28 people packed in our humble 1190 square foot abode yesterday to learn some nuances about holding focus mitts.
As a competitive boxer, mitts were a stressful experience for me. I put a ton of pressure on myself to be good at them, to do them right. Before my fights, I’d have internal meltdowns if I didn’t hit them perfectly. I felt the impeding doom of what was to come if I couldn’t snap out of the crappy connections with each blow delivered. In short, I felt like an inadequate boxer every time I hit the mitts.
After I retired, and took on more individual clients to train in boxing, I realized how much people wanted the mitts. It made them feel realistic, more like a competitive boxer. It made them feel good and attended to. I forced myself to hold them round after round after round, trying to understand the mystery of the joys others felt that I did not.
When Jen and I ventured out on to our own as coach and boxer, we didn’t have a gym or a place to hang a heavy bag and we had to be creative in the spaces we found to work. I hadn’t yet found Pratt Park. I did however own a pair of focus mitts. We used yoga blocks for cones and whenever we could, we used a heavy bag that was more of an afterthought at Seattle Bouldering Project.
We prepared for Nationals on mitt work, footwork and sparring in unorthodox locations and that was it. It was then that I started formulating how I thought mitts should be used in a realistic way to prepare a fighter for their bouts.
There are a million ways to hold them and there are a million ways coaches implement them in practice. I didn’t want to be like a million. I wanted them to be useful….to make a difference in the reality of a fight. I wanted what we practiced with mitts to be implemented in the fight. I didn’t just want to just look cool for the 2 minute training reel montage.
For me, in the predicament with Jen of having less than stellar training conditions, I wanted to make the use of mitts impeccable. I needed them to be efficient, skill producing and habit changing. I began holding them very close to my face and chin and encouraged Jen to punch to me as the target. I was the casualty of more than one ricochet or mis-timed catch. Sometimes I even wore my mouthguard while holding mitts so I could lessen the accidental connection impact. After thousands of rounds of holding mitts, I found the beginnings of a style that suited me and what I was looking for in my boxers’ training.
Once I opened Arcaro and started getting more competitive boxers I had to revisit my relationship to mitts. I didn’t want mitts to give them a false sense of accomplishment. So, in my stubborn way, I just refused to hold mitts at all. I made them all stick to heavy bag, shadow box, footwork, speed bag and double end bag. I felt like folks were more addicted to how mitts felt and I wanted them to get very comfortable feeling horribly uncomfortable. I also really needed to figure out how was I going to implement mitt work with so many more people without debilitating my body. How was I going to determine who earned the time with me on mitt work and how much of it should I use in preparation?
I can be very salty in my directness and opinions and I am grateful for my competitive boxers following my lead and being patient with me as I figure out how I want training to go. I appreciate their trust of the process it takes to perfect training methods.
I started working with Functional Patterns to address the imbalances in my body and heal my shoulder and this work has allowed me to handle holding mitts more consistently. Over the past few months, I have refined even more the way I hold mitts with competitive boxers and am feeling like I see our training transferring over to their sparring sessions more consistently I am finding the balance in using all the gym apparatuses and drills to produce a balanced fighter.
Out of this refinement process the Focus Mitt Workshop was born and it will continue to develop. It was empowering to watch you all improve on how you held the mitts…..how you were more engaged and efficient! Thank you all for your passion for learning and your participation. More will continue to come!