for you and how important it is to have it as part of any modern self-defense training system.
What actually is sparring?
Sparring is the process of ( generally ) two opponents attacking each other to test out their combat skills under various levels of constraints and safety procedures.
In boxing, sparring is usually done with larger gloves, head guards and groin protection. It normally has time limits and someone checking what is happening.
In martial arts, like the Kung Fu I trained in, we would wear gum shields, often shin pads and gloves.
What is common in both types of training, is that the levels of power and aggression are often checked back to avoid serious injuries. In martial arts training more so, normally, than boxing, but this can depend on the skill level and whether it is professional or amateur.
The title may seem a bit of an odd one, so let me explain a little bit.
To defend yourself against someone who is attacking you, you need a certain amount of know-how and skill. Realistically speaking, you will have had to train to develop this skill and know-how. So at first, it would seem odd that I would suggest that an important part of this would be failing because that doesn’t make sense.
The point is this. Anyone who has achieved any level of skill and knowledge at anything has dealt with failure along the way. They attempted to do something to improve and failed at it. They then went back to that something and tried again. And again! Until they were somewhere near what they wanted. To drive home the point then is that the sooner you accept that you are on a learning curve and will get things wrong, the sooner you will be on the path to better learning. The sooner you deal with failing, the sooner you will improve your skills.
How would understanding failure apply directly to Self-Defense?
“But it must be realized that, when dealing with an utterly ruthless enemy who has clearly expressed his intention of wiping this nation out of existence, there is no room for any scruple or compunction about the methods to be employed in preventing him.”
Training the right attitude. A major part of any self-defense armoury
One of the subjects often missed when it comes to self-defense is the discussion of attitude and how this is developed in training. It’s OK to be working on your decent-looking jab or leg kick, but, you should also be developing an attitude that will help you survive a rough encounter. A strong will to win. This can be worked on and conditioned in training as can anything else.
A good quote from the excellent “How to Drive a Tank“, by Frank Coles when he takes lessons in self-defense, puts it this way.
“Attitude, The driving force behind everything is to develop a survival mindset that is positive, relentless and instantly combative as and when required. By far the most important attribute of this is tenacity, or the will to endure, supported but not surpassed by aggression. To give you an idea of how raw this really is if Mick ( his instructor in the book ) had five seconds to teach you how to have a fight in the room next door he would say, ‘Don’t give up – whatever fucking happens – don’t give up.’”
Training the mind to deal with adversity is just as important as any technique because very often, things go wrong and you must be prepared to dig in to survive.