The Art of Shadowboxing
Shadowboxing has been a staple in the regimen of many generations of boxers. Through its practice, fighters can gain awareness of themselves, how they are seen, and perfect the movements that are necessary in winning a fight. It is from this insight that fighters can better prepare themselves for their opponents by having a concrete idea of what to do and why. Of course there are stages of expertise, properly learning techniques and concepts, practicing/applying them, and at last a greater awareness which allows for freedom of creativity and higher self control.
Nowadays there are many boxers that are stuck on square one. To a lot of them, shadowboxing is just punching practice or a warm up. Many just look at the clock and count a couple rounds while senselessly moving around and punching. A lot of people hinder their own development because they are not paying attention to what they are doing, and in effect there’s no reasoning behind what they are doing. Poor self-awareness in training can lead to many bad habits. When it comes to a fight they’re not fully aware of what’s going on, they’ll make a lot of mistakes unknowingly and therefore can be manipulated by a sharper opponent.
To become adept in boxing calls for reasoning behind what you’re doing and to become more self-aware of what you’re doing. It’s just like how the famous Greek axiom goes, “Know Thyself.” To succeed in this competitive sport you must, and I’ll even quote saddoboxing’s Andre Linnell on this one, “Study why you do certain things until you know why you’re doing them.”
Next up I’ll be covering a boxer’s stages of development when it comes to training and shadow boxing in particular.
When the beginner learns how to box, they’ll usually start off by properly learning the fundamentals, some concepts and the basic movement that they’ll need to know. In assuming a proper fighting stance, throwing different punches in coordination of the feet, proper footwork, and defense in blocking/parrying/avoiding punches makes up the groundwork for the up and coming boxer. It should also be noted that at this stage it is especially important to develop awareness for posture and movement. This can be applied to all modes of training. A lot of time should be dedicated to good technique, mistakes and tendencies should be corrected before the boxer moves onto to more advanced techniques and concepts.
Next is where shadow boxing gets its name from. It all comes down to the concept of fighting an imaginary opponent. Although this kind of opponent depends entirely on your imagination it should be treated with the same amount of respect that you would give a real life opponent. Everything should be deliberate; every move should be with reasons determined. As the boxer progresses they should begin to see how their actions affect how their opponents react. This is where it really begins. Knowing yourself and how your opponent sees you is important in order to control what your opponent does, which in itself is about control of the fight. Feinting and drawing must be developed. Things that are practiced in shadowboxing can be fine-tuned in sparring, and applied to the hitting bags as well.
Ultimately every facet of boxing is brought into play and it’s up to the clever boxer to put it all together. At this point you’ve learned how to box against yourself as you are able to see yourself through the eyes of an opponent. You can absorb the styles and tactics of other fighters and visualize fighting them as real as you can imagine them. In your shadow boxing you are fight any fighter in history; however they are only as real as what you put into them. This is the best way to go over different situations in your mind, so that when you’re in the ring with a smart fighter that’s trying to take your head off you have a better chance of quickly thinking your out of the dilemma.
Wouldn't you want to be the fighter that is holding most of the cards. You would be controling their options, forcing their hand, setting them up and make them do things that are more advantageous to you. As said before, you should always do things with a reason behind them, you weigh the advantages/disadvantages of the situation and you put your opponent in situations that lead to the situations that you can win. Based on how your opponent reacts to your actions and vice-versa you can begin to picture what your opponent’s intentions are. This is about as close to mind reading/mind control as a fighter can get.
Anyways related to what I’m talking about is a really good analogy by boxing expert Thomas Tabin:
“Imagine someone driving a car down a road with many turns and curves. In order for the driver to successfully drive down the road he must factor in all the turns and curves of the road into his mind as he is driving. That is, he sees the turns and curves and interprets them in his mind. With this information he can then decide just how much he ought to turn the steering wheel and just how much acceleration is necessary to successfully navigate the nuances of the road. Therefore, the road dictates what the driver does. The way that it turns, the way that it curves: all things the driver is literally forced to react to.
A good boxer is like a good driver. He interprets the external information he is receiving from his opponent in the way that a driver interprets the external information of a road with many turns and curves. He uses this information to determine how to react - fighting his opponent as though he were negotiating the nuances of a road.
But a truly great boxer; he is more like a road. He is the external information outside of his opponent. He is the information his opponent interprets and reacts to. Understanding this, he fights in a manner as though he were a road with a mind of its own; making the person driving down it move in the way he wants when, where, and how.”
By now you should know by now that shadowboxing is nothing about practicing of random sequences of punches and moving haphazardly, it’s about being deliberate in your actions and being consciously aware of what’s going on.
Now I’m going to get into some of the good stuff, new ways you can conduct the way you shadowbox, and an excellent excerpt from the words of a great champion.
Since shadowboxing has a lot to do with awareness to yourself it’s a good idea to use a mirror to practice in front of. Besides making sure you aren’t making any mistakes or telegraphing your real intentions, you can train your eyes to be very observant. Always keep track of what your opponent would be seeing, and learn how to control them by what you allow them to see.
Study the different shifts/slights. Head movement is affected by even the most minor shifts. These shifts can inch you into range, or a better angle of attack, it can contribute to your power by getting you set for a punch, or can help you avoid a punch. On the flipside if you are ignorant to these shifts you may unknowingly give your opponent the advantage by allowing them to get into position, or putting you in a bad position.
A lot of knowledge can be derived from the close observation of these shifts. Study the outcomes, the advantages and disadvantages of the different shifts. Become aware of effects of the ankle twists, shoulder drops, bringing the feet square, the drop-shift, and other maneuvers. Some moves are preliminary and can be caught on early. Everything stems from your big toe, and where ever your head goes your feet goes to some extent. When you bend your knees your head follows. Become aware of your opponent’s intent through their movement, and more importantly what they are trying to strategically accomplish.
While shifting with an opponent you need to be aware of their potential arm, even when you’re avoiding their lead. Become aware of the timing, circumstances and situations required that take advantage of these different shifts/slights. You can hone your powers of observation by paying close attention to your movements in front of a mirror, by intently watching fights/sparring anytime when you have the chance, and by focusing on what you’re doing infront . You’ll become more aware and know how to exercise caution, how to set up your opponent while they’re shifting, or put yourself into a better position to capitalize on these opening, and all the while keeping control over your advantages.
You can really make progress by practicing this while shadowboxing in a mirror, and try to apply it in sparring. It’s both serious physical and mental exercise to gain insight about yourself, much of boxing’s nuances and prepare for a varierty of situations.
Now everything can be broken down, simplified and approached scientifically…And here’s what the Tommy Loughran had to say:Originally Posted by greynotsoold
"I think that nobody has ever put in the time and effort and practicing and studying boxing, doing different things like I did. I was so meticulous about everything that I did insofar as my training was concerned, my movements, my balance, my sense of coordination, and my footwork was tied in with all the movements. Of course, I was very fortunate too in having a manager who had been a fighter himself. Joe Smith had 300 fights and he didn't have a mark on him. Very good looking.
I worked in the basement of my home. I had a little gym fixed up there and I had mirror and I studied myself in those mirrors, punching the bag, skip rope, shadowbox, and I studied my movements in these mirrors in such a way that I knew exactly appeared to every fellow that I was boxing. And I would set him up for certain punches that he'd be taking at me. See, he didn't know how he looked to me. All he saw was me. But I saw what he saw. I had learned this from studying it in the mirror. I could sucker a fellow into almost anything. The thing can be practiced scientifically and with a lot of skill, or it can be brutal, smashing thing that would be pleasing for a crowd but too brutal for any class, refined..."
Great Stuff! That kind of understanding comes from a very intent approach when it comes to training. A greater awareness of yourself and in that you can really become creative. I mentioned that Tommy Loughran was self-trained, and it was his meticulous nature to break down how things work and understand how to apply his new found knowledge which in effect made him an amazing fighter. Anyone can do this, it's just a question of putting things together and how far you’re willing to take it.