Global Training Report

Presents

Championship Streetfighting

Boxing as a Martial Art

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By Ned Beaumont

Reviewed by Roberto  Pedreira

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Eleven chapters. 198 pp including bibliography. Line drawings.

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Why Boxing?

Ned gets to his point quickly. Because g boxingc.works, and it works better than most Asian martial arts.h Ned doesnft have anything against judo, Tai chi, karate, kung fu, and taekwondo. These are ok for developing mental discipline, spiritual perfection, and as hobbies, he says, but for reigning supreme in bar brawls and cellblock riots, boxing is the art of choice. 

Actually, Ned spends the first chapter justifying boxing. In order not to alienate the Asian martial arts gstylistsh among his potential readers, he recommends supplementing whatever you have already done with boxing. Basically, he says, any style will work if you are good enough. The first chapter is actually pretty incoherent. Ned seems unsure what position he wants to take vis-a-vis the Asian martial arts. If you need to be convinced that boxing works, maybe this book wonft do it for you. However, if you already suspect that boxing skills do have their place in genuine personal unarmed gcombath, then this book can serve a useful purpose. It is a fairly reliable and reasonably comprehensive guide to the science and sport of boxing.

Principles of the Ring and of the Street explains more specifically why boxing rules. The reasons are that boxing teaches you how to control your aggression, how to use momentum to produce power, how to take a punch, and how to put together combinations. Ned exaggerates when he says that boxers spar almost every workout and implies that the sparring is full contact. Neither is true. Sparring is a small part of a boxerfs training and it is rarely full contact. It is simply too damaging to do it frequently. You would, as they say gleave your fight in the gymh. There is no substitute for having the experience of taking punches. But it is not true that the more punches you take the better you will get at taking them. On the contrary, taking punches makes you less rather than more able to take punches. What taking a few--not a lot of--punches does is remove the surprise factor and motivate you to learn ways to minimize the number of punches you do take and to minimize the impact of those that you canft avoid. Boxers donft like getting hit anymore than anyone else does. Probably less, since they know what it feels like and typically get hit a lot harder than the average person ever does.

Gloves and Bare Fists deals with the subject of protecting the hands and wrists, something that is taken very seriously in a boxing gym. One bad wrap job can ruin a fighter's career and hitting something with unwrapped hands is unthinkable, an algorithm for disaster. Ned gives us a short history lesson in this chapter. Youfve heard of the old time fighters, who were tough, and unlike the current crop of pantywaists, who think 10 rounds is a lot, these old timers fought fights of 40, 50, 60 and more rounds. Of course, the rules were a bit different. Rounds were not three minutes but rather ended whenever a boxer touched the ground, which could happen a lot because wrestling was permitted. If a fighter did go down, he had 30 seconds to get back up and be ready to resume. Moreover, since the fighters did not wear gloves, they tended to avoid hitting hard, bony body parts, like elbows and skulls. (If you watch film of any fight before the Dempsey era, you might be surprised at how few punches actually get thrown). By the time John L. Sullivan lost his heavyweight crown to Gentleman Jim Corbett in 1892, the Marquis of Queensbury rules were in effect and fighters protected their hands with gloves. In the remainder of the chapter Ned explains how to make a fist, how to wrap the hands, and how to land the punch. The first is somewhat ironic because it is in karate classes that you learn how to make a fist. With the hand wrapped and a thumbless glove on, you frankly canft make a proper, anatomically stable fist. The tape primarily keeps the fingers curled in tight (necessary to avoid snapping the delicate phalanges and exploding the metacarpals with a powerful impact), and the wrist straight (to avoid tearing the ligaments). There are many ways to wrap and Ned shows one of them. It should be noted that the primary purpose of the wrap is to gather up all 19 (in each hand) small bones (the five metacarpals and fourteen phalanges), so that together they have enough mass to resist the impacts that will come when the punch lands, and to bind up the 8 small bones (the carpals) that constitute the wrist so that they do not explode on impact. The junction of the distal end of the ulna and the carpum are also wrapped to prevent excessive flexion.

Every karate man knows to land his punch on the two largest knuckles, and does knuckle push-ups to strengthen his wrist, which will be in an awkward position as a result. Ned thinks this is wrong and cites the support of Jack Dempsey for a gthree knuckle landingh. This yields more power, a slightly longer range, and a more stable wrist. It is precisely the way boxers land punches when they have gloves on. The only problem that I can see is that it is impossible to do it without gloves.

The Physics and Psychology of Power Punching. Therefs no secret to punching hard. Itfs all physics. Of course, you have to understand human anatomy to apply the physics. But once you do that, youfll be able to hit with power. (Obviously, there is more to knocking tough opponents out than merely punching hard, and that is where the science of boxing comes in). The physics of punching hard can be summed up very succinctly: Force is the product of mass and velocity (more concretely in this example, of weight and speed), so the maximum force you can generate is ultimately limited by how much mass (your own bodyweight) you can put into motion, and how fast you can do it. Obviously, velocity does not mean speed alone, but rather speed and direction. So part of the process is making sure youfre moving your weight in the right direction, which of course, even if it doesnft always exactly seem that way (to the novice at least, in the case of hooks), is in the direction of your target. Ned describes the various ways boxers move their weight (basically, by stepping, twisting, and shifting). 

In this and in every chapter, Ned illustrates his points with historical anecdotes. He caps off the chapter with hints on how to use visualization to build killer instinct. Ned believes that knocking an opponent cold is the best way to deal with a street confrontation. The reader will have to be the judge of that. The fact that Ned Beaumont told you to do it will not help you at all if your case goes to court (anticipating this, the publisher and author include not just one but two separate disclaimers: gThis book is for academic study onlyh.)

Stance and Guard teaches how to stand and where to have your hands (the short answer is, guph). Stance is an often misunderstood concept, as Ned rightly mentions. It isnft a static position, as in a kung fu pose, but rather a configuration of body parts that permits both protection and mobility. Stance is an individual matter. It depends on your body type, your boxing style, your opponentfs style, and the physical environment. You create your own stance through trial and error in practice, Ned says.

Straight Punches deals with jabs and crosses. The subject of the jab deserves a whole book to itself. Ned does a pretty good job explaining the uses and varieties of the jab. Every boxing trainer will tell you that the jab is the most important punch. It is the first one they teach you. Possibly for one reason, it is the only punch that seems to make intuitive sense when thrown from the proper hands up position. If you look at old fight film, youfll see guys, even such supposedly scientific boxers as Jim Corbett, with their left hands down, apparently protecting their thighs. The punch they threw with their left hand was a kind of a swing and no one threw deliberate mixed combinations. Fights tended to be long and drawn out, with the fighters usually out of range. Once in a while, one would leap in with a single shot, usually a haymaker. The idea of creating openings for heavy shots by using light shots, and throwing a continuous stream of punches didnft exist back then. No one knows who invented the jab but whoever it was, he was a genius. Even light jabs can hurt and unbalance your opponent, and as Jack Johnson said, a man canft do much to you when you have your left hand constantly in his face. Ned recommends landing the jab with the thumb turned up.

Hooks and Uppercuts deals with punches that are delivered with a bent elbow. In addition to hooks and uppercuts, this category also includes a variation, dubbed by Jack Dempsey the gshovel hookh. The shovel hook is a mixture of hook and uppercut, delivered to the body. In terms of limiting your criminal liabilities and risk to your own hands, this is a great punch for self defense purposes, and the fact that it is administered at close range is another plus. Ned rounds out the chapter with a cursory discussion of in-fighting.

Combinations and Related Matters. Ned describes a bunch of one, two, and three punch combinations. After the third punch, the future becomes unpredictable, so it doesnft really pay to plan out longer combinations, Ned claims. Ifm not sure. If you work on combinations of seven or eight punches, even though your opponent may interrupt the sequence by running, clinching, or even counterpunching, you will still be able to execute it when he doesnft do any of those. What if you only have three punch combinations? Do you have to stop and begin another three punch combination? 

It might be best to think of combinations generatively. Whatever punch you start with can be followed with one or more other punches, but not with just any punch. And so on. So there will be certain combinations that are ggrammaticalh (as it were), and others that are not (which doesnft mean that ungrammatical combinations, like sentences, canft occasional be effective). Therefore, as Chomsky might say if he wrote about boxing instead of linguistics, philosophy, and mathematics, the class of potential grammatical combinations is infinite.

The Related Matters Ned refers to are targets. These are the standard spots. He advises against punching someone in the mouth if you donft have gloves. Ned mentions the arms as targets, but very briefly. In fact, the biceps are excellent targets and so are the hands, and the deltoids (Kenny Norton worked hard on attacking Alifs deltoid to slow his jabs down, and the tactic worked for him). Another good target Ned neglects is the thigh. Punching someonefs thigh makes as much sense as kicking their head, you might think. But in fact, there will be times when his thigh will be perfectly within safe range (for example, after you have bobbed and weaved, or if you are bent over and he is leaning on you, maybe in certain contexts, he has a front naked choke on you). You arenft in any danger of hurting your hand (and you can use your elbow just as easily). These shots are painful and if they penetrate deeply enough to impact the nerve, they will reduce your opponent's mobility considerably.

Defense: The Art of Not Getting Hit. Hitting hard is only half of the science of boxing. The other half is not getting hit.@Ned covers the fundamentals of deflecting, blocking (including covering), avoiding (slipping, ducking, and simply staying or moving out of range), and minimizing the cost if the above methods fail (rolling). Each technique is illustrated with historical examples. Ned concludes by saying that for street purposes the best defense is to attack aggressively.

Fouls and Other Dirty Tricks covers techniques that are illegal in modern boxing--although not nonexistent--but well known in other martial arts, such as hammer fists, heel of the hand strikes, elbows, kicks, throws, tackles, among others. It also describes illegal targets, such as the back of the neck, eyes, and regions gbelow the belth. Ned emphasizes that you should not focus too much on the nads--other areas below the belt can be even more effective. 

Ned seems to be losing his thread in this chapter. How do elbows, tackles, and judo throws prove that boxing is an effective martial art for the street? Nedfs reply might be that some of these techniques were permitted under the London Prize Ring rules (granted this was a while back), and others, while prohibited both before and after the adoption of the Marquis of Queensbury Rules around 1892, are still practiced from time to time. It isnft unknown for boxers to bite their opponents, for example. It seems to be fairly effective too. Notice Evander's reaction when Mike bit him. Mike lost the fight of course, but on the street losing has a different meaning. (Incidentally, the Marquis, a boxing buff, was the father of Oscar Wildefs gay boyfriend. Wilde himself however was not known to be an aficionado of the manly arts).

Training: Roadwork, Gymwork, and Floorwork describes the methods that boxers use to prepare for battle in the ring. As lightweight king Billy Conn (who almost beat Joe Louis) said, a good in-shape fighter will always beat a great out-of-shape fighter. No one who has competed in any sport will need to be told that conditioning is important. More is better. But because skills are also important, and time and energy are finite, some limits have to be placed on how much conditioning work is done. After all, if the most you need to go is 12 rounds, you donft need to prepare for 50. As Kenny Weldon says, you need to prepare for the kind of fight you are going to have. The best conditioning work is work that combines conditioning with skills development. Ned overrates the importance of roadwork (running). The primary purpose of running should be to burn calories and to relax. Running does not develop relevant attributes or skills for boxing. Moreover, the fact that boxers do something is not irrefutable proof that it is the right thing to do or the best way to do it.

Nedfs comments on sparring leads me to wonder how much time he has actually spent in a boxing gym. Sparring is indeed important, but primarily because it is a less damaging version of an actual contest (or fight). But it is still damaging. Every fighter has a certain number of fights (or rounds) in him. If he g leaves them in the gymh, he wonft have them when he most needs them. This is why boxers seldom spar. When they do, it is with bulkier gloves, headgear of course, for few rounds, and with a tacit agreement to set the level of intensity a few notches down (to borrow a phrase from the French sociologist Löic Wacquant, who actually trained and competed). By way of comparison, Thai boxers in Thailand (Muay Thai fighters that is), never spar, for two excellent reasons. One is that they fight often. The other is that their most distinguished art of fighting (as one author describes it) is simply too dangerous. In compensation, they work even more extensively with pads than Western boxers do (and they also do a lot of hard competitive clinch work). This lack of sparring doesnft seem to prevent them from polishing their skills to a high level, as an evening at  Lumphinee Stadium in Bangkok will convince most people.

In general, this chapter was pretty basic. If you actually want to know how boxers train, get Kenny Weldonfs tapes (or at least, read the review).

It is largely due to this chapter that I suspect Ned got most of his material from the books that he mentions in his annotated bibliography gFrom the Ring to the Library.h I recall reading one that he mentions and rightly praises, by Jack Dempsey, when I was a young kid growing up on the mean streets of Silicon Valley, back when it had cherry orchards and computers were still the size of houses. I studied the method the Manassas Mauler used to such devastating effect himself, and  which made good intuitive sense and didnft require you to learn calligraphy and Oriental philosophy, but it didnft help me tremendously in street scuffles, which, being a kid at the time, I had a fair share of.

You arenft going to learn how to fight by reading this or any other book (you have to go to a gym and train with boxers under the tutelage of a qualified trainer). But Championship Streetfighting is informative and entertaining. Itfs worth reading

Buy the book and judge for yourself:

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And it you liked Championship Streetfighting, you might also like Ned's other book, The Savage Science of Streetfighting. I read it and it's not bad, mostly common-sense lessons derived from the practices of the old-timers, which is not a bad place to begin. As Benjamin Franklin and George Santayana both said, in their own ways, it's usually cheaper and less painful to learn from the experiences of others than to try to start from scratch yourself.

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(c) 2000, R. A. Pedreira. All Rights Reserved.

Revised October 31, 2009.

Revised May 10, 2015.

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