Bangkok Post - - LIFE | HAPPENING - Pong­pet Mek­loy is the Bangkok­Post travel ed­i­tor.

Box­ing may not be pop­u­lar as a sport these days, but as fit­ness train­ing, it has be­come trendy among work­ing men and women. On so­cial me­dia, videos of peo­ple do­ing mitt drills are a com­mon sight. To the un­trained, they may look cool. But of­ten when I watch these clips, I see my­self pre­tend­ing to do bal­let moves. I wince.

As some­one who spent al­most six years of his youth train­ing and com­pet­ing in stu­dent-level box­ing tour­na­ments, in­clud­ing a year serv­ing as the head of a univer­sity’s box­ing club, I think I know a few things about the ba­sics of the sport. In this ar­ti­cle, I dare not dis­cuss any­thing too ad­vanced.

Any­way, ev­ery time I see stu­dents throw­ing lousy punches at the pads with en­cour­age­ment from the in­struc­tors who turn a blind eye to their ob­vi­ous lack of ba­sic skill, I can’t help but won­der why they don’t pay as much at­ten­tion to train­ing as to their own clothes and fash­ion ac­ces­sories.

I re­mem­ber that when I started box­ing — I was 16 — it took days just to learn the foot­work and stance. Only af­ter I had a firm foun­da­tion was I taught how to punch. And that is log­i­cal be­cause the power of ev­ery punch be­gins with the move­ment of the feet.

How­ever, on my so­cial-me­dia news­feed I see videos of peo­ple do­ing “up­per­cuts” while stand­ing with straight legs and a straight body, mov­ing only their arms. Of course, the con­tact of the gloves with the pads cre­ates im­pres­sive sounds, but there’s no power in such poorly ex­e­cuted hits.

I also see peo­ple stick their chins out when work­ing on the mitts and drop­ping their guard af­ter ev­ery sin­gle punch. This is a danger­ous habit since it in­vites dev­as­tat­ing counter-at­tacks. In any kind of mar­tial arts, you don’t just prac­tise of­fence; you must also mas­ter de­fence.

These are merely some of the many ter­ri­ble train­ing mis­takes I have seen on so­cial me­dia. Even when watch­ing on the screen, I al­ways feel the strong urge to tell them how to do it the right way. How could the trainer, who is hold­ing the mitts, not have the same urge?

I couldn’t think of a swim­ming coach who feels com­pla­cent about his or her stu­dents do­ing their strokes in­cor­rectly. Sim­i­larly, I have never heard of ten­nis or taek­wondo train­ers, golf in­struc­tors or bal­let teach­ers, who al­low their stu­dents to con­tinue with ad­vance moves with­out get­ting the ba­sics right first.

How­ever, in fit­ness-style box­ing gyms (which usu­ally teach muay Thai as well as in­ter­na­tional-style box­ing), it’s not rare to see new­bies told to per­form spin­ning el­bows on the pads on their first day of train­ing.

I once asked a box­ing trainer why he let his stu­dents do fancy stuff when they don’t even have the foot­work right. His an­swer was: “I need to. Oth­er­wise, the stu­dents will get bored.”

At least I know I’m not the only one who no­tices that some­thing is not right. Un­like that trainer, how­ever, I don’t have to pre­tend I like it.

Only af­ter I had a firm foun­da­tion was I taught how to punch

Pong­pet Mek­loy

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