Boxing is by far one of the most popular forms of non-armed, competitive combat in the world. It is a true test of fitness, stamina, and mental toughness, serving as a perfect platform to release your pent-up aggression, and channeling it productively. As ironic as it may seem, the intense, physical sport of boxing goes a long way in calming the mind, and helps you to focus better. Here are a few basic things you might want to keep in mind as you take up this sport.
Having a proper stance is by far the most important part of boxing. You want to keep an upright stance, while maintaining your balance. Always remember to leave your body loose. If your body is tensed, it will hamper your movement, and your punches won’t be as effective. The distance between your legs should be about the width of your shoulders. The lead foot (the opposite of your rear hand) is about half a foot in front of the rear foot. Both the feet are tilted a little inward, with the rear heel lifted just a little above the ground. The lead fist is held up just about 6 inches away from the face. The rear fist is held closer to the face at chin level. The elbow is held close to the ribcage to keep out the blows directed at the body. The chin is held a little low, to shield the jaws from the punches.
While there might seem to be a lot of punches, they are merely variations of the four main types of punches, namely the jab, the cross, the hook, and the uppercut. For a right-handed boxer, his left hand is his lead hand, and the right hand is his rear hand, used to deliver the more powerful punches (it would be just the opposite for a southpaw). To throw in an effective punch, your body should swivel in the direction of the punch, while maintaining your balance all the while.
The jab is one of the most important, and frequently used punches. It lets you feel out your opponent, while maintaining maximum guard against a counterattack. It is executed by the lead hand, and is a straight punch, usually delivered in quick succession. The fist rotates 90 degrees from its original position, and ends parallel to the ground (closed palm facing the ground). The torso and the hip twist a little, in the direction of the punch. As you complete the punch, the lead shoulder moves upwards to shield the chin, while the rear hand guards the jaw. This maneuver leaves little room for a counterpunch.
A powerful tool in the arsenal of every boxer, the cross is a very effective punch. This punch is thrown by the rear hand, and is normally preceded by a series of jabs, or is used as a counterpunch. The lead hand moves to guard the chin, as the rear hand follows a straight path from the original position (guard position) toward the opponent’s face. This packs quite a punch, as the entire bodyweight is transferred from the rear foot to the lead foot, and the hip and the torso swivel in the direction of the punch. The hands are then brought back to the guard position, where the punch can be followed by another series of jabs.
The hook is another potent punch that can beat the living day lights out of your opponent. To throw this punch, the rear hand is moved along an arc toward the chin or jaw of the adversary. The body turns on the lead foot, while the heel of the rear foot is slightly raised, and turns toward the outside. This punch can also be thrown by the lead hand, but doesn’t have the same power in it. The turning of the body, and the shifting of the weight adds to the power in the punch, but at the same time leaves you vulnerable to a counterpunch, as you get back to the guard position.
The uppercut is one of the classiest punches, which often delivers the coup de grâce, resulting in a knock-out. To deliver this punch, the torso shifts in the direction of the rear hand, as it raises from around the chest level of the opponent. The rear hand moves along a diagonal arc, as it moves up toward the chin or jaw of your contender. The knee is kept slightly bent, in order to help generate more power in the punch, as you move up while delivering the blow. The body swivels on the rear foot, and the heel moves outwards.
In boxing, defense is the best form of offense. Your opponent is most vulnerable when he is attacking you. Defense isn’t just about avoiding the blows, but gearing up to launch a counterattack. Most matches are decided on the basis of who can duck better, and sneak in a few punches while at it. Here are some of the popular defensive boxing techniques.
This is a very simple technique used to dodge the punch that comes your way. You swivel your torso and shoulders sharply, so that your chin is turned away from the punch that is thrown at your face.
Bob and Weave
In this technique, you try to evade the punch by tilting your body to either one of the sides, and also ‘bob’ the head below the punch thrown at you. Showing quick reflexes, you can then ‘bob to the inside’ of the arm of the opponent, and launch a counterattack, or ‘bob to the outside’, safely out of harm’s way.
Parry / Block
Blocking is the technique of delivering a lateral punch to the wrist or the forearm of the opponent, as he takes a jab at you. The point is to deflect the blow that is directed at you, before it hits you.
The cover-up is the penultimate line of defense, which involves using your hands to cover your face, while bringing the forearms and the elbows close together to protect the upper body. This however, is not the most effective of techniques, as it leaves your sides and your lower body open to attack.
The clinch is normally the last line of defense. When all other forms of defense fail, you could try to tie your opponent’s hands to your sides by putting your fists around his shoulders, and then moving them under his forearms, locking them in place. This should save you from your opponent’s punches, while you try to regain your strength. This form of ‘showing love’ is rather short-lived, and is quickly broken up by the referee.
There are three main defensive styles used for counterattacking in boxing, namely peek-a-boo, cross-armed, and philly shell.
In this style, you hold your fists close to your face, and bring your elbows close to each other, to shield yourself from the oncoming punches. You can counterattack while trying this guard, however leaving your sides susceptible to attack. This is one of the most widely used counterpunches.
In this style, you hold your arms up horizontally, covering your face. You could try a variation of this by keeping one of the arms in a slightly tilted position, which can make it easier to throw a counterpunch. This guard, although very effective in blocking the punches to the head, leaves most of the body vulnerable to attack. While employing this technique, boxers usually crouch a little, to provide extra cover to the body.
Philly Shell (Crab)
This style is a mix of the peek-a-boo and the cross-armed style. In this guard, you use your lead arm to cover your torso, while you use your rear hand to shield your face, and launch a counterattack. This can be a very effective ploy to use, provided you have good reflexes, and are quick on your feet, to dodge the punches that come your way.
Here are a few basic things you might want to keep in mind as you take up this sport.
You take my breath away!
Breathe – This is probably the most important aspect of boxing. You can huff and you can puff, but without controlling your breathing, you’ll be KO’d within the first few of rounds. You can greatly improve upon this by practicing Yoga. This will also help you with calming your mind, which would in turn help you focus better. Once you have mastered this, you will see that you are a lot more effective, and it will also help improve your stamina. Breathing out while punching helps you in channeling your energy into the punches.
Mind your business!
Mental Strength – Boxing is as much, if not more, a mental bout than it is physical. It isn’t just about raw strength, but also about reading your opponent’s every move, and anticipating the next. The best of boxers aren’t necessarily the brawniest, but are undoubtedly amongst the strongest mentally. They need not be the quickest on their feet, nor do they need to be the ones to throw the hardest punches; they are simply the ones who exploit their opponent’s weaknesses, while being even more aware of their own, and cover for them. Again, keeping a calm mind will help you focus better on your task at hand.
Got my eyes on you!
Focus – You always want to keep your eyes on your opponent’s every move. This is a lot easier said than done, but will definitely come to you with practice, and loads of patience. If you observe your competitor’s moves, they are bound to give you subtle hints about his next move. The trickiest bit however, is to keep your eyes on your competitor even while you are being pounded away by him. This often is the ideal time to make a counterattack, and watching out for that little window of opportunity could make all the difference between walking away with just a bruised body, and walking away with both a bruised body and a battered ego.
DON’T Train till you drain!
Stamina – Although the jury is still out on whether it actually is a good idea to train to failure, you might be well advised not to drain yourself out completely each time you train. You definitely want to keep pushing yourself a little harder each day, but you also want to take care that you don’t wear yourself out. Chances are, if you train to failure each day, you will burn yourself out soon. The ideal way to go about it is to train hard, but leave yourself with just about enough strength to get right back in a while. This would help you to pace yourself properly for each of the three-minute rounds in boxing, rather than going for broke right from the start.
Boxing is one of the few sports which truly stretches your body and mind to its very limits, and is one of the best ways to keep fit. It is only by the perfect synergy of these elements, that you can truly ‘float like a butterfly, sting like a bee’.