I’m going to try to keep a weekly log of what I’m working on each week so others can follow along with my training and thinking process, which may be interesting. It should be published each Sunday, if you subscribe to my blog you can get these posts by email. So tune in on Sundays.
- Footwork – Movement
- Hit the Head
Last week I started taking boxing lessons from Neung , an extra hour before my regular afternoon training starts. This is partly because my husband had initiated private lessons with Neung and then had eye surgery and that took him out of commission for at least a month while he heals up, so I took over his training time, but it was also something we’ve been talking about for me for a long time. It’s semi-complicated because taking private lessons from one trainer – especially a trainer who is pretty low in the gym pecking order and is not my main trainer (Den) – is not exactly seen as “no big deal” at the camp I suspect. Capitalism in Thailand is not so “free market” as we like to play it in the US and finances are closely knitted to intimacy here rather than deliberately severed from one another like in the West. But that’s a whole separate discussion.
So I’m learning boxing from Neung and that’s a good thing because I need to a) learn how to defend my head – a process which began with my nose being broken and then has been further emphasized by my stitches; and b) how to land my punches so that my natural heavy hands can actually be an advantage rather than a great idea that never comes into effect.
Stance: Position of Hips for Boxing vs. Muay Thai
The first thing I noticed during my lessons with Neung is that my balance for Muay Thai has gotten significantly better, but at the expense of my balance for boxing. I don’t think that one detracts from the other, just as being a good runner doesn’t make you a bad swimmer but you are obviously doing different things for each sport. But getting my hips forward so that my kicks could be at the ready is definitely something that has become unconscious for me and getting my hips back for boxing is now difficult. It used to be the opposite.
Knuckle Up: Punching On the First Two Knuckles
Neung focuses a lot on hitting with just the front two knuckles on the hand, and not the plane of the fist. Master K is big on this too and it’s obvious from the very moment you punch correctly why this is emphasized. Neung doesn’t even close his fist completely, his hand staying kind of loose – the fingers slack, the rigidity comes from the skeletal plane of the hand itself, knuckles to wrist (photo above), without clenching- and the shoulder generating power for the whole arm like a battering ram; Master K curls his wrist so that the knuckles wrap down into the punch like a snake head. Both are incredibly nasty. I can get Neung’s looseness in shadow and when I knock my knuckles against Kevin’s hand or arm like this it’s amazingly powerful, pointy and painful with minimal effort. On the bag it’s a bit harder because you actually have to figure out how to punch “down” even when you’re punching at head level.
Head Movement and Footwork
When one first starts shadowboxing, it’s an awkward experience. It’s like someone asking you to dance with no music and with nobody else dancing. You feel strangely exposed and largely lost. Sure, you’re supposed to “picture” an opponent and attack, block and move around in relation to another body, but if you aren’t accustomed to moving around with people or imaginary friends, it’s difficult. Like all things though, it gets better with practice. My shadow for Muay Thai has become very comfortable and I can do it forever. Boxing shadow should be similar, but it’s not. My legs want to kick, my knees want to pop up for blocks. Neung wants me to move my torso like I’m slipping punches and to dive forward on punches – I’ve seen Master K do this a million times and it’s beautiful; when Neung does it it’s like watching a fish swim, but it’s terribly uncomfortable to imitate because I don’t have a feel for the movements. I’m making them up as I go and there’s no “flow.”
Kill the Head, Kill the Body
I’m trying to get used to hitting my trainers in the face and head when we’re sparring. It’s not only difficult because they have great defense, but I also work against myself because it feels weird to try to punch your superior in the head. I’m not necessarily thinking about it, but something is keeping me from trying, be it the threat of retribution of the feeling of wanting to be respectful. When I do punch Daeng or Den in the head, it’s awesome – I’ve dropped Daeng a number of times with tight left hooks and Den absolutely hates getting punched in the face – but it takes a lot of gall to actually go for it. So I’m working on that, too. Keeping your hands in someone’s face definitely opens more doors than it closes.