BOXING FOOTWORK DRILLS
Boxing is one of the most popular forms of combat in the United States of America, and even across the world. The art of boxing has been around for a long time with famous names like Muhammad Ali, Sonny Liston, George Foreman, and Joe Frazier all becoming pioneers of the sport. Throughout the evolution of boxing the training systems have become legendary, and many athletes are using exceptional footwork to enhance their ability to throw effective combinations during a fight. Stepping into the ring can be extremely challenging, and having the right training systems in place will only benefit a competitive athlete in the long run.
What this article covers:
- The History of Boxing
- Why Is Footwork so Important
- Important Tips for Maintaining Good Footwork
- Simple Footwork Drills
- More Advanced Footwork Drills
- Combining Punching Form with Footwork
Footwork drills are essential to a successful boxer, and knowing how to maximise each of these components is pivotal. Practising boxing footwork techniques is the main objective in boxing, outside of throwing punches, and building up a significant skill set in movement is extremely important. There are a multitude of different footwork drills that an athlete can master, and each one of them has a specifically designed purpose within the fight game. Understanding the mechanics of how a boxer should move is powerful knowledge, and being capable of executing this is how they will become a world class striker.
THE HISTORY OF BOXING
Boxing is one of those combat sports that has origins that date back to the dawn of time. Prehistoric people were said to engage in fights, where punching, and kicking was involved. The earliest depictions were said to have appeared in the second millennia in ancient Egypt, and ancient Iraq. Southern Iraq was known as Sumeria, and was the earliest known civilization, which was located in the southernmost part of Mesopotamia, between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, where this area later became Babylonia. Sumerian carvings depicted ancient men fighting with their fists, which would eventually filter into a combat sport. In the sixth millennia rules were introduced into boxing between ancient Greeks, where eventually by 688 BC boxing was established as an Olympic sport.
Centuries later boxing was still evolving, and by the sixteenth century prizefights began taking place in Great Britain. This inspired generations of boxers, and civilians gambling on prize fights, and by the nineteenth century boxing was beginning to gain significant momentum, and a plethora of popularity. Through the late nineteenth century, prizefighting became an extremely illegitimate combat sport, and this was due to the brutality of bare knuckled matches. The sport was outlawed in England, and in many places throughout the United States of America. Prizefights were often facilitated by gambling venues, and were constantly broken up by police raids. In 1867 the inception of the Marquess of Queensberry Rules were implemented, which began to shape the future of the combat sport. Athletes could now fight in a ring with timed rounds, and boxing gloves, which made the sport extremely interesting.
The first ever world heavyweight champion under the Queensberry Rules was Jim Corbett, who defeated the legendary John L. Sullivan in 1892 in New Orleans, in the United States of America. Throughout the twentieth century many boxers had trouble achieving legitimate notoriety, and with the help of promoters like Tex Rickard, the tides were turning with professional boxing. Although middle class Americans lost faith in the art of boxing, it was the poverty stricken inner city areas like New York, and Chicago, and other places around the world like Mexico, Africa, South America, and Eastern Europe that have unearthed some of the world's most talented fighters. Nowadays the art of boxing has become a multibillion dollar commercial enterprise that is giving opportunities to many lower class athletes, as they look to make a name for themselves.
WHY IS FOOTWORK SO IMPORTANT
Footwork is one of the most essential elements in boxing, and this is because all power is generated from the feet. Good boxing footwork will also put an athlete in a great position, so they can execute more effective punching combinations. Footwork is all about balance, and agility, and using sure feet will always work out fortuitous for an attacking, or defensive athlete. It can be easy to lose balance, while an athlete is dancing around the ring, but with the added skills of high quality footwork, athletes can sculpt a pathway towards defeating their opponents. Executing good power punches, or fast and capable jabs, involves proper footwork skills, and because a lot of power is generated through hip rotation, it becomes even more crucial to step into the right position. Learning the best boxing footwork skills will create an abundance of opportunities for an athlete, and once they have mastered how to step in and out of range it then becomes all about how good their punching fluency is.
IMPORTANT TIPS FOR MAINTAINING GOOD FOOTWORK
Maintaining good footwork is critical for any amateur, or professional boxer. One of the most important aspects to know is that an athlete should always stay on their toes, and this is so they can be quick to move around the ring. Fast feet will always promote fast hands, and this is a concept that must be disciplined by all athletes. Another important tip is to keep their feet a shoulder width apart, and the reason for this is because it will help an athlete maintain a good balanced structure. Staying relaxed is another key component, and this will allow for a faster reaction time, and a greater understanding of each moment within a fight.
Keeping an athlete's hands up is critical, and not doing this is the common reason an athlete will suffer a knockout loss. All athletes must guard their chin, because in boxing the chin is referred to as the button, which is how a knockout will be achieved. Athletes must not be stationary, because this will only work in the favour of the opponent, as they will be able to formulate a fight ending maneuver. Athletes must practise moving from side to side, and forwards and backwards, and this will enable them to be more evasive, which can lead to unpredictability in a fight. The more an athlete practises movement, the easier it will become to duck under punches, or use side or backwards stepping to avoid danger.
SIMPLE FOOTWORK DRILLS
One of the most important drills in boxing is shadow boxing, and this is where athletes can explore many avenues of their movements. Creating different boxing footwork angles is vitally important for opening up attack opportunities, and using a non impactful way to practice these movements is paramount. A shadow boxing drill can have many different moving parts, and an athlete can start off small by practising simple stepping in and out of range. Dancing around the mat, while throwing continuous punches will help all athletes to build a considerable muscle memory, and this is why it is imperative that athletes use the right form. Shadow boxing can be used as a simple warm up exercise, or it can be used for more strenuous workout exercises like practising evading punches, and then counter striking, moving in and out of range, or shuffling forward with composure and presence.
There is another simple footwork drill that will help athletes side step when they are in a real fight. Shuffling to the side can cause an athlete to lose their balance, and if they are not well conditioned they might be lacking in coordination, or speed. The lateral shuffle starts by standing with an athlete's feet together, before taking a small step to the side, and following the movement by shuffling their other leg together. This can be repeated, as they shuffle around the mats, while keeping their hands up and guarding their chin. Another good drill is a forwards and backwards shuffle, and this is just like the lateral shuffle only stepping in a forwards motion, and then stepping backwards. This drill is a good functional way to practise moving in and out of an opponent's range, and will benefit athletes tremendously.
In boxing quite often an athlete will need to use hops or skips to infiltrate an opponent's space, and practising single leg hop drills can be extremely effective. Developing coordination skills with both feet is a crucial element in boxing footwork. This drill is as simple as standing on one foot, before hopping forwards, and backwards, while ensuring they land on the same foot. Once the athlete is gaining coordination skills, they can switch legs and keep on engineering their hop. Another good drill that will help an athlete improve their lateral movement is very similar to the lateral shuffle, and as the athlete steps to their left and follows the movement with their right foot, they will then duck their head under and move back to the right side, continuing to shuffle back to their right side, and following with their left foot. This is a good drill that will enhance an athlete's lateral movement, while still perfecting evasive maneuvers.
Agility is pivotal for an athlete's footwork, and this is because they need to be capable of moving in opposite directions with a quick reaction time. Athletes can set up cones in a row, and work on different exercises like sprinting to each cone and circling around the cone, before continuing onto the next cone. It is important to do this drill with their hands up guarding their chin, and they can even throw punches as they circle around the cones. Using a ladder is another great way to work on agility skills, and athletes can do a range of different drills to increase their agility attributes. Side stepping through each of the rungs on the ladder will promote good footwork, and athletes can move in multidirectional ways to increase their agility.
In boxing being explosive is a key factor, and there are many different ways to build up this ability. Jump squats are a perfect way to increase explosiveness, while strengthening core muscle groups in the body. Building strength through leg workouts for boxers will improve an athlete's ability to close the distance on an opponent, which will ultimately help them to initiate attacks. A good squat jump can be executed with an athlete standing with their feet a shoulder width apart, before squatting down until their thighs are close to the ground. From this position it is important to use explosiveness to jump up as high as the athlete can, while making sure to land gently so their muscles can absorb the landing.
MORE ADVANCED FOOTWORK DRILLS
Footwork drills are essential in building a formidable boxing repertoire, and once an athlete has an understanding of the basics they can move into more advanced drills. The square drill is something that is used by many professional athletes, so they can build the right positioning in a real fight. The athlete will need to use a square boxing ring, or mark out a square on the mats to effectively utilise this drilling technique. The athlete will start in one corner of the ring with their normal fight stance, before moving diagonally forwards to the opposite corner of the ring, while slipping their head, and throwing combinations. From here they will use lateral shuffling to hit the next corner of the ring, before moving diagonally backwards to the last corner on the ring. This drill is designed to take control of the ring, while using evasive movements, and improving the quality of their striking components.
Another high level footwork drill is for an athlete to place a medicine ball in the centre of the ring. The athlete will start a few steps away from the ball, and begin by maneuvering in towards the ball with their hands up. Once they get close they can use technical movements like shuffling, pivoting, and circling around the ball, as they keep their hands up. This drill is designed to help an athlete practise how to step in with their lead foot, and how to use sure feet to circle in and out of danger. The Mirror drill is a little similar to a shadow boxing drill, except it involves working with a partner. The athlete will stand in front of their training partner, as each of them will decide who is offensive, and who is defensive. The offensive athlete will move in whichever direction they want, while the defensive athlete will mirror the movements. This drill is a great way to help develop an athlete's evasive techniques, as they will be slipping and rolling under punches like Roy Jones Jr.
Another advanced drill is skipping, and even though skipping is used for warmups, and by beginners, it can be used in a more advanced manner. Athletes should already be using skipping as a cardio workout, so they should already have great skills in all of the skipping techniques. Using a skipping rope to practise real functional boxing footwork movements is perfect to improve their skills, but also to build endurance into their muscles. Athletes should try skipping on the balls of their feet, and transition into skipping on their heels, they can also skip on one foot. All of these different types of exercises will enhance the quality, the resilience, and the speed of an athlete's footwork. Skipping can also be done without a rope, and athletes will need to imagine there is a rope, as they use fast footwork to clear the rope. This is a great drill too, because an athlete can also keep their hands up, and throw different combinations.
COMBINING PUNCHING FORM WITH FOOTWORK
Doing the hard yards, and working extensively on footwork skills is only half the battle. Athletes will also need to work diligently on their actual punching form, and this is usually done during shadow boxing exercises, on the boxing bags, or while practising combinations on the focus mitts. The hard part is trying to combine both of these elements into one, and this is why athletes will apply all of their skills into one drill like circling, and hitting the boxing bag. Shadow boxing can also help with the cohesion of these two elements, but in terms of also applying power to their punches the athlete will actually need to hit something. Real life sparring is one of the best ways to acclimatise to the rigors of competitive level boxing, and even though an athlete may take some damage, it is one of the best forms of real life conditioning outside of a real fight. Improving an athlete's boxing skills comes from patience, dedication, repetition, and conditioning, and as long as they are mentally prepared, and motivated to improve, nothing will stand in their way.