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Spark+slag / juni 2017
Ryan Gwaltney, Global Newsroom

Are You Ready to Spar? The Experts Weigh In

Walking into your first boxing class, you’re bound to have a handful of questions.

Did I wear the right gear? Am I already expected to know how to wrap my hands? Are these gloves really sanitary? dogpound-boxing-reebok-dara-hart-1

And while all are valid questions, there’s one question that’s sure to bring boxing newbies more stress than any other: Will I fight someone today?

The answer: no.

Boxing trainer Dara Hart of New York City’s The Dogpound assures that you will never be thrown directly into the ring, especially during your first class. In fact, Hart says it could take upwards of months before that fighting fantasy becomes a reality. 

Formally referred to as sparring, this act of fighting someone else within a contained space is a critical element of training for professional fighters. After watching those fights on television, many assume that’s exactly what they’ll be engaging in when signing up for ‘beginning boxing.’

Not so much.

“Actually, not many group fitness studios offer sparring,” explains Hart. “Unless you’re going into a one-on-one training session, you should be under the assumption that you will be training on pads.”

What Are the Essential Skills?

Itching to break away from the pads and take the next step? Be patient. There are a number of movements and skills you’ll have to master before most trainers will allow you to jump in the ring and take on your first opponent.

“You have to master the proper footwork and stance before you can move onto anything else,” says Hart, noting the stance as the foundation for all of your movement and power.

You have to master the proper footwork and stance before you can move onto anything else.

“Once you have that down, focus on the basic punches. You want to get to a place where you feel really comfortable with them,” she continues. “Definitely master a jab because that punch is really the beginning to everything.”

So you have the jabs and footwork down—now are you ready to hop in the ring?

Hart emphasizes that even then there are a number of other components to consider before going toe-to-toe with a live opponent. One of the most important ones being a person’s mental readiness.

It Goes Beyond Physicality

“A lot of sparring is physical, but it’s equally, if not more, mental,” says Hart. “The mental game is a completely different element.”

“Most of us are not used to actually fighting or being in a situation where we’re punching someone else. Your whole life you’re told not to hit anyone so it goes directly against what we’ve learned.”

With that in tow, Hart likes to remind her clients that the first time they spar it will be nerve-wracking, maybe even a little emotional … and that’s okay!

“Sparring really brings this primal, emotional element out of you,” she says.

Sparring really brings this primal, emotional element out of you.

“The heightened level of awareness that results when you’re in a high-stress situation can also lead to those emotions,” Hart continues. “Even when you have mouth gear and head gear on and you know that nothing is going to hurt you, you still have this instinctual emotional reaction.”

Preparation is Key

So what is the best way to prepare yourself for your first sparring match? Simulated fighting. 

“Simulated fighting is when you are with another person in the ring. You throw a combination, then they throw a combination,” says Hart.

“It’s not sparring because those combinations are planned, but it allows you to work on spacing in the ring and feel more confident with the contact.”

Hart’s final bit of advice?

“Just go for it!”

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Remember your first sparring experience? Tweet @Reebok to tell us what it was like. 

Spark+slag / juni 2017
Ryan Gwaltney, Global Newsroom