In house scored competitive sparring recs:
In house scored competitive sparring recs:
by Al Alvir
Coming from a background of a mixture of martial arts trumped by boxing, my skepticism on any theoretical training is stark yet open-minded. I’ve done all-out sparring with sticks and wooden knives. I’ve been bruised and cut by sticks and slashed by fake knives, but I hardly respected any of it because it all felt fake. All the reality based martial arts simply don’t have the real combat aspect of boxing. When I did “simulation” of getting robbed, it was missing the biggest aspect of any real-life situation (and most reality based martial arts schools miss this too): the aspect of fear. Even though I wasn’t partaking in meaningless kata or training with a complicit partner, the initial fear of actual combat was only something I could feel in boxing (and kick-boxing) in a ring with no time-outs and no signal to end the action other than an injury or the bell. Stick-fighting with protective suits and metal cage helmets made no sense to me either. My brother, a world champion stick fighter, apparently beat me all the time. I always thought I was getting the better of him, and I’m sure I was wrong, but that’s how phony the training felt. I never really knew when I was being hit in the head, and I thought I hit him thousands of times more than he hit me. Furthermore, I never could fathom fighting with sticks in the street in any circumstance. Some of my early sparring boxing experiences shared the same chaos, but when you get bloody from being punched repeatedly, you find out what little things you could do to survive. When I finally got a real coach to correct me, I found out there was much more to it. And when it comes to knives, every single training drill is theoretical or it’s incapable of being assessed anyway; the two ways of fighting is either from the outside trying to cut up the knife hand or mindless close-quarter violence while trying to disable the knife hand. Such pandemonium seems pointless to train anyway. It would be like training how to run away for cover under fire. Or training to fight 10 guys at a time. Sure, there are some good techniques and practices, but what much is there to train? Especially without simulation and discernible liability.
Recently, I did a training course in Carbine shooting. It indeed takes skills to shoot guns of any sort, but the most duress anyone would feel in this sort of training is raising one’s heart rate. The need to shoot from various angles, crawling, and with people yelling at you does train one’s dexterity in target shooting, but it is nothing minutely close to the feeling of danger. It didn’t throw me off or bother me in any way. I vomited at the end of the last course, but it was purely from trying harder than anyone there at having the best time while being tremendously out of shape (the hardest part was the sprint and jumping-jacks). And I still had the second best time after being the only one of who had a gun-jam that added time to my run (my fat ass would have had the best time by over 22 seconds if my gun didn’t jam). My point is that it felt like a bunch of guys in a karate class. None of us seemed to be accomplishing what we may have thought we were accomplishing. I just wanted to learn technique and strategy which I could have learned in a private session with more rounds and fewer hours. But I, too, was deluded to believe I’d get a feel of what live action may be like. If I thought I got that after the joy of busting guns, a few hours later I realized I was wrong. I need someone shooting at me, seriously.
The problem with all this type of weapons training is the lack of danger involved. When you get robbed (unfortunately, I have been robbed by ambush or the threat of weapon[s] as an adolescent in the 1990’s New York City over 14 times) or when you get into what you think is a life or death street altercation, you feel a fear that cannot be deliberately replicated. The closest feeling to anything that gives that fight or flight response is getting into an actual one to one fight after planning to meet somewhere (usually outside of the bar), but none of the courses that deal with weapons even offer the slightest simulation to a fight or flight feeling. People are often too scared to “step outside,’ so they end up throwing punches inside the bar where it’s a little safer, more immediate, and probably wouldn’t last as long. The nerves of a street-fight can only be replicated in a small way if you’re about to spar in a striking art when you aren’t used to it. Wrestling/grappling isn’t the least bit scary unless you are a true sissy. There’s just something about getting punched in the face that orders danger.
I’m a proponent to sport training in regards to any pursuit because you are testing your skills in a controlled environment with material standards. It’s arguable that sport-trained shooters will act better in an real-life active-shooter scenario than many of these white-collared, weekend warriors, who run all sorts of tactical drills really based only on target shooting – because the sport shooters test themselves under a true set of standards after practicing and qualifying. Maybe a paintballer has a greater chance of acting appropriately in war or combat than someone trained in self-defense gun training because a paintballer trains against skilled opponents returning shots. The thing about any sport training – from Taekwondo to Judo to Kickboxing to paintball – it ultimately can’t be cheated or lied on; it’s appreciable. Sport training is the opposite of theory, and theoretical combat is too often hypothetical combat. A sport trained shooter proves himself in a controlled environment against people who are trying to beat him. He has to react instantly and decisively. He’s testing himself on someone else’s command and within a model of spectators and judges. It’s a little more serious than practicing in the shower. Yes, competition shooting is not real combat, but being a part of one-day class doing a bunch of drills is also a controlled environment in which they do not consistently practice and they are not in conditions that have a standard to test themselves against or to test their improvement compared to other people. Maybe I’m wrong, but the gun course business seems like a good money-making scheme with unsustainable results for its practitioners. The practice is, in obvious fact, not included. These courses are informative and introductory, but competitive shooting emphasizes practice. Corollary, I would never recommend a one-day crash course in boxing training. It would be a waste of time.
What, without fearful consequences, is generally the best kind of training for shootout training, meaning one person with a gun versus one or more people with guns? A hunter, a paintball/airsoft player, a marksman target shooter, a competitive shooter, or someone who does tactical training? Maybe each training should be done in order to be a better soldier or a better man in a shootout. I tend to side with what gives the best simulation and accountability. Hunting and marksmanship from stationary positioning often have stationary targets, so this offers little simulation, but their accountability is in harvesting their prey. Paintball/airsoft players get the accountability because they play a win-lose game, but it is arguable that the simulation is not quite translatable to actual firearms. Marksmen may not get any of the simulation of actual combat, but they sure can account for their performances on a daily basis. A competitive shooter gets the most simulation and the accountability of being tested. Tactical trainees get the most simulation without real accountability; the classes have no basis for consistently testing. And live practicing on one’s own isn’t so available or legal – that’s why competitive shooting teams are choice places to become better at arms. Not having any form of accountability is one of the most dangerous facets of any martial pursuit. It makes it almost make-believe. Improving would hardly be accomplished. Imagine if paintball players had no discernible way (perhaps no winner, no loser, no pain, no paint) to assess performance – it would be like my experience in stick-fighting. Sure, it’s practicing, but what the hell am I practicing for? What skills do I need improvement on? Where am I running to? What is my real world goal? These should be questions asked by any gunman. We, gunmen, just seem too much like dweebs who live in a pretend world. Afraid. But without the means or wills to simulate frightening situations. If shooting guns were martial arts, we seem to be more Aikido practitioners than Thai Boxers. We seem to want to spar with bare fists and not really punch rather than spar with gloves and feel real hits.
As for now, I will continue to partake in some gun courses, but my instinct is that this all would have a better pay-off if there were a way to test the skills. There needs to have the sustainability that a school offers so people can practice often. The best option, therefore, seems to be competitive shooting. I like guns. I like shooting. But I am not afraid of a damn thing related to me wanting to shoot. I just like the idea of guns. And until I find simulation training courses that I can attend on a weekly basis and test myself under duress, I’m going to have to stay “make believe,” too. Just like too many forms of karate.
Unfortunately, without giving its practitioners fear and live training, all the forms of shooting practice and all the pro-gun circles may be losing out on the type of people who may be the best possible shooters: real fighters.
sidenote: The majority of fighters I’ve known tend to not like the idea of hunting either, because it seems too safe and unfair to them. That’s for a later article…
by Al Alvir
As someone whose sporting history has tied in with an education background, I am continuously perplexed by the ubiquitous lack of sports coaching following the standards of scholarly pursuits. In boxing especially, fighters can only be grateful to have coaches who care and who communicate the art well enough – I’ve had very good coaches who did just that. But just that.
What low standards that is in this age in which writing communication is a part of our everyday lives.
It is already so that boxing coaches never had to be educated, but it should be obvious that great coaches should share the standards of great educators of any field.
Here are some characteristics of the most effective teachers, and boxing coaches should put forth no less. This list is from greatschools.org:
by Al Alvir
If there were boxing Gods, all powerful judges overlooking every aspect of the art of boxing, what would They think about it? The quality of boxing has arguably never been up to a standard worthy of Gods. Regretfully, boxing may have never been up to a standard of itself. With all the basic tenets and fundamentals of boxing, why do most boxers neglect them?
The apogee of boxing has always been about 10 to 15 people in the history of boxing out of hundreds of thousands of boxers. After those 15 or so fighters, we have countless generations of intermediate and inferior boxers. Of the 10 to 15 men who exuded the major fundamentals of boxing, have you seen them get hit doing things de facto dumb? Looking back at some of those 15 people, why do you think they got hit so much? Do you think they should have or could have avoided being hit as much as they did?
The practical problem is that boxing is entertainment and boxing at its pinnacle, by conventional definition, the art of hitting and not being hit, is not a violent and exciting rumble. Boxing at it’s very best, in any generation, is akin to Mayweather v. Pacquiao I. Boxing at its best, is loathsome to most spectators. The ubiquitous dueling of fighters going blow for blow– albeit all heart – is what we all remember. It’s why Gatti-Ward gets more credit than any Mayweather fight for being considered a great fight.
5 of the most popular fights in history were all wars. These are widely considered the “greatest”: Hagler-Hearns, Diego Corrales-Jose Castillo, Dempsey-Firpo, Pryor-Arguello, and of course Ali-Frazier III. It’s noted that these fights each exhibited the best part of a fighter – his will. Will versus will is a recipe for drama like nothing else. None of the greatest fights, however, exhibited genius. Genius vs. genius presents us something else that maybe only a jaded boxing coach could respect. There’s some thinking and minimal intelligence in the bouts above (early, perhaps, before dulled fracas), but it cannot be argued that there was genius displayed in any of these greatest fights of all time. Intelligence in boxing is a factor that is displayed before the deepest parts of “will” can manifest. Genius, therefore, the most sustainable factor if present, must only be displayed in boxing when will does not come into play. My point is that the art of boxing has a paradox that most people seem to not care about; that is, greatness in the world of boxing does not care about genius at all, rather the will of the man is what people adore.
This is what undermines boxing as a whole, because what exists of boxing (the fights themselves) is simply not as impeccable as the science and theory intends. Obviously, as a coach, I care deeply about the will of my fighters, because without it, they would not make it far in boxing. The will embodies “the fight.” The culture of boxing is dead without it. But acumen is absolutely what the art of boxing is about.
As an active member of amateur boxing in the US, I see terrible skills on a monthly basis, across the country, and in all major tournaments. Open and pro boxers have come to me not knowing how to block right hands “because they know how to slip.” Accomplished fighters I’ve known had not a semblance of the function of basic mechanics – why do we pivot, why do we turn our hands over, why do we step before we slide, etc. At an AIBA 1-Star coaching certification class, an ex-olympian couldn’t give two examples of how to not get hit with a right hand to the body. I can offer dozens of anecdotal references to how uneducated and un-studied boxing people are. The negligence is a common cross-section of boxing, and I’m sorry, not anomalies. The people who are full of shit roar in boxing.
Boxing people can give great quotes about how boxing is a sweet science. They can do fancy mitt routines and repeat some hackneyed instructions. But a lot of the successful boxers who grow up in this culture tend to just punch well. They shoeshine on a whim and seem to have go to moves that they execute like they “count to three and go on three.” Some of the highest ranked fighters get hit during every combination and just try to race and outgun opponents. I’ve seen little pee-wee’s beating each other’s brains in, perhaps because they will learn defense if they don’t bleed on their brains first. The art of counter-punching is limited to shoulder-rolls and lean-backs because they are in style due to the follower nature of people (that is all they got from Mayweather’s genius). For each of the Andre Wards, Bernard Hopkins, Floyd Mayweathers, Guillermo Rigondeaux’s, and Vasyl Lomachenkos, there are 30 contenders with all the talent in the world and none of the info. There are countless numbers more of boxers without any talent whatsoever.
I never claim to say I have all the info, but at least I implore fundamentals, and I’m not going to stand idle while my fighters prepare to slur their speech.
by Al Alvir
Teddy Atlas took Cus D’Amato’s Willie Bag invention and ran to the bank with it when he sold the idea to Everlast. Boxing is filled with tools for learning that have lasted many decades, possibly centuries. Cus developed some strange number system and made the Willie Bag to prepare Jose Torres for Willie Pastrano. The evaluation line, the slipbag, slip lines (ropes), the jab plank, the floor-to-ceiling bag (double-end bag), etc., have been incorporated in boxing, but it’s unclear to whom we owe the ideas. Trainers often take other people’s ideas and create their own systems – few have cashed-in like Atlas – without a dab of recognition to Cus D’Amato I must add.
Ringside Boxing is another company that was known for making really unique devices to keep boxing training fresh. They made a bag that was attached to surgical tube that bounced in all different directions – I even cloned it with the help of an assistant coach, and gym-members started calling it the Onion (due to the reddish-purple tape) or the Swee’ Pea in regard to Pernell Whitaker for his unpredictable movement. Trainers consistently borrow new ways of teaching to forward to their fighters.
At Eastern Queens Boxing Club (EQBC), I created two devices. One is in the process of being patented and the other is being made for distribution. One is the “Slip-Pipe” (patent-pending) a swinging pipe that hangs from a ceiling parallel to the floor and swings so boxers can use it to slip and bob and weave while it moves. Think of it like slip-lines that swing. The other tool I call “The Boxing Footwork Grid” (so unoriginal, I know, but in boxing we tend to call things as they are – very little embellished). It is a box system that I created to teach new boxers the proper foot positioning and the proper footwork for boxing. In the gym, I have a grid of numbered taped squares on the floor so boxers can practice the steps with a fixed and guided pattern that is exactly the way one would step in a fight. Once a boxer learns the steps, he could change the distances in his strides without losing his stance. It’s a simple solution, but it took a lot of trial and error and struggles with teaching people how to stand. Before this I used to tape footprints to the floor, but the footprints didn’t work for little kids. The Footwork Grid works for anyone.
Another tool I have made part of the teaching system at EQBC is written routines on the wall that have been tried and tested over my years of boxing and innovated from the haphazard commands of trainers. The routines work like lists on the wall with optional replacements. It’s no different from how educated trainers coach their young, but it is self-managing. It leaves no room for a boxer in a crowded gym to not know what he has to do next.
Trainers around the world also have their number systems, but the one that evolved at EQBC is consistent from head to toe. The basic punches are numbered 1-6 (this had been coincidentally created by vast numbers of trainers). When I first found out another coach had devised the same number system, I was baffled until I looked at it more honestly – it is an obvious number system. One thing that was not so obvious to others was my initiation of adding 11-16 to indicate the basic six punches to the body. Head-movement is also consistent to “spots” that are odd and even. And the lateral steps are also compatible with “odd” and “even” movement. This makes all the communication exponentially easier, and it makes learning more accommodating. These are also basics of boxing. It doesn’t change the way people box, rather it has changed the way people learn.
Throughout my many years involved in boxing, I’ve studied under many coaches. I used to keep a notebook during my training years. I’ve learned that simplification is the most toilsome duty, essential in boxing. So many trainers make their boxers do things, and understand those things for themselves, but the boxers tend to not ever find out how to translate, explain, or process, and they tend to not know the reasoning to their moves. Good athletes can know exactly how and when to do things in action, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find any athlete who can breakdown the process and simplify to relegate to different people. How do you develop feints? What are the beats that you use to counter? Why are some spots “safe spots” and others not?
Every next year in this game, I realize how little I knew the last. But one constant is that the best ways of teaching is to habitually adjust, innovate and simplify.
Good teachers don’t make things seem more intricate than it is; in something that is already so intricate, only bad egos do that.
* Ethical coaches also don’t steal ideas and sell it as their own.
By Al Alvir
There should be a new statistic considered in boxing: the Asterisk.
Baseball has argued the idea of adding an asterisk to its record books because of all the alleged steroid use among its players. The slippery slope might make someone argue that teams’ wins and losses might need asterisks too. Bad calls by the officials in boxing, however, are not reviewed the way great performances are. In boxing, next to fighters’ records of wins, losses, ko’s, decisions, and draws, there should be an asterisk to signify and quantify whatever number of those fights were controversial to the effect that the outcome, out of the fighters’ control, had a reasonable possibility of being completely reversed. The asterisk could indicate a fighter’s wins that were close decisions, bad calls by referees affecting the scoring, lucky come-from-behind TKOs, split decisions, etc. And in this manly art we don’t cosign excuses for losing, but we surely should recognize the rationale in not really winning. So the asterisk will only stand for wins (otherwise, fighters might embellish their asterisks as built in excuses every time their records are announced). Meaning, a fighter with 35-4-2-*7, one can say he clearly and mathematically won 28 fights. Of course, controversy is almost too difficult to argue by its nature, and an asterisk cannot address bad unanimous decisions or one corrupt judge.
In a sport in which championships don’t necessarily indicate being the best or beating the best, and it certainly does not indicate earning title shots by winning a streak of fights up the ranks, at least a new statistic could tell a story. Was Rocky Marciano really undefeated if you consider an asterisk?
SAFO Group has tried and tested my equation to qualify or disqualify unanimous decisions within boxing’s 10 Point Must System. I named it the Fair-Draw Asterisk Solution (FDAS). This way all wins in boxing will be as fairly rated as they possibly could be.
FDAS = If (swing rounds x 3) > or = (scorecard 1 margin) + (scorecard 2 margin) + (scorecard 3 margin), the fight must be considered a “Fair Draw”
So, in lieu of complete fairness (and the rare 10-10 round), FDAS is the closest thing to anything remotely fair, as it is based on factual numbers and sanctioned contest numbers. Swing-rounds are rounds that are so close that they can be subjectively judged in favor of either fighter. To quantify what a swing-round is, FDAS defines it as any round that is not unanimously scored in favor of one fighter by the 3 official judges. Any swing-round, therefore, can be scored +3/-3 for either fighter – that’s the swing part; it can swing one way or the other, subjectively, if something was viewed differently.
Fair-Draw Asterisks are afforded to all split decisions and all fights that are proven by the FDAS solution.
Fighter 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Total
Scorer ______ Date ______
Fighter 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Total
Scorer ______ Date ______
Fighter 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Total
Scorer ______ Date ______
*Also, round 1 was scored differently, but it is not a swing-round because one fighter was the agreed winner.
It is so unfair that so many major fights of history could have had a different outcome if only one judge scored one round differently. Is that fair? Since judgment is the basis for scores—rather than actual points or tangible evidence—without unanimity it is only fair to “draw” when considering ethically and logically. This is why grave matters in politics require unanimity for decisions.
I stress that this asterisk won’t change anyone’s record. It just puts a little spit on it. And it is not subjective. That makes it awesome. This way, three assholes have to score a fight bad for any bad decision to take place. The FDAS just determines that close fights, when viewed differently, can fairly be considered a draw… just considered. Of course the solution doesn’t overrule bad judges, but it forces the judges to a fair agreement (factually and mathematically.) Also, because a swing round becomes a drawn round, this puts real weight onto the other rounds. It puts fate into the fighters’ hands to get everyone’s agreement. The only opposition to FDAS is that the controversy of unfair decisions can be considered good for sales. This solution, however, will prove fighters’ dominance.
It might also prove that sales are a bunch of BS too.
by Rick Brandoff
Disclaimer: Below is not necessarily a reflection of the beliefs of Eastern Queens Boxing Club, its members, its coaches, or the owner and of Shootafairone.com
Open Letter to USA Boxing amd AIBA:
Our amateur boxing system is filled with honest, hardworking volunteers and professionals who give what they can to the amateur careers of our kids and to the advancement of our sport. There are, however, embarrassing issues that plague us. What makes it ever so cringingly painful is that the issues seem to be capable of easy fixes. They’re such easy fixes that the growing feeling of members is that USA Boxing doesn’t give a speckle of an iota about the problems. People reduce the ignorance to being “business as usual.”
The three problems that our boxers and their families and friends tangibly know too well within USA Boxing are:
1) Fighter No-shows to Scheduled Bouts
2) Judges lack uniform competence or integrity. The scoring needs to be fixed.
3) Disorganization. The typical standards of other organizations are virtually non-existent in USA Boxing.
Fighter No-Shows are an easily avoidable nuisance. This happens all too often in boxing. Show promoters have to over-schedule just to insure having a bout card. To avoid this, and to instill accountability, a boxer must submit his/her boxing passbook in order to confirm a bout. If he does not show-up in time for weigh-in, or if he is not at his agreed-upon weight and the coaches do not agree to let the fight occur, the boxer must be suspended for 30-90 days and fined.
Judges lack uniform competence or integrity. There are no detailed standards for scoring fights, period. Judges cannot possibly know exactly what they are looking for or looking at – this may sound like a hasty judgment, but the proof is in the disparity of scores in given bouts. Draws, therefore, are only fair outcomes. It is ludicrous that draws are non-existent in amateur boxing. Hypothetically, if two fighters do identically the same things in a fight, how can a draw not be allowed possible? There is also a glaring conflict of interest as there exist many judges and referees who are affiliated to boxing clubs – even as coaches. This sort of conflict of interest is unheard of in the American Judicial System – jury members can’t even know about a famous person on trial. Why should boxing allow any of this sort of faux-pas?
The disorganization of USA Boxing is unfathomable. One boxer’s mother at a show noted to me, “They are all uneducated, irresponsible, over-the-hill street kids, rude with brute stupidity.” This is not what I want boxing to be about. I wouldn’t want my kids involved in this either, if that were truly the case. I don’t believe it is the case of USA Boxing as a whole, but there are valid points. Why are certain rules in place? Why are draws not done beforehand in any of our local tournaments? Why is there so much political he say/she say, who’s having sex with who, unseating of Presidents, etc? Why are promoter’s sons fighting on their own cards? Why are our tournaments not bracket structures? Why are email bout notices sent to fighters only and are sometimes two or three day notices only? And now coaches can’t appeal/protest or review scorecards. Where is the accountability? Where is the transparency? I have the strong belief that a cornerman should be allowed to retrieve scores in between rounds to notify his fighter (not the audience). This is the one aspect of drama undermined in boxing and available in all other sports. If you disagree, you sure can’t prove it either. So why not try it? First and foremost, rules are in place to be adhered to. Unlike other organizations, USA Boxing has a convoluted checks and balances that often start with a broken rule and ends up with one person saying, “that’s how it is.” I guess it’s complacent corruption, “business as usual.”
Below is an excerpt from a piece written by Coach Al Alvir of EQBC from which I’ve discussed some ideas:
“USA Boxing Judges are Ruining Boxers’ Careers.
The classiest boxing teams don’t complain about poorly scored decisions. We remain poker-faced when we believe the scorers have misjudged. But what are the repercussions of injustice? Where is the accountability for negligence or incompetence?
Moreover, what happens when numerous bad decisions fall upon promising boxers who become ruined by one-sided, blatantly wrong decisions?
As the head coach of a USA Boxing Club, I’ve kept my cool about innumerous bad decisions. I assure you, I am not that guy who leads scenes raving about judges’ incapabilities. Everyone knows. I know that bias is a coach’s natural reservation, so I accept what we get. But one giant, loaded, bantamweight straw has broke the camel’s back. Yesterday, a fighter of mine found himself on his 4th straight inconceivable loss. Coaches wanted to appeal. Fathers wanted to riot. Opposing coaches offered their apologies. The least action I could do is review it and consult with authorities.
I don’t expect – though it may be deserved – a reversal of a judgment. I do expect AIBA and USA Boxng to make some real efforts to change what’s happening. Fighters’ parents will start to pull their kids from our programs. Some more talent will be forfeited to basketball and football, as has been the case for decades in America. This can all happen even if any of us are wrong simply because there is no consistency.
First, judges need to be accountable. They need to have their records tracked, as is done in the pros. Second, judges need to have an objective standard as to what they are looking for. There must be a “written law” or rulebook detailing what judges are to look for. What’s out now is not enough. Boxing is much more complicated than a hip rotation and a turn-over of a fist. Third, judges must not have any affiliations with boxing clubs.
My suggestion is to create a council for “Judging Judges.” If any coach wants to submit a formal protest, he must fill-out a proper form and write his review of a fight along with film footage. Then an appropriate USA Boxing official reviews the judges’ decisions along with the footage. If a judge under review is deemed to have been incompetent or lacking integrity, appropriate measures should be taken, including the removal of an official from amateur boxing.
Maybe I’m wrong, but I only hope that the powers that be recognize they can be, just as much.”
(see “The Fair-Draw Asterisk” on shootafairone.com).