Saturday, July 18, 2009

Nothing More Tiring

I had two hours of class today. In the second hour, among many other things, I went three rounds boxing with my sensei. It's like trying to block lightning. He has full control of his punches, but you feel them.

My wife said I looked miserable when I got home. I told her I was very, very tired.

"There is nothing more tiring," I told my wife, "than getting hit."

Eyebrow raised, she said, "I have no idea why you enjoy this."

I said, "I'm not sure I would if every time were like this."

I did learn a lot, however. In grappling, I was reminded of the D'Arce choke, which I'd forgotten how to do even though I'd mentioned it before; I also learned a way of flipping an opponent who has me in side control by grapevining his leg.

And in the black belt class, we worked on two ways of setting up the uppercut; 1) Draw the opponent's right hand to the side of his head by throwing two open hand hooks, then go into position to throw a very hard hook--but throw a front-hand uppercut to the head, followed by a cross; or 2) slip the jab, take a stop towards the opponent, then throw the backhand uppercut followed by the front hook (then move away).

Finally, sensei told me I was dropping my hand BEFORE throwing my jab, which was allowing him to come over the top with his cross. And I need to keep my hands up even when a speedster like him is out of reach, because he can move in and hit my head so quickly.

Very tiring.

Saturday, July 4, 2009


My first role model in standup sparring was a black belt named Terry from my school. I learned a lot of things from Terry, but one thing I shouldn't have emulated was how close he got to his opponents in sparring. Terry would get in close and use tight hook punches.

That suited his size and style, but not mine.

There's a boxer I sometimes now think of in sparring named Paul Williams (in the photo above he's punching Winky Wright). Williams has the reach of a heavyweight but has fought at weights as low as 147 pounds. What I've noticed about him--it's somewhat visible in this photo---is that when he is throwing a flurry of punches, including hooks or uppercuts, he's using his reach still. (Also notice how he's keeping his left hand in position, protecting his face, as he punches with his right!)

Punching at the outside of your range makes for more power. It prevents opponents with less reach from clinching and ending your advantage. And of course it makes it harder for the opponent to reach you if he has less reach.

Oh, and Happy Fourth of July!

Friday, July 3, 2009


My man Steve, a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioner, has a post about breathing while sparring, and how important it is to make yourself breathe.

I recently had a couple of interesting experiences with breathing while sparring.

1. Gumba Frank, a fellow black belt and classmate, is always a challenge in standup sparring. Frank is not only tremendously strong, he also has amazing hand speed (even more amazing that he's around 52 years old) and he is a very skilled counterpuncher. He also, surprisingly for someone in an orthodox stance, relies almost exclusively on his left, front, hand. My best strategy against him is to use my reach and to circle to my left, his right--the opposite of what I would normally do against a right hander. I want to steer clear of his left hook.

I realized a few weeks ago while sparring with him that I felt so anxious (when he hits, it hurts) that my breathing was speeding up and becoming shallow, which was tiring me out. And getting tired is a problem because I do best with him when I constantly move. I had to consciously slow down my rate of breathing and deepen the individual breaths. It helped. I was surprised that I hadn't been aware of that pattern before.

2. Last Saturday, I was grappling and got another 50-something black belt, Warren, in an arm triangle. That's a type of choke where I'm using one of his arms against his neck to help finish him off. Warren is a bit of a street fighter, and he came up with a creative solution: He took his free hand, pinched my nose shut, and covered my mouth with his hand, cutting off MY breath. Nobody had ever done this to me before. Eventually, I had to loosen my grip on him to pry his hand from my mouth, but that allowed him to get free from the arm triangle. People did point out to him later that it was an illegal move, but I was laughing about it, I certainly didn't expect it!