Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Slipping Punches

I'm going to discuss slipping punches and how you can develop this skill in combat and make it an integral part of your game. In boxing in general, there are three major ways to defend. The first way to defend is to use footwork to simply move, this is often accompanied by covering up with your hands for added protection. The second method is to proactively block the attack with a defensive maneuver such as a parry, block, or shoulder roll. The third way is through evasion such as slipping, ducking, or leaning back to avoid the oncoming blow. The advantage to evasion, and more specifically slipping, is that it leaves both of your hands free to attack. Mastering this part of your game will keep your opponent guessing, force them to take greater risks to hit you, and it will open up a whole new world of counter-punching.

It's difficult to properly teach slipping technique through the written form, so I highly recommend that you have a coach or boxer teach you the technique in person. The points I am going to outline below will tell you what to keep in mind and how to improve as you go.

1. Keep your hips loose and allow them to sway back and forth when you slip, this creates a pendulum effect on your body and allows you to move your head faster. Stetch your hips before and after training.

2. Keep your head moving in small motions in a rhythmic way even before your opponent has thrown any punches. This is part of your rhythm and will allow you to react faster, don't stand still and straight up waiting to be hit.

3. Pay attention to the distance your opponent is from you, and keep your eyes on their upper chest or the base of their neck. When the opponent moves towards you and when their shoulders start to turn you know a punch is coming. This is the indicator that tells you to react. Timing this takes practice, you'll get it over time.

4. To get good at slipping you have to take risks and try it in sparring. Choose a round and tell yourself that you are only going to slip to avoid punches for that round. Try to keep moving your head so that you become conditioned for this movement.

5. There are two basic ways to attack while slipping (essentially, slipping is a counter-attack). First, you can throw your punch and slip at the same time, this is extremely effective if you can time your opponent's punch. A classic move is to slip to the left and throw your straight right or overhand right while your opponent jabs. Second, you can slip and then throw. Some classic moves are to slip to your left and then counter with the left hook, or to slip right and then counter with the straight right. It's very difficult to slip left and then counter with the right hand unless you do it at the same time. However, some boxer's are able to pull this off.

6. Keep trying to increase the speed of your slipping, and make sure to move after you slip and counter. Some opponents will figure out your pattern and will feed punches for you to slip so they can hit you as you lean to the side. You need to be fast and have good reaction to avoid this, and you need to make sure that you keep moving your head after you slip and counter.

7. Learn to move your feet while slipping so that you can advance and move your head at the same time. As well, practice moving forward after you slip to gain ground on a retreating opponent.

For more information check out my 'Slipping Punches' video on my channel - http://www.youtube.com/user/tripleVVV3

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Mental Training Part II

Let's go over the concept of mental movies as they relate to sports.  A mental movie is a dynamic sequence that you can watch over and over again in your mind.  A mental movie could be of an opponent throwing a jab at you, or a left hook, or of someone blocking your left hook etc.  You could also put yourself in situations that you see in pro fights on TV.  Your goal is to create mental movies with positive outcomes, and to create answers for situations that cause you problems.  You want full control of the movie, you want to be able to watch it frame by frame.  For the most part, positive outcomes in your mind come from positive success in the past, or at least they come from the belief that success is possible.  Train your mind to see yourself succeeding and you stand a much better chance of doing so.

Ok, let's create a scenario where I'm fighting a taller and faster opponent.  Start movie - He's circling me to the left and he's snapping the jab quickly and frequently.  How am I going to deal with this?  Ok first, I see myself cutting off the ring, he switches directions to the right, I move to my left and I cut him off again, he then moves back to his left (in your mind you could just work on cutting off the ring, no piece is too small).  As I get closer he snaps the jab, double jab, and moves back to his right.  I see myself slipping each jab, I'm just on the end of his punching range. I move left as he's moving right and I cut him off again, he throws his jab again, as he does I make my move by slipping to my right and simultaneously stepping in with the double jab and overhand right.  I land the overhand right, and follow up with the left hook and right uppercut which he covers up and blocks, I then step out to the right - end of movie. 

The scenario above is actually quite complex, it would be just fine if all you wanted to work on was blocking and slipping individual punches. Just imagine a guy in front of you throwing single techniques. Play your movies at super slow speed, and once you are comfortable, play them at normal speed.  Change up the opponent, make them faster, shorter, taller, stronger.  Put yourself in front of Pacquiao or Mayweather and see what you can do.

Ok, so how can you maximize the the effect of mental movies.  First, you want to create them and work with them in a relaxed state so that your mind can focus on all aspects of each movie (primarily sight, sound, and feel).  The relaxed state is also important because you want your mind to associate your sport with feeling relaxed.  This is the optimal state for high performance.

Here is the program outline:

1) Find a quiet place where you will not be disturbed for 20 - 30 mins.
2) Get into a comfortable position either laying down or sitting in a chair
3) Take 8 deep breaths - inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, and exhale for 4 seconds
4) Take 10 seconds for each body part and focus on relaxing it as much as possible, make each body part as heavy as you can (start at the bottom) - feet, calves, thighs, hips and glutes, lower back, stomach, mid back, chest, upper back and neck, shoulders, arms and hands, face.
5) Next 5 mins - Start to visualize yourself performing in the ring (or Octagon, or your arena of competition).  At first, watch yourself as a spectator, imagine you are in the front row watching yourself perform.  Go through every scenario you can think of, see yourself dealing effecively with attacks, see yourself successfully moving, defending and landing strikes.  Go slow at first and see things clearly, pay attention to key details such as distance and technique.
6) Next 10-15 mins - Now go inside yourself and start to watch from your own eyes as a performer, feel how your feet move, notice your opponent in front of you, his expression and his intent, show no fear, you are calm.  Now have him attack you, defend and counter, then have him go on the defensive and watch yourself penetrate his defense.  Create as many scenarios as you like.  Work slipping the jab of a very tall opponent as you get inside and throw your combos.
7) Conclude the event the way you would like to see it.  If it is a match then conclude with a KO, or you winning by decision.  If you are visualizing sparring then conclude with the final bell and you standing strong as if you could go another round.
8) Wake yourself up slowly, rub your eyes and face, rub the back of your neck, sit up and massage your legs and feet in case they have fallen asleep.

I recommend performing your mental training 3-5 times per week.

JT Van V

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Combat Footwork

In amateur boxing, MMA, and Thai Boxing, footwork is an often overlooked aspect of a complete fighter's arsenal.  When viewing two fighters, it becomes apparent rather quickly who has superior footwork, and how that will affect the outcome of a fight.  In simple terms, solid footwork will take you where you want to go, and take you away from where you don't want to be quickly and effecitvely.  This allows you to set up your strikes and counters, it allows you to re-attack quickly, it allows you to adjust small distances and create angles, and it saves you from having to stand and trade with an inferior opponent.  All of these are top notch reasons to take your footwork very seriously!

The first way to improve your footwork is to focus solely on footwork drills and practice during training.  It's not uncommon for a good fighter to spend 15-20 minutes a workout focused on footwork.

Second, incorporate active footwork into all aspects of your training such as bag work and sparring.  Spend rounds moving a bit more than usual.  Switch up from an offensive mindset, to a counter-punching mindset, to a defensive mindset and watch how your footwork changes.

Third, watch pros in your sport during their fights, most notably boxing.  Watch Roy Jones, Mayweather, Ali, Tyson (for inside footwork).  Study Anderson Silva and GSP. Notice what they do, and incorporate it into your training. 

Fourth, Learn from a variety of disciplines such as Muay Thai, wrestling, fencing, and other martial arts.  The top MMA fighters of today such as A. Silva and GSP, have primarily adopted a boxing style of footwork with components of Muay Thai and Wrestling for various transitions.

Fifth, train plyometric and agility drills consistently to improve your capacity to sustain a high pace.

Check out my Footwork video on my Youtube page - www.youtube.com/user/tripleVVV3

Mental Training Part I

I played hockey throughout my childhood and teenage years; I was a goalie.  The main reason I became a goalie was because I was one of the worst players and slowest skaters on my team, and becoming a goalie was my attempt at getting some glory out of hockey as long as I was playing it.  Fortunately for me, I was a pretty damn good goalie.  Although I wasn't athletically blessed with speed or natural ability, I was blessed with two things: quick reaction and good awareness, both of which are essential to boxing.

In my last few years playing goalie, I came upon a book at my local library called Basketball FundaMENTALS which outlined the core concepts and benefits of mental training for sports.  I incorporated the ideas into my practice, then made a some adaptations and saw huge improvements in my game!  Since then, I've read dozens of books on mental training for sports and I've created my own template for boxing. I would like to share the framework with you.

I can't tell you how many people I've fought or sparred who could kick my ass in a 40 yrd dash.  Most of my opponents have been taller, stronger, and faster.  If you're not blessed with raw speed, then you can definitely make up for it with quick reaction, sound defense, and scenario based training.  But the key is to be able to 'read the play', see what's going on, and have these skills embedded in your mind and in your boxing repertoire.  Of course, you do need the essential skills i.e. how to block a left hook, how to slip a right hand etc. I'm going to assume you have these skills.  If you don't, then write me and we can talk.

When I talk about mental training, I am referring to how your mind responds to external stimuli such as a kick or a punch or a takedown attempt.  There are other aspects to mental training such as mental toughness, confidence and composure under pressure, all of which are related to how you respond physically but will be covered in another post.  Essentially, with mental training, you are creating movies in your mind.  The clearer they are the better, the more you can control and manipulate them the better, the more senses (touch, sound) you can incorporate the better.

In the next post I'll lay out the framework for how to create mental movies, and how to organize your mental training.

Friday, March 12, 2010

How to Train

I'm going to outline my training template for an amateur boxer who is preparing for a fight, and looking to be successful in the early and mid stages of their fight career.  I think at the advanced stages, a fighter has to know what works for them, and training can get pretty intense and variable.  Now, this is not a complex or comprehensive discussion on training.  But if you're not clear on how much you should do of what, then this is a good start.  This template assumes that you've spent some time in the gym, already have the fundamentals down in terms of striking, defense, and footwork.  It also assumes that you have access to a coach, equipment, and regular sparring partners.  In addition to what is below, you should get some padwork from your coach. Ok here goes:

1) You should be in the gym 5 days a week.
2) Ideally, you should separate your training.  Conditioning in the morning/evening and boxing training in the other half of the day
3)  Spar 3 times per week in the 4 weeks leading up to the fight.  Otherwise, once or twice a week is fine, and it doesn't always have to be hard sparring.
4) Training:
- 10 to 15 min skip rope
- 4 to 6 rounds shadowboxing (one round dedicated to footwork, and one round dedicated to defense including head movement)
- 6 rounds on the heavy bag (4 of them at fight pace)
- 4 rounds on the double-end bag 
- 4 rounds speed bag
- 100 burpees in sets of 20 (try to get them done in under 5 mins)
- 3 ab excercises in sets of 100 (choose your three favorite)
- 100 bouncing push-ups (do as many as you can at each set until you get to 100)
- skip rope 10 to 15 min
- 15-20 mins stretching (do NOT neglect this, flexibility means speed).

Run Program
1) One day a week perform a 45-60 min easy run
2) One day a week perform 6 sets of 800m at high intensity
3) Twice a week perform Tabata sprint sets (20 seconds sprint, 10 seconds rest for 8 sets)

Strength Program - there is a lot to discuss here, but ensure that you are not neglecting your strength training.  Read anything by Tudor Bompa on Periodization for sports.

If you have any questions, email me at precisionstriking@yahoo.com