Tag Archives: boxing gym

Trainer Talk: Disney World – Build It in Your Goals

by Al Alvir

More people quit when they don’t have a target goal and an estimated amount of work that needs to be put into reaching those goals.  Most gyms, however, use intangible language: 6 months, 1 year, 2 years, etc.  How fighters perceive time must make sense.

Are your fighters losing focus or quitting at times you don’t expect them to quit?

The problem is not necessarily them.  Did you explain what is needed to reach every individual’s goals in your gym?  Did you even bother to set individual goals?  If not, so much for your individualized training mumbo jumbo.

6 months of training is a lot different for someone training bi-weekly than someone who trains 3x a week.  Also, some people train for 2 hours a day, others only a measly 1 hour.  Intensity of training is another factor that cannot be easily measured.  In mma, splitting up a day for boxing, Muay Thai, and BJJ means more time or more focus needs to be put in.  I’ve seen gyms where fighters stretch separately for each discipline and waste tremendous amounts of energy warming up even when they’ve built heavy sweats.  That’s due to the BS class structure I always criticize. 

In regards to time, if someone had allotted 75 hours of training in 3 years, it would only equal 25 hours a year.  The best way, or the least evil way, for that to allow any retaining of knowledge would be for a person to train for 1 hour every two weeks.  For a full-time professional fighter, 75 hours in 3 years can mean about three days of training a year.  Retaining knowledge in such a way – or the former – is highly unlikely.  Neither way works; it’s just not enough time training.  Ubiquitous studies in academics show that this happens with people when there is a lack of goals and an indefinite time (see achievement goals and educational foundation).  Fighters simply need target goals AND a given time to reach it.  They need a periodic finale… followed by time off.  Then a new goal and a new finale and more time off.  Top professionals’ finales are fights.  For early stage fighters, finales could be almost anything.  It’s up to the trainers to help set that focus.

It is, therefore, necessary to account for hours, days, and frequency (average days between trainings) of supervisional trainings by keeping a detailed log.  Boxing culture doesn’t make this easy, but I don’t mean to take attendance to reward or hold back anyone like a dumb McDojo, but only to account and analyze progression, regression, and how individuals learn.  If a guy shows up 5 times a week for months, any trainer has to figure, “This guy will get burnt out, so I need to set goals and give him a date.”

Note: if there is a fighter who is excelling quickly but with fewer hours and frequency than others, you can assess talent or see what that particular fighter is doing differently. Training at home?  Exceptional learning curve?  Sneaking off to a better gym?

Fighters must take time off.  Training in boxing and mma is more intense than any other pursuit and, like baseball and football, fighters need time away from the gym and ring, their field.  It’s just as important as time in the gym.  Even top pros who typically train 8 intense weeks train throughout the day with long breaks.  It allows them to be more efficient. 

When they win, they go to Disney World just like everyone else.

What Gym Owners Don’t Tell You

By Al Alvir

Gyms are businesses like anything else, and there a very few gyms that put the fighters first.  The number one truth gym owners won’t tell you is that “they don’t care if you quit as long as you keep paying.”  Gym owners actually count on people paying their dues and not attending. 

One of the most common dilemmas that owners face is price planning.  Should they let members pay monthly or pay by the package (multiple months at a time)?  The problem is that people tend to quit whatever pursuits they take up, at least when it comes to martial arts.  So gym owners want to whore their gyms as much as possible – this means taking people’s money who don’t want to be there by forcing people to buy into an idea that may not be for them.  Corrupt gyms don’t offer month to month membership. Yes, I said “corrupt,” and some of the most famous establishments operate this way.  Suppose you go into a gym looking to train for two weeks because you’re in town only for that period.  Many gyms will try to suck the most money out of you by trying to convince you to sign on for a longer time frame and they’ll let you continue once you come back into town.  Or they’ll only offer private training which costs so much more ($50 an hour minimum). Other idiots will just send you off because your two weeks are too short.  Turning anyone down from minimal time in a gym is just bad business, and it does not promote martial arts.  The inner-city boxing gyms that have had the most success – in creating fighters and even in making profit, ironically – tend to allow people to pay a low and reasonable day to day membership.  Most other places, I found, will sell you on all the benefits of being there for their minimum 3-6 month plans.  Some schools require a minimum of 1 year membership.  Supposedly, this is because they don’t want quitters to join.  So why don’t they give refunds to people who decide they don’t want to be there after one month? 

School owners may swear that they only want dedicated martial artists to join, but the corruption lies in the fact that they thrive on people who are not dedicated at all.  Owners actually count on quitters to pay the overhead.  This would be okay if schools offered month to month membership – or even less (i.e. boxing gyms) – but gyms usually try to scam you into paying for months that they don’t even expect you to be attending.  If owners claim that they make contractual pricing of multiple months because they want people to dedicate themselves to a longer amount of time, they are in denial.  An allotted membership based on the long-term is NOT the way to motivate anyone into being there.  The proof is in the numbers; membership retention and turnover are consistent among gyms of all sorts from city to city.  And the most glaring irony is that most of these martial arts gyms operate with restricted schedules that bar certain members from using the gym at other times and other classes.  How the hell does that work out?  A serious fighter usually trains for 3 to 4 hours daily, and many gyms offer one or two ‘classes’ for such a fighter only every other day.  Corollary to that, the best fighters in history had always trained on their own schedules at full time clips of 8 hours daily.  Gyms that don’t recognize this population are simply non-conducive to the serious, real martial artist who wants to be the best.

What most combat gym owners don’t recognize, and that popular sports do recognize, is that the best physical activity is done with breaks.  Football players, baseball players, basketball players, each have training camps and a terminable season and schedule.  The majority of pro-fighters don’t even attend gyms year-round; they go to 8 to10 week training camps for each fight.  Power-lifters, similarly, plan around meets for their more rigorous, “not just maintenance” routines.  “Seasons,” or camps, with significant breaks are essential to avoid burnout.  That’s just the plain truth.

My advice is to sign up with gyms that allow you the freedom to come and go as you please and pay accordingly.  The tell-tale sign of a great gym is the diversity and the strong attendance at any given time.  You’ll see people coming in at odd times just to get a few rounds on a bag or to do stomach work.  You’ll see people come in just to hang out.  You’ll see trainers stop in just to see how it’s going and to give some tips.  If you can’t find a gym like this, pay to attend clinics and training camps. (For more info, read the articles on Personalized Program Training, PPT™.) 

Another gym experience that is severely underestimated by the common martial arts gym owner is a dingy ambiance where years of abuse are visible and finishing touches are only imagined, and where a ring is its centerpiece.  People tend to consciously work harder when a gym consists of used equipment and an organized mess of devices, bags, duct tape, holes in the walls, and at least one ring that makes the sound of an retarded band of bass players when it’s crowded with fighters.  Have you ever been in a martial arts school that has no ring or cage?  It’s awkward.  It can be filled with everything but a ring or cage, and it will still be depressingly empty.  Everyone wants a ring.  The late Al Gavin once said that if you can’t afford a ring [or a cage], “don’t bother opening a gym.”  He said, “Some owners lack the forethought when they presume a ring takes up too much space.”  The thing they miss is that it is space, open space, and it’s the space that everything relies.  Real fighters are drawn to work-out in and around a ring.  Newbies are drawn to learn around a ring that they can watch fighters move around in.  Workouts are enhanced and everyone has a tangible goal to workout to – stepping in the ring to fight.  And sparring is a joke without the boundaries that allow a fight to continue uninterrupted.  And for the pungent smell that separates the finest gyms from the finest havens of artist bourgeoisies, know that it is more than just novelty, and that there is merit in it whether it’s charming to you, meaningless, or just repugnant.  Always remember the saying “sweat begets sweat.”

And nothing makes a gym like its members. Gyms that allow anyone to attend indeed tend to create a more loyal following and indeed better sparring, rather than a small uniformed cult in dress and in complacency.

Know What You’re Getting Into Pt. I

Know What You’re Getting Into by Al Alvir

Boxing, like all combative arts, is not beneficial to just anyone who takes it up.  And it’s only because the majority of people waste their time just to quit.  I’ve seen hundreds of people take up martial arts – from boxing Police Athletic Leagues to traditional dojos – yet never learn any of the simple functions of the given arts.  It’s no wonder that the general population can’t fight a lick and don’t know what a “slip” is, but they can recite pro-ball statistics like idiot savants.  I’d bet that 1 out of 15 people can really defend himself/herself in a fight.  What’s that ratio for the people who pursue learning how to fight?

On the surface, fighting evokes a sense of rebellion.  Some kids want to be looked at as fighters.  They want to make the statement, “I’m tougher than you are.”  But there’s a reason society isn’t made up of fighters.  The training is difficult and it takes dedication.  Anyone could have fun punching people in their faces, but it isn’t so fun to take punches.  In Rocky Balboa, Rocky makes a profound (some may say corny) statement about fighting: “It’s not about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you get hit and keep on coming.”  That sums up fighting to me, even in all the trickiness of the Sweet Science.  So there comes a point when all combat students realize that a day’s training is not mindless fun practice like shooting 500 lay-ups on the basketball court.  Fight training is actually mentally draining, physically torturous, and often downright boring.

Of the small section of the population that pursues combative arts, the majority take up traditional arts like Kung-Fu, Taekwondo, and Karate.  A great number of those traditional schools offer instant gratification, as most instructors coddle their high paying clients.  The schools offer step by step “cookie cutter” instruction, and the sense of belonging of brainwashing cults.  The problem, if it’s not so obvious, is that it does nothing to make anyone fight better.  The ego-stroking of receiving belts, the applause from a Kata exhibition, and the explicit respect from fellow students don’t equal anything necessarily related to ‘fighting better.’  For the traditional gyms that do ensure the proper fighters’ rights of passage, they too see the efflux of non-committed “wastes of time” I call temporary members.  And if you are not taking up martial arts for the greater purpose of fighting better, you have to be honest with yourself: maybe martial arts is not the way to go.

People quit gyms and dojos at a higher rate today than ever.  And it’s not the recession dictating people’s choices – that’s the excuse quitters make while they spend their money on easier habits, be it food or drugs, or whatever.  The out-of-shape men learn that they would rather slack at a fitness club.  Women stick to whatever they want to, but for the most part they just want the most fun, new work-out they could get anywhere; not too hard, not too easy.  Young men watch the UFC and fool themselves into thinking they could do it within their average 2 month span before they dedicate themselves to chasing women.  In my day, desire, or “hunger” as they called it, was what made people stick to fighting.  It was believed that only people who grew up poor became champions (in boxing, it remains the consensus).  Today, boys ultimately figure they would rather be on their computers when they’re not making mockeries of other sports.  Because mockery is the luxury of other sports: you don’t get beat up and you get to enjoy them even if you play them wrong.  In combat, luxury is a sin, and fundamentals are the foundation of a minimal function, survival – even on the lowest amateur level.  There is no frivolity in training, as fighters will spend years committed to honing basics if they have to.

Paying dues is not a fool proof prerequisite even inside the fight gym, however, because many trainees want to learn things like ‘uppercuts’ before they know how to step properly.  Or they just want to B.S., and the goal of “fighting better” is lost.  With the involution of MMA, people want to do everything without putting the necessary repetitive work of mastering anything.  MMA is getting more people in gyms, but the same number end up quitting.  People are just soft nowadays, the age of excess and depthlessness, as they want to try everything just a bit and excel only at the fantasy of possibilities.  But unlike the possibility of becoming the president of the United States because you read page one of the New York Times, sticking to combative arts will be the hardest pursuit of your life, and one of the most fruitful, especially because you could have quit any time.  The easy bet is that you will, like everyone else.