Australia · My MMA Journey

My Amateur MMA Journey, Part 18: Why I Box

Recently, in my journey of exploring mixed-martial arts, I’ve switched from doing a bit of everything to going back to where I started and focusing on boxing.

I’ve done so for a few reasons. For one, because I’m still jet-setting and haven’t yet put down roots anywhere, I don’t want to buy gear that won’t fit in my travel bag–like shin pads or a gi. Of course, I could rent or borrow these training necessities, but I have got another reason to stick with boxing for now.

When I was doing a combination of boxing, Muay Thai, and MMA at Darkside Gym, I had to learn a lot of techniques from scratch and most importantly find my footing in order to hold my own when sparring.

When it comes to footwork, though, trying to learn the boxing, Muay Thai, and various MMA stances all at once was pretty confusing. Back to the basics, then: I’ve been keeping my focus on boxing and there’s still quite a bit of work to be done.

Last week, I met a traveler who turned out to be a veritable martial arts encyclopedia. I brought him along to the gym, where he observed that my stance was “a bit stiff”.

He noted that the weakness of a boxer is the legs and even recommended dancing as a way to loosen up the feet, improve balance, and get into the punching rhythm. Who knows, I might take that advice seriously.

For now, though, I’ve taken the time to list up seven solid reasons to box.

Taking up boxing can mean all sorts of things. It may be as simple as finding a gym where a trainer or partner holds up focus pads and you learn how to hit them in a number of different ways while toning up your arms and abs.

It could represent a fun new way for you to stay fit or it might lead you to challenge yourself by putting in that mouth guard, donning the headgear, and braving the ring. However far you go, from boxercise to amateur competitions, there are plenty of reasons to get up and do it.

1. Getting Out

As soon as I started working entirely from home back in the Philippines, I knew I needed to take exercise out of the house. At the time, all I had to do was walk around the block to get to an Elorde Gym. Now it’s a ten-minute jog to Darkside, which takes me away from my computer, gets me some fresh air, and puts me in a social environment where I’m learning from the trainers, practicing with partners, and getting a solid workout.

2. Burning Calories

I dislike calorie talk, honestly. When I think of health and fitness, I think of quality food and active living. Both eating and exercising should be enjoyable experiences so turning either into calorie calculations tends to spoil the fun a bit.

That being said, restricting and burning calories is a self-evident way to lose weight and it has its time and place. In fact, I did a little bit of it last year when I was casually cutting weight for a jiu-jitsu competition.

If you care for the numbers, the average person burns over 300 calories per hour on the punching bag and 600 to 800 in the ring while sparring, which brings it right up to the top of the sports-that-burn-the-most-calories list.

3. Releasing Stress

While any form of exercise will release endorphins, there’s a special kind of pleasure that comes from punching things really hard. So often in life, it’s hard to find a truly good reason to hit anything or anyone. On the contrary, it’s typically quite ill-advised–and rightly so.

But in a boxing class, when you’re told to go all out, you do. And you have a reason now: you’re burning those calories and honing a new skill. Whether or not you’re mentally taking out that pent-up frustration on your boss as a bonus feature is totally up to you. When you’re sparring and you punch someone else, it’s because they want you to. You’re helping them and they’re helping you: that’s how you learn.

4. Gaining Confidence

While boxing doesn’t really apply as self-defense training, it certainly does the job of giving you the confidence you need to handle yourself in a confrontation. Along with better body image and posture, boxing redefines what you are physically and mentally capable of and will help you carry yourself more confidently through every part of life.

5. Learning a New Skill

Learning is fun. Starting off with zero knowledge of something–be it a language, a sport, or any other skill–and getting the hang of it through practice and training is one of the most satisfying feats of life. It’s an excellent social experience as well: you connect to the people around you because everyone has something to share or learn.

6. Pushing Your Resilience

Boxing is tough on quite a few levels. For one, it’s a very complex sport and when you start out you’ll find the number of things you have to pay attention to a bit flooring. There’s footwork, body positioning, rotation, and of course proper punch throwing, and training your body to bring each of these elements together naturally takes time.

Once you move on to sparring, you’ll have to add in reading your partner so you can block, slip, or eat their punches while setting yourself up to break their defense–and do all of that under the tension of being in a fight.

Initially, you’ll have to train yourself to simply keep your eyes open when a glove is coming at your face. From there, you’ll learn to watch, preempt, and counter a strike. Your body will toughen to the blows–as will your mind to the struggle–and you’ll walk away with more resilient and capable of handling what life throws your way.

7. Getting Competitive

Besides enjoying the challenge of learning a new skill, and whether or not you ever sign up to compete in an amateur boxing ring, your competitive side is likely what will push you through much of the training. At least that’s how it is for me.

I’m still not sure if or when I’ll compete. There are many things to factor in, one being that boxing–as much as I love it–is not my main priority. For all the physical and mental benefits that carry over into the rest of my life, boxing and martial arts have been more of a means to an end than the end itself.

That being said, I am curious to give it a try. Since I have, at the end of the day, been putting quite a lot of time and effort into boxing, it’s only natural to want to test what I’ve learned. For now, I have one more week at Darkside before a bit of globetrotting to Malta and Manila. We’ll see what comes next when I get back in October.

Australia · Day Trips

Kangaroo Picnic in Morisset

I want to say that there were kangaroos at Taronga but I don’t recall any memorable encounters with them.

Fast-forward to a few weeks ago: when a friend I met through Couchsurfing invited me to join in on a day trip and see these quintessential Australian creatures, I knew the moment had come.

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G’day mate! (nobody actually says that but this guy surely would)

Let’s backtrack a little more. I wrote of things to know about Couchsurfing after I joined the website/app earlier this year and had my first experience being hosted in Manila. However, it wasn’t until recently here in Sydney that I first used the “Hangouts” feature.

It was a Thursday afternoon and my schedule was open until later in the evening. With quite a few hours to kill, I thought I’d seek out something interesting.

Since I work from home, I have to find ways to get out and interact with people in my downtime; for example, by going to the gym. Granted, most of my interactions there involve punching people, but it still counts.

With the Couchsurfing app, you can set yourself available to hang out and find people–travelers, locals, and everyone in between–near you who want to do the same. And they won’t even try to punch you.

Instead of spending that Thursday evening at the gym, I ended up getting together with a group of Couchsurfers in Darling Harbour. Where I normally feel the odd one out, what with my multiple nationalities and mixed cultural identity, quite literally everyone in this group had a similar story to tell. Some were living in Sydney; some had arrived that day and were only passing through, and others were here for a year on exchange.

One of them, a new arrival to Australia, was responsible for organizing this fantastic day trip and hats off to her because it was a clever feat and lots of good fun.

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A unique blend of tame day-trippers and friendly kangaroos set against the backdrop of a quaint psychiatric hospital

Everyone got together at Central Station just after 8 AM to catch the train at 16 minutes past and it wasn’t until all the clusters got off the train in Morisset that we realized how large the group of mostly Couchsurfers had grown: I’m pretty sure there were about twenty of us.

I was almost unsure I’d want to give up my Saturday morning sleep in but I’m certainly glad I did. The trip was loads of fun and it was great to meet new people, and kangaroos too.

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There is at least one picnic table by the lake and it’s a beautiful spot for a picnic at a safe distance from the marsupial hubs (but maybe don’t bring kangaroo jerky anyway)

Day Trip Timeline

Here’s a rough time frame of the trip. This is with a fairly large group so it’s counting on things moving a bit slowly. It’s still an adventurous way to spend the day, and with a little nap on the train heading back you’ll still have the entire evening to enjoy in Sydney CBD.

08:16 Catch the train from Central
10:10 Get off at Morisset
10:30 Hike to Morisset Hospital (not Morisset Park)
11:30 See kangaroos; have a picnic (not in the same place)
13:00 Start heading back to the station
14:32 Catch the train to Sydney
16:29 Arrive at Central

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Walk around and not through the hospital grounds when heading to the picnic area