How to get rid of tension?

I'm teaching my neighbour's kid to box. He's 15 and was going to
join this aerobics boxercise thing at an aerobics gym not far from
home because there aren't really any decent boxing gyms around
where we live. He used to do a bit of karate but he quit because
he found it boring, and he told me he couldn't see how the non-
contact stiff blocks and static reverse punches could work for him.

Anyway I spent about an hour today showing him some things like
basic footwork, the jab and the straight right, and we touched a
bit on how to bob & weave.

He's doing ok for a first lesson, we gotta work to sharpen his
technique though. The problem is he's very tense. I'm not sure if
it has anything to do with those previous karate lessons he took,
but he's very active in sports and is able to excel in most of them
at school. I'm also not sure if he is subconsciously associating
boxing with rough & tumble fighting (he's seen a number of fights
at school) and maybe it's making him tense up.

I tried to get him to loosen up, and he has no problems doing that
but as soon as we're back in the boxing stance and throwing jobs
and straight rights, you can see he's all stiff and tense. When I
brought him up on it, he said "doesn't it help you punch harder?".
I explained that it would only slow you down, drain your muscles
unnecessarily, and when you're relaxed you can punch harder with
better technique.

Any advice? Or is this something that will fix itself over time? I just
don't want him to develop any bad habits early on. His physical
tension is affecting his overall technique, slowing him down, and
his jabs are weak. But his straight right has a half decent amount
of power behind it in spite of his tension.

Make him spar until he is dead tired, then spar some more.

Hmm.. that's a good point. But I won't go down that road yet, I'm
not sure how hungry he wants this so I'm not going to push him
just yet until maybe after a few weeks if he's still coming back for
more.

many hours of padwork should eventualy correct this. just take him to the limits of his endurance and positively reinforce the relaxed snappy shots so he knows what it feels like to punch loose and he will get it. just takes time.

perfectly normal for a beginner of any age. Time will correct the majority of it along with feeling more comfortable with you, the boxing and himself.

Hi Gakami,

I have an ex karate instructor as one of my students. It took me a long time to get him moving efficiently because of the "karate stiffness".

The biggest thing a karateka needs to learn is that relaxation is speed and speed is power. You have to keep drumming this into him.

The main technique I used to get rid of the karateness was to tell my student not to concentrate on power at all. Just accuracy and speed. This is good training for anyone IMHO but for karateka who associate stiffness with power, I believe it to be essential.

The other thing you will have to look at is his foot rotation on the straight right. Karate folks don't pivot properly when they throw this blow as they don't let the foot rotate.

Good luck.
Stu.

A few things:

I tell my students that when they punch, especially in the air, it should be like they're punching flies. You can't hit a fly by hitting it HARD, you have to flick at it.

As a coach watch his shoulders, back, stomach, and fists for clenching or tensing. You should be able to see where's he's tense before too long. Tell him where he's tense and how to relax.

Make sure he exhales sharply to emphasize each punch, this does a lot of things but in this context this controls his breathing and lends to relaxation.

Shadowboxing, guided at first (you're punching flies goddamnit!), will also allow for more relaxation

Demonstrate to him how it should look when it's relaxed, and how it looks when it's not, he'll start seeing the subtle difference.

Thanks for your help guys, much appreciated. I've been easing
him into progressively harder drills. I think he's easing up little by
little.

simkin - that's a great way of looking at it, flicking flies! I'm going
to try it with hiim this weekend.

Some fighters never learn to relax in the ring. That was the biggest difference between the old George Foreman and the new one. The new George had more stanima than the old one because he was relaxed.

Another really tight fighter was Tommy Morrison, which is why faded late in fights.

What got me over it was "throwing shoulders." Basically shadow boxing with my arms limp at my sides, facing a mirror. Getting loose enough so my arms would "waggle" when I moved and flop correctly when I "punched" got me to know just how relaxed I needed to be.

Oh, and getting slapped in the back of the head evertime I tensed up. That helped too.

Thanks for the responses guys.

One thing which helped was when I showed him the hook. What
do you guys think about teaching the hook as the first punch? It
really emphasises proper waist movement much better than a jab
or cross.

Nottheface has it right. I do that as a warm up before any exercise. It gets your arms and shoulders loose.