The Basics of Boxing

1. Your stance

Loose, but compact – chin protected by lead arm shoulder and back power hand, head tilted forward, looking up through your eyebrows, turned off from your opponent with legs solidly planted about shoulder width apart, presenting as little of a target as possible. Knees are bent, on the balls of your feet, groin protected, feet almost parallel. Mobile, static, and powerful.

2. Range of distance from your opponent

Become accustomed to being just outside or even slightly inside the range of your opponent. You have to become comfortable with things flying at your face and barely missing.  Develop the ability to measure an opponent’s reach and remain a fraction of an inch out of it and not freak out and flinch when something comes flying at your face. Your movements have to be slight and always in the position to answer back. Your defense exists to facilitate your offense.

3. Never ever, ever …

take your eyes off your opponent, even when the ring card girls are as beautiful as above. As the referees state over and over again before each contest, “Protect yourself at all times.”

4. Let it go by

Related to Range, don’t always keep yourself outside of your opponent’s reach, or he will forever be outside of yours. The trick is to bob, slip and weave to stay inside but still remain un-hit.  Smaller fighters will magnify this problem against a taller opponent – there is no way to be outside of their reach and be anywhere close to being able to launch your own assault. You have to learn to live and fight in their zone.

5. Everything is a means to an end

Musashi says “Do nothing that is without a reason.” Beware of wasting energy for no reason. Every defensive move, without a counterpunch falls into this category. If you have to move to avoid a punch, you better be delivering one as well or that initial energy expenditure is wasted. In a sport where conditioning is upwards of 75% of the battle, the less energy you expend to win, the better.

As well, letting your opponent get comfortable knowing you aren’t going to retaliate is just prolonging the inevitable. You can’t block everything, and the only way to win is to fight back. You weaken your opponent’s offense with your offense. Isolated blocks and slipping without counters are useless unless you’re progressing.

6. Learn to read the signs

If a hip is moving, it’s a good indication something else is coming from that side.  As well, the eyes, shoulders, twitches, ticks, habits, although they may be amateurish, will also tell you the same thing once you pick up on them.

7. The all important Jab

The jab is the fundamental punch of boxing – learn it, love it, use it both as a weapon and as a setup tool for power punches. If you can jab, you can box; if you can’t, then you’re nothing more than a puncher and learn to love getting hit.

Some people use the jab like a fly swatter, others like to use it as a heavier punch. Developing the ability to do both is best, the light flicks of a fencer jabbing with his fencing sword as well as the devastating thrusts that snap people’s heads back gives you a more complete arsenal of weapons.

8. The Can Opener and Spoon

Boxing has a saying that your jab is a can opener and your cross is the spoon. Consider your opponent is a can of meat.  You can’t use the spoon to dig out the meat until you open it with the can opener. In other words, you shouldn’t necessarily be leading off your attacks with a cross or power punch. Use your jab to setup the second punch and punch in combinations. Jabs, feints, and deception are the order of the day to ensure your power punches do the damage they are designed to do.

9. The Hook 

Two fundamentals to keep in mind when throwing a hook – rotate on the ball of your lead foot like you are crushing a peanut into the floor and reach out with your arm like you want to grab your buddy in a headlock. Your wrist has no part in the hook – the punch can be delivered with a horizontal or vertical alignment in your wrist depending on the distance of your opponent.

10. Balls of your feet are the gas, the heels are the brakes

If you’re on the balls of your feet you can make quick movements, if you’re on your heels, you’re in punching position and not moving anywhere quick which leaves you susceptible to attack.

11. The importance of speed

Speed is extremely important, but only in the aspect of surprise. To be more precise, the important thing is acceleration. If you are quick, but start out slow, any opponent with mobility can get out of the way by the time you reach full speed at extension, but if you come out of the gate like a racehorse, they aren’t getting out of the way. Basically you need to develop explosive speed to beat your opponent’s reflexes. Best way to do that – relax.  Tight muscles will actually prohibit you from reaching your speed potential and speed is a key component of force.

13. Keeping your shoe out of the Bucket

Describes the failure to shift your weight when throwing certain punches from the rear foot to the front foot. Most common is the cross as you pivot and rise onto the ball of your rear foot transferring the weight to your front leg. If you remain flat footed, you diminish the weight transfer and are in no position for follow up – you are now vulnerable.

14. Barrel of a Gun

When you punch, look down your arm like you are looking down the barrel of a gun. This will help to ensure your shoulder is protecting your chin. Use the analogy of soldiers guarding the fort to describe your hands. As one of the soldiers goes off to make war, the other must protect the fort. If you throw, the hand not punching better be on the look out for the enemy.

15. When there’s weight, there’s power

Power punches rely on weight transfer for the majority of their power and to get that, you have to load like pressing on a spring while not telegraphing what you are doing.

16. Hourglass Stance

At the end of a cross (straight right or left) you are square to your opponent and thus presenting one hell of a target. It is at this point, you must be extra vigilant and do something like bob and weave or move to get out of the way of the counter punch. It is a necessary evil, but be prepared to deal with it. Have a plan and do something – anything, don’t just stand there like a deer in the headlights.

17. The 60/40 Rule

Describes weight positioning. At no time, do you want to put more than 60% of your weight on any one foot (except for extreme circumstances). Standing off balance is not good for your defensive or offensive.

18. Avoid the dancing

Why waste the energy dancing around the ring? There is a zone between you and your opponent called no man’s land that you are constantly trying to seize. That’s where your quick, short movements should be taking place in order to gain the advantage.  Anything outside of that is wasted movement and energy. When you take that zone, commit to your punch and derive the power from the floor, up through your legs and hips, exiting through the end of your fist. The dancing around will only kill you in the later rounds.

19. Generating the power

Your power has to come from somewhere. In your house, your appliances get power from being plugged into an electrical outlet. In boxing, your punches get power when you plug into the power generated from your legs and hips.  All power comes from the bottom up.

20. Better to have him miss by an inch, than a mile

If you over exaggerate your blocks or slips and make him miss by a mile, you are likely out of alignment to throw anything back. Get used to punches brushing your face, head and body and you will be much more successful.

21. Head at the level of your punch

If you are punching to the body, you have to crouch down and throw it so your eyes/chin are directly across from your target. If you don’t, think about what happens – you drop your arm completely exposing your chin/head. By dropping to the same level, you maintain your protection which is why it is absolutely crucial to develop strong power in your legs.

22. Punching Power

The power of a punch comes at the end of it, which is why it is necessary to develop ranging capabilities. If you push a punch (too close to an opponent) or fall short (too far away), you don’t transfer the full power of the punch. It has to be just right. With a train, you have to time things just right so you’re at the train station at the same time as the train pulls into the station. Your punch has to reach its max at the same time it’s connecting with your target.

23. When to catch your opponent

Your opponent is generally ready to avoid your first attack. Since he’s ready for you, this is also the best time to test him to see where he’s going. In a fight – it’s all muscle memory – there’s very little actual conscious thinking about what you’re going to do – you just react based on what you have drilled into your body.  So, throw that first jab and see what your opponent does, then you’ll know what you have to do to catch him.

This is why learning to throw combinations is so important. Although he can block or move out of your first punch’s way, it’s unlikely he can get out of the way of a 3 or 4 punch combination, especially when you know what his instincts are telling him to do.  Throw something at his face, and you’ll see his reaction. Then you know exactly what to do, since he’s tipped his hand.

24. The ultimate target is the Chin

The chin is the target. It can put down even the biggest, toughest opponent with a precise tap. The skull is hard and takes a long time to break down. Your best weapon is precision and landing that perfect punch in the sweet spot. Unless you can break concrete with your punches, go for the chin.

25. Sparring

Some people believe there is little benefit to full contact sparring all the time and it will actually deteriorate your performance. As well, the benefit you receive from sparring is determined by the skill level of your opponents. Technical and conditional sparring where you actually learn things rather than trying to survive are what you should be practicing and saving the brain damage for the bouts.

26. Shadowboxing

Shadowbox everyday, 15 or 20 minutes to keep your brain sharp and reflexes ready to go. Use this time to think and work out things like angles and combinations. It can be done almost anywhere, even as you walk down a hallway or wait to cross a thoroughfare.

27. Use a Numbering System

Every punch has a number and it’s good to train with numbers so your trainer can call out a combination or force a reaction simply by spouting off a sequence. The system develops instinctive movements and quick recall. Cus Dmato, Floyd Patterson and Mike Tyson’s coach, used this method with great results.

28. Train with a Partner

Only those with incredible self discipline can train alone. Boxing is about developing and getting better and that takes practice and hard work. Being accountable to a partner who will push you and help you succeed could mean the difference between a pay day and pay dirt.

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