Bowen Boxing classes are more than just a punch-up

David Koeplin grew up in West Berlin with Mohammed Ali fanatics for parents.

"They would get all of us up in the middle of the night to watch Ali fight," says Koeplin, "even my grandmother got up at two in the morning to see Ali vs. Fraser."

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It wasn't until 14 years ago that Koeplin started to box himself. He was living in North Vancouver, and his life was focused on family and work and he was looking to balance that out with some rigorous physical activity.

Koeplin took his first boxing classes at the rec centre in North Van. At the beginner level, classes involved conditioning, learning technique and drills.

"When you're just starting out, there is so much to remember and everything feels awkward," says Koeplin. "One of my early trainers told me it takes 10 thousand punches to commit the technique to muscle memory."

Soon after starting boxing at the Rec Centre, Koeplin decided to get more serious about the sport and join a boxing gym where he got his first chance to spar.

"I remember when I first started sparring how exhausting it was," says Koeplin. "Three minutes can be a very long time. I still can't imagine what it's like to go twelve rounds."

When he moved to Bowen eight years ago, Koeplin thought his boxing career had come to an end. He'd heard about a boxing group that existed on the island, but hadn't actually found it. A conversation on the ferry with Shauna Jennings (Bowen Recreation) brought the group back to life, with Koeplin at its helm.

"When I started to teach, I found a whole other way to enjoy boxing," says Koeplin. "Both my parents were teachers, so maybe that has something to do with it, but when you teach you have to understand the subject in a whole other way, and no two people are the same. Everyone has a different feel for his or her body, and so I like the challenge of constantly tweaking my own approach to make it work for all kinds of different people."

In his three years of teaching boxing, Koeplin has had a wide variety of students come through his classes: men and women, people as young as fifteen and as old as 50, and more than a few people with martial arts background (martial arts like taekwondo are like classical music, boxing his more like jazz, he says.)

Koeplin's classes are often technically oriented.

"You'll never be able to throw a good punch if you are just relying on strength, and you'll have a much greater chance of hurting yourself," says Koeplin. "There is such a misconception that boxing is just about two guys punching each other out. Yes, sometimes it is like that, but for me it is really more of a sweet science."

Koeplin says he studies boxing by watching Youtube videos.

"There are lots of ways to do things, and everyone finds the way that feels comfortable to them," says Koeplin. "There are at least three different ways to defend when your opponent is throwing jabs. Your preferred reaction becomes a part of your style."

A boxing class with Koeplin may focus on balance or agility, or it may focus on a single punch, but there is always a heavy dose of physical conditioning.

Teaching boxing twice a week on Bowen has also pushed Koeplin back into boxing himself. These days, he takes the 5:30am ferry two to three times per week so he can train at Sugar Ray's boxing gym before heading to the office.

"My goal for this year is to actually get in the ring for a real fight," says Koeplin.

Boxing classes with David Koeplin are held Wednesdays between 7:30 and 9pm and Saturdays between 8:30 and 10am at the Fitness Centre on Carter Road. There will be no class on February 5th.

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