For the past 6 months, my sister has been into boxing. It’s pretty ironic because for the past year, she took a hiatus from sports as she focused more on the arts. Because of this, when I learned that she, once again, chose a sport to be passionate about, I knew that this sport was something worth looking into. This is why we decided to observe this sport initially, as third person viewers and eventually, as participants. Naturally, we chose my sister to be our key informant.
We decided to visit the Ortigas branch of the Elorde Boxing gymnasium. It was a relatively new gym, revived by five young celebrities. We went to the gym at around 6:00pm, as we wanted to observe the gym during their peak hours (this information regarding the peak hours was given to us by our key informant who explained that it is roughly a little before 6:00pm when people finish their classes or work).
For the first 30 minutes, we simply observed the sessions. We found out that the training was done in 3 minute intervals with 30 seconds of rest in between each to simulate a real boxing fight with the same 3 minute rounds. There were roughly 7 major stations:
– Sparring: We observed that there was only one person participating in this station and he was a blonde man, roughly 30 pounds heavier than his trainer. He stuck to that station for several rounds, opting to skip most of the other stations. He was rather loud as his voice was the most heard voice throughout the whole gym.
– Mitt Boxing: This is the second and last station that required exclusive attention from the trainer. This is what we saw the trainers doing most of the time. Members in this station really seemed motivated as their trainers would sort of push them by shouting at them in this sort of motivational manner. None of them looked relaxed and indifferent as they all looked as if they wanted to kill somebody. Other than the sparring and shouting of the trainers, this is where most of the other shouts from the members themselves came from.
– Speed Ball, Hanging Ball: These stations seemed to be the rest stations where in the members would be given the opportunity to relax their back and shoulder muscles and simply focus on technique and timing. The members had the chance to take off their gloves during their stay in these stations and just wear their wraps. These stations also happened to be the stations that could differentiate the newbies from the veterans since, according to the trainers, it is pretty difficult to get the hang of the timing for both.
– Heavy Bag, Wall Bag: The people in these stations seemed to be either one of the two: angry or tired. Some people seemed to treat these stations as rest stations since their trainers would be focused elsewhere, and the others seemed to take the chance to just go full force and unleash whatever they had inside them.
– Footwork: This station is what surprised us most. We both were exposed to the “floor ladder” for PE back at high school, but at Elorde, they made it a lot more complicated and intricate. Like the speedball and hanging ball stations, you could more or less tell whether person was a veteran or not (without considering the possibility of the person simply being uncoordinated).
What was most intriguing to us was the system of the trainers and the relevance of the seemingly useless speedball and hanging ball. This is what we decided to ask our key informant about. According to her, there are around 6 to 8 trainers active per shift and they’re used to handling around 4 to 6 people each. Ideally, the members get a chance to choose their trainers every session, but she said that there’s been this unspoken rule of sticking to your first trainer ever as a form of respect, gratitude, or loyalty. The inconsistencies between the real rules and the implied ones were said to cause drama and arguments among the trainers. Regarding the two balls that seemed useless, our informant explained that the timing skills one develops through these are really crucial. She said that in an actual fight, it can grant you that millionth of a second you need to land the perfect knockout punch. After clarifying some things with our informant, we decided to try it ourselves.
At the beginning of the boxing session, we felt a bit out of place because everyone seemed focus and well briefed on what they had to do. This gave us an uneasy feeling while we were waiting for our turn to start boxing as well. We didn’t really know much about boxing nor what it entails. It seemed so easy to throw a punch, one hand after the other. When watching famous boxers such as Mayweather and Pacquiao during some of their bouts, they make it seem so easy to knock an opponent down with very little effort. However, as we were observing how the session was being conducted, we noticed that there were a lot of little things that were actually really important. For example, the proper stance for good balance and the form when throwing a punch also matters. Aside from this, good conditioning and a determined spirit to keep on going round after round seemed very important as well. At one point we felt very inspired by the effort and hard work the other boxing students were exemplifying. The uneasy feeling we first had started to fade away and a bit of courage started to come our way because watching the other boxers gave us an idea of what to expect. After the first few rounds of sparring and using the punching bag, we started to gain confidence and as each round passed by this grew more and more (along with our growing spirit also came wounds on our fists – “marks of a true boxer,” according to the trainers). After the boxing class, the trainers told us that we did a pretty swell job on the first day and that there is still a lot we can improve on. These words of reinforcement gave us a feeling of accomplishment and motivated us furthermore to try it out again next time.
Based on our experience, we noticed that the boxing gym personnel were truly very helpful and really found ways to make our first boxing experience as pleasant as possible .As soon as we entered, a very friendly receptionist welcomed us and asked if it was our first time or if we were current members. She accommodated us right away and gave us a quick description of how the mechanics of the boxing gym works. She told us that each boxer is assigned a trainer and that all we have to do is follow what he says. It seemed very common for them to have new walk-in students to join because they really knew how to help us out and get us started. After our quick observation of what goes on in the gym, a trainer approached the both of us and started to apply the hand wraps on our fists. He was very easy to get along with because he told us not to worry and kept assuring us that we were going to have a good time. He also reminded us to just tell him if we were too tired and needed a break during a round. Each of our trainers made us feel that we really fit right in with the other boxing students because they demonstrated each exercise or drill very well. In cases that we would commit a mistake, they would correct us right away by showing us once more how it is done with the proper form or stance.
However, not everyone seemed to be very warm and welcoming. In one of the stations, we had a difficult time getting the timing of the speedball. This got the attention of some of the regular boxers who were waiting for their turn because of the limited number of balls. We felt a bit pressured because we took a longer time to get the hang of it. Thus, needing more rounds and more practice. For us, this was evidence that our presence did influence the seen because we attracted more attention to ourselves as the “newbies”.
1. What insights were gained from participation compared to just observing?
The primary difference from just observing and participating was empathy. As we observed, we would notice how different people would frequently shout, make mistakes, or clumsily fall. However, we didn’t really understand why because some things looked easier or simpler than normal. The speedball looked like some ball that would make some people look like idiots and we would even laugh and make fun of them in our heads. When we participated though, we realized how it was so much harder than it looked and how we looked even worse than the people we’d make fun of in our heads. Also, we felt how the stress and exhaustion would really just force us to resort to weird means of relief such as shouting as loud as you can.
2. What did having a key informant add to your understanding?
As mentioned above, the primary thing that confused us was the time distribution of trainers and the system of trainer assignment (this is all the more important because boxing is a sport that has a lot to do with your trainers). This confusion was further intensified by something very peculiar that occurred during our observation – two middle-aged ladies were complaining to the trainer and eventually to the receptionist because they thought their trainer would devote 100% of his attention to them. They mentioned how “their time was so important” and how “they didn’t pay 350php to be attended to only 1/6 of the time.” Our informant explained that there were two possible sides to the scenario: either the trainer shouldn’t have taken the members to be under him knowing he already had to much to handle or the two middle-aged ladies were simply being ignorant. She explained that the first option is possible because the additional earnings of the trainers are based on how many people are under them per day and naturally, they’d want to earn more. The second option was also said to be possible because there really people who just expect to be pampered by their trainers the whole time. This is something we couldn’t have understood by observation alone.
3. What was learned from participant observation at this event that a questionnaire or interview about it might miss?
Through the use of participant observation, a fieldworker may be able to gain first hand information about the event or activity. In a boxing gym, participant observation allows you to visualize what goes on and the interactions that occur. Since this activity is dependent upon interactions and physical activities, the use of participant observation gives better data and notes because it removes the possibility of biases that may arise from the questionnaire and interview method. By conducting just an interview, an observer may miss out on the details that occur behind the scenes such as the trainer system and the routines that a boxer may go through before starting a round. A questionnaire will also only be answered based on the experiences of the people present. Thus, it will only provide a limited view of what really occurs. Participant observation provides a lot of opportunities to the fieldworker to gain sufficient information/notes to be able to arrive at possible conclusions.
4. For what purposes might a questionnaire or interview be better than participant observation?
The method of using questionnaires or interviews is better off compared to participant observation when dealing with personal and private matters. For example, when observing family dynamics or sexual intercourse, it would be better to conduct an interview because an observer’s presence may affect the outcome of the action. Also, questionnaires are more efficient to use when dealing with a large group of people. It would be difficult to participate in activities that would entail the presence of a large crowd because there would be a lot of aspects that need to be noted down. Furthermore, interviews and questionnaires provide quick and easy information compared to participant observation. Some events may not have a distinguishable start and end time thus forcing an observer to participate in a social activity for a longer period of time.
SA 21- P
Fists of Fury