I built and run Commando Boxing - so it should be no surprise where I stand on this...
I started boxing when I was 24. At the time, I lived in rural Saskatchewan, Canada and the closest boxing gym was a one and half hour drive to the big city of Saskatoon.
I was married with one young daughter, a son soon to be on the way, and a busy job that required me to work 12hr days on average.
Despite those challenges I still managed to find the energy and gas money to make that one and a half hour drive a couple times a week to train and then drive the one and a half hours home completely exhausted.
I'd like to say that I doggedly overcame the obstacles that stood in my way and that I went on to become the boxing champion of the world - but it didn't quite work out like that at all.
Instead my boxing training came to an abrupt halt a few months later when winter came and I could no longer afford the time, money, or risk to make that stupid drive through blizzards and blowing snow.
With no boxing club or boxing trainer in the place I lived - I did the only thing I could think of and turned to books and DVDs to try and learn how to box at home. Keep in mind that this was long before the internet and Youtube.
If there were any good books or programs back then - I didn't find them.
My story does have a happy ending though, as I eventually moved to a place where I did have access to a club and trainer and, of course, the internet came along and changed everything.
Way back in 2003 during my boxing drought - I figured there had to be others out there stranded like I was. People who wanted to learn how to box but did not have access to a boxing club or trainer for whatever reason. Maybe there simply was no club in their town or maybe they couldn't afford what a trainer costs.
I knew I could put together a better product than a lot of the books on the market - so I did and the first version of the web site that you're looking at now was born (it was called how-to-box.com until recently).
Since 2003 I've seen the debate rage on and offline in boxing circles as to whether someone can actually learn how to box online.
The arguments against online programs almost always center around the risk of the new boxer learning improper techniques that lead to injury or bad habits that a trainer will have to fix someday.
There are some people who say you can learn the fundamentals of boxing online - but that's it.
Some people say you can only learn how to box online for fitness.
Some people flat out say that it is impossible to learn how to box online. These people annoy the shit out of me as they seem to believe they were given the authority to dictate how and where someone gets to learn how to box.
Personally I do not think it is so black or white - that you can or cannot learn how to box online. I think the success one can have with an online program varies by person - but I know - and I've proven it repeatedly - that one can develop reasonably good boxing skills with the right online boxing program.
More importantly - I believe that nobody has the right to tell you you can't learn to box online - especially if the alternative is to not box at all.
Do You Have an Alternative?
What if you truly don't have access to a boxing club or boxing trainer?
What if the only boxing instruction you can get is from a site like Commando Boxing, Youtube, a book, or DVD?
Should you just accept that you can't learn how to box and move on to something else?
That's exactly what some people would have you do. They will tell you you're just shit out of luck and that you might as well just give up.
That is bullshit. You do what you have to do.
If you want to learn how to box and you have access and the means to join a boxing club or hire a trainer then that is exactly what you should do. Nothing can take the place of a real-life trainer giving you feedback and coaching tips in real-time or real-life partners that you can practice with.
But when that club or trainer truly is not an option - then what is the alternative? You can either forget about boxing because you might learn bad habits or do what you can with what you can get.
I'd take the second option any day rather than give up on something I really want to do just because some cyberspace shithead who probably grew up with a trainer for a father and a club next door says it can't be done.
I'm going to let you in on a little secret. Even if you have access to a club or trainer - there is no guarantee you are not going to develop those "awful" bad habits or even be taught proper technique. In person, it all depends on the quality of the coach, much like it depends on the quality of instruction you can get online.
Any Tom, Dick, Harry, or Sally can open a boxing gym. Usually the people that do have some boxing background but that is not always the case.
I've been in my share of gyms and the majority of them have apprentice coaches who know jack shit but are left alone to teach the fundamentals to impressionable new boxers while the more experienced and certified coaches and trainers work exclusively with those they feel have the most potential.
Coaches have to coach to become certified club coaches in Canada so I understand why this happens - but if the argument against online programs is the development of bad habits, then I also argue that physical boxing gyms aren't necessarily any better in that regard.
Some gyms are so busy that the one trainer can't possibly ensure everyone is doing things correctly all the time.
There is no boxing standard. Different gyms and different trainers teach differently depending on their own background and how they learned. There is no overarching boxing curriculumn.
Are you starting to see the problem here?
Whether you learn how to box online or walk into a neighborhood gym - you're at the mercy of whomever is imparting their knowledge.
It's up to you, and only you, to decide if the program you are following - offline or online - is good enough for you and your goals.
But What About the Bad Habits
Let's assume that the online boxing program you plan on using is provided by a boxing coach who knows what he is talking about and in real life is actually good at coaching boxing.
In your online boxing program - that coach demonstrates a movement, breaks it down into parts, and has you perform each part while giving you the things you need to look for to ensure you are doing the technique correctly.
Eventually you put all those parts together to perform the whole movement. If you paid attention to what you're doing and worked on doing the technique exactly as the coach told you - why exactly could you not end up performing it correctly?
I get that there is no immediate feedback from the trainer in the event that you are doing something wrong and aren't self-correcting, but what if you have the opportunity to upload a video where the coach can critique your form. How is that any different than the instruction you are getting from a trainer in a busy boxing gym?
Do you not think that you would be able to pick up and correct the major issues?
And let's be serious about the little issues you might miss...even the best boxers pick up some bad habits along they way. Those little differences are what form individual boxing styles. Very few boxers are technically perfect.
Getting Realistic About Online Boxing Training
I'm not going to sit here and pretend like I can take you from zero to boxing champion of the world using my online boxing training program. That's simply not realistic and we all need to be very clear about the limitations of online boxing programs.
For starters, you need to be a member of a club in order to compete in the amateurs (at least in Canada).
While I can't claim to make you a champion online, your local boxing club can't claim to do that working with you in person either.
But I can claim a few things that are beneficial about online boxing training:
- You will learn the why. In a gym, you often get told what to do and you do it. Online provides more opportunity and time for a boxer to digest the theory behind a movement or technique in various formats (audio, video, text). So you will at least understand why you are performing a certain movement a certain way.
- The gym is always open. You don't have to wait until your next club lesson to learn something new. You can get on the site and find the next technique or video and work through it whenever you like. We all learn at different rates and an online program lets you extract information from your online coach at will vice being fed it when your physical coach decides to give it to you.
- It's a tutor. When you're taught something in a gym that doesn't make sense - having it explained or seeing it demonstrated another way or by another coach might be what you need to actually understand it. An online program can supplement the skills training you're getting at your club.
Online Boxing Training Deserves Some Recognition
With any luck - I've convinced you that online boxing training isn't evil - if not - we'll have to agree to disagree, but I want to share some specific situations where I think online boxing training is beneficial and useful:
- When there is no other option to learn how to box. I've already covered this - doing what you can with what you have is always superior to saying you can't because of X, Y, or Z. If you think you want to learn how to box but decide not try at all simply because the only method of instruction available is online - then you're not that serious about learning. We all do what we have to do.
- As a supplement to club training. Becoming good at boxing requires practice and conditioning and some gyms only offer classes a couple times a week. What do you do with other four or five days? An online boxing training plan can supplement skills training by providing you with conditioning workouts that reinforce and supplement what you are learning in the gym.
- For the White Collar crowd. Charity matches and white collar boxing matches are becoming more and more popular. Maybe someone doesn't want the commitment or expense of a joining a club or hiring a dedicated boxing trainer. Maybe they just want to make it through the boxing match without embarrassing themselves or getting totally destroyed. Knowing a few skills in whatever form can give them a bit of an edge and take away some of the nervousness and anxiety they may have about getting in the ring.
- As pre-training before joining a club. I know from experience that walking into a boxing club is intimidating. Fear keeps a lot of people from pursuing boxing. They don't like the idea of walking into a gym and being cannon fodder for those that train there. Picking up some skills online can give someone the level of confidence they need to actually go join a club. It's much easier to walk into the unknown if you feel you can protect yourself a little - have an inkling of how to skip so you aren't tripping over yourself - know how to wrap your hands so you aren't forcing the trainer to go over it for the millionth time with the next new guy...Get the picture?
- To test the waters. It's cheaper and more convenient to give boxing a try from the comfort of your own home. If you're not sure you actually want to learn how to box, then a few online lessons may either ignite or extinguish that nagging little thought in your head.
- For self-defense or fitness. If you're only learning how to box for fitness or to have a few skills to keep you from getting beat up on the street, then it doesn't matter how many bad habits you pick up (if you pick up any). Some boxing skills, even poorly executed, are fine to add variety and a new dimension to your fitness and conditioning program. As long as you pay attention to the fundamental points about punching correctly and use protective wraps/gloves - you will remain injury free and can enjoy the boxing workouts an online boxing training plan provides.
So Can You Really Learn How to Box Online?
Absolutely YES, you can learn how to box online - and Commando Boxing will teach you. Start by subscribing to my newsletter to start training with free introductory boxing lessons from the Commando Boxing How to Box System and go from there.