Written by Alistair Knight | 10 July 2021
With better technology, low-cost equipment, and access to video, there are a lot of people who are turning away from a gym and are instead teaching themselves how to box.
So, can boxing be self-taught?
Boxing can be self-taught but it’s not the quickest and most effective way to become better at the sport because you aren’t able to tap into the knowledge of a boxing coach who would be able to help you one to one.
Teaching yourself how to box means becoming better at the sport of boxing than you were yesterday by practicing on your own with the help of digital/non-digital content (blogs/videos/books).
You can teach yourself how to box in a variety of different ways, you can learn through:
1. Reading: You can read books and blogs like you’re currently doing to gain greater knowledge for when you train.
3. Hitting a punching bag: Practice makes progress, and the simple manner of getting out there and training will improve rather than stagnate your boxing skills.
4. Shadow boxing: Similar to hitting the punch bag, shadow boxing will get you moving and can improve your technique if you have some idea of what to do.
There is so much great material to learn from: You can find excellent books, blogs, and channels to learn from and use when it comes to your training.
You can film yourself and compare it to coaches online: All successful athletes in every sport watch how they performed because they are then able to reflect on what went well and what didn’t go so well. You can do the same and compare what didn’t go so well with what coaches are saying online.
It’s less intimidating: Being by yourself can feel more comfortable for some people and you can experience fewer distractions and find more concentration. For example, world champion Ryan Garcia is an advocate of training by himself:
“When I’m training by myself I feel way better. If I’m training with multiple people I just feel like I’m getting bugged. I’m going to be alone in the ring, so I subconciously prefer training on my own”
It’s simple to do: Once you have researched what to do and how to throw punches/move online or in a book, all you need to do is put it into practice through shadow boxing or by hitting the punching bag
It will improve your fitness: To train in boxing you need to move your body and move it quickly. This raises your heart rate, develops muscular endurance, and improves your cardiovascular system.
It will save you money: You won’t need to pay for a boxing coach or a membership at a gym. However, if you want to hit anything without becoming injured, you’ll still need to buy a pair of boxing gloves, hand wraps, and a punching bag.
You will likely develop poor training habits: It takes years of one-to-one coaching to master any punch, and even if you film yourself and analyze what you are doing, the progress will be much slower and the margin for error much greater in comparison to not having a coach breaking down the specifics.
It can be less fun on your own: Training with others is like having a night out with a group, it can be both good and bad depending on who you are with. From my personal experience, I’ve had much more fun training with others and have built a great group of like-minded friends.
People might not be there if you have an injury: Accidents happen, especially when you are moving at a fast speed and when heavy bags are hung up. If you don’t have anyone around you, make sure you keep your phone nearby in case you need to make an emergency call.
You will have to buy the boxing equipment yourself: You can box for free if you just want to shadow box or if you already have a pair of boxing gloves, wraps, and a punching bag. All three of which can cost over $50USD/£36/$66AUD.
Training from home requires more discipline: Putting on your training shoes is the hardest first step and it is much harder to do when you haven’t got a group that is expecting to meet you.
You will miss out on sparring and mitt work: Without a training partner or a coach, you aren’t able to practice fighting a real person or working combinations with a coach.
If you are completely new to boxing, then it is much better to box with other people because if those other people have more experience than you and are able to coach you, you’ll pick up good boxing habits.
However, even if you are an experienced boxer, it’s still important to train with others because you need to spar and be coached.
That being said, if you just want to do a bit of heavy bag training, then it might actually be better to box by yourself as you might not have the distraction of other fighters in the gym.
Yes, you can teach yourself how to box if you are looking to compete because there is so much useful information online that will help you improve if practiced.
That being said, if you do not have a good boxing coach who can help you in person and the opponent your fighting does have a good boxing coach, then the odds are in your opponent’s favor because there is nothing better than getting one on one personalized support from an expert.
Training with other boxers can seem scary because if you don’t know them, they can seem quite frightening, especially when they are shouting when throwing punches.
I remember turning up at the boxing gym for the first time and I was terrified! I didn’t know what to say and everyone looked at me as though I’d just invaded their space.
However, the coaches there were incredibly welcoming. Ben and Jumbo (the coaches) came up to me and introduced themselves, they gave me a fist bump and thanked me for coming. They asked if I’d trained before and if I was ready for the 6pm circuit class that they were teaching.
Their openness was really nice and after that first session, I couldn’t stop coming back! I gradually got to know all the other trainees in the gym and as an anxious kid, I built lots of friends quickly.
But why do we have butterflies in our stomach when turning up at the gym?
It’s completely normal. This is because human beings still have an essence of tribalism.
Human evolution occurred in hunter-gatherer groups, as opposed to in larger and more recently settled agricultural societies or civilizations.
Since our brains are wired like hunter-gathers, when we meet someone from ‘outside the tribe’, so to speak, we become territorial in nature and our fight/flight instincts kick in.
That’s why when you turn up a boxing gym (or any social group), you’ve essentially walked into a tribe that is filled with strong feelings of identity.
However, there is nothing to be afraid of, because the other fighters feel exactly the same way as you do; there is approach anxiety.
So how can you be less afraid?
Introduce yourself to everyone, open up and be honest about who you are, what you do, where you’re from. Compliment people’s energy or boxing talent.
Make it obvious to others that you are there to have fun and to make friends with them.
The more people you meet, the more self-confidence you will develop.
You should start training with other boxers as soon as possible because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how good you are as everyone is a beginner at some point.
What about with sparring, when should you start sparring with other boxers?
Again, you can start right away. However, if you are a complete beginner, make sure that you communicate to the sparring partner that you are new and don’t want to get hurt.
If you trust that the other person won’t hurt you, then sparring lightly will help improve your skills and make you feel good.
I hope you have enjoyed this guide and feel encouraged to learn how to box both by yourself and at the boxing gym.
Now I’d like to turn it over to you:
Are you training at a boxing gym?
Do you prefer practicing on your own or with others?
Perhaps you have a question?
Let us know by leaving a comment below or sending a direct message on Instagram.
Alistair Knight is an amateur athlete in boxing and the founder of Healthy Principles. He spends most of his time practising and learning more about boxing to ensure you get the best experience-based and evidence-based insights to learn. Learn more about Alistair Knight