A crowd numbering 20 individuals of all shapes, sizes and educational backgrounds gather in the sports hall multiple times a week to duck, weave and throw punches.
The session begins with a dynamic warm-up that leaves me sweating within the first 15 minutes. Following this, everyone in the sports hall put on their gloves and thus begins the boxing. The coach, Steve de Veth, demonstrates punching combinations and everyone partners up and practises the moves together. Each drill features a different combination and in between each drill everyone is required to find a different partner.
My exposure to boxing before the session was confined mostly to throwing clumsy punches in Wii boxing, so I was a little intimidated when I stepped into the gym and saw people casually wrapping their hands with fabric and, well, having muscles. With every drill and every new partner I encountered, however, it quickly became apparent that these boxers were exceedingly friendly and willing to help. I got loads of tips from different people from remembering to keep my hands up, keep my left foot forwards and punch from the hips. The piece of advice that stuck out most was this: “It’s not about how hard you punch. It’s about how you punch, it’s about technique.”
When the sparring rounds begin, it’s an exhilarating experience of being thrown directly into the deep end of an activity I’d never done before. The goal of every bout isn’t to knock the other person out, but to score points by landing clean punches. I get punched in the face. It’s an accident of course and I quickly shrug it off, touch gloves with my partner and resume sparring. Since I don’t have a mouth guard, punches to the face are off limits, but in the heat of the moment I understand how it can happen. No hard feelings. Definitely.
“Some people think boxing is just filled with, you know, grr, bullies, but it’s not,” someone comments after the training sessions. “We’re just normal, friendly people.” And everyone actually is! From the well meaning boxing tips I receive to chats in between drills to post-session conversations, the gym just exuded friendliness.
Although not all the existing members of the club are close friends, there’s definitely a bond that’s evident between everyone. Steve says that in boxing: “You need to trust each other. You need to trust your trainer, your partners… you need that trust to grow.” Bullies are few and far between, because it’s instantly evident that the rest of the members don’t trust overly aggressive people and so don’t want to train with them. In five years, one member remarked that he’d encountered exactly one bully, who in fact was almost instantly kicked out of the club.
The club has training sessions on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, but there are also other events that members participate in. As I spoke with Shannon from the club board, she mentioned that the board organises drinks, bowling sessions, paintball games, escape room adventures and more for some non-boxing fun. “And sometimes we EAT.” Steve interjected, prompting a round of laughs.
It’s interesting hearing the different reasons why people participated in the RSBV Erasmus Boxing training sessions. Some had boxed before coming to Erasmus and wanted to continue training, others had never boxed before and simply wanted to try it out for a year and lots of people said they thought boxing made for a great workout. Having sweat beside them, I couldn’t help but agree with the last one.
Many of the more serious looking figures looked as if they’d come to the session alone, but there were also some pairs of friends who came to the training together and had plans to meet up afterwards as well.
The club is also home to exchange students, many of whom are relatively experienced boxers from their respective homes. These students contribute to the yearly movement of students in and out of the club for various reasons. New bachelor students, master students and even those with jobs join every year, and the veterans are always more than willing to help.
Every member comes from a different place and everyone at the club has a different story. What brings everyone to the gym is a fondness for the same hobby: boxing.