An important asset for South West Bath is the Boxing Club at Southside Youth Centre, Kelston View. Running on Tuesdays and Thursdays, there is a session for people under the age of sixteen from 7pm to 8pm, and a session for people over sixteen from 8pm onwards.
When I turned up at the club to write about the activities, the children’s session was in its last half hour. In a full-sized boxing ring a group of youngsters were practicing their techniques on the speedball, under careful scrutiny from their coach. This lesson had a lot to do with protecting yourself in the ring. You keep your guard up and move about on the balls of your feet, which enables you to dodge or lean away from incoming punches.
However, the priority is not to teach people how to fight. Chairman Ron Hill explained that the message the club wants to send out is, “respect yourself”. This means not abusing yourself with drugs or alcohol or getting involved with crime for example. Other people will respect you when they see that you respect yourself. The boxing club instils levels of discipline and confidence which can help people gain self-respect. Even the boxing ring itself was introduced to raise the youngsters’ self-esteem, giving them experience of training in a ring that meets professional specifications.
The photos that I took are of the session for people aged over sixteen. The speedball (top left) can be used for a variety of training exercises. For example, one person might be punching the speedball while someone else practices dodging it as it springs towards them. Sometimes several individuals use the speedball simultaneously.
The padwork (bottom left) is used for practicing different combinations of punches. In some respects it is better than using a punchbag as it requires speed and focus, whereas a punchbag can encourage a certain laziness of action. The shadow boxing against the wall (bottom right) is used to hone your techniques and also helps you to gauge distances.
The boxing club was in its early stages when I visited and everyone was still improving on their training routines, before they move onto advanced lessons such as how to sway on the ropes. There was not yet any sparring in the ring going on. The club offers an enjoyable form of exercise and nobody who trains will have to spar if they do not want to. A girl called Angie was training to get fit after having a baby.
The instructors that I spoke with seemed very gentle in temperament. It was difficult to picture them deftly aiming hard and fast punches at an opponent. But their advice comes from first hand experience of competing in the ring. A handful of the youngsters are interested in progressing to competition level, so it will be interesting to see if South West Bath produces a prominent boxer in the future.