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Basic Defensive Movements for Boxing

How to Learn Basic Boxing Defense Techniques

A common criticism of modern fighters among many boxing pundits is that they are “all offense,” and that even the fundamentals of defense aren’t taught very well by modern gym culture. Whether you believe that claim or not, it is easy for anyone learning the sweet science to accidentally emphasize “hitting” and not the “not getting hit” part of the sport’s paramount axiom. By incorporating certain drills into your workout’s rotation, you can polish the four basics of boxing defense: moving laterally, backing up, high guard, and slipping.

1. Lateral movement: Getting your lateral movement down is key for side-to-side footwork, a skill that is central to both defense and offense. Defensively, moving side to side is about giving the other guy a harder target. Lateral movement can be incorporated into your warm-up routine, simply by moving around the ring laterally. This will both help you tune up your footwork and warm-up at the same time. One thing to remember is to switch directions during the drill, since whether you move to the left or right depends heavily on an opponent’s stance and particular assets.

2. Backing up: Backing straight up more than one or two steps is a huge no-no in boxing, with only phenoms like Muhammad Ali or Roy Jones being able to pull it off safely. Even so, if you don’t practice those one or two steps with some regularity, your defensive footwork won’t be there when you need it. The classic way of tuning this defensive fundamental is to jog backwards. You’ve seen boxers do this in documentaries and movies all the time, and defense is part of the reason why.

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3. Keep Your Guard Up: The simplest way to stop a punch is to block it with your gloves or forearms, and is something every beginner should learn. Even fighters who like to carry their one or both hands low don’t do it all of the time.

When you shadow box, work the heavy bag, or work the mitts, always start from and return to a stance where your knuckles are at least as high as eye level, and your elbows are blocking access to your ribs. Mind this through everything you do.

If you have learned bad habits, such as dropping your left on its way back, unlearn them with the aid of a gym partner or trainer. Having someone watch what you are doing will tell you when you aren’t bringing your punches straight back, if your guard is slipping down, or if your body is uncovered. If you train alone, then a “guard up” bar is a sound substitute. This is a bar attached to a harness and mounted on your torso. If you touch the bar, your arms are out of position.

4. Slipping: Slipping is how you make the other guy miss without moving your feet. It isn’t ducking, which calls for bending over and is a terrible mistake to make in the ring. Instead, slipping involves going under punches by compressing the abdomen and bending a little at the knees. You can practice this basic movement in front of the mirror until you get it right and learn it as muscle memory, and then learn how to slip on the move.

To drill for slipping while going forward and backward, either string up a taut horizontal line or use the ring ropes, and slip under these while moving forward and backward. To learn how to slip on the move, incorporate slips into your lateral movement drill. Slipping at ring corners or whenever you change direction are just two examples. Finally, you can incorporate slipping into all your punching drills by slipping going into a combination of punches, going out of one, or both.