Boxer Muhd Ridhwan’s experience at the International Coaching Course
Ridhwan (bottom row, second from left) represented Singapore at the 2015 International Coaching Course supported by the IOC Olympic Solidarity programme. Photo: Muhd Ridhwan
Muhammad Ridhwan, boxer, attended the International Coaching Course (ICC) at the University of Physical Education in Budapest, Hungary last year. The ICC attracts participants from all over the world to a three-month course annually to train and educate coaches. This course is held in co-operation with International Olympic Committee Olympic Solidarity programme.
Read on to discover Ridhwan’s enriching experience in Budapest.
I was given the opportunity to attend the International Coaching Course (ICC) scheduled at the University of Physical Education in Budapest, Hungary from 14th September to 4th December 2015. There were also two other boxing coaches from Sri Lanka and Bahamas participating. The studies involved both theory and practical lessons.
Key Boxing Figures of Hungary
While learning boxing history, I was introduced to key boxing figures of Hungary such as Laszlo Papp, Istvan ‘Koko’ Kovacs and Gedo Gyorgy, gold medalist in 1972 Munich Olympic Games whom I met at his gym. Despite him not being able to speak English, with the help of a translator, we were able to communicate and share thoughts on boxing coaching. He emphasized the importance of giving the young opportunities to try the sport and this explains why his gym has supported many young competitors in the school boys’ category.
He also shared with me his experience training and competing in the Olympic Games. He is clearly a very experienced man and told me about the different training methods back in his days and today. In fact, he competed in the same year as Mr Kadir (Singapore Olympian) and in the same weight category. Both of them did not have the chance to compete against each other and Mr Gedo eventually won the gold medal.
Our boxing professor has kindly taken the effort to bring us around to visit various boxing gyms in Budapest. These visits allow us to observe the training sessions, which usually last one and a half hours. It was very interesting to see how the coaching was done for the various age groups and boxers with different experience levels.
Boxing Coaching for Junior Boys and Girls
The coaching for the younger boxers is slightly different compared to the elite boxers. At the junior level, the training also incorporates elements of fun. This can involve kicking the ball for warm ups and team bonding activities or games to end the training session. This is especially useful as it allows the boxers to bond and communicate with each other. This gives them the sense of belonging and make them interested and look forward to more training sessions.
In terms of boxing, the drills used are heavily focused on technique and speed rather than strength. This makes sense because their bodies have not yet matured and requires the time to gain strength. Therefore, the main focus is perfection in technique, speed and some elements of strategy.
For example, the boxers may be required to do a jab drill with a partner. They practice various jabs and were taught when to use the right type of jab for which scenario. The coaches are very enthusiastic and make an effort to correct the boxers of their mistakes.
For conditioning, the younger boxers go through circuit training. Most of the exercises are targeted to improve their agility, speed and reflexes. Therefore they incorporate the ladder drills for better footwork, bouncing of the tennis ball to improve hand eye coordination and short sprints to improve reaction. If weights were ever used, the weights are not too heavy and provide just enough resistance to improve their muscular endurance and strength.
Boxing Coaching for Elite Boys and Girls
For the elite boxers, the coaching still focuses on mastering the fundamentals. The Hungarian style of boxing I feel focuses on strength and technique. The boxers go through boxing drills with a partner where they practise attacking and defending certain punch combinations. The boxers are put through realistic boxing scenarios so they learn how to react accordingly.
During my visits, I have not seen any hard sparring. This may be because the boxers are very close to competition and to avoid unnecessary injury, they do more technique sparring.
One thing I have noticed here, unlike the other training camps I have been to in Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Australia is that the boxers here spar with small gloves. Most of them do not use headgear. This may be a common practice in Hungary. My experience in other training camps is that the boxers train with groin guards on, headgear, mouth guard and 16oz gloves. There is a strong emphasis on safety.
Our visits only happen in the evening and evening sessions focus mainly on boxing training. Therefore, unfortunately, I was not able to observe their strength and conditioning sessions that happen in the morning.
Common practice in the gyms
All the gyms I visited adopted an almost similar training style. They warm up almost the same way and the flow of the classes are also similar. These is probably because the boxing coaches here in Hungary are required to go through a course and they must have learnt the same style of coaching and then successfully implement it in the gyms they work in.
Coaching Practice and Experience
After all the various gym visits, I was given the opportunity by Mr Borjay to run a boxing class at the university with a group of students. Unlike the boxers I see at the boxing gyms, these students are not interested to compete but choose to do boxing for fitness and because it is fun. Because of that, it was important for me to create drills for them that are engaging and interesting. The exercises are physically and mentally challenging but not too stressful. Their training also lasted for one and a half hours. They do warm ups, shadow boxing, reaction or agility drills, boxing pad work with me, boxing drills with a partner, core exercises and stretching to end the training session.
My main focus was to push them physically but also at the same time help them learn about the sport. The boxing drills are simple and it was my responsibility to guide them to execute the basic punches correctly.
What I’ve learnt was that while there may be more men taking up boxing, it may possibly be slightly easier to coach the ladies. This is because men have a greater tendency to rely on strength or power and then not focus on technique. The ladies, who usually do not worry about strength or power naturally focus a lot more on technique and are thus able to box and throw punches beautifully.
Other than coaching at the university, I did a training session with two very young boxers at the KSI Boxing Gym.
I have some experience training very young boxers in Singapore but this is still a very new experience. The two boxers here are very shy and do not understand English very well and so I had to communicate with them differently. I needed to physically show them what I needed them to do. First, to get past the language barrier, I did a little reaction game so that they can relax and be more open. Once I noticed them enjoying the beginning part of training, I know I got their attention and they are more willing to listen and accept what I was about to show.
With the two young boxers, I did more pad work with them, trying to get them to improve their basics such as extending their straight punches and rotating their body into their punches.
Other than this experience at KSI boxing gym, I also did some pad work with boxers from other boxing gyms during the gym visits. It was a positive learning experience for me and I am very happy to see that they are willing to try my style of coaching. One of the best feelings of being a coach!
I had the opportunity to meet a doctor at the sports hospital who was previously very active as a boxing sports doctor in AIBA’s international boxing tournaments. This meeting is especially helpful as we were able to discuss various sports injuries that boxers face and the best methods to avoid or recover from an injury in the medical point of view.
In conclusion, my learning here has been a positive and enriching experience. I was able to observe and learn many new things that can definitely help to improve the level of amateur boxing in Singapore.