Archive for the 'Combat Sports' Category
This entry is an update to a previous post from 2012. The original video that I shared was removed from Youtube. As a result, I have added two new videos below. Within each, you will see a man (James Mason) who once weighed over 500 pounds. Doctors told him that he would be dead within 5 years if he didn’t make drastic lifestyle changes.
Fortunately, those changes came when James began training at the Tiger Muay Thai gym in Thailand. After 18 months of training, he has now lost over 300 pounds.
The first video shows him in the early stages.You can then see his drastic weight loss when viewing the follow up below.
You will also notice that James did not need anything fancy to get in shape. Old school, fight conditioning has always been one of the most effective training styles. Success does not depend on the tools that are used, but rather the effort put forth towards whatever you do.
Hard, consistent work with the basics is often more effective than the most elaborate training systems and tools.
When health is absent, wisdom cannot reveal itself, art cannot manifest, strength cannot fight, wealth becomes useless, and intelligence cannot be applied. – Herophilus19 comments
Within my most recent video, I shared a story of an aspiring boxer who’d been told that he was too old to box. Since sharing that story, I’ve had a few women email me about similar experiences. They’d been told (by men) that they couldn’t become fighters.
In case you’ve ever been told the same, here is a compilation of women who have proudly refuted such ignorant advice.
Always aim for the moon, even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars. – W. Clement Stone1 comment
In the video below, Brazilian jiu-jitsu champion Marcelo Garcia shares wisdom regarding the significance of sport training for conditioning. In many ways, his ideas are similar to what was discussed in the recent Jack Dempsey entry. Dempsey, like Garcia, believed strongly in practicing the sport to prepare for the sport. And while such advice may appear to be common sense, many athletes mistakenly focus too much attention towards supplemental conditioning activities, without enough time dedicated to the sport itself.
This isn’t to say that supplemental work cannot be useful, but such work must be performed in small doses. Regardless of style, the best fighters typically spend the most time fighting. The boxer must box, the wrestler must wrestle, and the grappler must grapple. Supplemental work is then added to fill in the blanks, not interfere with the more pertinent sport training.
It’s not necessarily the amount of time you spend at practice that counts; it’s what you put into the practice. – Eric Lindros5 comments
Following yesterday’s post about Jack Dempsey, I received several questions about other fighters from the past. Many have inquired about the differences between today’s boxers vs. those from previous eras. What is the biggest difference between the two?
In my opinion, the most significant change is the frequency of competition. Fighters from the past spent more time boxing. Boxing was more common so there were naturally more fighters competing and more fighters available for sparring. It was not uncommon for world class fighters to fight more than once a month. There was very little down time. As soon as one fight ended, another was planned.
Perhaps the greatest example of activity comes from the legendary Henry Armstrong. He held world championships in three different weight classes at the same time. In 1937, Henry Armstrong fought 27 times. Yes, that is right. He had 27 professional fights in one year. He fought nine times between July and September alone.
Based on his activity, those who are not familiar with Armstrong may assume he was a safety first fighter. Such an assumption could not be more false however. Henry Armstrong had several nicknames, two of which were Homicide Hank and Perpetual Motion. His pressure was relentless. His stamina was endless. He never stopped throwing punches.
Aspiring fighters can learn plenty from legends like Henry Armstrong. While we’ll certainly never see fighters compete so regularly, we should recognize the significance of his activity. The best way to stay sharp as a fighter is by staying active. The best amateur fighters stay busy throughout the year. They compete regularly both locally and at larger national tournaments. The best professionals also stay busy. Perhaps the best modern example is Bernard Hopkins. At age 48, he won a 12 round title fight earlier this month (March 9th). He was back in the gym just a few days later.
Too many modern athletes live in constant fear of working too hard. They baby their bodies as they’ve been led to believe that anything strenuous must be a sign for overtraining. Such individuals would have never survived in Henry Armstrong’s era.
Armstrong was one of the best conditioned fighters of all time. What’s even more incredible is that he did so long before supplements and performance enhancing drugs became commonplace. He also didn’t have scholarly conditioning specialists overseeing each and every move he made. Armstrong’s approach was quite simplistic. He trained hard, focused much of his attention towards the sport itself, and fought regularly. He steered clear of the complexity that is so common in today’s era.
There is plenty to be learned from his example.
For those interested, more highlight footage can be seen below.
I like this feeling of weariness after training, when I’m walking home exhausted, dragging my feet. I like this a lot. – Fedor Emelianenko7 comments
Upon clicking the image below, you will be directed to an online scan of Jack Dempsey’s classic Championship Fighting text. Additional formats can also be accessed here.
Please note – If you opt to read the online version, you may need to alter the magnification by clicking the + or – lens in the lower right hand corner. Failure to do so could cause certain pages to be missed.
As for the material itself, Dempsey’s text is a must read for anyone involved in boxing. It is always useful to learn from legendary fighters who came before us. Whether you agree with Dempsey on all topics is of less concern. As Bruce Lee would say, absorb what is useful, discard what is not.
As for his beliefs on training, I support many of Dempsey’s conditioning ideas. He strongly believed in using the sport as a primary means of conditioning. He considered sparring, brisk shadow boxing, and bag work to be essential conditioners.
In regards to sparring, Dempsey states:
Although some exercises help condition and others speed improvement, there’s one all-important activity that assists both. That activity is sparring. THERE IS NO SUBSTITUTE FOR SPARRING. You must spar regularly and often… Sparring not only improves your skill, but it also conditions your body for fighting by forcing your muscles to become accustomed to the violent, broken movements that distinguish fighting from any other activity…
For a beginner, at least, sparring is the most important conditioning activity.
In regards to shadow boxing, Dempsey states:
Shadow-boxing is the next best exercise for the twofold purpose of conditioning and sharpening. It might be described as fighting an imaginary opponent. It is particularly helpful in developing footwork. Although most professional fighters do not use boxing gloves during their shadow work, beginners should use them. Their weight will help to develop stamina. As you shadow-box, go through the same offensive and defensive movements you use in sparring. To be most valuable, your imaginary fighting should be done at top speed. Too many scrappers loaf at this work.
In regards to bag work, Dempsey states:
Bag-punching is another exercise that conditions and sharpens… Work on the bags will develop all the muscles you use in punching, and it will give “tone” to them. Your chest, shoulders and arms will take on that sleek, well-rounded appearance that distinguishes the bodies of most fighters from those of ordinary chaps.
Dempsey goes on to discuss the importance of running and jumping rope.
In regards to running, he states:
Running strengthens the legs and develops stamina. It also takes off weight… After you’ve become accustomed to roadwork and your feet have hardened, mix up your runs by sprinting for 100 yards, then jogging, then shadow-boxing for a few seconds, then jogging, then sprinting, etc.
In regards to the jump rope, he states:
In skipping, you do not jump with both feet at the same time; nor do you skip with a hippity-hop, like a school girl. Instead, you bounce off one foot and then off the other. That will seem awkward at first; but soon you’ll be skipping with an effortless grace that will surprise you and your friends. To make skipping interesting, you can learn to do it backward. You can learn to cross the rope forward and backward, and to make the rope go around you twice while you are in the air once. You’ll have a lot of fun with the rope. You’ll be able to do footwork while skipping, and perhaps you’ll even be able to dance a jig while the rope is whirling about you. Naturally, the skipping is done in a gymnasium or in whatever you are using for a gym. Do at least two rounds of skipping at each workout.
He then goes on to discuss the importance of calisthenics and protective exercises to harden the midsection, develop the neck, and strengthen the hands.
In summary, Dempsey believed strongly in conditioning oneself through the sport itself. Such work was then supplemented with basic activities such as running, rope skipping, and calisthenics. Ironically, many modern boxing trainers follow a similar approach. Those with experience coaching the sport recognize the significance of the actual boxing training. Such work is obviously important for skill development, but also critical for conditioning.
Unfortunately, the significance of sport training isn’t written about very often. Boxing trainers don’t typically publish training articles. It is more common for strength and conditioning coaches to write such material. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that the bulk of conditioning related material is focused towards other facets of training. If the S&C coach isn’t involved in the boxing training, he will naturally write about other topics. If he doesn’t highlight other areas, he would essentially diminish his own significance.
Yet as I make these comments, please don’t misconstrue my intent. I am not here to knock the strength and conditioning profession. Speaking as a boxing coach however, I do believe certain S&C coaches attempt to be too involved in the training process. As a result, the fighter isn’t able to focus as much attention to the sport itself (ie. sparring, mitt work, bag work, etc.). It is these activities that are most important for the skill and conditioning development of the fighter.
And again, this isn’t to say that the supplemental work isn’t relevant or important. I do believe that supplemental conditioning for a fighter can make a difference. Such work will always be secondary to the actual sport however. There have been many dominant champions both past and present who were highly conditioned fighters without any of the new-school advancements that are often touted today. Such athletes excelled by relying heavily on the sport. They sparred hard. They hit the bags hard. They hit the mitts hard. They worked through their exercises religiously. There wasn’t anything fancy in terms of equipment or programming.
In summary, I am always open to new ideas, but I am also aware that fighters have been well conditioned for many years now. The best way for a boxer to get in shape is by working with the gloves on. Supplemental work can then be added in small doses. Such additions can be useful, but don’t allow them to interfere or take precedence over the actual sport.
A good fighter usually knows, to within a very few seconds, when a three-minute round is going to end. – Jack Dempsey12 comments
Garrett Holeve is perhaps the most inspirational fighter I have ever seen. The video below highlights his story. Do yourself a favor and set aside 13 minutes of your day to watch it in its entirety.
Inspiration is an understatement.
If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them. – Bruce Lee13 comments
Tonight, Bernard Hopkins will be involved in yet another title fight. This time the 48-year-old faces off against unbeaten IBF light heavyweight champion Tavoris Cloud.
As usual, many experts believe Hopkins is too old to deal with the aggressive style of the younger and stronger champion. Personally, I won’t be surprised if Cloud’s aggressiveness is too much for Hopkins. With that said, I also wouldn’t be surprised if Hopkins defies the odds again. He has made a living out of proving others wrong. It is never safe to bet against him. Whenever he starts to look old, he finds a way to rewind the clock and come back better than before. Whether he is able to do so again remains to be seen.
Regardless of tonight’s outcome, Bernard Hopkins will always be remembered as an ageless warrior. I vividly remember how the critics believed he was too old for Felix Trinidad when they fought in 2001. Bernard was 36 years old at the time. I had run a 5K road race with him a few months before. At that time, he commented on how he felt great and planned to be around for a long time. Talk about an understatement.
I was fortunate to sit ringside when he fought Felix Trinidad. Trinidad entered the bout at 40-0. He was fresh off a brutal knockout over William Joppy a few months before. Many expected him to do the same to the older Hopkins. Bernard had different plans however. He put on a boxing clinic and completely dominated Trinidad before stopping him in the final round.
Highlights from that memorable fight can be seen below.
As for Bernard’s longevity, there is no denying his extreme dedication and discipline. He has also adapted his style over time however. Bernard Hopkins is an extremely intelligent fighter. He’s always been well schooled, strategic, and a master of psychological warfare.
In the two clips below, you’ll quickly notice that his boxing IQ is superior to most. He hasn’t lasted this long by accident. Hopkins has always been a student of the game. Younger fighters can learn plenty by studying his habits and style.
Tonight could very well be Bernard’s last fight, but he will certainly be remembered for generations to come.
It takes no effort to be ordinary. Ordinary is not even a challenge. You can do nothing and be ordinary. – Bernard Hopkins8 comments
I woke up this morning sad to see that another legendary fighter has passed away far too soon. At just 43 years old, Muay Thai legend Ramon Dekkers died on Wednesday. He reportedly felt light headed while riding his bike and then collapsed shortly after.
It is difficult to fathom such a dominant fighter casually riding his bike one moment only to collapse to his demise minutes later. Hearing of such a tragedy is a powerful reminder to enjoy the moment. Life can literally come and go in a flash. When you look up warrior in the thesaurus, Ramon Dekkers should be listed as a synonym. He was an absolute beast of a fighter. He is gone, but will never be forgotten.
Below is a brief documentary about his life from a few years ago.
Additional highlights can also be seen next.
Rest in peace champ.
Life is precious. Each day is a gift and tomorrow is never guaranteed. Make the most of your time.7 comments
It has been a busy week in the gym so I haven’t been able to update the blog. Hopefully the three videos below will make up for lost time. Each is brief yet entertaining. The video editors have masterfully captured the essence of combat sports in a matter of minutes. Anyone with interest in such sports will find themselves torn between wanting to watch more and itching to train.
The way to know about championship quality is to learn from champions, and that I did; studying them with professional purpose during my time in the ring and from habitual interest afterward. – Gene Tunney1 comment
The Zama Boxing Club is located in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. It is a small gym that was founded in 1986 by boxing coach Aaron Jacobs. He first opened the gym in his garage in hopes of steering children off the crime ridden streets that surrounded the area. In the time since, Jacobs has produced 18 South African title holders.
The brief video below shows footage of several fighters from his gym.
The video was created by the Freewalker charity group who hopes to develop a larger training and youth support center in the area. Such a facility could assist many more youngsters in need. A related article can be found at the following link.
My reasons for sharing this story are twofold. First, I believe it is important to highlight the work of a trainer like Aaron Jacobs. He has essentially given his life to the sport of boxing. He did not become involved in hopes of making it rich and famous. On the contrary, running the gym has been quite difficult. The financial strain has been considerable. Aaron Jacobs is passionate however. Giving up was never an option.
In his own words,
The highlight for me is to see one of my students in the ring, and having their hand raised victoriously. Fighting is in my blood and always will be. Training fighters is not about the money, it’s about dedication.
Anyone who has ever been involved in the sport can immediately relate to these words. The sport has, and always will, thrive in an urban environment. Many of the young participants struggle to afford food to eat. They certainly cannot afford to pay for a trainer. Fortunately, boxing gyms around the world have always been there to provide an outlet for those in need. The Zama Boxing Club is a prime example.
Another reason that I’ve shared this story is to highlight the low-tech nature of the gym. The Zama Boxing Club is similar to many gyms that I’ve featured before (see here). Whether you visit Uganda, Cuba, Ghana, or Brazil, you will find financially challenged gyms that continue to produce champion level fighters.
Recognizing the success of these rudimentary gyms speaks volumes whether you have interest in boxing or not. You don’t need to be a boxer to appreciate how well conditioned the athletes are from these gyms. These individuals have found success without the equipment that many in the world of fitness advertise as absolute necessities. If a boxer can condition himself to compete at a world class level with limited equipment, what is stopping the Average Joe or Jane from getting in shape at home with little or nothing?
While many new school trainers strive to complicate health and fitness, Aaron Jacobs and other trainers around the world continue to develop top notch athletes. They don’t buy into the complexities that continue to confuse the masses. Instead, they rely on the basics, making the most of the resources available to them.
You don’t need to be a boxer to learn from Aaron Jacobs. If you want to get in shape, get in shape. Don’t use lack of equipment as an excuse. As you can see within Aaron’s garage, success does not come from the tools that litter the gym floor. Success comes from within. Once you want it bad enough, it can be achieved with almost anything, including nothing.
It’s easy to make a buck. It’s a lot tougher to make a difference. – Tom Brokaw5 comments