This review was three months in the making. Alan Kahn, author and producer of The Speed Bag Bible sent me a package just before Christmas in 2006 and it took nearly three months to get through it due to the sheer volume of information his speed bag program provides.
I don't want to explicitly compare Alan's program to others I've looked at, but I will say that Alan has created his program to be highly adaptive and flexible and there is nothing I have seen that compares in this regard.
He teaches 24 individual punching and elbow striking techniques that can be combined into hundreds of combinations. His program unleashes your imagination and his training will have you hitting the speed bag with rhythm and style.
You will create speed bag music and a good portion of his training shows you how to hit to music using the speed bag as a drum.
The most important difference between Alan's speed bag training program and others is that the Speed Bag Bible shows you how to move around the speed bag and throw punches. This training will not lock you into one position with your feet but will also show you hooks, pivots and punches from all angles. Obviously, this has important training implications for those of us using the speed bag to improve boxing skills.
The other difference is the use of transition techniques so that any one of the 24 base combinations he teaches can be combined with others. That means the total number of combinations you could learn on the speed bag is virtually unlimited. (Actually, if you are a math whiz, it's some factor of 24 -- virtually unlimited especially if you consider that you can extend the combination as long as you want...wrap your head around that one!)
Another unique, selling point of Alan's speed bag training program is a book he wrote to accompany the DVD. To be honest, picking up the book and flipping to the middle of it would have you putting it down just as quick as you picked it up. It is full of formulas and long strings of letters depicting the combinations.
Here's an example:
Basic LLRR...(FSP)'''(O-D 4way)''(RSP)''(FSP)'''(FCP)...Repeat
Nice eh? It's a totally different language but if you take the time to learn what the abbreviations mean -- starting at the beginning of the book rather than the middle -- all becomes clear. The book is a nice complement to the DVDs and an excellent resource if your DVD player isn't in the same room as your speed bag.
Alan figures that 20-30 minutes 2-3 times a week will have you mastering these techniques in about a month. I decided to see if that was true and while I'm no master, I am getting quite impressive if I do say so myself. I'm definitely having a lot more fun with my speed bag workouts. Working combinations into music and moving around the speed bag adds a whole new dimension to speed bag training.
So, what do you get?
Pete Constanzo (Left), Alan Kahn (Right)
When I opened the package, I was blown away by what was inside. There were six DVDs and a 230 page book. I mean, it's a speed bag - how much is there to learn about it?
Apparently a lot more than I thought.
- Four of the DVDs are the 24 techniques in extreme depth and detail and make up Alan's speed bag training program
- One of the DVDs is a condensed version of the four disc set and is a two hour training program.
- The last disc is a Rhythm and Rehab disc aimed at disabled persons.
Alan's company is Rehab & Sports Consulting and he has shown many handicapped persons and those undergoing rehabilitation the benefits of exercising with the speed bag. Chalk another one up for boxing helping people.
To clarify, Alan basically has four products:
- Very detailed speed bag training program consisting of four DVDs and a book: Equipment and Basic Punching, Elbow Striking, Side Punching techniques, and Advanced punching combinations.
- A condensed version of the speed bag training consisting of one DVD and a book
- The speed bag bible book itself.
- A rhythm and rehab program plus book that is designed for those in wheelchairs or undergoing sports rehabilitation
Like I said, it took me three months to go through all of this material. I can tell you outright it has improved my speed bag technique and opened doors in terms of speed bag training that I had not considered.
It's funny how one can think they have done it all and then a program like this shows up and shows you you don't really know anything. Life lesson number 10 - keep your mind open and continue to learn.
What to Expect
Whether you pick up the two hour training program or the four disc set, you will appreciate the method of instruction Alan uses to teach you how to hit that little bag with speed and technique.
I found the videos a little slow but it is simply because Alan leaves absolutely nothing out. He goes through the speed bag in EXTREME detail starting at the absolute basics. This program is designed for someone who has never seen a speed bag and progresses to techniques so advanced it is hard to believe anyone could possibly learn them.
Alan demonstrates every technique including the advanced techniques, and as you can see from the sample video at the top of this page, what you can learn is nothing short of amazing. And you can learn it. The techniques are within your grasp with enough practice.
No matter which set you look at they all cover front punches, reverse punches, side punches, elbow strikes and the part I liked the best, movement. Until I viewed Alan's program I had not seen speed bag workouts incorporate hooks and movement around the speed bag. Boxing is all about movement and timing and implementing these hooks and pivots while maintaining the speed bag rhythm has beneficial crossover to what is happening in the ring.
What didn't I like?
Alan is very, very thorough in his explanations. For most this is a good thing, but personally, I found it a little tedious at times simply because I was anxious to get to the actual meat of the workout -- hitting the speed bag.
This would have been alleviated if Alan's discs had a menu from which I could skip to a particular combination or part of the disk. Unfortunately at the time of this review, there are no DVD menus so you have to watch through everything and note the time on the disk where you are interested in returning. Chapters or scenes would have made the disks much more intuitive to use. Being able to skip over the parts of the speed bag or what type of platform to buy or why not to wear gloves and so on would have been nice. You're stuck using fast forward and rewind, but isn't always the best way to stop and find a segment or return to something previously viewed.
For most though, especially beginners, this information is essential and everything he says is useful. I'd much rather have the information and detail Alan goes into than not.
The Speed Bag Bible book itself requires a lot of brain power to master and understand. Like I mentioned if you pick the book up and flip to the middle, you will be lost before you start. If you take it from page one and add techniques to your repertoire as you go you won't have a problem and I'm sure the book was written that way.
Quite frankly I do not believe there are any other books available that cover speed bag instruction, so whether you like the format or not, if you want a book, you're going to be looking at this one. Thankfully, the book does have an index so you can quickly find an answer to something you're looking for.
What I'm neutral about...
The filming is nothing special but is more than adequate and better than other videos I've seen. It breaks techniques down and does not obscure the rhythm of the speed bag with voice over. The cadence, which is very important in learning the speed bag, is clear and easy to hear, even when music is brought into the mix.
All of the techniques have slow motion video when appropriate to clarify what is happening. The speed bag bible training show slow motion technique both at eye level and from underneath the bag giving a more complete understanding of the forces at play which is another distinguishing aspect of this product.
The packaging is professionally done, clean and inviting so it isn't going to be an eyesore on your shelf. Quite frankly, this means absolutely nothing to me as long as the content is good, and it is. However, I know it matters to some people out there.
The Speed Bag Bible is an all encompassing, highly detailed, incredibly thorough, effective speed bag training program.
I've looked at a couple of speed bag training programs in order to learn the techniques involved because mastering that frustrating little bag is no easy feat. It's very clear in my travels from gym to gym, the most people, even in boxing gyms do not know how to properly hit a speed bag. If people can't hit it, they certainly are not effective at teaching the techniques required to master it.
Alan Kahn has devoted over 20 years to teach the speed bag to the public. He has got to be the top authority on the speed bag and his program is absolutely second to none. I highly recommend you add it to your collection. I have not found a better program for learning to hit the speed bag from square one. It has become an integral part of my speed bag training (whether I am consciously aware of it or not). Make it part of yours as well.