Teaching yourself to box at home is okay for learning the basics or keeping fit. However, if you want to become a fighter, or even just become good at boxing, there’re no two ways about it; you have to join a boxing gym.
4 Reasons Why You Should Join a Boxing Gym
You will learn more in one week of training at a boxing gym than you would in an entire year of training by yourself.
Here’s why training at a gym is so beneficial:
- Learn from an experienced instructor. You’ll tap into the knowledge and have the guidance of a trainer that, most likely, has years or even decades of boxing experience.
- Correct mistakes as they happen. When you learn boxing from videos or a book, there’s no guarantee that you’re following the techniques taught exactly. Picking up bad habits early on could take months to undo. With a boxing coach and experienced fighters by your side, you’ll correct mistakes as they happen.
- Be in peak physical condition. Even if you have the ability to push yourself to the absolute limits of your physical endurance, a trainer could always get more out of you.
- Become a complete fighter. When you train at home, your training is limited to solo exercises: Skipping, shadowboxing, and bag work. This is only working your offence (and very poorly, I might add). Whereas when you train at a gym, you’ll work on pads with a partner and be able to spar and work your defence game. By learning how to hit moving targets and how to defend against punches, you’ll become the whole package.
Be Clear On Your Goals
I’ve trained at fight gyms for years and know first-hand the value they offer. Whether or not you ever plan to fight, I would recommend you train at a boxing gym for at least a few months to learn correct technique.
However, I do realise that the training is intense, and they’re not for everybody. If you’re debating whether or not to join a boxing gym, you need to ask yourself one question.
What do I want from boxing?
The answer to this question will guide the direction of your training.
If your top answer was fitness, then a home-based boxing workout or boxercise classes will suffice.
If you’re a boxing enthusiast and want to learn proper technique, develop self-defence skills, and become a lean, mean punching machine, then you should attend boxing classes at least a couple of times a week.
If you’re a fighter, then you’ll already be living at the gym.
Be honest in your response. Stepping into the ring is glorified, but not everyone wants to be a fighter. There’s nothing wrong with only boxing for fitness.
If you do decide that you’re going to step up your training and join a gym, then you might as well join the best gym in your town.
How to Find a Good Boxing Gym
Fight gyms vary enormously in the quality and style of training.
I’ve trained at a few different gyms, and each one was unique. The warm-ups and exercises were different, the combinations varied in complexity, the sparring intensity ranged from tippy-tappy to full-on, the techniques taught varied slightly, and each gym had their own rules.
A gym that’s suitable for one person may be no good for another.
To find the right gym for you, you have to do some homework.
It’s best if you can get first-hand experience of a gym by paying for lessons as you go. Some gyms even allow a free trial or a free week of training.
However, if you’ve never trained at a fight gym before, you may not know what makes a good gym. Here are five things to look out for when looking to join a boxing gym.
What’s The Vibe Like?
It is the instructors who create the culture of a gym. They pass their values onto their students who in turn pass it onto the new arrivals.
The best gyms have a strong sense of camaraderie and the fighters look out for and guide one another and respect everyone no matter what level they’re at.
You’re going to end up spending a lot of time at the gym, so you want to ensure you’re surrounded by quality, helpful, and encouraging people.
So look at how everyone interacts with one another. Are they enjoying training and sharing a laugh? Does this look like the kind of place you could hang out five nights a week? Would you like to be part of this team?
If you get a good feeling from a gym, then you know you’re going to be happy training there.
Quality of Fighters
Checking out the quality of fighters will give an insight into what can be achieved with sufficient training and dedication. If there are no good fighters at the gym, then you’ve got to wonder why?
Some simple investigation work will unearth a gyms potential for training champions.
When you’re next visit the gym, scan the walls for fight boards and check out the records of the fighters. Are they mostly wins? How many bouts have their most experienced fighters clocked-up?
Better yet, attend a local fight show and be on the lookout for the gyms name on the fight card. How do the gyms fighters fare against opponents from other gyms?
Do some digging to see if you can uncover how many amateur or professional fighters train at the gym and if any well-known fighters have trained there in the past.
Even if you never plan to fight, observing the end product will give you an indication of the level of expertise that can be achieved if you join (and stick to) this gym.
When you’re scoping out a gym, you need to pay close attention to the coaches. These are the guys that will be teaching you boxing.
You’ve got to be able to get on with and respect your instructors if you want to improve. You have to trust in them and be willing to practice techniques their way.
It’s important that you learn from an instructor with heaps of experience.
Don’t assume that someone labelled a boxing coach knows their stuff. Question their experience: How long have they been training for? How many fights have they had? Who did they train under? How long have they been teaching?
Asking a few probing questions in general conversation will uncover your instructor’s experience. Don’t just assume any “instructor” is qualified to teach you and here’s why…
When I moved to New Zealand, I had to find a new gym. I trialled a gym where a young instructor was taking the class and who was trying to teach me really bad technique.
He wanted me to slide the back foot forward as I flung the cross, reasoning that it closed the distance and added power (it doesn’t).
I wouldn’t adopt his technique and explained that it narrowed your base and left you unstable as you threw the punch, and also limited your ability to rotate and put power into the punch.
Needless to say, I thought the guy was an idiot and decided to try another gym.
The lesson learned?
Don’t assume that a guy standing in front of twenty people and teaching them how to punch has a clue what he’s doing.
Direction from Instructors
A gym may have the best instructors, but it’s no benefit to you if they don’t divide their attention between all their students and only focus on the stars.
Observe a training session to get a glimpse of what working with an instructor would be like. You may need to watch (or attend) a few classes from beginner to advanced to get a real feel for the training style.
Does the instructor bark orders and rule training sessions like a dictatorship? Do they spend time with a student and make sure they ‘get it’ before moving on? What is their general manner, and more importantly, could you work with them?
Overall, you’re looking for a helpful instructor that can effectively communicate his knowledge.
Don’t Judge a Book By Its Cover
Lastly, and most importantly, don’t judge a boxing gym by its looks alone – you’ll be left disappointed in most cases.
You shouldn’t choose a boxing gym like you do a restaurant where lots of people dining must mean the food is delicious.
Commercial gyms with lots of people are popular because the training is easier and it appeals to the masses. The vast majority of people don’t like to push themselves and aren’t looking to compete or train like a fighter.
Top of the line equipment does not make a boxing gym good. The flash gyms that have the wow factor often lack substance. The depth of training and technique is often catered for beginners even at advanced classes.
More often than not, the crème de la crème of fighters come from the dingy, backstreet, Rocky-style gyms that aren’t heavily marketed. These are true fight gyms. The training is intense and extremely challenging, and you are constantly pushed to your limits.
They don’t look like much. The equipment is often worn out and decades old, but it is where you will find the best training.
Besides, gym equipment should be a secondary consideration and an experienced and knowledgeable trainer will do more for your development than any state-of-the-art boxing equipment.
All you really need, is a good pair of boxing gloves, focus mitts, a knowledgeable instructor, and a willingness to learn.
Sometimes finding a good boxing gym comes down to trial and error. Gyms that are highly regarded and where everyone swears they have the best trainers may not be a good fit for you.
It depends on how you gel with the trainers and how you respond to the training environment.
Deciding which gym to join, if you’re joining any at all, is a personal choice. Hopefully, you’ll now know what to look for, and you’ll find a gym that will take you to the next level.