One of the best training aids you’ll get in any fighters gym is the punching/kicking bag. This piece of equipment probably sits in every gym around the world and is more often than not the most under used item by many.
From my own experiences this is generally down to not really knowing what to do and how to use it properly.
You would think it’s pretty straight forward, you’d just stand in front of the bag and knock seven shades of s#%t out of it until you move on to the next area of your workout. However, as with all training methods, there’s an art to it.
It took me some very sound advice from a highly respected professional and hours and hours of bag work before I fully understood what I was doing.
In 1998 I was matched to fight Thai legend Wangchannoi Sor. Parungchai in the south of France. I was just 18 at the time and I’d never fought a Thai national or fought full Thai rules before so this was a huge deal for me.
My trainer Steve Logan had arranged for me to travel up to Manchester to train and spar with Ronnie Green, who in my opinion is the pound for pound best fighter to come from the UK.
I know a few people today that would argue with this statement by saying that the standard in the UK is much higher now than it was in late 80s early 90s. Agreed, the overall standard is much higher in this country now but what you have to look at is Ronnie was fighting the top Thais at a time when the sport was in its infancy in this part of the world. His name was also well renowned internationally in major kickboxing/Muay Thai countries such as Holland, France and Japan way before the invention of Internet. Only a handful of fighters names transcend over generations and Ronnie Green is one of them.
When I look back at myself at 18 I remember being quite cock sure of myself when it came to fighting. To be honest I thought I was pretty sh#t hot and boy did I have a wake up call when I sparred Ronnie. I couldn’t land a glove on him while Ronnie was able to hit me at will. It really brought me down to earth and it’s a lesson that I treasure greatly as it really opened my eyes to how far I still had to go to before I’d become a world level fighter.
After a few embarrassing rounds Ronnie told me to take my sparring stuff off and go on to the bag.
He put the timer on and told me to proceed with some bag work while he watched.
I thought ‘right, I’m going to show off a bit now’. I went to town on this bag and I mean I went to town! I smacked the living crap out of it.
Then all of a sudden Ronnie asked me to stop.
“Look, I can see you you have power and full of energy but you’re going about it wrong. You’re hitting the bag as if it’s a bag.” Said Ronnie.
I remember thinking what is he on about? I remember having a number of conversations with Ronnie when I was younger and having no real clue as to what he meant until I’d matured as a fighter. He’s kind of like those old kung fu movies where the teacher is all wise and knowing but talks in riddles and metaphors like the Enter the Dragon quote “don’t watch the finger or you’ll miss all that heavenly glory” type stuff.
He proceeded to demonstrate what he was looking for on the bag.
Ronnie moved around the bag very elegantly throwing a few faints and tester shots as if he was trying to confuse the bag and when he was ready, he would let off a full on onslaught before returning back to normal.
He said I should treat the bag as a person as if it was my opponent. Visualise what you’d do to out smart someone and then execute it instead of just pounding away on the bag round after round.
I kind of understood what he was looking for but I didn’t fully understand until my big stint in Thailand.
One of the gyms I was with in Thailand did all pads and bag work in 10 minute intervals. If you were fighting you’d do three rounds on the pads making that 30 minutes of pad work followed by three to four rounds on the bags along with your running and clinching.
40 minutes on a bag is a very long time especially when you’re pondering what to do on it. I would watch the other Thais who were also on the bags to see what they did.
Many were very calm and relaxed and set up their attacks and when they attacked it was with ferocity. Others would literally do one technique for the full 10 minutes, making sure it was perfect and precise while still holding a poised and relaxed position before firing the attack.
Those 10 minute rounds really helped me to learn how to relax and compose myself not only just on the bag but in my shadow boxing, sparring and padwork.
Next time you’re on the bag try to visualise that you’re fighting someone. Try to envision how you’d attack, defend and counter as you perform it on the bag.
My fight with Wangchannoi didn’t take place in the end, not until 2 years later anyway, as they’d found a French guy to take my place. The lessons I learned while preparing for that fight however, were just as valuable to me and helped me to train more effectively for all of my future bouts.
Below is a good video of bag work from the Por.Pramuk gym which is where Buakaw first made his name.