One of the most underrated exercises in fighting nowadays is shadow boxing. I say it’s underrated because quite frankly, I hardly see anyone doing it. As a coach and an instructor it’s like pulling teeth getting my students to shadow box. I’ve heard it all; “I don’t know how,” “I feel stupid,” “I look stupid.” Much to their dismay, I make them do it anyway, but only because I understand how important it is. As an active fighter, I shadow box every chance I get. Whether I’m in my car, in my room, or out at dinner—yes, that’s right, even on a date I shadow box—it doesn’t matter where, I am always shadow boxing.
What is shadow boxing?
Shadow boxing is probably one of the purest and most versatile forms of exercise that gives fighters the ability to use their imagination because it is your own interpretation of a fight. Fighters move around throwing punches at the air with no specific target to hit, which allows fighters to sharpen their techniques. It’s a great way to improve strength, power, speed, endurance, footwork, and offense and defense—overall hone fighting ability.
Here are some tips to help you start or improve your shadow boxing skills:
1. YOU VS HIM
First things first, visualize an opponent. You don’t have an actual target so make one. For novice fighters, this is a great time to learn to use your imagination. Imagine the range of your opponent and how far you have to reach to make contact. For more experienced fighters, this is a great time to visualize your next opponent and working on exactly what you want to do to him/her.
2. THE BEST DEFENSE IS A GOOD OFFENSE
Get in a habit of throwing a multitude of punches and or kicks/knees. Be a little aggressive and on the attack, stay active and picture yourself dominating the round.
3. THE BEST OFFENSE IS A GOOD DEFENSE
Don’t always be the aggressor when you’re fighting your “opponent” because in a real fight that won’t always be the case. If you have a ring, fight on the ropes or in the corners and imagine yourself in a predicament. Put yourself in a bad situation so you learn how to get out of it and more importantly, so you aren’t as startled when it actually happens. Always keep your hand up, brace yourself for punches and counter, slip, weave and counter and move around.
4. SUGAR FOOT
Use your feet. Footwork is key especially if you are using tip #3. If you are in a “bad spot” use your feet to get out of it. If you are the aggressor, use your feet to stay active and be impossible to hit.
5. IRON MIKE
It’s good to practice your technique and to be technical, but sometimes you’ve got to put a little mustard on your shots. Throw punches hard, fast and with bad intentions. Accelerate your shots, but not so much where you’re punching through your target and putting yourself in a bad spot.
6. WAITING TO EXHALE
Breathing is an extremely important part of fighting whether you are hitting the bags, pads or are in actual competition. This is a great time to work on your breathing technique since you don’t have anything to actually hit and you can learn to pick up a good breathing rhythm. Exhale all your punches!
7. MIX IT UP
An effective shadow boxing session will have each round geared to something specific. For instance, round 1 you might be the aggressor and put the pressure on your “opponent,” but in round 2 you may want to switch the roles and allow your “opponent” to put pressure on you. Round 3 can be an evenly matched “fight” so you have to focus more on technique and landing more shots.
Those are my 7 tips for shadow boxing. I hope this encourages you guys to utilize it as way to improve your skills. Whether you are doing it as a warm-up or a cool-down, shadow boxing is a great exercise and you will only benefit from it in the end.