People have started Muay Thai and boxing in Brisbane as a way of keeping their workouts from getting boring. Brisbane boxing gym owners will tell you that they frequently receive phone calls from people saying that they are sick of going to a normal gym and want to mix up their training, and boxing really is a great way to do that, but any good fighter and trainer knows that the key to being a successful fighter lies in the repetition of the training.
I am a boxer, a Muay Thai fighter, and an occasional BJJ practitioner. I consider myself to have a good level of fitness, but one thing that tires me like nothing else is swimming. Maybe once or twice a year I will go to the local 50m pool to swim laps as a way of mixing up my cardio training, and there will be old overweight people casually swimming lap after lap. I jump in and swim one or two 50m lengths and I need a short rest to catch my breath before attempting another. Why can I swim for only a few minutes before needing a rest, when someones grandma can just cruise through the pool for several consecutive laps and not be phased?
This is where the importance of repetition comes into play. The person who swims at the pool multiple times a week is going to have a better technique, better rhythm, be more relaxed, and waste less energy when they are swimming, where someone like me will be thrashing around in an attempt to propel themselves forward wasting a huge amount of energy with very little gain. Of course, this serves its purpose in making me tired, but they have applied the same principle to their swimming as what I try to apply to my fighting: minimum effort for maximum results.
If you do a particular movement enough times, your body will begin to find a way to do that movement more efficiently and effectively. Often times, unintentionally.
One could draw the conclusion that the grandma has great technique from lessons she took many years ago, and it isn’t just repetition that gave her the ability to swim without consuming so much energy, but it was a coach that showed her a technique that made her able to swim this way. There is a good chance that this could be true, but I also had lessons 3 times a week for many years when I was much younger, so why have I lost my ability to swim like I used to be able to? Because I have only repeated my technique a few times a year for the last 15 years.
Without repetition, it is very hard to retain a technique you learn, and this is why professional athletes still practise basic techniques. If a professional boxer were to go 1 year without throwing a punch, he would be crazy to take a fight on short notice, even if he had maintained his fitness through ways other than boxing training. The footwork, timing, power, speed, and the reflexes would have regressed such a long way without the repetitive punching practice, that the boxer would feel very uncomfortable in a fight after such a long break.
Although a coach is important when it comes to perfecting technique, a lot can be gained from practising a movement without ever being shown how to do it, even if you are practising it the “wrong” way. If you practice throwing any movement over and over, your muscles will strengthen in ways specific to this movement, and your body will make minor adjustments to the technique automatically, to allow you to generate more power and speed to this movement while conserving energy. It may look completely different to how a professional does it, but it will start to become much harder and faster after a few weeks of practice. This is why a kick in Muay Thai, karate, and tae-kwon-do all look very different, but all can have very fast and very strong kicks after being practised time and time again.
Most people doing the boxing classes for fun or fitness will experience some repetition, but still, experience enough variety in the training that they shouldn’t get bored with it. But for those people looking to be a fighter one day and want to expand on their training, my advice is to start practising specific movements until you are sick of doing them, then practice them some more!
Ben Johnston – TFC head trainer.
“I fear not the man who has practised 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practised one kick 10,000 times.” – Bruce Lee