The following are some requested tips that will help you improve your fighting ability. They are truisms that, in my own experience, are universal to fighting in general. I have been boxing since the early 1980's, and have taught and trained continuously since then. I must be in a giving mood to hand this over like I am, but here goes.
We'll start with some basics, and move into some more involved material as we go. I will inevitably skip some things, since I'm just rattling these off the top of my head.
- Stance -
Chin tucked. Lead shoulder slightly shrugged (though not unnaturally). Elbows in. Hands up (measure your eyebrows with your fists now and then). Knees slightly bent. Feet shoulder width apart, nearly parallel. Groin not open.
Dynamic, phasic, mobile stance.
- Range -
Learn to become really comfortable standing just out of his reach. Develop the sensitivity to gauge people's reach, and allow them to just barely miss. This will give you two valuable things: The ability to not freak out because things are flying at your face and barely missing, and the posture and positioning to hit him with little adjustment.
In other words, your defense has to facilitate your offense. Everything "defensive" is really a matter of doing AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE to make him miss while not messing up your alignment to hit him back. This is why multi-step blocking and highly eccentric movements (literally, "far from center") are not practiced in boxing.
- Never, ever, ever -
. . . take your eyes off of your opponent.
- Let it go by -
Don't always try to stay out of his reach, or you'll always find him out of your reach. Train your slip and bob to stay in range and let the punch go right by so you're still in range to deal it out. Don't weave too much.
- Everything serves your ends -
Like Musashi says, "Do nothing that is without a reason". Beware of gratuitous and wasteful motions that don't serve any purpose. For example, jab when you slip his jab. Cross when you slip his cross. Etc. Don't let him become comfortable, or secure in the knowledge that you're going to stand there while he does what he wants.
The thing that weakens an opponent's offense is your own offense. Everything else (e.g. slipping without countering, blocking as an isolated movement) is just prolonging the inevitable.
- Read the hips -
Learn to read his hips. Whenever a hip comes toward you, that is advance notice that something is coming from that side. Some also telegraph with their shoulders, but this is overt and amateurish -- i.e. wouldn't expect a good fighter to do it. Try to read his loading up in the hips, too.
- The jab -
To me, the art of boxing is founded on the jab. If you've got a jab, you can box. If you don't, then boxing is hard. Simple as that. Without the jab, expect to get hit a lot. The jab helps to make you a good boxer. Without one, you're just a puncher (which can also be effective, but requires specialized attributes to pull it off).
- The Can Opener, and the Spoon -
There's a saying in boxing that your jab is a can opener, and your cross is a spoon. The opponent is a can of meat. You've got to use your can opener to open the can BEFORE you can use your spoon to dig out the meat. If you try to use your spoon first, you'll generally fail. Even if you like to lead off with a cross (not usually advisable, unless you're Roy Jones, Ali, or a pissed off Jack Johnson), it is advisable that you at least feint a jab to conceal the load-up of your rear shoulder for the cross.
- The Hook -- "Crushing Peanuts, and Come Here" -
Two things to remember in throwing your hook. Lead foot rotates on the ball like you're crushing peanuts. Lead arm hooks horizontally and tight, like you're grabbing one of your friends around the neck with your arm and saying, "Come here!" (the noogie position).
Also regarding the hook, THERE IS NO WRIST. Your wrist does not exist. You can use horizontal or vertical fist -- matter of what range you're hooking at.
- Balls of the feet are the gas, heels are the brakes -
Rule of thumb for mobility and planting.
- Christmas -
Better to give, than to receive.
- Speed -
Speed is very important. But quickness and suddenness are even more important. Don't build up in speed. If you do, you will tend to miss against a person with movement, even though your punches are fast at full extension. This is because there is a discernible buildup in your acceleration. Relaxation is important for speed. Don't tighten your fist up until you're almost fully extended.
- Shoe in the Bucket -
This is a common mistake in martial arts that you will really pay for when full contact is happening. It describes a failure to shift the weight off of one foot and onto the other when throwing a power punch. Classic example is in the cross -- at full extension, your rear foot is on the ball, allowing the weight to shift and that hip to come forward. This contradicts the planted rear foot of many traditional martial arts in their "reverse punch" -- what in boxing we call shoe in the bucket.
- Barrel of a gun -
Look down your punching arm like you're looking down the barrel of a gun. This will help that arm to provide cover for your chin on that side while you're punching. Common mistake is for people to leave their chin open on the side of the arm they are punching with. Depending on your personal style, it can also help to turn your thumbs downward to help bring the shoulders up and provide better cover.
Your arms are like two soldiers guarding a fort. When one of them leaves the fort to make war, he has to build a wall to protect his post while he's gone. Also, in keeping with this analogy the other soldier at such times is extra vigilant.
- Where there's weight, there's power -
Proper loading is essential for power punching. But, do not telegraph. Conceal the shift of weight in your combinations.
- Hourglass stance -
This is a dangerous but necessary position in hitting. It happens at the tail end of your cross. Be ready to duck and cover. Your cross will put you in a bob position. You should be ready to stay low and elbow block, weave under, or jab to correct your posture. DO NOT just stand there fully extended with nowhere to go.
- 60/40 Rule -
In your stancing and movement, do not put more than 60 percent of your weight on either foot *except in brief extreme situations*. i.e. In the course of regular movement stand in balance. One-legged stances, stilted and straight knee stances, overextended forward stances, etc., are a big mistake both offensively and defensively.
- Dancing -
Don't dance around, or bounce up and down. Quick, short, even-keeled adjustments are what you want. Stay mobile, but don't waste any motion. In keeping with the gas and brakes analogy above, stay on the balls for quick range adjustment, but SETTLE IN on your punches. You get your punching power from the ground, through the legs, and off the hips.
- The generator -
This is a principle I teach my students. Everything you do needs to derive power from somewhere. Your hips are your generator. Plug everything you do into your generator. Throwing punches without the hips is like fighting a duel with an unloaded gun. You might get the first shot off, but he'll be the one who really connects.
- Better to make him miss by an inch, than by a mile -
This relates to some other things I've already said. When you make him miss by a mile, you'll often find yourself too far out of alignment to fire back. Make him miss by an inch, and it's as if he's not punching you at all -- as far as your ability to counterpunch is concerned.
- Head at the level of your punch -
You have to drop your head to the level of your target. THIS INCLUDES BODY SHOTS. Not to do this is to get hit. Some say you should put your eyes at the level of where you're punching, some say the chin or shoulders. I usually put my eyes at the target level.
- Punching Power -
The power of your punch is on the very end of it. This is one way in which boxing/fighting is a range game. You've got to find your distance, in order to tee off. The real art comes in catching him at the right time and place when your punch is at its max. It's like catching a train. You've got to coordinate things, so that both you AND the train are at the station if you're going to catch the train. Both of you are on the move, though, and this takes timing.
- When to catch him -
Often, an opponent is ready to move once off of your first attack to make you miss. But, usually after this first movement he has nowhere to go unless he's pretty good. Often you can catch him flatfooted at this time, if you're ready to follow up and keep gaining range. Most common of all is simply leaning away from your initial attack. If you're ready to follow up from that, you can usually catch most people (unless your opponent is Chris Byrd).
Musashi once said something related to this: Throw something up at his face, and you'll see his reaction. Then you can know exactly what to do, since he has tipped his hand, and show his intention. Example: You throw a threatening jab (good safe angle, well-covered, but believable) and he reacts by moving slightly back away. This tells you to do the same thing, but follow with an overhand to catch him -- because you know where his head is going to be after the jab.
- The chin -
The chin is the magic button. Tuck yours, exploit his. Some people look really tough, but they go down from a tap on the chin. Whereas, trying to knock a guy out by punching his skull can take a while, unless you hit really hard. Head's like a helmet. Not a good target, unless you can already break patio blocks with your fists. I've knocked people out by punching their skull without hurting my hands, but it takes a while to get your fists tough enough for it.
- Jab like a fencer -
Jabbing is a game of controlled lunging in coordinated footwork to achieve the right range for other things. Some people use the jab in a light way, like a fly swatter. I like to use it light, but also as a heavier punch as well -- a dichotomy which comes from originally learning to box at 175 lbs., but finding myself now at a trim 215-220 lbs. with enough speed AND weight to use it both ways.
- Sparring -
The quality of your sparring partners will influence your skill level. Highly skilled fighters do not need to go full contact all the time to get a lot from the exchange. Besides, if you're a heavyweight like me, here's an important stat for you: 87% of all heavyweight pros suffer from permanent brain damage as a result of full contact sparring and fighting. No thanks. I want to be able to remember my wife's name when I'm 60.
Moreover, you can't explore new combinations and options if there's too big a price to pay. When somebody is out there trying to knock your block off all the time, you'll tend to fall back on just surviving instead of consciously enforcing actions that are intelligent if not yet reflexive.
- Shadowboxing -
You should shadowbox EVERY DAY. The most valuable training experiences for me have been those little 15 or 20 minute sessions where I shadowbox and play with different angles and combos. Keeps you sharp, too.
- Number your angles -
Start with a basic numbering system:
Eventually add other angles (e.g. from close range, squared face-off, or opponent moves to inside):
Now. When working the focus mitts, have the feeder call out combos by number:
"1,1 while circling"
The feeder should collide the mitts with your punches so that the mitts do not snap back, making it possible for him to stay with you on faster combinations, and to give you a satisfying impact when you punch.
Next, work into advancing combos where the feeder throws angles after your first one or two shots, you evade and continue with your counter.
Again, these are mostly BASICS. I've just skipped around a bit, in addition to avoiding kicking altogether which is a favorite area of mine. Maybe some other time. But what I've given here is based entirely on my experience, and it will help you if you apply it.
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