Lessons from the Boxing Gym, pt II

This is a continuation of part one. When you get done with this article, go to the previous article to see what I wrote about yesterday.

The idea of these two articles is that the martial artist can learn a lot about practicing and teaching our arts by looking at the philosophy of boxing. I hope you have an open mind and will take this advice to heart. Without a doubt you will find some of this advice helpful and it will enhance your martial arts experience.

  1. The corporate culture of the boxing gym is very hard-work oriented. Training is rarely done at one’s leisure, and when fighters come in to train, they are pushed to near exhaustion during every work out. This is why it is called a “workout” and not “practice”. In the martial arts classroom, often you will find students as well as teachers more concerned with learning, by rote memory, combinations and techniques in the hopes of demonstrating those techniques for rank exams–or just to show to other people. Fighting–while it is part of the equation–is not really in the plans for the techniques being trained. The average technique taught to a martial arts student will never be applied, full-power on another human being. Nor will such a thing be tolerated by the teacher. By contrast, the boxing student is not as concerned with memorizing techniques, as the tools he has been given are to be thrown over and over, round by round, until the workout is completed. The fighter will never be “tested” on his learning, nor will he be asked to demonstrate what he knows. Can you imagine going to a boxer and asking him for a “demo”? He will look at you like you’re crazy. Imagine asking a basketball player or a baseball player to “see his technique”. That is because, like those other arts, fighting is not a spectator sport–it is an adversarial one. As a result, it is trained like one, instead of practiced as one rehearses for a dance recital.
  2. The structure of learning is very different as well. In the classroom, the martial artist is given some very intellectual and well-thought-out solutions to self-defense scenarios. When a student doesn’t get something, or he isn’t very good at it, or just doesn’t like a technique, he is encouraged to “create his own path”, and “develop your own style”. Fighting, to the martial artist is a matter of taste and preference, rather than an “exact science” (it isn’t). But to the boxer, trainers speak about technique as if it were fact, and this type of language is used:  “this is how to stop a jab, and that is how to counter the right…” The difference? When you are teaching an art from your own experiences, you speak authoritatively. When you do not have your own experiences, you speak in theory. Trainers are very opinionated and stubborn, because most of them are teaching what worked for them. Martial artists have far less fighting experience, so they do not speak with authority, and usually have no concrete stance concerning art. The result is that our teachers normally learn a little of everything, because they really only know a few things well.
  3. Training for the boxer is self-motivated. You have a routine, and you start it soon as you walk in and suit up. You will get your time with your trainer, but you are responsible for your own workout, and he handles the instruction. Instruction is only a small part of the session. Work takes up the bulk of it. In the martial arts classroom, everyone follows the same routine and the teacher leads. The benefit is that the boxer is learning to push himself, while the martial arts student is pushed by the teacher. My opinion is that the martial arts model is best for beginners, and the boxing model is best for intermediates and advanced students.
  4. Boxing students are not goal-oriented in the same way the martial arts student is. The boxer’s goals are more centered on development of skill, ability and physical fitness. Martial arts students tend to be more concerned with achieving the next rank or certification, and learning more and more techniques and drills. This is why money made in the boxing community is mostly in fighting events and equipment sales, while in the martial arts community it is in weapons collection and dvd/tapes/books and seminars. Quantity versus quality.
  5. Boxing trainers tend to brag about their fighters, while martial arts teachers brag about their resumes. A close second to the resume is the accomplishments of their teachers. The highlight of a boxing trainer’s career is usually the one or two fighters who become so good they win a title. The highlight of a martial art teacher’s career is an award, rank or how many countries he’s taught seminars in.
  6. Boxing trainers focus most of their fighters’ training towards the match. This ensures the demonstrative skill–in fighting–is the light at the end of the tunnel for the student. Matches with other fighters is where the trainer gauges his students’ progress. This philosophy is especially important for the martial arts teacher to adopt.
  7. Trainers don’t work by time slots. Your training begins when you get there. You’re done when you’ve had enough. No more losing students because you don’t have a class time that’s convenient for them!
  8. Every fighter has his own equipment. He invests in his own training. Boxing gyms do not compete with each other in price wars. Basically, each gym stands on the reputation of its fighters. So the fighter looks at money as a necessary tool for gaining the skill and knowledge he wants. You want to learn? It’s going to cost you, and no, I’m not offering a special or discount. Either you want it or you don’t.
  9. Gyms are located in warehouses, down dead end streets, in beat-up old buildings–any place they can afford. And the people will come. We are not advertising because we have the good stuff. Our trainers will not put on a song and dance each time a potential member walks through the door. We have what you want, and here are the prices. Make sure you don’t eat 2 hours before training. See you tomorrow. No contracts necessary.

There is more, but we’re over a thousand words. Hopefully you have found something valuable for your own teaching philosophy in this article. Thanks for visiting my blog.