While you don't have to take part in fighting or live sparring to enjoy staying in shape with fitness boxing, doing so may be way more fun than you realize. It is, after all, the sport of pugilism, so why not give some ring time a try?
However, part of facing a live opponent is getting hit, and nobody boxes without taking some punches. Naturally, you're probably worried about this, which makes sense--getting hit isn't exactly a smooch on the cheek from your favourite aunt!
But, your fear can be overcome so that you can comfortably get into the ring and find out just how enjoyable and competitive the sport of boxing can be.
And no, it isn't about being any tougher than anyone else—just better trained.
Why We're Afraid to Get Hit
With getting hit, there are a couple of factors which make it seem unpleasant. First, there is the obvious, which is that getting hit can hurt, period.
Second, we don't always see a punch coming which creates a fear of the unknown.
Together, these two factors can add up to excessive flinching and more evasive action than punching. Not only can this put you into more—not less—danger of injury, it removes the balance of a fight.
And, almost as badly, it ruins the fun!
Overcoming Our Fear
So, you're ready to hop into the ring against an opponent. That's fantastic, you're going to enjoy it! It's fun, it's competitive, and it's about the best workout there is.
However, you may first need to prepare yourself against the fear of getting hit.
First, before preparing to take a punch, you need to have the basics of giving a punch mastered. You also need to have an understanding of the footwork, defensive moves, and rules of boxing. Your trainer can help you with this, since part of being a good trainer involves understanding when it is safe for a pupil to move on to the next level.
Once you are at this stage, you can begin preparing for taking one in the kisser—which, by the way, isn't nearly as bad as it sounds.
The first rule to remember is: Don't jump into the ring with anyone bigger or more experienced than you are, since nothing will turn you off to the sport more quickly than being pummelled in a one-sided fight.
Again, this is something your trainer will help with, and even your boxing opponent will want. Most of us desire a good, fair fight or sparring session, and nobody benefits from one participant unfairly beating the snot out of the other, including the one with the unfair advantage. Stay within your weight class and skill level, and you will be fine.
Next, there are drills which you can do which will help you become accustomed to taking a punch which, despite the initial shock, doesn't hurt as much as you may think. In fact, once you are in the ring and taking part in full contact sparring and fighting, it will just be part of what you are doing--much like how you don't think about the pain of being hit when playing football or other contact sports.
Here are some drills which will help you jump fearlessly into the ring:
- Flow Boxing, AKA Slow Boxing—The main advantage of this drill is to get you to see punches, rather than being shocked by them. Flow boxing entails getting into the ring with an opponent, and doing very slow, deliberate, and low-impact sparring. The object isn't to land as many punches on your opponent as possible or to take all the punches yourself. Rather, it is to trade slow, ineffective punches on equal terms while practicing correct footwork and defensive measures—just not defence at all cost. Doing this drill will help you be able to relax when being punched, rather than flinching against it—which is what gets you hurt!
- Play "Flinch"—Okay, so this may not be the same as what you played with your schoolmates where you receive a sock in the arm if you flinch, though it is similar in concept. For this drill, you need two people to stand facing each other, with one of them throwing a series of punches within inches of the other's face without making contact. The puncher should start slowly, and then gradually amp it up until full punching speed is achieved, and the object is for the receiver to learn not to flinch.
- Throw Balls at Each Other—Starting with perhaps a beach ball and working up to a volleyball or light medicine ball, have one participant stand with arms to sides while the other pops them in the face with the ball. This teaches you to stay calm, not flinch, and get used to being tapped in the face by a gloved fist—which, by the way, won't be too different from being popped with a light medicine ball or volleyball.
Remember too that you'll have headgear and mouth guard on!
Yes, there are other means to getting you used to being hit, although these simple drills should fit the bill nicely. The main thing is, you need to learn to relax, stay calm, and not allow the shock of a tap to the face make you apprehensive, or to flinch.
By learning to take a punch, you will not only be safer and less prone to injury, but you will have more fun and be more competitive as well.
Think of it in terms of a eucalyptus tree vs a willow tree during a windstorm. The eucalyptus which stands firm and braces against the wind is far more likely to be blown over than the willow tree which stays relaxed and "goes with the flow" of the wind. The same can be said of taking a punch, which hurts more and can cause more damage when you brace against it (remember Mohammed Ali using his "Rope-a-dope" method to absorb George Foreman's punches in the "Rumble in the Jungle?").
However, by learning to overcome your fear of being hit, you can take those punches like they're a smooch on the cheek!